The Fontainebleau Hotel – Miami Beach

REVIEW:

Having opened in 1954, The Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida is one of the most widely recognized and historically significant properties in the area, boasting elegance against an art deco backdrop. Sitting on prime beachfront real estate, the resort contains a whopping 1504 rooms and suites; 12 restaurants and bars, including a well-known nightclub (LIV) and a concert venue (Bleaulive); 10 pools amidst a picturesque poolscape; a 40,000 square foot spa; a gym; salon; and several upscale retail outlets.  The hotel is impressive from top to bottom, even the name implies ‘luxury’, and the location amongst Millionaire’s Row combined with the prestige of the hotel makes it a magnet for indulgent vacations and celebrity outings. Certainly, this is not a destination for vacationing on a strict budget.

All considered; however, there seems to be an upside and a downside to almost every aspect of the resort.

For starters, the location of the hotel has direct beach access which is a plus when taking into account how many Miami hotel properties overlook the International Waterway, are a block or two away from the ocean and require a walk to the beach. It’s also in a very scenic and upscale residential neighbourhood, so the area is quiet and guests won’t be exposed to the frenzy and party atmosphere of South Beach.  The downside is that the residential neighbourhood seems removed from the very things that make Miami… well… Miami, such as the restaurants, nightclubs, attractions, and shopping opportunities. So if you’re looking for something to do other than what is available on-site, you’ll need to drive or hail a taxi.  Either way, it gets expensive to keep tipping the valet or paying for cabs or Uber.

The size of the hotel is certainly impressive and the staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. However, given the immense size of the property and the sheer number of guests staying there (especially during a convention), it often feels as though the hotel is understaffed.  Long waits at the check-in counter, long waits for the valet, long waits for housekeeping all contribute to a level of frustration, as do crowded restaurants and crowded pools and pool decks, where getting a lounge can often present a challenge.

Accommodations are beautiful, no doubt about it, decked out in white and cream hues with modern furniture and views of the ocean.  They’re clean, comfortable and well-maintained.

Conveniently, Fontainebleau offers a wide range of room and suite types for every kind of guest and situation. A low-end standard room, which is on the small side at 300 sq ft, starts at $280/night with a view of Biscayne Bay.  Rooms rates then increase proportionately with size, rising to $410/night for 400 square feet and a balcony. Suites range between $400 and $600/night, one & two-bedroom suites average $700/night, and specialty suites with private pools, wrap-around balconies, and a Jacuzzi, rise as high as $3000/night.

As for on-site restaurants, they’re beautifully decorated and overseen by celebrated chef Micheal Mina who offers unique and diverse menus that please a wide variety of palettes.  The restaurants are varied – StripSeak as the typically American steak house; Hakkasan for Japanese cuisine; Scarpetta for Italian; Blade for sushi; and La Cote, a gorgeous al fresco bistro for Meditteranean food, ocean views, and live afternoon entertainment.  La Cote is particularly busy midday as it seems to attract a power lunch crowd as well as guests from the pool area and the beach.

But for all there is to be said of the multitude of dining options on the property, there isn’t much that’s plain and simple and would suit guests with uncomplicated tastes.  And there certainly isn’t anything that’s budget friendly. Even the pizza and burger outlet, naturally called Pizza & Burger, is expensive and anything but plain considering their gourmet pizzas boast exotic toppings like squid, scampi, lobster, and prawns at $20-$30 for a small pie, and with a Focaccia Crust at $33 – $40.  Burgers range from $22 to $40, and a dessert like S’mores will set you back $11.00.  This isn’t what we would consider family friendly.  Add a bottle of water at $6 each, and lunch for a family of four could easily set you back $200.

PROS:  Elegant, luxurious beachfront property with plenty of upscale amenities on the property. Beautiful poolscape.  Several room configurations to suit different needs, spacious and clean.

CONS:  Expensive and when busy can feel understaffed.

Time spent at Fontainebleau will make any guest feel pampered and among the elite.  Not only will the experience give way to a fantastic vacation, it will also give you a sense of being among ‘old’ Miami when the Rat Pack frequented the iconic property.  Indeed, it is a 5-star piece of paradise.  So it’s not really a question of whether the hotel is worth the visit, it’s more a question of whether you have the budget to stay there along with the laid back attitude required to deal with wait times, potential conventions, or peak season crowds.

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