Every moment, every detail, absolutely amazing.
Summer was coming to close here in Boston and my girlfriend and I weren't ready to put away our swimwear. After spending countless hours comparing hotels on every island in the Caribbean, I realized that there were no guarantees for sunshine, most hotels involved compromises and with only a week off I wanted to maximize my leisure and relaxation—not spend the entire first and last days of our time off traveling.
After reading many mixed hotel reviews and upcoming weather reports for the region and I was frustrated. Then I remembered my stay at Mandarin Oriental, New York—where the accommodations, service and general atmosphere made the hectic center of New York City feel like a leisurely escape. I had been to their properties in Boston and Riviera Maya, Mexico as well. There is a consistent feeling when you enter a Mandarin—it is calming, sophisticated and luxurious—what I wanted in a romantic/leisure getaway. Neither of us had been on vacation in quite some time and so we wanted perfection and at Mandarin Oriental, Miami we got it.
From the moment we stepped out of our taxi, everything was absolute bliss. The charming staff treated us like royalty, they learned our names, and made themselves available at any moment—with a sincere smile. The lobby has fantastic views and smelled incredible—I was told it was some jasmine incense, I don't usually like incense, but this was instantly relaxing and therapeutic. We had arrived approximately an hour before check-in, which was not a problem as they upgraded us to an available room for free. After being brought some delicious peach tea blend, we were shown our room.
Our room was stunning. Plenty of space, quality furnishings, very comfortable bedding; it also had a unique layout where the bathroom opens up to the rest of the space—yes; the water closet is still separate. The vibe was very romantic—relaxing and exciting. The huge flat screen television and ipod/iphone dock with a Denon sound system were nice bonuses. We used that iPod dock nearly the entire time, but when we didn't, the hotel was dead quiet—as if we were the only ones there. The view from the 18th floor was surreal—the entire downtown Miami skyline. I did have one serious issue with the room—No HDTV. A 40"+ flat screen television looks pretty bad without a high definition signal. I noticed there could have been more counter space in the bathroom.
Leisure by day:
While I had planned several day trips and nights/dinners out, after being at the hotel for only a few hours we had little interest in leaving. We spent our 5 days and 4 nights almost exclusively at the hotel. By day, we split time between the infinity pool and the hotel's private beach along the bay. The pool was clean and very refreshing. I did not understand how they overlooked the pool nets and floatation devices on the fence that interrupt the view—but at this point I was being very picky. The private beach was like stepping into another world—laying out on daybeds over white sand in the middle of a gorgeous city skyline. The staff, as always was very attentive to us. When my girlfriend would mention to me she was thirsty, seemingly out of thin air was a staff member with ice water. When I would start to sweat, someone was there with a eucalyptus-scented cold washcloth. The drinks were a little too sweet for my taste, so I asked them to make them a little bit stronger—from then on we never had to ask again.
Being a hotel guest you can use the spa facilities any time for free—take advantage! Steam room, sauna, oversized towels, plush robes—a great way to relax pre-flight as we did! We got a couples massage. While I get intense bodywork once a week—I had never been so relaxed as I was after our couples massage. It was pricey, perhaps a little over-the-top for my budget and the changing room was a bit small, but a nice way to spend a cloudy afternoon.
I would highly recommend a day at South Beach. The water, the sun and the people are beautiful. The concierge gave us directions for a great drop-off location close to the best shopping and dining in the area.
At night we would sit out above the pool area in the chic M-Bar; watching the distant thunderstorms, listening to the sounds of the rolling palm trees, enjoying the warm Miami breeze, sipping from one of the hundreds of cocktail offerings. The server at M-bar found out I had been to their Riviera Maya property and had a special drink he concocted for that menu. Ask for the Riviera Maya!
We utilized room service every night to some degree. Yes, it is expensive—but not unreasonable. Our meals, the presentation and the friendly staff delighted us. The hotel is a bit secluded—so late at night room service is the only option unless you want to walk about 15 minutes. I believe all the food is served from Cafe Sambal (one of the two restaurants on-site). The Pad Thai is incredible (best I’ve had), and we couldn't get enough of their Sushi. The Sushi is perhaps the best 'value' on the entire menu—fresh, flavorful and delightfully presented.
We spent our final night at the hotel's signature restaurant, Azul, which I have written a separate review for. You cannot stay at the Mandarin Oriental, Miami without spending a night dining at this restaurant!
I could not have asked for a better vacation. I realize that this review lacks much negative criticism—but it is simply a difficult resort/hotel to find fault with. Yes, all this luxury, pampering and decadence, comes with a hefty price—we left feeling like we received an excellent value. We sacrificed a couple nights stay somewhere else to afford what we had at Mandarin Oriental, Miami—but it was well worth it.