First, the not so good. All those trendy SoBe hotels--the Dylan, etc? They are all down the road, about 15 blocks away where the South Beach action really starts. Head the opposite direction and you're at the Fontainebleu. Sitting between the two is The Palms, unfortunately in the middle of a 20 block stretch of nowhere. If you like to walk, that's not a problem, because you are going to have to walk to get to anywhere that you might find interesting. If you don't like to walk, you're going to really have to like this hotel for what it is, and be content in spending most of your time there.
And there's a lot to like. If you took this hotel and transplanted it further south where all the "name" South Beach hotels are, it would fit right in, with its character, its good looks, its charm. But then again, it would cost you twice as much as you would pay in its current location. Get used to walking and save yourself a ton of money without sacrificing a great stay and what turned out to be a very good hotel, as good or better than most that I have stayed at in South Beach.
The staff is consistently friendly and efficient, always doing what it can to make your stay comfortable. The lobby itself is a throwback to earlier Miami days--lots of character--and while anything but glitzy, its handsome public spaces are very comfortable and very conducive to sitting back and reading quietly, checking your emails, having a drink, meeting a friend, or simply staring out at the gardens and the ocean beyond them
I had an ocean view room, a good size, with floor to ceiling windows that overlooked the pool below and the ocean beyond. The bed was great--soft and cozy and one you could go back to several times a day feeling no guilt. The bath was split--toilet and sink on one side of the entrance hallway and the shower and sink in a separate but similar sized room on the other. Both were very well done, clean and modern, very much what you might expect to see in newer hotels. The room itself was a good size, with good storage, a nice work area, and a couple of armchairs and table right by the window that allowed you to sit back and take in the great view. And it had a flat screen HD TV with some good premium channels and in-room movies to choose from. The one negative? The carpet was a combination of chocolate brown with orange stripes. Sorry, but while that color may hide dirt and stains well, it's not a great color choice. The room was very nice--if it had wooden floors, the room would have been great. One change--that's all it needs.
As far as amenities, The Palms has all that you would expect. There is a pool--not one to write home about. It could use some sprucing up, and all that poolside furniture have seen better days. It's time to get them replaced. But the pool is clean and well-attended and serviceable and is surrounded by a tropical garden of sorts that gives you a sense of privacy that you don't get at other SoBe hotels. If you are more of a beach person, The Palms fronts the beach and you can sit out on with chairs, umbrellas, towel and drink service all provided by the hotel. There is also a spa, a very nice one run by the nice folks at Aveda, as well as a good size exercise room. If you needed to use the facilities, off the pool and next to the gym are restrooms that are amazingly modern and clean. I had suspected that they might reflect the condition of the pool, but they did not. Finally, the restaurant won't gain any Michelin stars, but it is very good, whether you decide to eat inside, or on the covered patio, or out in the open. I would go for the first two, as the outside garden space does attract its fair share of birds looking for scraps that people might leave behind on their tables.
One thing you should note. This is an old hotel, and when they built it, they weren't thinking much about how housekeeping would be going up and down the various floors. There are four elevators that guests can use to get to their rooms. However, the hotel doesn't have a service elevator, so that means you can often be sharing your ride with members of the housecleaning crew and their various equipment. If that doesn't put you off, there is no reason you should not consider the Palms. It is a surprisingly nice hotel--very nice, in fact, and I can't stress how reasonable the cost was compared to its neighbors. Again, I would put that down to its less-than-ideal location. I would definitely stay there again (and made sure I had access to a bicycle or scooter when I did) and would recommend others to do the same.