Best for those comfortable with a basic hostel environment, close to everything in South Beach.
The first thing you should know about accommodation in Miami is that it’s Very expensive. Take your cheapest two-star small town motel, quadruple the price, halve your expectations and you should be okay. Add the fundamental rule of the better the location, the more expensive it will be.
The Tropics Hotel was our 33rd hotel stay in seventeen weeks travel across North America. It ranks as expensive, and probably least value for money stay compared to all other hotels we’ve stayed in, but therein lies the problem. To not feel aggrieved here, don’t compare this place and its price to any other place you’ve stayed. Except perhaps New York and London. If you expect a 2 star experience here, you’ll be disappointed.
We sweated over Tripadvisor comments and discount hotel booking sites, forums and travel guides forever, trying to get something reasonable in Miami that would not bust our credit card limit. We didn’t want a filthy, flea-pit party hotel experience so often reflected in some of the cheaper Miami hotel Tripadvisor comments. Neither did we want the sell-a-kidney-on-ebay, four star plus experience.
The Tropics Hotel met our criteria. We stayed five nights (from Mon – Thurs) for an average of $110/night (incl. tax).
In general: It’s very basically furnished, and is an average size room in an old art-deco motel. There’s nothing fancy going on here. It’s a fantastic location just a block from the beach and has a nice-sized pool, casual outdoor lounge area and outdoor (but undercover) cooking facilty. It’s more like a hostel with private bathrooms, than a motel.
What’s good: It’s in an absolutely top spot – within a short one block walk to Miami beach, its opposite fancy hotels four times the price, and right in the middle of plenty of great restaurants, shops and bars. If you want a basic Miami Beach experience for a lower price than other places, this is probably it.
The outdoor area near the pool is a relaxing place to check emails, have a few drinks or meet others.
The shower was good and hot, and the air-con unit was fairly modern and kept us cool. The white noise from the fan also drowned out most other noise during the evenings.
While our room faced the pool area, most nights the collective noise from there quietened down by 11pm and we had no problems with noise from that area. We had a third floor room facing the pool, towards the end of the corridor.
The motel offers their internal laundry for guest use for a small fee from 5-10pm (washing powder $1.00). There’s a guest computer in the foyer, a few board games and a drinks machine.
The small colour tv (it’s not a flatscreen) with a selection of cable tv channels.
Bath towels were coloured (brown & striped), and in good condition – made a nice change from the usual crunchy, worn through, hankerchief-sized white ones in other motels.
Potential showstopper: Cleanliness wasn’t the best – it’s an older motel with a lack of deep cleaning. We both experienced bed bug bites eight days after we arrived although we can’t guarantee the bites were from here. We did a limited inspection of our mattress and furnishings/fittings on check-in and couldn’t find any evidence of them but noted plenty of cobwebs, hair and general dirt on the box mattress and around the bed in general.
Minor annoyances: Our room had timber blinds only (no curtains), so the room gets very bright in the mornings, even with the blinds closed. Be an early riser here and this won’t bother you.
Housemaids have been raised in tents, and are don’t know how to close room doors quietly - expect some door banging from staff commencing around 7:30am, and constant on-the-phone chatter and yelling while they work during the day.
Wifi is free, but only accessible in the foyer or by the pool area. There are no in-room appliances (no coffee machine, fridge, microwave or iron), and hairdryers may occasionally be available at reception, if they’ve been returned. There’s a guest refrigerator and outdoor gas stove (& microwave) downstairs, and your grocery items can left in a brown paper bag. If you label your bag with a warning ‘items contain medication’, you’ll hopefully avoid other guests ‘accidentally borrowing’ your food. You can’t make local (or other) phone calls from your room, but there are three payphones in the reception area.
Whilst we had no problems, security is not the best – anyone can walk in off the street up to rooms, and room doors are left open whilst housemaids clean, room keys in a pigeon hole are observable from the front desk (can see who’s in and who’s not), and we observed room keys left within reach on the reception desk. If you go out, I’d recommend you take the key with you (minus the massive keyring with room number) There’s an in-room safe, which has had default safe passwords changed. On the plus side, (some) door locks have anti-jimmy plates fitted (although in some cases, the plates don’t cover both locks) and there are deadlocks on most doors.
After staying at 32 hotels across North America, this was the first to charge a refundable cash deposit for a key and tv remote, but I guess they’ve had problems in the past with this. We had no problems with our deposit being returned, just be aware of the policy.
Reception staff were polite, but a bit too cool for school. Being friendly, humble and stroking egos will more likely get you better service. Don’t use the ‘I’m the paying guest and where’s the customer service attitude” – it’s unlikely to work here. It’s a hostel run by young people, with a visible absence of senior management/ownership.
There’s a mixed group of visitors including families, young travelers and oldies so you’ll likely feel comfortable whatever your age group.
Transport: We caught three buses (it’s a two hour trip with $1.75 and $1.50 fares respectively – exact change needed) from Ft Lauderdale Intl. Airport to South Beach. From the airport, catch the (free) Rental Car Bus and turn right on exiting the bus, walking about 100m up to stop number 7 (it’s a little traffic island sitting by itself). Take Bus 22 (Northbound to Aluvera Mall), and change to Bus S to South Beach (the stop after 16th Ave, just around the corner on Lincoln).
For something unusual/different: Try the food a few blocks up at the very funky, restored shiny silver Diner on 11th street. Reasonable prices, great food and service in a unique environment.
Unsure if I’d stay again.
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