This was one of the Starwood properties my business partner and I sampled while at the CruiseWorld 2013 conference in Florida. We were excited to try the Element brand, considering it is the new trendy, go-green, eco-conscious hotel brand.
No doubt, this hotel has some great aspects to note, however, there are quite a few negative points about it. For business travelers, this hotel is great--it is within walking distance to a train station hub and the Miami International Airport. There is a free shuttle. But leisure travelers, BEWARE:
1) Terrible location. DO NOT veer off the major highways to get to this hotel in the event you hit the bad Miami/South Florida traffic on the main roadways. Deal with the highway traffic jams! We figured we'd avoid the highway traffic and once arriving to the hotel, we are lucky to still be alive. As for the particular hotel location, the entire property is gated and within a large industrial area near the airport.
2) Polite but very unaccommodating staff: When we checked in, we asked for information on dining locations nearby that "we wouldn't get shot getting to." The friendly young guy behind the counter said "there are places in the area." Well, yeah obviously, but we're from out of town and that wasn't a help to the question. So we asked further, naming a couple specific chain names, and he gave us a paper with places in the area, but it didn't have much information on it. So, without the counter staff's guidance we said thank you and just resorted to our smartphones for info. When we got to our room, we saw there was a king bed despite my noted preference when booking that I wanted 2 double beds. When we called the front desk, they said there were no other rooms available...which was nonsense because most of the parking lot was empty. If they didn't want to help, they should have just said no rather than tell me a ridiculous bold faced lie like I was born yesterday. HOWEVER, one redeeming note here--I called for extra bedding to use on the pull-out couch and it was immediately delivered to our room.
3) $9 flat rate, across the board parking fee. Really!? Even for SPG and Starwood Pro members?!?!
1) Brand new hotel, very clean. There is a great outdoor pool complex in the back of the hotel on the lake. It has a fire ring, a pool with beautiful cement work, and sun-powered lights illuminating the pool, with plenty of places to sit.
2) Breakfast at this hotel is pretty decent, even if you are a vegan/strict vegetarian. There is coffee, orange juice, yogurt, cereal bar, breakfast sandwiches, and my favorite of the morning: a delicious mango strawberry smoothie. The smoothie made up for my aggravation over the parking fee!
3) The room had a fully equipped kitchen with a fridge, stove, sink, plates, silverware, etc. The hotel even offered a grocery/shopping service where you can make a list and it would be delivered to your room (with a service charge).
4) Shuttle service: We took the shuttle to the other Starwood property in the area since we didn't want to drive our own car around. We took it to the Sheraton Airport hotel to eat at the restaurant in it called the Richenbacher, since there were no dining options other than a little pantry store at the Element. When we were done, we called the Element for a pick up and we didn't wait long for it.
Summary: Business travelers--stay here. Leisure travelers--stay away.