How a few 'disastrous weekends away' inspired one couple to create a booking service specializing in the world's sexiest boutique and luxury hotels
Mr & Mrs Smith is a travel club and online hotel booking service specializing in romantic getaways for couples. The married cofounders, Tamara and James Lohan, came up with the idea for their company after a few underwhelming hotel stays early in their relationship. Initially, the two partnered with select "tastemakers" to determine the best romantic boutique and luxury hotels, releasing a guidebook with these reviews. The Lohans eventually pivoted their business from solely printed guidebooks to the online hospitality space. Today, Mr & Mrs Smith is a hotel booking website with over 1,300 villa and hotel partners. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
There's no shortage of travel guides, rankings, and lists out there, but few focus on as specific a niche as Mr & Mrs Smith. Billing itself as "the travel club for hotel lovers," Mr & Mrs Smith is a boutique and luxury hotel booking service that curates a list of the best hotels in the world for romantic getaways. Their current roster includes over 1,300 properties, from a boho-chic hotel in Budapest with nightly rates under $100 to a private island villa in the Seychelles that'll set you back nearly $5,000 for a single evening's stay. Founded in 2003, the company was inspired by a series of "disastrous" weekend getaways experienced by its cofounders, married couple Tamara and James Lohan (now 47 and 49, respectively). The two met on vacation and struck up a holiday romance. In the early days of their relationship, they frequently took weekend trips — but by and large, the trips were a bust. "When we were dating, we would search through the brochures — because it was pre-internet — and search through magazines and those really stuffy, big, thick doorstep brochures from various hotel brands," Tamara told Business Insider at a recent event for the release of their report "Modern Love: Exploring the future of romantic travel," in collaboration with futures consultancy company Future Laboratory. "And we'd arrive at the hotels and get bitterly disappointed." "I often was the one that was booking them, because I was trying to impress her," James added. "And he was failing," Tamara interjected. The two decided to create a guidebook of hotels that had the vibe they, a young couple on romantic weekend getaways, were looking for. "I think, quite often, hotel inspectors were these long-faced, 80-year-old gray-faced men in my mind, going off and inspecting hotels and writing notes while chewing on their prawn cocktail on a Monday night, telling me what I was going to do with my gorgeous girlfriend on the weekend," James said. "And it didn't really match."
The couple turned to their friends and friends-of-friends as tastemakers for help curating a "little black book" — the first iteration of Mr & Mrs Smith. These early travel influencers included everyone from Felix Burton of the popular 1990s English electronic music duo Basement Jaxx and the owner of famed VIP nightclub Chinawhite in London to a former editor of the Sunday Times Style section. Tamara, who formerly worked in marketing, and James, who ran nightclubs and an events company, would send their tastemakers — along with significant others — to the hotels they were considering for inclusion. In 2005, the cofounders expanded their business from travel guidebooks to a full-blown booking website. Today, Mr & Mrs Smith employs more than 50 experts in London, Ibiza, New York, Los Angeles, and Singapore. There are three membership levels: BlackSmith (the basic membership, which is free) and two paid services — SilverSmith and GoldSmith — that charge an annual membership fee. The upper levels come with additional perks like an in-house concierge service, money back on hotel stays, and half-price offers. In 2015, the BBC's Peter Shadbolt reported that for each reservation made via the Mr & Mrs Smith website, the booked hotel pays the company a commission (though hotel industry analyst Andrew Sangster told the BBC that "there doesn't seem to be any fixed rules or levels" when it comes to how much commission the hotels pay). Per Shadbolt, the two paid membership levels also provide a portion of Mr & Mrs Smith's revenue.
What makes a hotel "boutique"? It's all about attitude The cofounders told Business Insider that due to their niche focus, their list of hotel partners is constantly changing. New properties are added, and existing partners that don't uphold the Mr & Mrs Smith standards are cut. James noted that while it's almost impossible for a hotel to get every criteria point right, "... you can definitely tell if something's a problem." He described the brand's customers as their new eyes and ears, while noting that the Mr and Mrs Smith team personally still also visits every single property.
Like others in the industry, Tamara and James acknowledge that the term "boutique hotel" is amorphous. "The problem now is that everyone's on the boutique bandwagon, and so you have 2,000-room hotels that call themselves 'boutique.' So for me, it's an attitude rather than size," James told Business Insider. "Though of course size is an indicator. And the average size of our hotel is probably 40 bedrooms." But, as Tamara noted, even large hotels can have an intimate sense of space: "There's some very large hotels where you walk into the lobby and you would not know that there are hundreds of rooms above you." Moreso than size, Tamara and James and their team analyze a hotel's experience. "We care more about how comfortable that bed is. Is it Egyptian cotton — or Indian cotton now, which is very in vogue? Is it the best and the most comfortable bed you've ever slept in? Can the barman mix me a perfect martini? These are the things that matter," James said. "We do look at the sound, the lighting, the mood, the atmosphere, the type of service. Is it attentive but not too overbearing? It's about so many things and it's just about this feeling — it's a feeling that you can't photograph and you can't always write," he said.SEE ALSO: The 15 best luxury hotels in Europe that every traveler should visit in 2020 DON'T MISS: The 17 best luxury hotels in the US to visit this year Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: 62 new emoji and emoji variations were just finalized, including a bubble tea emoji and a transgender flag. Here's how everyday people submit their own emoji.
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The invite-only Amex Centurion 'black' card has a $5,000 annual fee and several luxury perks, but you can get many of its benefits with the Amex Platinum
The Amex Centurion "black" card makes other premium credit cards look downright affordable. It has...The Amex Centurion "black" card makes other premium credit cards look downright affordable. It has an initiation fee of $7,500 and an annual fee of $5,000. It's also invite-only; you can't apply without permission from Amex. The card offers some incredible benefits, like complimentary elite status across four hotel chains and with Delta, airport arrival services, and access to a concierge. While some of these perks are exclusive to the Amex black card, you can enjoy many of them with the publicly available Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express. The Amex Platinum, with a $550 annual fee, doesn't offer the same level of fancy benefits, but it's a great option for earning travel rewards and enjoying some luxury perks, including statement credits with Uber and Saks. See Business Insider's list of the best rewards credit cards you can get » Also known as the Centurion card, the American Express "black" card is so prestigious that you have to be invited to use it. You can't just apply for it and expect to get approved; you have to receive a private invitation from American Express. While the requirements for getting an invite for the black card aren't officially published, rumor has it that you have to be a high earner who has spent and paid off between $350,000 and $500,000 across all of your American Express accounts in a calendar year. And once you're approved for the card, there's a $7,500 initiation fee, and a $5,000 annual fee. It makes premium credit cards like the Platinum Card ($550 annual fee) and the Amex Business Platinum Card ($595) look downright affordable. Benefits of the Amex black card Aside from its appeal as a status symbol, the Amex black card offers the following perks: Hotel elite status With a black card, you can lock in hotel elite status at four major hotel chains: Marriott, Hilton, Intercontinental Hotels Group, and Relais & Châteaux. Hotel elite status gets you sweet benefits like room upgrades, late checkouts, resort and spa credits, and free breakfast. The Platinum Card and Amex Business Platinum Card offer status with Hilton and Marriott, but not with IHG and Relais & Châteaux. Read more: Credit cards that get you hotel elite status just by having them in your wallet Delta elite status According to The Points Guy, the black card also offers cardholders Platinum Medallion elite status with Delta. You can't get this benefit with any other credit card, and it offers you perks like complimentary upgrades and bonus miles. Airport lounge access There's nothing better than knowing you have access to a comfortable airport lounge while you're traveling, especially if you have a long layover. The Amex black card gets you free access to more than 1,200 airport lounges around the world, including Amex Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs when you're flying Delta, and Priority Pass airport lounges. You can sit back and relax on the comfortable chairs while indulging in some good food and drinks. The airport lounge access you get as a Centurion cardholder is virtually identical to the lounge access you get with the Platinum Card and Amex Business Platinum Card. Equinox membership The Centurion card added several new perks in late 2019, along with the announcement that Amex would be raising the annual fee. One of the most valuable new benefits is Equinox Destination Access Membership, which lets Centurion cardholders use any of the 100-plus Equinox gym locations in the US, UK, and Canada. This membership costs $300 per month plus a $500 initiation fee, so it's quite valuable if you're a fan of the high-end fitness club chain. Unsurprisingly, there's no comparable benefit on the Platinum Card and Amex Business Platinum Card cards. Up to $1,000 per year in Saks Fifth Avenue credits The Platinum Card offers up to $100 in credits for Saks Fifth Avenue per year, so it's only fitting that the Centurion has an even better version of this perk. Starting in 2020, Centurion cardholders will get up to $1,000 in credits for Saks purchases — divided into four credits of up to $250 per quarter of the year. To get the credit, cardholders just have to make an eligible Saks purchase with their Centurion card, and they'll be reimbursed up to the quarterly and annual limit in the form of a statement credit. As a bonus, Saks stores will open their doors to Centurion cardholders outside of normal business hours — a pretty extravagant perk for those who want to make a power move or impress their non-Centurion-holding friends. CLEAR membership CLEAR is an expedited security membership (an alternative to TSA PreCheck), and you can use it at more than 30 airports and more than 20 sports and concert venues in the US. The recently revamped American Express® Green Card offers a statement credit for up to $100 toward CLEAR membership, which costs $179, but with the Amex Centurion card you can get a statement credit for the full cost of membership when you use your card to buy it. Plus, you can get statement credits to cover adding up to three family members. 24/7 concierge service An Amex black card gets you your own personal concierge whenever you'd like one. You can count on the round-the-clock concierge service to help you make travel plans or reservations at exclusive restaurants. This service can also get you tickets to just about any event and/or purchase gifts on your behalf. Once again, the Platinum Card and Amex Business Platinum Card also offer concierge services. However, Centurion cardmembers are definitely the top priority for Amex concierge, and they get the best access to restaurant reservations and more. International arrival service If you travel abroad often, you'll love the black card's international arrival service. As long as you fly business or first class via American Express Travel, you'll be assigned to your own personal guide who will make the immigration and customs process a breeze. This isn't a benefit you can replicate with any other Amex card. Another exclusive airport perk: Centurion cardholders get complimentary membership to The Private Suite at LAX, a private VIP terminal. But there's a big catch: You have to pay each time you use it — and it costs up to $3,000. No spending limit There are no preset spending limits with the black card, so you can easily buy big-ticket items that you may not necessarily be able to pay for with other credit cards. Keep in mind, however, that you must pay off your balances in full every month. (The same applies with the Platinum Card and Amex Business Platinum Card.) Other lifestyle perks Beyond offering elite status with more travel partners, international arrival service, and the top tier of Amex concierge service, the black card stands out from the Amex Platinum and Business Platinum with its selection of wine-related benefits, such as consultations with a wine specialist and wine-buying offers. Black cardholders also get several shopping perks, including special offers and VIP benefits with Net-a-Porter. The Amex Platinum is more attainable, and offers many of the same perks If you don't get an invite for the American Express black card, don't fret. As you can see, many of the benefits it offers are available on the Amex Platinum, which has a $550 fee. You'll get no preset spending limits, hotel elite status, complimentary access to airport lounges, and concierge services. Read more: Amex Platinum card review If you're a business user, the Amex Business Platinum Card is worth a look. It offers most of these benefits as well, and has a $595 annual fee. Read more: Amex Business Platinum card review Platinum Card® from American Express Related Content Module: More Credit Card Coverage Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: What makes 'Parasite' so shocking is the twist that happens in a 10-minute sequence
Miami hotels might be known for a plethora of high-end luxury brands, but its boutique...Miami hotels might be known for a plethora of high-end luxury brands, but its boutique hotels are no less glamorous, contemporary, and service-oriented. Located all over the city from South Beach to Brickell, and Little Havana, these boutique properties include desirable amenities like on-site pools, cultural programming, and rooftop bars. We selected the best boutique hotels based on personal experience, Trip Advisor and Booking.com ratings, and budget. In Miami's summer off-season, expect prices between $95 and $468 per night, depending on how posh you want to go. Read all Business Insider hotel reviews here. A note from your Insider Reviews travel editor: Coronavirus has interrupted travel on a global scale forcing travelers to cancel and reassess plans in the coming weeks and months. We understand that right now is a challenging time to plan travel. But when this time passes and things return to normal, we know you'll be eager to explore the world again. Whenever that happens for you, and we know it will, we hope our travel content helps you make informed, useful, and inspiring choices on the best places and hotels to book. So whether you use our reviews now, bookmark them for the future, or simply need an escape from the news, we'll continue to share the world with you. In the meantime, we encourage all travelers to stay safe, follow guidelines from the CDC website, and take precautions. Personal attention, intimate settings, and little risk of encountering large-scale conventions and crowds are just a few reasons many folks love to stay at boutique hotels. In Miami, boutique hotels also typically boast historic architecture in renovated Art Deco or Mediterranean Revival buildings, intriguing design and style aesthetics, and an approachable ambiance that feels far from corporate. Many are located in popular South Beach, though they're quickly popping up all over the city. Urbanica Hotels, which specializes in boutiques (see Urbanica The Meridian Hotel below), will debut new venues in Edgewater in 2020 and North Beach in the coming years. The Brickell/downtown area and region of South Miami, Coconut Grove, and Coral Gables are all starting to see more polished small properties developed. And Little Havana, too, is becoming a place to stay as its cultural resources are increasingly recognized as the citywide treasures that they are. For more Miami area hotel recommendations, click on a link below to jump directly to all our coverage of the best hotels in Miami. The best hotels in Miami The best hotels in South Beach The best hotels in Fort Lauderdale The best hotels in Key West As a longtime Miami local and travel writer who has reviewed countless hotels, I curated this list based on my experiences staying at and reviewing these properties. I also consulted reviews and ratings on trusted traveler sites such as Trip Advisor and Booking.com, and Hotels.com, where they received at least 4 stars out of 5 stars, or 8.1 out of 10. Additionally, in Miami, pool or beach access is a must, and every hotel includes fantastic places to take a dip or soak up some sun, in addition to offering high-end food and beverage options, excellent spa and fitness amenities, and impeccable design. Prices range between $95 and $468 to start in the summer off-season, and you can expect all of them to hike rates by a few hundred dollars starting around Thanksgiving, until after spring break. Resort fees vary widely but often include bicycle rentals, barre or yoga classes, happy hours, or breakfast. These are the best boutique hotels in Miami, sorted by price from low to high.SEE ALSO: The best hotels in South Beach SEE ALSO: The best hotels in Miami The Plymouth South Beach Book The Plymouth South Beach starting at $95 per night One of only two designated Small Luxury Hotels of the World on the Eastern seaboard, The Plymouth South Beach is a design lover's dream. From the dusty pink quilted headboards to the robust selection of antique armchairs in the lobby, the decor will surely inspire a few homeowner daydreams. Standard rooms start at 250 square feet, and many strategically placed mirrors try to disguise the fact the rooms and single, marble-vanity bathrooms are diminutive in nature. The retro country French styling adds the requisite allure, however, and it's completely worth the extra $60 to upgrade to a Terrace King, which offers 375 square feet, subway-tiled bathrooms with steam showers, and an outdoor space ideal for dining. The excellent Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill in the lobby is as popular with locals as it is with hotel guests, and might require a reservation in advance. And don't miss a selfie at the original 1940s Art Moderne pool, one of the prettiest in Miami – and that's saying a lot. Trip Advisor ranking: 20 out of 222 hotels in Miami Beach Booking.com rating: 8.2 out of 10 Pros: The Plymouth has dibs on a private slice of beach located between the W South Beach and The Setai. Grab a ride on the golf cart to get there, or stroll on over. Cons: Guests complain about indifferent customer service and lack of food and beverage amenities during the daytime hours. Circa 39 Miami Beach Book Circa 39 Hotel starting at $109 per night Located in the Normandy Isles neighborhood of North Beach, the 97-guestroom Circa 39 is a colorful, Caribbean-styled retreat. It comprises two connected buildings with a lush courtyard in between that's ideal for relaxing, reading a book, or sipping a tropical cocktail. Rooms start at 200 square feet, which is smaller than most, but they're also consistently cheaper. And what they lack in size they make up for in character with plenty of blues, greens, and oranges accenting teak furniture, plantation shutters, and hardwood floors. Bathrooms are simple and even smaller than the room might indicate. Upgrade for only $50 more and a whole new world opens up on higher floors, including better views. The public spaces, including WunderBar and Jules Kitchen give top vacation vibes as well, with lots of bright, layered textiles, wicker shades, and cane-back and cast iron furnishings. There's a refreshing pool in back, and the beachfront here is frequented more by locals and less by tourists. Trip Advisor ranking: 29 out of 222 hotels in Miami Beach Booking.com rating: 8.5 out of 10 Pros: Guests with cars can access a private parking lot via remote for the length of their stay. Cons: There is little soundproofing despite a 2014 renovation that allows traffic, guest, and staff noise to seep into rooms. Read Business Insider's full hotel review of Circa 39 Miami Beach The Marlin Hotel Book The Marlin Hotel starting at $119 per night One of the smaller hotels on this list, The Marlin Hotel was also one of the first to be renovated in South Beach's late 1980s/early 1990s renaissance. Continually updated in keeping with the times, the 33-room-and-suite hotel is a glam destination for leisure and business travelers of all kinds, including musical celebrities who record at the in-house studio. Hardwood floors, modular furniture, and sandy hues accented by some primary colors in the pillows and rugs make for streamlined but groovy digs. Contemporary bathrooms with vessel sinks and rainfall showerheads wow, as do little luxury touches in rooms like Mistral Verbena Collection products, Astor "Sleep" pillow chocolates, and Nespresso coffee. Do make plans to dine at the award-winning northern Italian Osteria Del Teatro, which debuted on the beach in a different location in 1987. It seems only fitting that The Marlin houses it now. Continental breakfast is offered from 8 to 10 a.m. Trip Advisor ranking: 12 out of 222 hotels in Miami Beach Booking.com rating: 9.1 out of 10 Pros: Sure, hairdryers are an expected fixture but Babylis flatirons? Oh, we like this amenity. The makeup remover, too. Cons: The Marlin Hotel has no pool, but you'll find a packed beach bag with two towels awaiting you for a short walk to the beach. And, as a consequence, the resort fee is only $15, which is far cheaper than most comparable hotels. Novotel Miami Brickell Book Novotel Miami Brickell starting at $119 per night Designed for the convenience of the business traveler – but without leaving out the staycation community – the Novotel Miami Brickell offers a fusion of boutique hospitality and efficient function. Located downtown, it's less than a half-mile to the Metro station and 3.5 miles to Brightline Virgin MiamiCentral Station. Standard rooms are less modestly sized than competitors, with room enough for a lengthy bureau/desk, bench, table, and chair in addition to beds with oversized, geometric wood headboards. If you don't want to stare out at the great city views, the 50-inch LCD televisions offer plenty of entertainment, as do UVA bar and Lima restaurant in the soaring lobby. The rooftop pool is the biggest draw of staying here. A DJ mixes music while guests of all ages mingle poolside with drinks and fare procured from Vista Roof Top pool bar. While the seating is competitive and the pool bar sometimes understaffed, the scene has that appealing Miami vibe. Trip Advisor ranking: 7 out of 134 hotels in Miami Booking.com rating: 8.7 out of 10 Pros: Brickell City Centre and The Shops at Mary Brickell Village, which have outstanding dining and drinking options, as well as upscale boutiques and live music venues, are only just over a half-mile away. Cons: You can hear the trains from the rooms, and even during prime time service, the staff is often missing from the bar and host stands. The Redbury South Beach Book The Redbury starting at $139 per night A perennial favorite, The Redbury South Beach is a 69-room bohemian charmer that attends to every detail. From rooms with record players and curated collections of vinyl to custom hemp-blend mattresses, this boutique gem delivers on the promise of its premise. Rooms start at an unstinting 375 square feet and feature natural hues that reflect Miami's famous light. Updated bathrooms with triple filtered-water, oversize steam showers, and bathtubs, complemented by all-natural bath products, are ideal for washing off the salt from the nearby Atlantic or the chlorine from the 12,000-square-foot rooftop pool. That pool, by the way, with its terrific sight lines, is a social hot spot day or night. Also a community darling: Cleo Mediterráneo, with its extensive menu of fresh, shareable mezze. Partake in any meal here before you depart for the day, or ask the attentive concierge team for ideas about other local spots to indulge. Trip Advisor ranking: 14 out of 222 hotels in Miami Beach Booking.com rating: 8.8 out of 10 Pros: While the hotel is not located on the beach, guests have access to the sand as well as towels, chairs, and other accouterments via The Delano. Ask the concierge. Cons: The 17th Street and Collins Avenue location makes The Redbury eminently walkable to all the prime South Beach locations, but noise and tourist unpleasantness can be a factor, especially during some of the wilder festivals and party weekends. Life House, Little Havana Book Life House, Little Havana starting at $149 per night Founded by Rami Zeidan, Life House Hotels is a boutique brand offering alternative lodgings to big-brand hotels. And this Little Havana edition is different indeed, supplying a "bespoke narrative" along with its digs. Every room and public area, from library and courtyard to rooftop bar, is designed as if a global traveler had collected decor from around the world. It's an interesting concept, resulting in rooms that all feel unique, well-appointed, and attractive – but astoundingly small. They start at just 140 square feet. Guests complain that they are darker and not as clean as they should be, although the hotel only opened in January, 2020. That said, other guests have had positive experiences exploring the hotel's Parcela Café in the landscaped courtyard, meant to evoke Hemingway days, and Terras Rooftop bar, which offers a terrific view of this culturally vital area of Miami. Trip Advisor ranking: 66 out of 124 hotels in Miami Booking.com rating: 8.1 out of 10 Pros: The location is prime for exploring all Miami has to offer, especially if you don't want to bother with a car. If you love Latin music and dancing, you're in the right region. Cons: Because this is a refurbished urban mansion in a Little Havana neighborhood, guests say the neighbors make them feel unsettled. In addition, while there's sunbathing on the rooftop, there's no pool on the premises or beach nearby, so this is a pick best for urban dwellers. Urbanica The Meridian Hotel Book Urbanica The Meridian Hotel starting at $149 per night A restored Art Deco building originally from the 19303, The Meridian fits right in on South Beach but stands out with its more sedate, high-end South of Fifth location. Run by Urbanica The Hotels, a brand that specializes in boutique properties in Miami and Buenos Aires, the three-story Meridian features 71 rooms designed in minimalist style, with beds that have slatted wooden headboards and luxurious white duvets. The rooms themselves are small but are clean and bright with floor-to-ceiling windows. Some of them are over Minibar, a colorful speakeasy that gets its share of pretty people business, however. If you're retiring early, ask for a room away from these amenities. An attractive plunge pool is located on the rooftop, and plants abound in the outdoor public spaces. For fare, the famous New York City deli Regina's Grocery offers Italian eats, and vending machines, a microwave, water, coffee, and tea supplement whenever the bar and cafe aren't open. Trip Advisor ranking: 7 out of 222 hotels in Miami Beach Booking.com rating: 8.8 out of 10 Pros: Bicycles are included in the resort fee, and the location is accessible to bus and trolley stops. Cons: Guests have few complaints, but they usually relate to billing practices and documents. Read the fine print and check your statements. Greystone Miami Beach Book Greystone Miami Beach starting at $149 per night Charming, chic, and eco-conscious, the 91-guestroom Greystone debuted at the dawn of 2020. Owned by VOS Hospitality, the Greystone occupies a 1930s building, originally designed by famed Art Deco architect Henry Hohauser. Designated a Historic Hotel of America, its facade sits on Collins Avenue, but the property also includes another building next door on the side street, as well as a contemporary, beautifully lit courtyard between them. Adults-only and pet-friendly, this is a hotel for folks who only have fur babies to worry about. The rooms, with white-on-white decor, interrupted only by splashes of pastel pink and blue, are sleek and high-tech. Every room includes an INTELITY tablet, which you can use to order extra ROIL bath products. A smartphone app also controls everything from keyless entry to towel service at the rooftop pool. The food and beverage options are top-notch and impressive. Chef Pawan Pinisetti leads Sérêvène, a restaurant that fuses Japanese, French, and Indian flavors with luxe ingredients, and the fast-casual KOBO, which features Japanese sandwiches. Sebastian Dubonet handles the mixology at UISCE, an upscale whiskey bar, and Golden Gator, an underground Champagne lounge that's open until 5 a.m. When it starts pushing on toward morning, snack on Caviar Push Pops and Foie Gras & Pop Rocks Lollipops, and then tumble onto your Felicity Plus Mattress for a few blissful hours of sleep before hitting the beach across the street. Trip Advisor ranking: 178 out of 222 hotels in Miami Beach Booking.com rating: Not listed, too new Pros: The location is extremely walkable, with the beach right across the street and Lincoln Road only a few blocks away. Cons: Guests from a few early reviews had trouble with housekeeping, and noise from Collins Avenue, especially exotic sports cars gunning their engines, which can be disturbing. Mr. C Miami – Coconut Grove Book Mr. C Miami – Coconut Grove starting at $167 per night If you observe the 100-room Mr. C Miami – Coconut Grove from a distance, you might mistake it for a posh midcentury modern yacht. Art Deco influences include portholes and hairpin stilts, while the design inside leans heavily nautical with lots of glossy lacquered wood, rich blue tones, and sailing maps and photos. Lodgings begin on the second floor with built-in bar carts and gem-tone headboards that seamlessly blend in with the deep blue walls. Everything is designed to feel like you're on a sleek Italian superyacht cruising around Capri. The white marble and blue-tiled bathrooms and balconies separated from each other by sailing tarps heighten the oceanic impression. On the rooftop, the indoor-outdoor Bellini is a dining destination and gathering place for the community as well as the hotel. It's revered for Italian pastas, seafood, and the signature drink for which it's named, all served by white tuxedo-clad servers. After all, Mr. C is owned and run by the fourth generation of the Cipriani family, which also owns Harry's Bar in Venice where the Prosecco cocktail was invented. A small but serene rooftop pool and an idyllic courtyard round out the tranquil offerings. Trip Advisor ranking: 65 out of 134 hotels in Coconut Grove Booking.com rating: 9.1 out of 10 Pros: A rooftop pool is a view-worthy, refreshing place to hang out with plush cabanas available to book. It's a short flight of stairs away from the outdoor dining, so there's some separation of church and state. Cons: The positioning of the hotel is smack in the middle of the busiest part of Coconut Grove, where shops, plazas, schools, parks, and festival grounds collide. When everything is in season, the area can be a logjam of traffic and construction. Also, the gym is quite small. Read Business Insider's full hotel review of Mr. C Miami - Coconut Grove Prime Hotel Miami Beach Book Prime Hotel Miami Beach starting at $200 per night Prime Hotel is something of a secret. It's an extension of Myles Chefetz's luxury Prime brand that includes Prime 112, Prime Fish, Prime Italian, and Big Pink, which are all some of the highest-earning restaurants in the nation. The hotel is equally sweet, chic, and a celebrity-frequented boutique. It's not unusual for rooms to be leased by high-caliber athletes and actors who only eat at Prime restaurants while in town, and for no one to know where they're staying. That said, the hotel is open to everyone, and is especially ideal for honeymooners, couples celebrating an anniversary, and travelers who enjoy privacy. It's also surprisingly family-friendly, given that there are only 14 custom-designed rooms. The front desk offers 24/7 service and an on-site concierge can arrange anything from babysitting to beach activities. Rooms are modern and chic with white and chrome decor and look out on South Beach's upscale South of Fifth neighborhood through floor-to-ceiling windows. Many also have balconies. In addition, if you don't want to walk the half-block to the beach, a rooftop pool is perfect for a spot of sunbathing or resting under the shade of the cabana. Trip Advisor ranking: 158 out of 222 hotels in Miami Beach Booking.com rating: 8.6 out of 10 Pros: Room service from Prime 112, Prime Italian, or Big Pink is a big perk. If you're not in the mood for any of them, the location offers access to plenty of restaurants within walking distance. Cons: Noise from Prime 112 and the neighborhood, in general, can trickle up. The Betsy South Beach Book The Betsy South Beach starting at $239 per night The Betsy South Beach comprises two renovated and connected buildings: The Betsy Ross, a Florida Georgian hotel on Ocean Drive, and The Carlton, an Art Deco hotel from 1938 that stands directly behind it on Collins Avenue. The main entrance is on Ocean Drive, just across from the beach. Owned by the Plutzik-Goldwasser family, The Betsy is an epicenter for the literary, visual, and performing arts. The Lobby (with bar and restaurant), The B Bar, The Library, The Gallery, The Carlton Room (with bar and gallery), and rooftop spaces all host poetry readings, musical performances, academic lectures, visual arts displays, and more. Programming every day and night of the week allows guests up-close-and-personal meetings with artists-in-residence. Also, meet the CEOs – Canine Executive Officers – at golden (retriever) hour on Fridays. One of the larger boutique hotels on the list, The Betsy offers a wide variety of rooms and suites. They start at 250 square feet, which is small, but the art-filled public spaces are generous and vibrant. Food and beverage offerings are under the direction of Laurent Tourondel; don't hesitate to luxuriate in the dishes at LT Steak & Seafood – especially the noteworthy popovers. Trip Advisor ranking: 6 out of 222 hotels in Miami Beach Booking.com rating: 8.4 out of 10 Pros: Beach towels, loungers, and umbrellas are included in the resort fee, so pop across the street to the Boucher Brothers concession and they'll set you up near the landmark Art Deco lifeguard stand. Cons: If you're looking for the kind of beach hotel that promotes parasailing and jet-skiing, you'll be disappointed. But you can always inquire with the concierge about how to participate in those activities. Read Business Insider's full hotel review of The Betsy South Beach The Villa Casa Casuarina Book The Villa Casa Casuarina starting at $468 per night Gianni Versace's storied former mansion is a Miami Beach landmark, and now, an intimate hotel. While prices are usually sky-high, weekdays in the off-season offer a relative bargain in this all-suite, elaborately decked-out hotel. Originally built in 1930 by wealthy architect Alden Freeman as an apartment building, the Spanish-Mediterranean property is now a 10-suite hotel, thanks to Versace's $32 million investment and that of various owners over the years after his murder. Staying at The Villa Casa Casuarina affords you access to the historical statues, columns, fountain, and the absolutely stunning Thousand Mosaic Pool, which is made out of 24k gold tiles. The suites themselves are absolutely lavish with murals on both walls and ceilings and tapestries, carved rare wood furniture, objets d'arts, and more. Marble bathrooms include oversize double showerheads and double sinks, and every suite has a balcony or terrace; some even have two. It may be hard to leave these quarters for even a second, but do head up to the Rooftop Lounge for a sunset drink. Trip Advisor ranking: 15 out of 151 specialty lodging in Miami Beach Booking.com rating: 8.4 out of 10 Pros: Daily breakfast is included in the room rate, and other food and beverage options include Onyx Bar and the poolside Restaurant Gianni's At The Villa. Cons: The Ocean Drive location and famous history means this place is not only subject to the typical tourist action, but a busy photo opp for lots of tourists too, due to its notoriety. Also, the design includes a lot of slippery stairs and no elevators or ramps, so it is not accessible for everyone.
The Heathman Hotel in downtown Portland boasts a modern look, a notable library of signed books, and surprisingly affordable rates — though standard rooms start small
The Heathman is an iconic, historic hotel in Portland, merging classic architecture and postmodern works...The Heathman is an iconic, historic hotel in Portland, merging classic architecture and postmodern works of art with updated interiors and a great downtown location. The hotel underwent a major renovation in 2018 leaving rooms and public spaces fresh, stylish, and airy. Especially notable is the soaring two-story library lounge with an excellent collection of signed books. I stayed in a King Suite after being upgraded at check-in from an entry-level Deluxe King, and found the hotel to be an excellent value given its style, personal service, and location. Read all Business Insider hotel reviews here. A note from your Insider Reviews travel editor: Coronavirus has interrupted travel on a global scale forcing travelers to cancel and reassess plans in the coming weeks and months. We understand that right now is a challenging time to plan travel. But when this time passes and things return to normal, we know you'll be eager to explore the world again. Whenever that happens for you, and we know it will, we hope our travel content helps you make informed, useful, and inspiring choices on the best places and hotels to book. So whether you use our reviews now, bookmark them for the future, or simply need an escape from the news, we'll continue to share the world with you. In the meantime, we encourage all travelers to stay safe, follow guidelines from the CDC website, and take precautions. When I was invited to read from my new book at the Portland Book Festival recently, I chose to stay at The Heathman Hotel in the heart of Portland's cultural district. Built in 1927, the Heathman is a recently-renovated boutique hotel well-suited for art lovers. Restored in 1984 and updated again in 2018, the Heathman is a terrific example of an older, unabashedly classic hotel that's been lightened and brightened to feel stylish and elegant, while still retaining its quintessential Portland spirit. One of the city's last grand hotels, the Heathman has long been a hub of the city's cultural life (from the 1930s to the 1950s, its mezzanine was home to the studios of Portland radio station KOIN, the main stop for any musician passing through the city). Today, the hotel feels fresh-faced and offers genuinely personal service that isn't stuffy or "grand," but instead, spot-on for this casually trendy city. Entry-level rooms start small but come at prices significantly lower than similarly located Portland hotels, making it an excellent deal. Standard room rates start as low as $128 during off season, but can rise to $322 during popular August and September weekends. Although I originally booked an entry-level Deluxe King room for $146 a few weeks before my stay, I was upgraded a King Suite (which typically starts at $269) at check-in and appreciated the extra space. Bookworms will especially love spending time in the hotel's two-story library lounge that features an impressive collection of reads, many of which have been personally signed for the hotel. The first impression The room On-site amenities What's nearby What others say What you need to know The bottom line Book The Heathman Hotel starting at $128 per night Keep reading to see why I was so impressed by The Heathman Hotel in Portland. The Heathman won me over from the moment I pulled up in front of its classic facade lit by the Art Deco Schnitzer Concert Hall marquee down the block. The Heathman has an ideal location in the midst of Portland's cultural center, and since the night was rainy — not unusual for this Northwest city — a bellman appeared to valet park my car. (Portland is so walkable I didn't need a car the rest of the weekend and was relieved to be rid of it.) I've stayed in lots of small luxury boutique hotels over the years and found there's a certain formula to them. Typically, an older hotel or historic building with great bones is transformed to play up a fresh-faced lobby, with updated rooms, a cool vibe, and ideally, a lively bar and restaurant scene. Unfortunately, the boutique formula frequently misses the mark and disappoints. But the Heathman was a home run. The hotel set itself apart starting with kind and genuinely friendly front-desk attendants. I originally booked a standard Deluxe King but was delighted to discover that because the hotel wasn't full, I'd been upgraded to a King Suite at no extra charge. Every guest is offered a complimentary microbrew upon check-in, but I was also handed a sealed envelope. I opened it in the elevator and was nearly brought to tears. The Heathman is well known for its glorious two-story library lounge containing some 2,700 books — most of them personally autographed for the hotel by a book-lover's lineup of literary rock stars, Nobel, and Pulitzer Prize winners. My letter informed me that the hotel had taken the liberty of ordering a signed copy of my book from a local independent bookstore (how did they even know I was a writer?), and would be honored to add it to their library. I thought this was extraordinary, but from comments gleaned from other guests, discovered the Heathman is known for its uncommon attention to detail. Before unpacking, I rode the elevator back down to check out the striking library, of course, and make the most of my Heathman literary moment. All the Heathman's 151 rooms were renovated in 2018. My upgraded King Suite contained the exact same decor as a standard Deluxe King but included the addition small sitting area. A comfy bed was made up in white linens, a navy throw, and navy-herringbone sham offset by a caramel-leather headboard. Stone-white walls were hung with mirrors and terrific modern art added dimension and lightness to the space. Wood floors were warmed by swirls of navy and a tan floral rug. The 520-square-foot suite featured pocket doors dividing the space from a compact living area containing an L-shaped couch, coffee table, and vestibule with a complimentary mini-fridge and French Press. I greatly enjoyed the additional space and was glad I'd been upgraded since my original room would have run just 230 to 360 square feet. Even in my suite, the bathroom was tight by modern standards. But it was clean and functional, with a white-tiled shower (no bath), black-rimmed standing sink too small for a toiletry kit, and wooden shelves mounted above for my personal items. All rooms come with the same amenities and include an honor bar, 24-hour room service, set up for French Press coffee and tea, a plush white robe, and slippers. I slept well in the extremely comfortable bed despite the fact my room, located on a lower floor, was dark and looked at a neighboring wall. As a coffee addict, I thought the French press and coffee grounds were a nice Portlandian touch but would have preferred the convenience of an espresso machine. Premiere Kings (located on the 5th through 10th floors, most with views of Broadway) and Corner Kings (on the 4th through 10th floors) are the next levels up after entry-level Deluxe Kings and offer better views and more light than even my suite, but I was content with my lower-floor King Suite, though there are additional tiers of suites available including Studio, One Bedroom, and Grand. The Heathman makes up for the entry-level rooms' sometimes small-feeling spaces with abundant verve and style, along with wallet-friendly rates. For future stays, I would book a suite for the additional space despite the higher price point, and would even upgrade to a Corner Suite on a higher floor so I could ditch the dark wall and enjoy views of the city. However, it's worth noting that many reviewers on Trip Advisor were also upgraded at check-in, so it could be worth booking a room at a lower rate and gambling on a possible upgrade possibility slower months. Headwaters is a spacious restaurant and bar conveniently located on the Heathman's ground floor. Headed by chef-owner and James Beard award-winner, Vitaley Paley, it showcases locally-sourced Oregon ingredients and serves breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. The breakfast menu is fairly basic but offers everything from healthy to hearty (organic oats to Mimosas and Dungeness crab omelets), while lunch gets going with inventive local offerings (steelhead tartare to crab cake BLTs), and dinner sources heavily from streams and the sea, with entrees like local steelhead and Pacific Northwest paella. There is a small on-site gym with Pelotons, weights, and treadmills. Guests also have access to free bikes and in-room wellness kits with yoga mats. Be aware there is a resort fee of $30 per night per room to cover the cost of these amenities. By far my favorite space was the striking library. On my first night, I grabbed a Negroni from Headwaters and settled in for some reading. One quibble: there is no bar service in this beautiful space, so if you want to order drinks you must carry them in from the adjacent bar. As a result, there is little service either and the night I was there, empty cocktail glasses and teacups littered the tables. That said, I loved the soaring, two-story space with sleek sitting areas surrounded by rich wood paneling from the 1920s, and contemporary floor-to-ceiling bookcases lined with books. Most of the books are available for guests to peruse (or check out for in-room use), and I spent a memorable evening pulling out volume after volume, finding my favorite writers, and reading their whimsical notes, drawings, and inscriptions, made out personally to the Heathman. It's a fantastic collection and for word-lovers, worth a stay at the Heathman for this experience alone. The Heathman has a great downtown location and is especially well-suited for art lovers. It's in the midst of Portland's designated Cultural District, just down the block from the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and adjacent to the Portland Center for the Performing Arts as well as the Portland Art Museum, which is particularly worth a visit. There are many notable restaurants within walking distance, and coffee addicts will find a Café Umbria right down the street. Shoppers are near a nice mix of flagship department stores and boutiques. A bit farther afield, don't miss Powell's Books, Portland's legendary independent bookstore, or the city's alluring Japanese garden. Check flight prices to Portland on Expedia On Trip Advisor, the Heathman earns 4.5 out of 5 stars and is ranked 9 out of 154 hotels in Portland. However, it is head and shoulders above some of the other budget hotels that are listed above it in terms of decor and amenities. On Booking.com the hotel has an overall rating of 9 out of 10 and is among their top-recommended properties. Feedback consistently praises the hotel for its beautiful and unique ambiance, its attention to detail, warmth, and hospitality. Negative feedback has to do with the small room and bathroom size, which many reviewers found to be cramped at the entry-level size, as well as lack of sound-proofing, as is often the case with older hotels. Finally, as noted above, there are additional resort and service fees upon checkout that some guests weren't aware of ahead of time and found disappointing. Compare reviews, prices, and book The Heathman Hotel on Trip Advisor Who stays here: A solid mix of savvy tourists and business travelers, well-heeled couples (many with dogs in tow, since the hotel is pet-friendly), and the weekend I visited, an extended family celebrating a wedding. We like: The genuine hospitality and over-the-top personal touches extended to all guests. We love (don't miss this feature!): The stunning library lounge filled with personally autographed books and collector's editions, as well as a notable art collection with 250 original paintings, photographs, and works on paper. The emphasis on Northwest artists, plus a cool collection of Andy Warhol lithographs, are also standout additions. We think you should know: This is a historic-hotel turned boutique-hotel. If you are seeking large rooms and serious luxury, book elsewhere. We'd do this differently next time: I look forward to returning when not on a book-tour budget and springing for a corner room with ample light and views. The Heathman Hotel is an iconic, spirited hotel in the heart of the city with a long history of celebrating arts and culture. Guests will like it for its prime location, chic and inviting public spaces, convenient bar and restaurant, and affordable prices, especially when compared with similar hotels in the area. The hotel is known for exceptional attention to detail and personal touches, which I experienced firsthand. The impressive, cozy library is an excellent place to nurse a cocktail while skimming through favorite reads, and the vast array of personally signed books by noted literary figures is worth a visit alone for book lovers. Entry-level rooms start small, and those on lower levels can be dark and lacking any views, so splurge on a roomier suite or high-floor corner room if you can swing it. That said, it's beloved by many return guests and I look forward to being one of them. Book The Heathman Hotel starting at $128 per night