By Jon Schaff, Travel Correspondent
Contemporary Suites in the Heart of Vibrant Ocean Drive
To an outsider, the scene on Ocean Drive can feel surreal and, at first, overwhelming—a vintage aquamarine Ford Thunderbird rolls alongside a muscular speedo-clad man gliding on rollerblades. Misfired volleyballs from the adjacent beach whizz over smartly dressed shoppers, their high heels clicking on the sidewalk. Disparate languages and accents blend together. Everyone and everything is different, and no one seems to mind. Such a vibrant spirit is one of the things that makes South Beach, and Miami as a whole, so appealing. Though it is located directly on Ocean Drive, the Casa Grande Suite Hotel & Spa is tucked about 30 feet back from the street, creating a laid-back oasis steps from the area's preserved art deco buildings, upscale boutiques, thumping nightclubs, and world-renowned beach.
Nestled between two restaurants on Ocean Drive, a narrow walkway leads to flowing white curtains and etched-glass doors that open to the hotel’s tangerine-tinged lobby. Inside, homemade cookies and a bowl of fresh oranges welcome lodgers. An oaken door across the way hides the on-site spa, where aestheticians dole out relaxing massages, nail treatments, and waxes.
In the suites, a fragmented cut-glass mirror transforms its subjects into jagged Picasso-like portraits, and a coffee table’s legs curl inward like a parenthesis, pinning a rug to the tile. Modern décor and Indonesian touches grace the spacious quarters outfitted with king- or queen-size beds and fully stocked kitchens. Larger by far than a typical room found in the nearby art deco hotels built in the '50s, each suite provides ample space to store souvenirs and counterfeit sand dollars, while maintaining the benefits of proximity to the beach, Lummus Park, and the strip’s famed restaurants.
Miami Beach: White-Sand Beaches and Art Deco Architecture
Around the turn of the 20th century, area businessmen known as the Lummus Brothers tried to grow avocados in a patch of intractable soil; when that failed, they turned over the space to the city. That land became Lummus Park, a mile of verdant public green space with an attached beach. There, volleyballs course back and forth on multiple beach courts in a tournament near two glittering grandstands, and picnickers file toward eastbound trails with blankets and sunscreen. A blond-haired man from Belgium, sprawled out under the sun, talks up the beautiful people and lively scene at nearby nightclubs.
It’s easy enough to spend the entirety of a trip to South Beach facedown on a beach towel, but that would mean missing out on everything weird, wild, and otherwise that the city stands to offer. Signature boxy hotels decked out in pastel shades are the towering, photogenic totems of the historical Art Deco District. Tanned, stylish locals patrol famed boulevards such as Espanola Way and the Lincoln Road pedestrian mall, each combusting with designer shops, restaurants, and bars.
Just down the street from the Casa Grande, a jazz guitarist cleanly plucks “Oye Como Va” as twilight gracefully falls on the outdoor patio at A Fish Called Avalon restaurant. Succulent mussels, half a crab, squid, and octopi simmer in the hearty bowl of paella over orzo. The crowds keep bustling on Ocean Drive nearby, ready to pass the velvet ropes and party into the wee hours.