Kimpton Surfcomber is a breath of fresh ocean air in the middle of chic and party focused South Beach. Its casual decor, relaxed vibe and beach side location make it a low key alternative to the glam of Miami Beach, as well as a great place for a vacation, a business trip or a meeting. We headed there for both, and got the best of both worlds.
A Relaxed Beachy Spot in the Heart of Tony South Beach
Back when most of the hotels in Miami’s South Beach were built, the goal of vacationers was to relax, unwind and enjoy the sunshine, blue water, ocean air and slow pace. It’s harder to find that vibe in modern South Beach these days; the race to be the hottest place filled with the chicest people has erased most of the low-key spots from the Miami Beach landscape.
Which makes the Kimpton Surfcomber such a refreshing experience.
Just What a Beach Vacation Should Be: Fun, Relaxed, Casual
We stayed at the Surfcomber recently when we hosted an event with Chevrolet before heading to the Miami Auto Show. The minute we walked through the front doors we discovered it was the antidote to the excesses of Miami Beach: rather than over the top glamour and style that so many hotels effuse, the Surfcomber is dedicated to all that you should do at the beach—a barefoot walk in the sand, relaxing with an umbrella-adorned drink, discovering new things around you, rediscovering happiness.
But it’s also set right in the heart of South Beach’s excitement, so you can have the best of both worlds: Glamour when you go out, and casual relaxation when you stay in. The Surfcomber is situated on Collins Avenue at 17th Street, just a block from Lincoln Road’s mile-long outdoor mall filled with great shopping and dining, as well as the restaurants and shops on Washington, Collins and Ocean. You can walk, bike or call for a Lyft to any and all the beach has to offer. For instance, in 10 minutes you can walk to the Versace Mansion, Dash (the Kardashian’s boutique), or the super fashionable roof top restaurant Juvia on Lincoln Road.
Within a two-minute walk are chic hotels including The Delano, the SLS, the Shore Club, The Ritz Carlton and the Raleigh where you can have a drink, dinner or join the club-like poolside parties after hours.
A Classic Art Deco Hotel, Nicely Preserved
The Surfcomber is one of the original Miami Beach hotels and is bound by the district’s historic preservation rules. Kimpton took over the hotel 2011 and was challenged to develop it within its original three-story footprint and preserving original design details. As a result, the rooms are not overly large but are accommodating: the bathroom was small but well-appointed, the decor was casual and comfortable and there were enough storage nooks and conveniences that two of us, with all our gear, had plenty of space. Add to this the niceties of classic Kimpton robes (white cotton trimmed in a zebra print), complimentary bottled water (but really, no hotel should charge you for bottled water any more!), plenty of places to plug in phones and laptops and free wifi, and we had all we needed to be organized, productive and also, relaxed.
It’s All about Social: Lobby Spaces Designed for Hanging Out, Chatting and Sipping
The lobby at the Surfcomber has the open feeling of a tropical guest house; casual seating spaces and communal tables invite sitting, reading, conversation and sipping coffee or wine, and the manager, Donte Johnson, was frequently at the hotel’s front door greeting guests during our stay. At the north end of the lobby is the Social Club, the hotel’s restaurant and bar, which also offers outdoor dining on Collins Avenue (so you can people-watch, which is high sport in Miami Beach). The front desk serves as a small center hub in the lobby; there the smiling and helpful staff answered questions and took care of things as I thought of them. I love that.
The Art of South Beach
The Surfcomber’s casual atmosphere is accented by lots of art —most of it for sale— that decorates the walls and walkways. From a collection of painted cows and sheep to paintings and other works, the art can go home with you as a memento of your stay. Those for sale are marked with gallery-style placards that describe the work, the artist and the price.
My Favorite Kimpton Feature: Morning Coffee in the Lobby
But maybe my favorite thing about Kimpton hotels, which for me is a singular reason for staying there, is the morning coffee. Every morning Kimpton hotels set up a coffee station in the lobby. With real milk, real cream, brewed decaf, hot water and a selection of teas. No icky in-room coffee makers. No foil packets of powder creamer (gross). No $25 room service coffee (ouch). Just the real thing, thoughtfully put out every morning. The Surfcomber also added an iced coffee station to the coffee bar. Even at 6AM, as I started my day, the coffee was out and piping hot so I could pop downstairs, pour a cup and take it with me.
Happy Hour: Another Reason to Hang Out in the Lobby
Another thoughtful touch is happy hour from 5 to 6 PM: the hotel pours some nice wines and offers light snacks. Come have as much wine as you like, the desk attendant informed me as I checked in. I made it a point to get there shortly after 5 for a cool glass of Pinot Grigio, and intended to have more than one, but chatting with staffers and other guests quickly ate up my hour—before I knew it happy hour was over!
At 6 PM the hotel offered a free walking tour of Miami Beach, featuring the history, architecture and other local points of interest; I didn’t get to take the tour during my short stay but it’s on my list for next time.
First things first: Lunch by the pool—and best fish tacos ever
We arrived early so luckily, we had time to take a seat at High Tide, the pool side bar, and have lunch before hitting the beach for a few minutes. High Tide is, like most Miami Beach hotels, set at the end of the property near the entrance to the beach. We sat in the shade of the pergola and palm trees, enjoyed the ocean breeze, sipped a cold drink and enjoyed fish tacos, which were the best I’ve ever had; they were nicely spiced and served on soft flour tortillas with fresh tomatoes and lettuce. The pool bar is tucked in among sea grape plants and palm trees and has a nice view of both the pool and the sandy recreation area, which features casual sofas for hanging out and a few games in case your’e inspired to do more than get a tan.
Hitting the Beach–Where the Surfcomber Gets Its Name
After lunch we ventured through the hotel’s east gate, across a pathway that runs the entire length of the beach, through the dunes and out to the beach. There, the Surfcomber (as most hotels do) has a beach cabana where you can get towels and have a chair set up for enjoying the sun and surf (service for two is included in your $25 resort fee; more can be purchased if needed). The beach cabana service also includes food and drink; you can order from the waitstaff just as you can at the pool.
As much as I love the beach, though, I almost always prefer to hang out at the pool. The Surfcomber’s pool is flanked on both sides with cabanas decorated in bright beachy colors and comfortably decorated. You can rent a cabana for the day for a fee (or it comes complimentary with some suite reservations); these make a great place for your family to gather, to feed, change, let your babies nap, catch a football game or just get out of the sun.
At night, the pool area can become a party space; a deck at the end of the pool can be converted to a dance floor and the cabanas make an intimate gathering space. While some hotels convert their pool areas to night clubs regularly, the Surfcomber only does this occasionally, for weddings, private parties or special events.
Don’t Bring Sunscreen. To Miami. Yes.
I hate packing sunscreen. You need it in big enough bottles that you have to check a bag (for an extra $35), or bring it in checkable-size bottles and you run out. And it’s not sold in small enough bottles that you can buy more. So you have to either pay to bring it or spend precious vacay time finding a drug store to buy sunscreen. See my issue? Kimpton offers free poolside sunscreen and water. I love how thoughtful this is!
Poolside Meetings? Oh Yes We Did!
When we were looking for a hotel to stage our event—bringing 30 or so influencers together to talk about style, cars and technology— we immediately fell in love with one of the suggestions from the Surfcomber event staff: holding some of our sessions in a cabana by the pool. They gave us the whole space for the day, and it was easy for our guests to pop up to the cabana from the conference and dining space downstairs, and also out to the valet where we had a couple of Chevrolets parked for our guests to poke around in. I could see the cabana, which could probably hold 60 or 80 for a cocktail party or several dozen people seated in the casual living room-style space, as the ideal place for a private dinner, a girls night out party, a bridal shower or a family reunion.
I hope next time I visit the Surfcomber it will be just that: a poolside party followed by days of relaxation.
Disclosure: we were a guest of the Surfcomber, which provided a single complimentary night for our stay. Opinions and thoughts expressed here are all my own.