I used to have a love affair with Marriott, but then, the inevitable happened: A fancy little boutique turned my head and I left for another brand.
So when I had the chance to take my family to Miami and stay at the Stanton Marriott South Beach, I thought, how bad could it be, it’s South Beach, possibly the best vacation spot in the US? But also, how good could it be? It’s South Beach, where hotel quality standards can be ‘loosely interpreted.’
OK, really, I could have been sleeping on sandpaper and showering in a plastic tub and, with that view, I would have been happy. Luckily for us, though, the Stanton underwent a renovation not too long ago that gave the rooms a fresh, modern feel with marble bathrooms, lush beds and yes, a view of the ocean from many rooms (Miami’s city view, known for its striking and cutting edge architecture, is no slouch either).
Location, Service and Amenities Get an A+
Add to the that the direct beach access, a full service pool area, a park next door with a Citibike station, a dog-friendly policy (with a $150 cleaning fee per stay) and a location on Ocean Drive south of Fifth Street right at the edge of all the action, and boom: the Stanton is the perfect hotel in what might be the most perfect vacation spot in America.
Oh, and those ‘loosely interpreted’ hotel quality standards that can overshadow South Beach hotel experiences? Not at the Stanton—it’s a Marriott. You know what to expect: great service, friendly staff, great quality and the feeling of being well taken care of. And the Stanton’s location might be the best in South Beach—Ocean Drive between 1st and 2nd: right on the beach, just a short walk to the fun on Ocean Drive (between 5th and 10th), to shopping on Collins and a quick cab or bike ride to the scene-y area of the Lincoln Road and the hotels, restaurants and night clubs north of 16th Street.
Exploring the Hotel
When we arrived at the Stanton Marriott we pulled into the circular driveway where our car was immediately unloaded by the bell staff, and climbed a short flight of steps to the demure multi-level lobby accented by soaring ceilings and Art Deco details. We checked in at the front desk and set off to explore. Up another short staircase is another small lobby area and a long corridor that leads past the spa and gift shop to the restaurant where, during the day, you can enjoy a meal or cocktails with an ocean view. Just outside the corridor is an expansive terrace with several seating areas and cabanas that line the outside wall; guests can rent one for the day or have an outdoor massage. At the east end of the terrace is the outdoor restaurant and bar area that overlook the pool and beach.
From the lobby we took the elevator to the mezzanine level—technically the fourth floor— to our room. While we had booked a room with two queen beds, the hotel upgraded us to a suite for our stay, which was to say the least, delightful (Marriott rewards members take note: This is an upgrade worth planning for!). Since we visited in December right before the holiday rush, the hotel wasn’t fully booked and they were gracious to upgrade us. Our room, which had a sizable balcony with a table and chairs, looked north over the hotel’s terrace, pool and the park beyond it, all framed by the Atlantic Ocean and palm trees. Again, that view.
Looking at the rooms on the north side of the hotel, it looked like most had a balcony (which has a relatively high glass wall), something we always look for when traveling with kids and a dog. It’s like having another room to spill over into.
Our room was beyond comfortable: Flat screen TVs, a modern bathroom and for a suite, enough doors to give everyone a little privacy. The living room had a pull-out bed but it was a twin, so housekeeping brought a rollaway bed, too.
No Rude Girls Allowed
But this is Miami Beach—who wants to hang out in the room?!? Our routine is usually to get up early, stake out poolside chairs by leaving our books on them, get a Starbucks (conveniently located in the hotel at the street level), then when the sun is out and has warmed the pool, take up our spots by the pool.
We are SO RUDE. Or were. The Stanton has a great solution: They politely request that we not hold chairs. What that means is that no one else can, either, and even though by our third day the hotel was busy with a wedding and holiday travelers, there was never an issue with getting a great seat beside one of the hotel’s two pools.
And, not everyone wanted to go to the pool (just me and our dog Eli, really): the beach beckoned. Down a short flight of stairs at the end of the pool deck is a walkway out to the beach where the Stanton has a towel and wait station; towels are complimentary, beach chairs can be rented for $13 per day, and a kind and lovely waiter will bring you lunch, snacks, piña coladas or other goodies and bill the charge to your room. Simply civilized.
But back to the pool. Not that I don’t ‘do’ the beach, but Eli is a sun god and likes to soak up the rays; the beach is strictly no dogs allowed. So, I asked if I could bring Eli to the pool with me. It was a bit of a puzzling question; I guess most guests don’t ask to bring their dog to the pool, so the pool attendant went off to check, and quickly came back with pretty much what we heard from all hotel staffers during our stay: Of course!
Everyone who walked by gave Eli a pat on the head as he took his spot on the lounge chair next to me and quietly enjoyed the sun. Not a water-lover, he just lounged while we took a dip in the heated pool—yes heated; December temperatures can get a bit frosty at night, so discovering that the pool was a bath-like temperature was delightful, even though it was 78 degrees every day we were there.
Here’s the other reason Eli loved the Stanton (and so did we): the park right next door, complete with a playground for young kids and doggy-bag dispensers for when your four-legged companion does his business. On the street right in front of the park is a CitiBike station (which had bikes for us every time we went to rent them). There are locations down the block and a block away, too, and the app and website tell you which stations have bikes and how many. Just pop your credit card in and away you go. Rates are $4 for 30 minutes or $6 for an hour. We rented bikes and rode up to Lincoln Road where we docked them and went shopping.
Then, here’s the main reason our girls loved the Stanton (besides the beach and pool and beautiful view): Dolcezza, located just outside the lobby on Ocean Drive (there’s a Deco Drive Cigar store too). Dolcezza specializes in hand made chocolate, sweets and gelato, but don’t walk in unless you plan to give in to it’s intoxication. The gelato is simply divine and the chocolates are wonderful. The kids gave it a yums-up.
Rates for a double room while we were there (shoulder season) ran about $275 a night and about double that for a suite. During the high season (Winter), rates start at about $450 a night and suites are about double that, too.
It’s worth noting that while the hotel is fully accessible, there are a lot of levels, so this is something to take into consideration for someone on wheels (or guests with short legs), though it’s a short walk from the front door to the elevators and pool. And while hotel is family friendly and there is a great playground right next door, there is not a kids club or other kid-focused features (unless you count the beach, pool and a great vacation spot to be a kid-friendly feature, which we do).
Disclosure: We were guests of the Stanton for two nights of our four night stay; opinions expressed are all my own.