A 1940 Art Deco masterpiece that served as a backdrop for many Esther Williams films, this hotel delivers the grace and pure fantasy of old-line Miami. After an Andre Balazs update in 2002, it's now filled with wicker furniture and done in a color scheme of muted tans and olive greens. In a few instances, the perfectionist Balazs has fine-tuned the aesthetics to a point of refined chilliness, but it’s still a place that feels more sophisticated than other properties, with Sarah Vaughn over the pool stereo system; a languid grace, set by the vintage décor; and soft, alluring music in the lobby. The rooms tend to be small—they start at about 300 square feet—and are furnished with rattan couches and chairs. But then, this is a hotel that's all about the public realm, from the Raleigh's pocket-size Martini Bar to the world’s most beautiful pool—a retro setting that somehow makes everyone look more beautiful and glamorous in a bathing suit.
Tip: If you like peace and quiet, avoid the pool during the monthly Full Moon parties, which attract a horde of celebrants, dancing and whooping it up with live music until midnight. On this night, a room facing Collins Avenue might be quieter.
Room to Book: Apart from the penthouse, only eight rooms have balconies. They cost about $100 more, but the ocean views help complete the fantasy package that is the Raleigh.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.