SLS Hotel South Beach, 1701 Collins Avenue; (305) 674-1701; slshotels.com/southbeach. Rooms (ceiling mirror included) start at $325 a night.
The heartbeat of this 140-room Art Deco hotel, built in 1939, is Hyde Beach: an 8,000-square-foot pool and beachfront lounge, where I was told it would cost me $50 for a chaise lounge and a $100 for a day bed, even as a hotel guest (prices fluctuate based on the season and day of the week). The surrounding area is a fanciful fusion of indoor and outdoor space. The trappings of a sitting room -- ornate mirrors, Louis XV-inspired chairs, black-and-white-striped cushions -- are scattered about a patio paved with tiles that might have you fantasizing about Morocco. A 700-pound, nearly 10-foot-tall silver rubber duck sculpture presides over the adjoining guest pool, which is something of a thoroughfare for people heading to Hyde. The hotel's playful, polyglot aesthetic comes from Philippe Starck, also behind the nearby Delano, a Miami classic. Occupying the former Ritz Plaza, the space was reimagined by Mr. Starck, Lenny Kravitz (who designed villas) and the hotelier Sam Nazarian.
On Collins Avenue off 17th Street, SLS makes it easy to hotel-hop all night. It is in walking distance of Lincoln Road's shops and restaurants, and the beaches and al fresco dining tables along Ocean Drive.
My city-view room was designed with Louis XV's mistress in mind. It had a mirror on the ceiling and canvas on the walls painted to look like fancy panels and molding. No desk or closet; simply a metal clothing rack and a single drawer. A night stand had barely enough room for my books -- not that anyone stays here to read in bed.
But my journey to the room says as much about the place as the furnishings do. I arrived early and after a while the hotel called to say that a room with a city view was available. I passed on the room, saying I was happy to wait by the pool until the 3 p.m. check-in for the ocean-view room I'd reserved. At 3:10 p.m., I called the front desk and was told that the ocean-view room was not yet ready. Over thumping poolside music, I asked to speak with a manager, who said that all the hotel's ocean-view double rooms smelled like smoke (though SLS is a nonsmoking hotel) and that she would send an "inspector" to the rooms. Moments later, she called me back and offered to take me on an olfactory tour so I could smell the rooms for myself.
During the tour, the initially apologetic manager told me about her busy day, then pointed out that the hotel had called me to offer a city-view room (which I would have gladly taken had I known that I would ultimately end up in one). After I had finally settled in and was dressing for a party, I received the coup de grâce: housekeeping came through the door, unaware I'd arrived. I later received a fruit plate, but would have just preferred customer service befitting a high-end hotel.
The sink and toilet area was small and dimly lighted. The shower, though, had plenty of room for me and whomever else I might want to invite inside.
In addition to Hyde Beach, the hotel has a fitness center and the Privé Salon. You can eat well here. The Bazaar by José Andrés has pretty indoor and outdoor lounge space and serves up Spanish-inspired dishes like patatas bravas as well as a "frozen blue cheese" sandwich, both delicious. There is also a sushi restaurant, Katsuya by Starck.
Olive oil pancakes with berry compote were tasty, and arrived in just 30 minutes.
Pop in to eat, drink and gawk -- but sleep somewhere else.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.