Best Hotel - 2001
Known the world over for opulent accommodations, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group constructed its latest masterpiece adjacent to downtown on overcrowded Claughton Island, also known as Brickell Key. A November 2000 opening introduced Miamians to a heretofore unknown brand of low-key luxury. More than $100 million was spent on the wedge-shaped building, which includes a serene lobby accented by elegant bamboo trees, 329 expansive rooms decorated with modern furniture and plush fabrics (bamboo floors in suites), bathrooms covered in Spanish marble, and balconies that overlook Biscayne Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, or the Miami skyline. Add to that a state-of-the-art gym, a charming swimming pool with Jacuzzi, a lush full-service spa, the splendid restaurant Azul, and the more-casual but equally enticing Café Sambal. Rates that range from $550 to $4000, and recent guests Spanish rulers King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia suggest a stay that few simple folk can afford except in the off-season.