Destination Spotlight: Bal Harbour, Florida
By Melanie Nayer
Luxury knows no limits, especially when it comes to travel. In Miami, however, luxury comes in all shapes and sizes. From South Beach trendy to Coral Gables chic, Miami is a mecca for fashion connoisseurs. Drive a few miles past the South Beach mansions, and out of sight of the street parades on Ocean Drive, and Miami turns into a reclusive retreat for the wealthy.
Welcome to Bal Harbour, Miami’s up-and-coming area, and home to some of the most luxurious shops and resorts in South Florida. The focal point of the mini-Miami island is the Bal Harbour shops, an outdoor mall filled with luxury designer brands and boutiques, and flanked by upscale restaurants ranging in cuisine from eclectic American to Italian. The trendy shopping village is within walking distance from hotels and resorts, including the newly renovated ONE Bal Harbour Resort & Spa.
The hotel shares the same driveway as the ONE Bal Harbour Residences and is located only 1/4-mile from the luxury shops. Get ready to embrace your luxe-side…
Arriving at the hotel is just the beginning of the experience. The horseshoe-shaped driveway is staffed by valets and bellman, and the outdoor furniture provides a comfortable place for travelers to sit and relax while waiting for their car. On my last visit, the cars parked along the perimeter of the lot ranged from cherry-red Ferrari’s to dark black Lincoln’s. As the bellman helps you out of your car, take a moment to embrace your surroundings – this hotel exudes elegance from its very front step.
The Hotel: ONE Bal Harbour
ONE Bal Harbour is set apart from the residences, which share the same driveway, but the two are connected via walkways and elevators. The residences can use any of the hotel’s amenities, but as you might imagine, it’s not the other way around. A few things to keep in mind:
- The pool bar is only open until 5pm so if you want to spend the afternoon hours on the beach, plan your cocktail schedule accordingly. You might need to stock up on cocktails before the sun sets.
- Plan ahead if you’re going to the beach. The hotel ‘ran out of the towels’ by 4:30 p.m., leaving no option for covering up on the beach. We made use of our t-shirts but it’s a good idea to bring a towel from your room to be on the safe side.
- The spa is perched along the exterior of the hotel, providing views of the water and the pool deck for guests. Word to the wise if you’re going to the spa: the hotel is on ‘island time’ which means everything is as it comes. Just because your appointment is at 1 p.m. doesn’t mean you’ll start at 1 p.m. My appointment started 35 minutes behind schedule, and while it was a lovely pedicure, it meant pushing back the rest of the day’s activities. You can look at this as a crunch in the rest of your afternoon’s plans or just go with the flow and remember you’re on vacation, time doesn’t exist – I suggest the latter.
The rooms at ONE Bal Harbour are the highlight of this high-rise. Each of the towers are complete with single rooms, one-bedroom suites and connecting suites, offering a family the option of living comfortably for the duration of your stay. The size of the rooms are comparable to a Manhattan apartment, so space is not a concern. Enjoy breakfast on your balcony overlooking the water or take in one of the most spectacular sunsets in South Florida, all from the comforts of your room.
The Shops at Bal Harbour
The Bal Harbour Shops are located about a quarter mile from the hotel. During my stay, the hotel didn’t offer a shuttle service so if you wanted to go shopping, you had to walk or take or car. However, the hotel confirmed they were adding shuttle buses to transport guests to and from. It’s easy to spend half a day in the shops and restaurants so plan according – you might want to enjoy a rainy morning or afternoon shopping in some of Miami’s finest and most luxurious boutiques.
Nearby Nightlife: Miami
Bal Harbour is the place to relax and be waited on, but if you’re looking for a little nightlife Miami is only a 15-20 minute drive away, depending on traffic. You can head out for some South Beach fun or dine at some of downtown Miami’s finest restaurants, then return back to Bal Harbour for a peaceful night’s sleep.
The Bottom Line
Break out your best Gucci, Valentino, Louis Vuitton and Chanel and enjoy the high life. Bal Habour will make you feel like a million bucks, even if you don’t have it. Just remember to check the balance on your credit cards before you go – the temptations are sky-high in this spectacular resort town.