As soon as I sauntered into the James Royal Palm on South Beach, I felt like I was transported back to 1963, where I might turn a corner and run into Don Draper on assignment. Everything from the coffee bar in the lobby to the green-on-wood entrance to the Florida Cookery restaurant screams retro chic. The beachfront location affords prime views and service, so instead of running to the action, it comes to you. This 1939 Art Deco classic recently underwent a top to bottom renovation, preserving the original aesthetic with a modern sensibility.
The original green-glass reception desk has been perfectly preserved and restored, and now serves as the coffee bar while art installations throughout the hotel are a nod to Miami’s famous modern art scene and deserve a double take when passing through the halls. Dapper gentlemen and ladies at the front desk direct guests to its 393 guest rooms and suites My go-to source for happening hotels, Conde Nast Traveler, has taken notice of its gorgeous makeover and featured the James Royal Palm on its 2013 Hot Hotels List! Speaking of hot, the hotel’s club SL draws the beautiful young Miami crowd in with its earth-shaking sound system, so guests need not worry about traveling to find the action or bump elbows with a few celebs.
Our whitewashed airy loft room on the ninth floor in the West Tower had an open layout with a step-out balcony, giving us an owl’s sweeping views of South Beach and a peek at the ocean. I didn’t even miss the presence of a real balcony given the heat of the moment, but loved waking up to the sunrise over the sparkling turquoise ocean, and the calm of South Beach before the buzz of activity. The three pillows on the bench cheekily read “Ctrl, Alt, Del,” reminding me to take a breath, relax, and reboot- and no better place to do it than with the pool and beach at our fingertips. The resort boasts three pools- the main infinity-edged pool lined with loungers and the warmest, most comfortable water ever, the intimate elevated pool (great for people-watching below), and a heated plunge pool to relax tired muscles.
Nothing tickles me more than attention to detail, and I got immense enjoyement from the James’ little touches. Every night, I looked forward to a different handmade chocolate placed on my pillow during turndown from the artisan kitchen by Kris Wessel. The poolside wicker boxes with water bottles, fruit, and a menu were presented as soon as we were seated were also a sweet touch. I appreciated the efforts to keep the resort “green,” including the absence of disposable toiletry bottles, glass carafes for drinking water supply, and recyclable materials. Wi-Fi is included in the resort fee and up to speed, as are the in-room carafes of triple-filtered water which are refreshed twice daily. Showering in a space twice as big as mine at home was a pleasure in itself. Even better, the James stocks my favorite Intelligent Nutrients products! I thought I’d have to run out and find sulfate-free shampoo to preserve my hair treatment, but the Harmonic Shampoo is not only free of sulfates, but also of parabens, silicone, and synthetic fragrances. I adore the minty smell and the tingling on my scalp I get as it removes any buildup from hair products. Meanwhile, its anti-aging antioxidants condition and nourish. The Harmonic Conditioner is a natural detangler, but is not heavy despite my tendency to lather it generously and linger in the shower, letting it soak into my roots. Since returning from Sobe, I’ve incorporated the products into my daily routine, which immediately induce relaxation. The long term benefits of using natural ingredients are priceless, and the texture of my hair is soft, sleek and healthy.
I loved the plethora of dining options available on the James campus, although having Miami at your doorstep invites exploration of new gems. A pleasant surprise was “Catch,” an outpost of New York’s Meatpacking District flagship. The space took advantage of the sprawling square footage that can only be found outside Manhattan, with oversized perforated copper bowl lights illuninating the faces of the glitterati. The “Catch” sushi roll was a fun combination of tuna and crab, while the Dungeness crab spaghetti successfully fused seafood with pasta. The Florida Cookery has a great selection of fresh fare, with an emphasis on fish. When I asked if it was wild-caught, I was amazed to find out that the fish is actually freshly spear-caught in local waters! Breakfast by the pool was a morning indulgence, as I couldn’t get by without have my petite egg sandwiches on freshly baked biscuits.
Last but not least, the James takes care of its little ones, and future patrons–kids! Our little one had a blast in the Lil’ James activity room, which was created in conjuction with Miami’s Childrens’ Museum. She enjoyed painting for the first time, and reading one of my favorites on the couch, The Cat in the Hat. Everything needed for creativity to sprout was there on a whim, and the room even included a beanbag “lifeguard” station to jump around in. We never had to worry about food, as the chefs were happy to prepare organic eggs, grilled chicken, and steamed veggies- all gobbled up by our little girl. The smaller elevated pool was a great hangout, as it was quieter than the main pool and was almost private with only a few beach chairs around it. There’s something for everyone in Miami, and the James Royal Palm made our visit memorable with its hospitality and style.