Review: W South Beach

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Full disclosure: This experience was in conjunction with the SPG Amex Stars program I’m participating in, courtesy of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. They gave me 70,000 Starpoints for this experience, which I redeemed for my two night stay at the W South Beach.

The Amex Stars Holiday Trip

For the past several years I’ve been participating in the SPG Amex Stars program, which has taken me to some pretty awesome places. I love the SPG Amex, and it’s one of the cards I’ve had in my wallet for the longest amount of time. It was one of the very first cards I applied for when I was 18, and I’ve had it ever since.

For the SPG Amex Holiday Challenge, I was given 70,000 Starpoints to redeem for a winter getaway at a Starwood resort in the United States. Now, when most people think “winter getaway” they’re probably thinking about snow, but personally I’m more of a fan of warm weather.

Over the years I’ve stayed at many of the best Starwood properties in the U.S., including the St. Regis Deer Valley, St. Regis AspenSt. Regis New YorkSt. Regis Bal HarbourSt. Regis San Francisco, just to name a few.

I wanted to visit a hotel I hadn’t stayed at before, and one that is a great use of Starpoints. So I decided on the W South Beach for a few reasons:

  • I would be in Florida for the holidays anyway visiting my family, so it seemed like a fun way to escape for a couple of days
  • I’ve reviewed the St. Regis Bal Harbour and Royal Palm South Beach, which are two other Starwood properties in the area, so I was curious to see how the W South Beach compared
  • The rates at the W South Beach during our stay were insane, so redeeming points represented an exceptional value compared to paying

Why I love Starpoints & the SPG Amex

My philosophy when it comes to points has long been to earn and burn. However, Starpoints are an exception, as it’s one of the points currencies I actively hoard. That’s because the points are so valuable and versatile, and I always try to redeem points that I think are ripe for devaluation first.

At a minimum, Starpoints can can be converted into airline miles at a 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. I value my favorite mileage currencies at ~1.8 cents each, so factoring in the 25% transfer bonus I need to get at least ~2.3 cents per Starpoint to feel good about my hotel redemptions. Fortunately there are still lots of situations where redeeming points for hotel stays represents a great value.

The SPG Amex comes with a suite of useful benefits, including:

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Complimentary unlimited Boingo wifi
  • Complimentary in-room premium internet access at Starwood properties
  • Sheraton club lounge access (for those with the SPG Business Amex)

Redeeming Starpoints at the W South Beach

The W South Beach is a Category 7 property, meaning a free night redemption costs 30,000-35,000 Starpoints. That’s a lot, given how valuable the points are.

That being said, when you look at the paid rates at this hotel in season, it’s actually a bargain in comparison.

Paid rates at this hotel can be $3,000+ per night including tax. That’s insane.

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Meanwhile the hotel costs 35,000 Starpoints per night, though with Starwood you get the fifth night free when redeeming points. That means for a five night stay, the average cost is just 28,000 Starpoints per night.

That’s an incredible value compared to the paid cost of such a stay, which would be $15,000+.

Now, I’ll be the first to say that I don’t think this hotel (or any hotel) is worth $3,000 per night, though I also stayed the week between Christmas and New Years, which is one of the busiest weeks of the year in South Beach. So the price more reflected the time of year and location than the hotel as such. Other times this hotel goes for $350 per night, in which case redeeming points for a stay wouldn’t be as good of a value.

But ultimately Starpoints enabled us to say here during one of the busiest times of the year, which was very nice. That’s what makes Starpoints great. They’re useful for airline mileage transfers, for stays at mid-range hotels, and in many cases for stays at their high-end properties as well. Redeeming points for a hotel that would cost $3,000+ per night is quite a value.

With that in mind, let’s get into the review.

W South Beach Review

We arrived at the W in the early afternoon. It’s located just off Collins Avenue, towards the northern part of South Beach. The building has a gorgeous exterior, with the “W” logo visible at the top.

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W South Beach exterior

Outside the hotel is a big Hello Kitty and bunny statue, which seems random, though people love taking pictures with them, based on the number of people I saw tagging themselves on Instagram in front of these.

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W South Beach Hello Kitty

Just behind that are the bikes, which are available to hotel guests on a first come first serve basis.

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W South Beach bikes

The W has a grand rectangular lobby, with a bunch of fresh flowers on a table by the entrance. This is certainly the chicest W lobby I’ve ever seen, and it reminded me of a hybrid between a W and St. Regis in terms of the styling.

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W South Beach lobby

There were tons of comfortable couches and chairs in the lobby area, which surprisingly never seemed to be too full, despite the hotel being fully occupied.

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W South Beach lobby

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W South Beach lobby

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W South Beach lobby

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W South Beach lobby

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W South Beach lobby

The associate who checked us in was friendly and professional. While I had tried to apply a Platinum Suite Night Award to this reservation, not surprisingly the hotel was full, so we were “only” upgraded to a “Wonderful Ocean View Room,” which is a standard room on a slightly higher floor. That worked for me, given that even the standard rooms at this hotel are nearly 600 square feet.

The hallways were stylish, and our room (#723) was about two thirds of the way down the hallway on the left.

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W South Beach hallway

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W South Beach room exterior

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W South Beach floorplan

The room had a long entryway with a closet on the left and the bathroom to the right.

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room entryway

The room was gorgeous, and I’d describe it more as a junior suite than what I’d typically consider a standard hotel room. The room’s design was quirky while still being luxurious.

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room living area

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room bedroom area

The room featured a brand standard king size bed. I love the W Bed, so slept extremely well.

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room bedroom

Across from the bed was a dresser and a wall-mounted TV.

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room bedroom TV

Then past that was the living area, which had an “L” shaped couch. It was separated from the living area by a lights fixture on one side and a black-and-white panel display on the other side.

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room living area

Across from the couch was a desk, along with a TV above it.

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room desk & TV

Past the living area was the large balcony, with two chairs and an ottoman. The balcony had a great view of the beach and ocean in the distance. The rooms are parallel through staggered, so the great thing is that you have privacy from your neighbors on the balcony.

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room balcony

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room balcony view

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room balcony view

The W has what’s perhaps the most over-the-top minibar setup I’ve ever seen, as there are minibar contents in three areas. There were some snacks and drinks on the dresser across from the bed.

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room minibar

Then in the living room there were bottles of liquor.

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room minibar

Then back near the entrance was a fridge with more minibar drinks.

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room minibar

Goodness gracious, I don’t want to know the sticker price of all the minibar contents!

On top of that fridge was a coffee machine and a wet bar.

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room wet bar

The bathroom was to the right of the entrance, and featured double sinks, a massive walk-in shower, and a partitioned off toilet.

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room bathroom

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room shower

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room toilet

The shower was fantastic — it was one of those human car wash showers, where you can get sprayed from every angle.

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room shower

As usual, toiletries were provided by Bliss, which I love.

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W South Beach Wonderful Ocean View Room Bliss toiletries

The evening of our arrival we got one of the grandest welcome amenities I’ve ever received at any hotel. My SPG Ambassador is incredible, though I really need to ask him to just start sending a simple fruit plate. 😉

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W South Beach Platinum welcome amenity

So I thought the room was lovely, especially when you consider that this is the base level room in terms of size. While the hotel can be pricey in high season, at least you’re not being squeezed into a 300 square foot room. Also on the seventh floor were the rooftop tennis and basketball courts, which seemed to be popular with kids.

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W South Beach basketball and tennis courts

Given that this is South Beach, of course the highlight is what’s going on outside your room. The hotel has a very nice pool, which I took pictures of at 7AM, given that during the day it’s packed. The pool even has a live DJ starting at noon.

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W South Beach pool

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W South Beach pool

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W South Beach pool

There’s also a more private pool behind it, which never seemed to be as full.

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W South Beach pool

Just next to the pool is a restaurant serving breakfast and lunch, which I’ll talk more about in a bit.

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W South Beach pool restaurant

The hotel also offers direct beach access.

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W South Beach beach access

They have attendants on staff there, so when you show up you give them your number, and they’ll lead you to some beach chairs. While chairs and towels are free, renting an umbrella costs $25 per day. On one hand that seems cheap, on the other hand that’s a pretty standard charge for hotels in the area.

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W South Beach beach

The beach was beautiful, and even as someone who doesn’t typically go outside, I enjoyed sitting in the shade for a few hours.

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W South Beach beach

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W South Beach from the beach

We had lunch both days at the W’s pool bar. It was a great way to enjoy the pool atmosphere while trying to make sense of how some people had, like, 10-pack abs.

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W South Beach pool lunch

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W South Beach pool lunch

The menu read as follows:

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Presumably they have 10-packs by not ordering the lobster roll with fries, but the server recommended it, and it was really good.

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W South Beach pool lunch — lobster roll

The watermelon and arugula salad was great as well.

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W South Beach pool lunch — watermelon and arugula salad

There’s a cool shaded area near the pool where I sat for a couple of hours the second afternoon working.

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W South Beach outdoor seating

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W South Beach outdoor seating

The hotel’s bar is located just off the lobby area, and one evening we had cocktails there, which were excellent.

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W South Beach bar

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W South Beach bar

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W South Beach bar

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W South Beach bar outdoor seating

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W South Beach bar cocktails

We had breakfast the first morning at The Dutch, which is the hotel’s all day dining restaurant. The restaurant actually had complimentary coffee for guests, which I took advantage of both mornings when I woke up.

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W South Beach breakfast restaurant

The breakfast menu read as follows:

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I had a breakfast burrito, while Ford had the baked eggs.

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W South Beach breakfast

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W South Beach breakfast

Unfortunately this hotel takes a very strict interpretation of the SPG Platinum continental breakfast benefit, and only offers Platinum members “The Cosmo” breakfast from the room service menu.

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W South Beach Platinum breakfast

This consists of coffee, juice, pastries/croissants, and yogurt. On the plus side, they didn’t even make me sign for it. Still, that’s not much of a breakfast benefit, if you ask me.

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W South Beach Platinum breakfast

Service at the hotel was generally very good. There’s an automatic 20% service charge for all food & beverage at the hotel, which is the case at many places in South Beach (presumably due to the number of foreign tourists). The service was friendly and sincere across the board. As you’d expect, given that this is South Beach, service wasn’t to the level you’d find in Bali or something, but I wasn’t expecting that either.

W South Beach bottom line

Ford and I had a really nice time in South Beach. South Beach as such is probably the furthest from being “my” scene, but sometimes it’s fun to try something different. I loved sitting on our balcony and enjoying the views, going to the beach for a bit, sitting by the pool, etc.

This is also the most expensive hotel room (in terms of retail value) that I’ve ever redeemed points for. One of the things that makes Starpoints so awesome is that there are no blackout dates, so as long as a standard room is available, you can redeem points for it. Of course that’s an even better value during the holidays, when the hotel goes for ~$3,000 per night, rather than the $350 in the off season.

The W South Beach is a lovely property, and I’d certainly consider returning. Surprisingly it reminded me a lot of the St. Regis Bal Harbour, and was by far the most luxurious W property I’ve stayed at in the U.S.

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Comments

  1. the one thing i dislike about the W is the lack of coffee makers in the rooms, glad to see this one has one! And i do hope that this is a chain-wide improvement!

  2. I’ll be staying at the nearby W Ft. Lauderdale in a couple weeks. They just finished a renovation, so it’ll be interesting to compare it to the pricier South Beach property!

  3. Zymm, I love both the South Beach and Fort Lauderdale W’s, but the one in FLL has incredible service and some great bars. I prefer it to the South Beach one, which I think has a better beach and arguably better pool. Hope you have a great time.

  4. ‘Now, I’ll be the first to say that I don’t this hotel (or any hotel) is worth $3,000 per night’

    Missing a word here Lucky 🙂 Great write up though!

  5. Lucky – I’m not familiar with the SPG Amex Stars program that you mention. Have you reported on this before? How does one participate?

  6. I immediately copied this and despite that someone noticed it also, I’ll repeat it for my $.02:
    “even as someone who doesn’t typically go outside”.
    Boy, that could be a whole blog post….. cooool…… !

  7. @C.I. The Balconies shown in that picture are not the hotel room balconies, but rather the W Residences that you can see while looking down from the balcony of your hotel room. If you have not been to this property, I can understand why that might be confusing.

  8. I’ll be in the 4 points Sheraton MB in April 40K spg points 5 nites..$15 United non-stop Air ,$3 MIA shuttle (Uber $20), week Bus pass CHEAP . Love Royal Palm BUT 5 nites better then 2 .Stayed @ Hyatt across street from RP nice but 2 much $$$$ .

    Nice,Safe Place,Bugs gone .Breakfast cheap $15 the rest zillion $$, eat off beach good food Cuban ect.

    CHEERs

    GREAT PHOTOS !!!!!!!!!!

  9. @PointsAreLife: That part of the hotel house the FABULOUS and MEGA suites. The megas are the top floor ones, with private outdoor mini-pools and BBQ (awesome) and the fabulous are all the ones below. Really great rooms with direct ocean view, outdoor showers and so on. The W Residences are not a special part of the hotel like in other Ws (Boston, New York, LA). When you buy a residence in the W SoBe you buy a hotel room, and often rent it back to the hotel when you are not there.

    @Zymm: Writing to you from W SoBe now, and just stayed the past two nights in W FLL. The renovation is spectacular. Lobby looks great, there is a new sushi bar in there that serves sushi that even impresses a New Yorker like me. Rooms have great style and awesome features such as USB-outlets by the bed. You can text Whatever Whenever which reminds me of texting the St Regis butler. You are in for a treat!

    @Lucky: Was the $3k/night rate for a standard room? That is pretty insane even for this hotel. In general it is possible to score some good cash deals and I have a 100% success rate of SNAs when booking off-peak in Jan, April and June. One of the SNA rooms is an Oasis suite which is huge 1BR suite with a media room containing a sofa bed, so basically a 2BR suite if someone is fine with sleeping on a sofa.

  10. I stayed probably a week earlier than you! The room was nice (got Fabulous Suite upgrade as Plat), booked under Amex FHR and breakfast perk was anything. That said, the service at the hotel (check in, late check out – security knocking on door at 2p) was bad and then the fire alarms went off, but not on our floor (fire code ciolation). Manager said she’d check on the issues and get back to me – never did. I’ve been to so many hotes in SoBe, and though room was one of the better, I wouldn’t return here. Tides on Ocean Dr is wonderful (and available with Amex FHR.)

  11. Just stayed here last night for SOBE Fest. The location was great and staying on an AMEX FHR booking we were up graded to the room next to the one you had, 725. Unfortunately the stay went down hill from there. We checked in at 3:54 and had to wait until 4 “their standard check in time to get our keys, so much for the FHR early check in of noon. Then that night the hotel had “club music” cranked up so loud I could hear the base through my ear plugs and that went on until 2 am. When I brought this up during check out I was told that I was lucky it was a week day, on the weekends the club gets really loud and can go until 5 am. The hotel has a lot of positives but that noise level means I won’t be going back. The management needs to decide are they a luxury hotel, or a nightclub. You can’t be both.

  12. Just stayed at the W in Santiago, Chile. Also a very nice property.

    And I love the body butter toiletry. Best skin cream of any hotel.

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