The Hotel Zones of Miami Beach, Florida

Miami Beach and Sunny Isles

Miami Beach hotel zones Florida

These days, South Beach in Miami is a glamor hub, a playground for the fit and sexy. It’s one of the USA’s most popular destinations for gay couples, Latin Americans, and celebrities, giving it an energy that’s hard to find elsewhere.

That’s just one side of Miami, however. The city is also a major art center, a banking and investment hub, and home to the U.S. operations of many international companies. The traditional crowd that came here in droves–retirees from up north–are still a big part of the real estate market as well.

If you’re planning a Miami vacation or a business trip, you’re going to need to pick the right Miami hotel neighborhood. Otherwise you could be spending needless time in traffic.

South Beach Waterfront

When people here “Miami Beach Resorts,” they’re picturing the swanky places you find on South Beach. This sand and fun area is party central for the city and has the largest concentration of hot clubs and restaurants. Sometimes it feels like you have to be extra young and sexy to fit into the South Beach scene, but there are plenty of older people and families enjoying their time here as well.

The names here practically ooze “cool factor” when you see the rundown: SLS South Beach, Eden Roc, Mondrian, Metropolitan by Como, Setai, Delano, Sagamore,  Dorchester… If you’ve got the funds, you can get right onto the beach from the pool at these spots and have a stylish cocktail club to hit at night.

South Beach Inland

South Beach Miami hotel zonesThe beach is public in Miami, so nothing is roped off for the waterfront resorts. If you don’t mind walking a few blocks to the water, you can stay elsewhere in South Beach and be closer to the restaurant and nightlife action.

This city is chock full of Art Deco buildings, so many of the smaller inland hotels are real works of art on the outside, decorated with mid-century modern whimsy on the inside. Most of them are independently owned and operated, though there are a few chains like Wyndham and Hyatt dotted around.

Miami Beach

Miami Beach proper starts where South Beach ends, but really it’s just a line on a map. The glamor address these days is the Faena Hotel Miami Beach, the sister property of a hip hotel in Buenos Aires. It’s near The Edition and The Palms, plus a lot of lower-priced properties on the water stretching north along the ocean.

Miami beach earn the most points with Bonwi

Brickell and Downtown

The prestige factor doesn’t stop if you stay away from the beach for business. Lots of company offices are in the Brickell area and you can find hotels from chains like Kimpton, Four Seasons, JW Marriott, W Hotels, and Mandarin Oriental. There are also some hotels moving into the downtown area, bringing some life into a zone a commuter foot traffic heaven that used to be a dead zone.

downtown Miami hotel Langford

Wynwood Arts District

Until the Art Basel Festival came along, this was kind of a no-man’s-land from a hotel standpoint, mostly filled with cheap motels. Times have changed as this has become the epicenter of the art scene in Miami.

Bal Harbour and Sunny Isles

In between Miami and Hollywood Beach/Fort Lauderdale is a strip of high-end condos and a few pricey resorts. These self-contained villages include Acqualina, St. Regis Bal Harbour, and Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour. There are a few mid-range options like the Newport and Solé on the Ocean. The beach here is quite nice and seldom crowded. (These properties tend to offer a high payoff on Bonwi points too. Check your dates here.)

Miami Beach and Sunny Isles

Other Miami Options

Of course there are plenty of hotels out by the airport, if you’re just looking for a place to crash during a long layover or before an early flight. The airport is not all that far out of the center here and you can even take a train from there to the business district. Or connect with Tri-Rail and head all the way up to Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and Palm Beach.

Search Miami Hotels and Miami Beach Hotels on Bonwi to earn a big points payback for every stay, no matter which neighborhood you choose.

Heading further north? See the hotel zones of Fort Lauderdale here.

Article and photos by Tim Leffel, editor of Hotel Scoop.

 

The Hotel Zones of Los Cabos, Mexico

Las Ventanas Rosewood luxury resort

Las Ventanas Rosewood luxury resort

If you’re headed to the resort area of Los Cabos in Mexico for the first time, you may not realize what a large, spread-out region this is. Occupying the whole bottom of the Baja Peninsula, it’s a sprawling cement truck parade of hotels, condos, golf courses, and two cities amidst dry desert and cacti.

Los Cabos has the greatest concentration of luxury resorts in Mexico though, with more being added every year, so it’s not a place filled with high-rises that can host 1,000 guests. Here the emphasis is increasingly on the guests who put this place on the map: upscale travelers from Hollywood, Silicon Valley, New York City, and oil country in Texas.  Don’t expect to find great  bargains here just because you’re heading south of the border: everything has to be shipped in or flown in except for seafood. Just getting water requires an expensive desalinization process. You’ll pay $200 an up to play golf because, well, Jack Nicklaus designed the course and…it’s a desert!

Los Cabos Quivira golf course

Here are the geographic options when you book a resort in Los Cabos. Make sure you’ve got a map handy to figure out what’s what.

Cabo San Lucas

This is the busiest part of the region because it’s where the cruise ships dock, where the nightlife is, and where the marina is that leaves on whale-watching trips. This calm bay is one of the few places where you can swim from the beach in this whole area: in most spots the waves are too rough and the undertow is serious.

There is a mix of upscale lodging (like Cabo Azul) here, as well as more budget-friendly options fanning back from the sea.

Le Blanc Los Cabos in the Corridor

The Corridor

The Corridor of Los Cabos was once and long and lonely stretch of desert dotted with a few hotels and golf courses. The cement trucks have been working overtime the past few years though and a new hotel goes up every month or two. Most of the best high-end resorts are here, like Rosewood Las Ventanas, One & Only Palmilla, and The Cape. The latest additions are a new Le Blanc and a new Casa Velas—both luxury all-inclusive resorts.

An all-inclusive or a high credit limit on your card can make a lot of sense here because you’re miles from anything when you arrive. You probably won’t leave the resort much except for adventure excursions.

San Jose del Cabo and the Port/Marina

San Jose del Cabo has long been the sleepy cousin at the other end of the corridor, but it has caught the development bug as well, especially in its marina/port area, where there’s a Secrets Resort and soon a Four Seasons.

Land’s End Los Cabos and North

Los Cabos Land's End waves

Where the Sea of Cortes and the Pacific Ocean meet is the tip of Baja known as Land’s End. Grand Solmar and Pedregal resorts are there, around the corner from the famous arch, and not far from downtown Cabo San Lucas.

Development is stretching north from there, with the Diamante and Quivira golf courses being the centerpieces of major real estate and hotel developments. There’s a Pueblo Bonito resort, a partially opened Grand Solmar Rancho San Lucas, and a Nobu. The further north toward Todos Santos you get, the more isolated the areas become. The idea is to play golf and hang out by the pool, though there are plenty of adventure activities on the wide beaches and among the cacti.

To book your perfect Los Cabos vacation and earn lots of points back you can use for future trips, go to Bonwi.com and rack up the rewards.

 

The Hotel Zones of Tampa Bay, Florida

Tampa Bay beach resort

Tampa Bay beach resort

Tampa Bay’s airport is often filled with families and couples on a getaway trip to sun and fun in Florida. The area also gets a lot of overflow traffic from Orlando, with people heading to the beach after the overstimulation of theme parks and loud chain restaurants. Tampa Bay is a big, spread-out metro area though, so where should you stay?

The metro area includes a lot of different towns and neighborhoods, from some of the USA’s best white-sand beaches to urban locations filled with museums, cultural events, and conventions. Here’s a rundown on the options for when you’re feeling overwhelmed by 200+ lodging choices.

Clearwater Beach

Often voted one of America’s best beaches, this three-mile stretch of sand is pedestrian-friendly and kept in pristine condition. The water is warm and calm most of the year and the powdery white sand feels great between the toes. There are a lot of restaurants and bars to choose from here, with a family-friendly atmosphere.

Clearwater Beach hotel Opal Sands

Top Choices: Opal Sands (pictured above), Hyatt Clearwater Beach, Wyndham Grand Clearwater, Sandpearl Resort

St. Petersburg Beach Sirata Beach Resort hammock on St. Pete Beach, Florida in the Tampa Bay area

More spaced-out than Clearwater Beach, the white sands of St. Pete Beach never feel very crowded, even on holiday weekends. You could walk for an hour before having to turn around on this beach and smart zoning practices have meant that hotels are set well back from the tide lines when a hurricane blows through.

Top Choices: Don CeSar, Kimpton Hotel Zamora, Guy Harvey Outpost, Sirata Beach Resort (pictured here), Postcard Inn

Downtown St. Petersburg

With a wide, white-sand beach just a few miles away, why would you stay in downtown St. Pete? Ten years ago that would have been a hard question to answer, but now this is one of the most attractive urban areas in Florida, with lively nightlife and great cultural attractions. The Dali Museum is worth a visit by itself, but you also have a Chihuly Glass Works museum, a highly regarded fine arts museum, and multiple performance halls and music clubs.

Vinoy Hotel St. Petersburg, Florida

Top Choices: Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg (pictured above), The Birchwood, Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront

Find your perfect Tampa Bay hotel here. 

Sand Key, Treasure Island, Indian Shores, and Redington Beaches

In between Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach are a slew of similar-looking stretches of sand making up the barrier island chain separated by bridges from the mainland. It’s hard to tell when you’ve left one and entered another unless you’re paying close attention to the street signs. So if you’re just looking for a beach with a nice sunset, you’ll do fine on any of them.

Top Choices: Sheraton Sand Key, Marriott Suites Sand Key, Treasure Island Resort, Sunset Vistas, Thunderbird Beach Resort

Tampa Downtown

The actual city of Tampa is on the bay, not the Gulf, so it was the first area to be settled as a port city. It really thrived as “Cigar City” in the early 1900s as Cuban cigar rollers shared the Ybor City port area with immigrants from Spain, Italy, and other parts of the world. There are a few hotels in Ybor City, but most of the best ones are concentrated downtown, near the convention center. The top boutique hotel is in South Tampa though: Epicurean.

Top choices: Le Meridien Tampa (pictured below), Marriott Waterside, Westin Harbour Island

Le Meridien Hotel Tampa downtown

Tampa Airport and Causeway

If your business is near the airport and local office complexes rather than downtown.  There are clusters of hotels by the airport, a few near Kennedy and Westshore, and on the causeway that leads out to the beach areas. There are also a few budget and mid-range options (plus an Embassy Suites) near the Busch Gardens amusement park.

Top choices: Tampa Airport Marriott, Westshore Grand, Renaissance Tampa Plaza, Westin Tampa Bay, Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay

Find the best deals on Tampa Bay Hotels and earn valuable points back for every stay—at any hotel—with Bonwi.com. 

How to Earn a Second Vacation From Your First Mexico Vacation

Marquis Los Cabos Resort

Marquis Los Cabos Resort

Imagine you travel to a Mexican beach destination like Los Cabos or the Riviera Maya for a long weekend holiday. Then after you’re done, you’ve earned enough credits to use for a free flight or hotel stay on your next vacation. Wouldn’t that be nice?

If you’re using Bonwi and paying attention to the point earnings, it’s a whole lot easier than winning a contest. It’s a sure thing in fact. It’s next to impossible to get a free flight or hotel room so easily with regular reward programs, but here you know in advance what you’re getting.

Los Cabos Hotel Points Paybacks

Let’s take a look at Los Cabos and see what you could get during a three-day weekend vacation in December.

Points back for Los Cabos Resorts

If you book either of the two all-inclusive resorts pictured there—Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach or Marquis Los Cabos—you would earn more than 31,000 points for your long weekend stay. What could you get for that number of points? A round-trip flight costing $310, a name brand gift certificate worth $310, or an even higher value many times by booking another hotel.

Hotel Point Paybacks in the Riviera Maya

I plugged in the same December dates for the Riviera Maya and look what you would earn from Grand Residences in Puerto Morelos or the brand new Andaz Mayakoba. You’d get more than 36K from one and 41K from the other.

hotel loyalty point rewards Riviera Maya

If you do the math, you’re basically getting a rebate of 20% or more on what you’re spending. That’s several times the amount you get from any traditional loyalty program.

Again that’s enough for a round-trip flight to many locations. Maybe even Cancun again! You just convert the points at a penny a mile so you don’t have to worry about blackout dates.

Or the payback would make for a huge Christmas present for someone by way of a gift card. The other option is to use it for more hotel stays. Let’s say you decided to go to Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta next time on vacation. If you signed into Bonwi and checked what you could get for your points total, you’d see dozens of hotels where your point total would get you a free three-nights’ stay. You would have to go down a star level or two at the beach, but in some interior cities you wouldn’t even have to do that.

We’re using Mexico as an example because when it’s cold up north, a lot of people head that direction. You could just as easily use it for a ski vacation though, or to just stay cozy inside with your new surround-sound system you bought with your Best Buy gift card. We won’t judge–just enjoy!

Find great hotel deals and the highest rewards for Los Cabos and the Riviera Maya.

The 5 Best Florida Beaches Easily Reached From Orlando

Florida beach from Orlando

Florida beach from Orlando

People fly from all over the world to go to Orlando, home of Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios amusement parks, and much more. This is a land-locked city though, so if you want a Florida beach vacation you need to drive east to meet the Atlantic Ocean or west to reach beaches on the Gulf of Mexico.

Both coasts are easy to reach in a rental car, however. Most of the way you will be on large highways and the roads are well-marked. The closest beach to Orlando is only one hour away from the gates of Walt Disney World, while the farthest one on this list is just two hours away.

Cocoa Beach, Florida – 1 hour

beach near Orlando
(photo courtesy Visit Space Coast Tourism)

Near the Cape Canaveral area where the United States launched most of its manned rockets into space, this is the closest beach to Orlando. Like all but one here, it’s on a narrow barrier island jutting out into the sea. Expect soft golden sand but big waves sometimes: this is one of the best surfing spots in Florida.

There are four public beach access areas with parking (for a fee), so it’s easy to come here on a day trip and return to your hotel in Orlando that night. For the kids there is also a public skate park and several playgrounds. The Kennedy Space Center has a visitors center open to the public.

Daytona Beach – 1 hour 15 minutes

Daytona Beach Florida

Best known as home of the Daytona 500 Speedway where NASCAR auto races take place, this is a beach where cars rule. You can drive right onto the hard-packed sand and park your car on the very wide beach. This makes any stretch of the beach easily accessible in your vehicle, in an area that stretches more than 15 miles from New Smyrna Beach through Ormond Beach.

Prices are reasonable at Daytona Beach for lodging, meals, drinks, and activities, so this is a good spot for a couple or family on a budget. The area has a surprisingly robust art scene, plus the region is frequently cited as one of the best beach values in the USA.

Clearwater Beach – 1 hour 45 minutes

Clearwater Beach Florida

Often voted as the prettiest beach in Florida, this is a compact white-sand beach area that is only 2.5 miles long. Much of it is connected by paved walkways and bike lanes and there are plenty of restaurants and beach bars with a view of the green and blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The water stays much warmer here than on the Atlantic coast, with temperatures only dipping down below F20° for one month in February. The water is very calm here, making it a good choice for young children. Search on Bonwi for the best Clearwater Beach resort deals.

St. Petersburg Beach – 1 hour 45 minutes

St. Pete Beach Florida

The Tampa Bay area’s other main beach is St. Petersburg, a long stretch of sand dotted with a variety of hotels and condo complexes. There several similar barrier island beaches immediately to the north such as Treasure Island and Madeira. As with Clearwater the sea temperatures are pleasant most of the year and there are seldom waves large enough to knock down even the smallest child.

This is a beach area where you pick a spot and park or you explore by car-there’s no boardwalk or path along the sea. It’s worth heading to downtown St. Pete for restaurants and nightlife, catching a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game, or exploring the Sunken Gardens area filled with tropical plants. The Salvador Dali Museum faces the Bay. Several well-regarded breweries are located here too, including Green Bench and 3 Daughters.

Anna Maria Island – 2 hours

Anna Maria Island Florida

For a taste of Florida the way it used to be before the state got so developed, head to Anna Maria Island where no building can be more than three stories high. There are no huge sprawling resorts here and the main things to do are eat seafood and lounge on the beach.

Just seven miles long and a few blocks wide, this is an easy island to navigate and there’s a free trolley to get around on once you’ve found your parking spot. There is a playground on the most popular public beach access spot and there are shaded picnic tables.

Wherever you go in Florida, you’ll earn the most points back to use for a future vacation by booking your hotel and rental car with Bonwi.com.

All photos by Tim Leffel except Coco Beach.

5 Florida beaches that are 2 hours or less from Orlando

The Hotel Zones of Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale Beach

The Atlantic Ocean coastal city of Fort Lauderdale is part of a 23-mile stretch of beach in Broward County, so there are plenty of places to stretch out on the sand. Then there’s the Intracoastal Waterway, a gay travel zone, and chic Las Olas inland, so sorting out the best place to book your hotel can be a challenge.

Fortunately, the various hotel zones of Fort Lauderdale are relatively well-defined. Once you know your objective, you can narrow down the options from 100+ properties to find the best place to stay in your budget. Be sure to check Bonwi for the best hotel deals and the most reward points back no matter which area of the city you choose.

Northern Beach Area

If you’re looking for a quiet, more residential area, the stretch of beach going from Lauderdale by the Sea down to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is going to be the best bet. There are fewer hotels in this area and they’re more spread out, though of course the surf and sand are going to be just as enticing.

Southern Beach Area

The bulk of the areas hotels and resorts are clustered in the area between the state park and the turnoff to the convention center. Here you’ll find the largest range of options, from 5-star luxury resorts to small family-run hotels with a kitchenette. Just remember that none are directly on the beach no matter what: there’s a public walkway on that side and no buildings directly next to the sand—unless you count lifeguard stands and public bathrooms.

walkway along the beach in Fort Lauderdale

Gay Fort Lauderdale Hotels

This destination is frequently touted as the top LGBT place to visit in the Eastern USA, with around 20 gay-exclusive guesthouses, a robust nightlife scene, frequent same-sex weddings, and several dedicated museums.  Guesthouses that cater to same-sex couples and groups are primarily clustered in the blocks between Vistamar and Riomar streets  and will have “Gay” or “Gay-friendly” in the description.

Hollywood, Florida

Although technically not Fort Lauderdale, this is so close that it might as well be, plus the water taxi heads down here on its last stop. If you’re planning on parking yourself at the beach most of the time, this can be a good alternative.

Convention Center and Cruise Port

If you’re just spending a night before or after one of the many cruises that depart from here, you want to be at the southern end of Fort Lauderdale, near the street that quickly changes names from Seabreeze Blvd. to SE 17th Street to A1A. Some airport and downtown hotels will also shuttle guests to the cruise port, so check the descriptions when you book.

Hotel map Ft. Lauderdale

Las Olas and Downtown

If chic shopping and fine restaurants get you more excited than body surfing in the waves, then Las Olas is the place to stay. This mile-long retail street is full of interesting shops, some of the top restaurants in the area, and fun nightlife options.  Downtown Fort Lauderdale is the cultural magnet of the area, with the county’s main performing arts center and multiple museums.

Fort Lauderdale Airport

If you’ve got an early flight or are just on a business trip, there are multiple hotels near this busy airport served by multiple international carriers and serving as a hub for Spirit Air. Most provide some kind of shuttle service and don’t forget that the South Florida Tri-Rail system has train service up to Palm Beach and down to Miami.

If you need to get from one zone to the other in Fort Lauderdale, don’t worry. There are plenty of options for getting around, even without a car. Besides taxis and rideshare services, there is a water taxi system, a city bike share system, and a malecon sidewalk running the length of the beach that’s great for walking.

Ready to book a vacation? See the Fort Lauderdale hotels at Bonwi.com, where you’ll find guaranteed low rates and generous points back you can use for your next hotel stay, flight, or rental car with no blackout dates.