Bal Harbour is a tiny community of 2,500 but packed to its posh brim with luxury. An upscale enclave tucked away at the northern edge of Miami Beach, the area hold five-star hotels, world-class dining, sprawling beaches, and famous shopping.
Of the four hotels here, the St. Regis looms large, a multi-tower affair that opened in January 2012 and this year earned an AAA Five Diamond and Luxury Travel Advisor Awards of Excellence for “Best new Luxury Hotel in North America” award, among others. Art factors huge in Bal Harbour in general, and its hotels in particular. At the St. Regis, with its towering, beveled-mirror walls in the lobby that reflect light from rock-crystal chandeliers, the Rosenbaum Museum curates the stunning art that is regularly rotated throughout the building.
St. Regis is synonymous with star treatment, and you feel like one the minute you arrive, where staff know the name of each guest and use it with every greeting. I stayed one night in a 15th-floor, one-bedroom suite, and got there in high-tech style: A swipe of my room key by a scanner directed me to the proper elevator and zipped me to my floor, without ever having to punch a single button.
With a suite comes a butler, who will unpack for you, press your clothes and bring whatever food of beverage you require, day or night. The suite was spectacular with large kitchen, dining and living spaces; ocean-facing balconies off the living room and master bedroom; cream-colored walls with gentle blue and brown accents; a full bath off the entry and larger one off the master that held a giant soaking tub; frosted-door shower and toilet, and in-mirror television. The suite also features lights that can be dimmed and shades drawn by the touch of a screen in the living room and master.
Dining at J&G, the St. Regis’s signature restaurant, is to be lavished with constant attention and supping on the creations of Chef de Cuisine Brad Kilgore, in a dining room with wall-to-ceiling glass, affording views as spectacular as the food. They overlook no detail; dine alone, and you’ll be asked if you want a paper or magazine to pass the time.
I also stayed one night at One Bal Harbour, a stunning stay with just two rooms per floor, with views of the ocean and nearby Haulover Park. My room was spacious, sun splashed and airy, with a large leather-topped work station, balcony, and the most unusual bathroom I’ve ever seen. The oval-shaped tub and separate shower were next to a wall of glass overlooking the ocean, a set-up that earned the hotel multiple local nominations for “sexiest bathroom.” However, privacy is easily obtained by pulling down shades, controlled by a wall switch.
One Bal Harbour is also keen on the arts. On the terrace of the restaurant, Mr. Collins, is a massive bronze sculpture by Guy Dill, and throughout the hotel, a $3.5-million collection of art curated by Joan Warren-Grady, art advisor to luxury hotels worldwide.
No matter where you stay, a visit to Bal Harbour Shops is a must, an open-air mall that recently earned the status of being the most profitable in the world. It’s home to nearly 100 high-end stores, including Bulgari, Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Oscar de la Renta, Saint Laurent, Nieman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, in a setting lush with landscaping, fountains, and koi swimming in tanks beneath glass in the pedestrian walkway.
Here you will also find Makoto, a Steven Starr restaurant noted for inventive sushi and modern Asian cuisine; Carpaccio, an Italian eatery with outside dining perfect for people watching; and La Goulue, a French bistro with a tropical touch.
Bal Harbour—a long-time favorite of presidents, sports figures, and celebrities—isn’t a secret, and you don’t have to be a star to go there. However, if you do, you will be treated like one.