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7 South Florida Resorts That Are Leading Hotels Of The World

Only seven properties in Florida can say they’re part of an exclusive group of luxury independent hotels around the globe, and The Brazilian Court in Palm Beach is one of them.

We recently took a tour of several of South Florida’s Leading Hotels of the World, and though we traveled down State Road A1A to reach each destination, we were surprised to find that each oceanfront resort was so distinct in nature.

That's because the Leading Hotels of the World—a collection of close to 400 unique hotel properties across more than 75 countries—aims to highlight uncommon travel destinations that have their own personalities but all meet a shared set of quality standards.

To be considered for membership, hotels must be referred by an existing Leading Hotel member. The properties are then evaluated by anonymous inspectors (kind of like secret shoppers), who judge them on an 800-point scale of criteria that cover the guest experience from reservation to check-out.

Around the world, the group includes former castles and mountain hideaways to safari camps and private islands, all with impressive culinary offerings, wellness programs, arts and culture, and more. Here in South Florida, Leading Hotels range from the historic Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables to the flamboyant Faena Hotel Miami Beach and our very own classic, The Brazilian Court.  

Here are the seven South Florida Leading Hotels you should know about:

Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach

South Florida Resorts
Acqualina Spa by ESPA's relaxation room and Himalayan Salt Wall. (Courtesy Acqualina)

The elegant Mediterranean-style Acqualina Resort may be known for its five-star spa and top-notch fine dining, but it’s also a family-friendly locale. While kids can build fortresses in the sandcastle play area on the beach or learn about marine biology through the resort’s AcquaMarine Children’s Program, adults can indulge in the 20,000-square-foot, two-story Acqualina Spa by ESPA. There, guests can unwind amidst a Finnish sauna, crystal steam room, ice fountains, and a relaxation room with a Himalayan Salt Wall that promotes respiratory health and emotional balance. In fact, the ESPA Spa recently launched two new Himalayan salt stone treatments that take advantage of the minerals’ soothing, anti-inflammatory properties. Enjoy beachside dining at Costa Grill, the weekend brunch buffet at AQ by Acqualina, or a refined Italian meal with remarkable service at Il Mulino New York.

17875 Collins Ave., Sunny Isles Beach


The Biltmore Hotel Miami Coral Gables

Leading Hotels Of The World
Courtesy Leading Hotels

A National Historic Landmark, the Biltmore Hotel was built in 1926, and its Spanish Giralda-style tower stands tall over Coral Gables. Throughout its long history, the iconic hotel—with its golden yellow facade and terra-cotta tiles—has hosted such notable guests as Al Capone and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The resort is also a golfer’s dream. The Biltmore’s 18-hole championship golf course offers over 6,800 yards of fairways, a golf shop with custom club fitting, and GPS-navigated golf carts. Don’t miss out on the half-acre pool (considered the largest hotel pool in the continental U.S.), afternoon tea with a featured harpist in the stunning lobby, and inventive French cuisine at Palme d’Or by Michelin starred chef Gregory Pugin. 

1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables


The Brazilian Court Hotel

Leading South Florida Resorts
Courtesy Leading Hotels

This Mediterranean villa-style boutique hotel gives travelers a taste of Palm Beach and old-world glamour. Only blocks from Worth Avenue, The Brazilian Court Hotel, now celebrating its 90th anniversary, features guest suites named for old Hollywood stars like Katharine Hepburn, Marlon Brando and Humphrey Bogart. Guests can enjoy a blowout at the on-site Frédéric Fekkai salon, dine at Palm Beach favorite Café Boulud, or be driven to the beach in the hotel’s private Mercedes sedan—a beach bag stocked with towels, water and sunscreen is included.

301 Australian Ave., Palm Beach


Carillon Miami Beach

Leading Florida Resorts
The indoor-outdoor yoga studio is one of many fitness centers at The Carillon. (Courtesy Carillon Miami Beach)

The Carillon Miami Beach, in short, is a wellness mecca. With an extensive fitness program that boasts upward of 40 fitness classes per day and one of the largest spa facilities in South Florida at 70,000 square feet, it’s easy to see why. In addition to an impressive multi-story indoor rock climbing wall, open-air but sheltered yoga studio, and four total pools, the all-suite hotel offers guests unique nutrition classes and wellness programs as well as access to acupuncturists and medical professionals. So whether travelers are looking for a complete detox or want to discover wellness their own way (yes, cheeseburgers and fries are still available on property), it’s a rejuvenating resort that everyone can enjoy.

6801 Collins Ave., Miami Beach


Faena Hotel Miami Beach

Hotel Miami Beach
Guest suite at Faena Hotel Miami Beach (Courtesy Faena)

Faena Hotel, part of Argentinian developer Alan Faena’s vision for a “Futopian” Faena District in Miami Beach, fuses vibrant Art Deco pop with the flashy golden aesthetic of popular Baz Luhrmann films. (Yes, the “The Great Gatsby” and “Moulin Rouge” director helped design the hotel.) Entering the property, guests are welcomed not by a traditional lobby but by a “Cathedral” with tropical murals by Juan Gatti lining the walls of the grand hall, painted like gold-leaf frescoes. Straight ahead, beyond floor-to-ceiling glass doors that lead outside, is the ocean view and a 24-karat gold-coated wooly mammoth skeleton, “Gone But Not Forgotten,” an art piece and photo opportunity that’s become as much a landmark as the hotel itself. Throughout the rest of the property, guests will notice the signature Faena Red, a dominant color scheme in guest rooms and at the Faena Theater, where after-dinner cabaret performances are held. Don’t miss out on the Tierra Santa Healing House, a unique South American-inspired spa that employs ancient healing rituals and indigenous ingredients; personalized Faena Butlers who work each floor and act as a helpful point of contact throughout a guest’s stay; and two signature restaurants, Pao by Paul Qui—an Asian fusion restaurant blending Filipino, Spanish and Japanese cuisines—and Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann, an Argentinian grill with an open-fire kitchen.

3201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach


Fisher Island Hotel & Resort

The Brazilian Court
Courtesy Leading Hotels

You’ll have to take a ferry (or, you know, yacht) to get to this hotel—a cottage-style resort on a private island. The 216-acre property features a private beach and beach club, nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, and marina, as well as a full-service, Mediterranean-style spa and seven dining options—including the casual La Trattoria and the Italian-Mediterranean Porto Cervo. Guests can be carted around the island on complimentary golf carts and also have access to a 24-hour concierge. Accommodations range from courtyard villas to cottages and guest house suites that were part of the original Vanderbilt estate.

One Fisher Island Drive, Fisher Island


The Setai Miami Beach

The Setai Miami Beach
Courtesy Leading Hotels

Escape to the Far East with this Oriental-inspired oceanfront resort on South Beach. Onlookers from the outside will notice the landmark building’s Art Deco facade, but step inside the property and find Burmese teak interiors, Indonesian bronze and dark gray bricks salvaged from historic Shanghai buildings. Continuing with the theme, The Spa at The Setai, which is open from sunrise to sunset daily, offers relaxation and restorative techniques taken from Eastern cultures to help promote Zen-like peace. Decadent dining options include The Setai Grill, a modern steakhouse with Asian-inpsired specialty dishes, and The Restaurant at the Setai, which features the flavors of Spain, Italy, the South of France and Provence.

2001 Collins Ave., Miami Beach