Miami is one of the top US destinations for the solo traveler. The Latin-influenced culture, the great shopping venues, the fabulous restaurants, the electric nightlife and the wonderful tropical climate all come together to make this a fun place for a weekend getaway or an extended stay. Bottom line? It's hard not to have a good time in Miami. With the proliferation of luxury hotels, the difficult decision for the solo traveler is where to stay. If the downtown area is your base of activity, I recommend the Epic Hotel, managed by the Kimpton Group. It's hip, luxurious and affordable. I have to admit, on my last trip to Miami I didn't select this hotel. It was selected for me as the location of a business conference I was attending before my Miami to Maine solo driving adventure. The hotel turned out to be more than just your typical upscale business hotel and I enjoyed my stay here for many reasons.
As a solo traveler, I look for certain characteristic and services offered by a hotel to determine whether it is what I call "solo friendly." Safety, location, ambience, cleanliness, service, superior food/lounge options, spa facilities, a comfortable room with a balcony and a great bed, complimentary services as well as something that makes the hotel memorable are all factors that must have a solo sensitive twist. How the doorman greets you, the aesthetics of the lobby and the check in experience have to make a good impression. You have to instantly feel comfortable as you enter the hotel.
I look for rooms that are located near a fire exit and are spotlessly clean, tastefully decorated and, ideally, have a balcony. Additional must have items include: solid door locks, safes, free WiFi, comfortable bedding, 24-hour room service, security, front desk service, and airport transportation. I also keep an eye on whether the hotel offers complimentary services such as free breakfast, afternoon snacks and early evening wine hours. The location of the hotel should be in an upscale area and it should be close to the focus of your activities. Most importantly, the staff's attitude to you and your needs should have a VIP quality. I find solo travelers need a little more special attention than couples or families when traveling to help them enjoy a hotel and what it has to offer. The worst thing is when a solo traveler doesn't want to leave her room!
As I drove up to the front entrance of the Epic Hotel, I noticed the interesting sculpture as a focal point, the luxury cars waiting for the valet service, and the yachts in the background dock next to the hotel. I knew right away this hotel was a happening place. Two doormen opened both doors to welcome me and escorted me, a solo female guest, through the lobby to the personable young lady at the front desk. Check in was fast and efficient.
As I settled into my well-appointed room and went out onto my balcony to view the Miami skyline, I knew this hotel had a solo friendly consciousness. My room was not in a poor location with a sub-par city view. I enjoyed my time on the balcony so much during my stay that it was hard to turn in for the night. I found myself outside journaling and playing with my iPhone past midnight. A solo traveler given a room with a superior location/view that is near an emergency exit let's you know this hotel is practicing solo sensitive procedures.
After I unpacked I went to the concierge and asked for dinner suggestions. She said the hotel's feature restaurant, Zuma, was the highest rated, most popular restaurant in Miami and thus, recommended I go there. I was shocked that the hotel where my business conference was being held would have the top-rated restaurant in Miami but I was elated. Modern Japanese cuisine with an informal Japanese dining style known as izakaya with many small dishes served continuously throughout the meal is what sets Zuma apart. With locations, in London, Dubai, Istanbul, Hong Kong and Bangkok, Zuma's Miami location is its first in the US.
The restaurant's interior has a feng shui sensitive layout with a main dining area, a sushi counter, a sake bar and lounge, a robata grill and an outdoor dining terrace. Beautiful woods, rice paper panels and bamboo walls are some of the design elements of this top restaurant. The night I dined there it was packed with solo diners causing me to have to sit at the sushi counter, which was not optimal, but still pleasant. The Zuma restaurants are the brainchild of German chef, Rainer Becker. The UK's Tatler Restaurant Awards named its London location "Restaurant of the Year" and Conde Nast has listed these restaurants on their "Hot Tables" List. Even though the meal was expensive, the food lived up to its reputation.
While I'm on the topic of eating, I'll share with you the other quality dining option at the Epic Hotel, Area 31, which is referred to as a "Foodie Paradise in the Sky," is located on the hotel's sixteenth floor. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and known for is it's spectacular views from its outside dining terrace. Having breakfast here was definitely memorable. You can feel the cosmopolitan character of Miami from this vantage point. When you are outside on the traffic, pedestrian filled streets of downtown, you feel stressed, but up on the sixteenth floor you feel super cool. Having your breakfast up on the roof is a great way for the solo traveler to start her day. The hotel's two swimming pools are also on this floor.
Another one of the characteristics I look for in a solo friendly hotel is if I would feel comfortable having a drink in the lounge or elsewhere alone in the hotel. One of the trickiest aspects of solo travel is choosing where to enjoy a glass or two of wine in the evening. It's a downer to drink alone in your room but you also want to feel comfortable in the hotel's bar or lounge. The solo female traveler wants a lounge environment where she can decide whether she wants to engage in conversation with another guest or not. One of my favorite things to do after a full day of sightseeing and exploring is to enjoy a glass a wine, write in my journal, catch up on emails and social media or write a blog post.
Located along the bank of the Miami River where it joins Biscayne Bay make the Epic Hotel location fabulous. Daily, I would sit outside and watch the yachts and the fishing boats go by. For walkers there is a walking path, the Riverwalk Trail, which traverses the river on both sides and connects to Biscayne Boulevard, one of the main streets of downtown Miami. The Epic Hotel is the only marine hotel with dockside arrival in Miami, a feature that sets this hotel apart from the other nearby luxury alternatives.
Besides strolling along the Riverwalk Trail, the hotel is within walking distance of downtown Miami shopping, the Bayside Market, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, the Perez Art Museum and the American Airlines Sports Arena. Besides shopping and entertainment, there are plenty of different dining options at all price levels near the hotel. There is even a Whole Foods grocery store a block away.
I will conclude this post with the icing on the cake for this chic solo friendly hotel: the room rates range from $205 to $305 for a standard room depending on the season. Right now, during the later part of the summer season, on the various Internet booking sites the room rate is at the lower end. I would describe the Epic Hotel as affordable luxury at its best. The next time you travel solo to Miami consider staying at this cosmopolitan mecca, you won't be disappointed!