By: Angela Caraway-Carlton
Miami is known for its extravagant hotels and resorts that offer a vacation to remember, and if you’re looking for a true “wow” factor in a hotel stay, you’ll find it at the oceanfront Faena Miami Beach.
The moment you enter the hotel and saunter down the dramatic red carpet, you’re surrounded by gold pillars and jaw-dropping murals — a spectacular preview of what’s to come during your stay. The hotel has movie set magic, and for good reason: Faena is the brainchild of Argentine developer and hotelier Alan Faena, who teamed up with filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and his set designer/costumer wife Catherine Martin (who were responsible for all the glitz and glamour of “The Great Gatsby” and “Moulin Rouge!”) to bring Faena alive!
Located in the heart of Miami Beach's mid-beach neighborhood, the hotel has quite the storied history; it was originally known as The Saxony Hotel, a see-and-be-seen spot in the late ‘40s. Now, it’s been reimagined with Art Deco style and bold Hollywood glamour, but with all the modern conveniences. There’s something visually stimulating at every turn, and the most eye-catching, talked-about-piece is “Gone But Not Forgotten” by Damien Hirst, an enormous 24-karat-gold mammoth that rests in a house of glass in front of the beach. During the day the clear glass offers a spectacular view of the turquoise ocean in the background, beckoning you for a swim.
With 169-guest rooms decked out in deep shades of red and blue that effortlessly harmonize with Miami’s sparkling turquoise water — these are the rooms of your dreams. Many of the guest rooms feature opulent rugs designed by Catherine Martin, hand-woven Argentinian throws, leopard couches and spacious sitting areas, and for extra-decadence, each floor has its own butler. Basically, you’re treated like a star, and who doesn’t want that feeling on vacation? Of course, if you’re willing to splurge, the most coveted stay is the stunning Penthouse Suite, a 14,000-square-foot oceanfront two-level duplex featuring five bedrooms, six bathrooms, a state-of-the-art kitchen, and wrap-around balconies offering panoramic views of the sea and Miami skyline.
Even if you’re not a guest of the hotel, you can book a day at Tierra Santa Healing House, which will probably rank as the most vibrant spa you’ve ever visited. Like everything at Faena, it has a show-stopping focal piece, “Float,” a handmade chandelier fashioned with 400 multi-colored fishing floats. The spa boasts one of the largest hammams on the East Coast, which will warm-up your body for shaman-inspired treatments and body-healing rituals. For a treatment that you’ll want to re-live repeatedly, book the Tree of Life Vibrations, a 110-minute massage on a heated quartz-sand bed where warm singing bowls are placed along areas such as the spine and stomach. Days can be spent lounging by the pool dotted with Faena’s signature red-and-white umbrellas; or soak up the sun from your own red beach chair on the sand.
The hotel lays claim to two restaurants with prominent chefs: Pao by Paul Qui, a James Beard Foundation award-winning chef, and Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann, an Argentine super-star chef. At Los Fuegos, you’ll get a taste of the live-fire barbeque that Mallmann is known for. Sundays are one of the best times to visit for the buffet-style “asado” (a major social event in Argentina, where friends and family gather around traditional dishes and spend an afternoon catching up), where you’ll feast on a variety of South American-inspired dishes like tender slow-cooked ribeye, wood-oven provoleta and a tempting tower of desserts.
At Pao, you’ll savor modern Asian cuisine that fuses Filipino, Spanish, Japanese and French influences, and be greeted by another Damien Hirst creation, a gold unicorn called “Golden Myth” that serves as the centerpiece of the restaurant and even inspires some of the dishes and drinks. You can sip a fancy drink out of a three-pound brass unicorn, and if you’re adventurous, try the unforgettable “Uni-corn,” a creamy dish that includes two small pieces of uni swathed in a frothy, sweet corn pudding that is beautifully presented in a sea urchin shell.
For small bites like prawns and local snapper ceviche and imaginative cocktails, retreat to the outdoor courtyard, Tree of Life, which is anchored by a massive tree, and is a tropical retreat with vibrant plants, hand-painted mosaic seating and columns made of seashells. Also outdoors, the terrace of Veranda is an inviting spot for morning coffee and delicious breakfast items like house-made blueberry beignets and oak-smoked salmon; and there’s nothing better than waking up to tranquil views of the glimmering beach or pool.
Faena truly comes alive at night; start your evening at the energetic Living Room, which is draped in dark red and gold, and gives off the glam vibes of an old Hollywood movie, but with a new scene-set; or settle into a seat at the tucked-away Saxony Bar, which has its own theatrical feeling and creative cocktails. For a night of fantasy, reserve a table at Faena Theater, where resident shows range from a seductive cabaret to a jazz series. Often, the crowd is encouraged to be part of the show — and let’s face it, you’re truly the star of any stay at Faena!
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