In Miami's South Beach, it's refreshing to find newcomer Sense Beach House, with a rooftop pool that's scene-free and 18 beige-and-blue rooms at affordable rates.
"The traditional beach hotel concept is being reinvented with the introduction of smaller, more intimate beachside properties," declares general manager Patricia Trias. "Staying small can create a big impact by allowing visitors to relax and feel at ease, which is what the beach experience is all about."
From Mexico to Waikiki, the lure of beach hotels remains constant in the travel world. But as Trias says, many of the hotels themselves have changed. That's because travelers expect more amenities, better food, and personalized touches, whether they're families in search of safety and activities, singles seeking nightlife, or honeymooners after solitude and romance. The hottest new beach hotels often provide often all those things, plus that instant access to the sand and surf.
Beach hotels are also taking cues from their specific surroundings. As Darrell Long, from Hirsch Bedner Associates-the hospitality design consultants behind the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island and the Resort at Singer Island-puts it: "The days of sea horses and seashells are gone. We are now pushing design honesty."
This authenticity of place goes beyond design elements. It's also reflected in James Royal Palm's Florida Cookery locavore restaurant, which serves hearts of palm with Florida orange vinegar. The conch shell facials at Belize's El Secreto and the outdoor charcoal grills and bingo nights at Eisenhower-era Ruschmeyer's in Montauk, NY, are additional examples of how properties are highlighting regionalism and period architecture and décor.
It's no wonder these beach hotels are making waves.
Courtesy of El Ganzo
This modern hotel atop a marina on the Sea of Cortés is a breath of fresh air in over-the-top Los Cabos. Its low-key cool comes through in the live musical performances by the likes of Damien Rice and curated art exhibits. Downstairs restaurant serves tlacoyo de pollo, a Mexican specialty, while the spa plays up regional botanicals such as agave-mezcal scrubs. Expect your room to feature an iPad, a Mexican tiled hot tub, and distressed-wood headboards and wall paneling. elganzo.com
Tim Street-Porter/Courtesy of Oceana Beach Club Hotel
Oceana Beach Club, Santa Monica, CA
Designer Anthony Baratta drew out the property's mid-century roots by ditching the Mediterranean palette in exchange for SoCal hues, Mad Men-era furniture, and Calder-inspired chandeliers. The refreshed hotel reopened in March 2013, complete with restaurant Tower 8, where Santa Monica native and Michelin-starred chef Josiah Citrin emphasizes southern California cuisine like ahi tuna tartare and avocado mousseline as well as farmers' market salads. To really channel your SoCal chi, sign up for the free yoga classes. oceanabeachclubhotel.com
Ruschmeyer's, Montauk, NY
This Eisenhower-era Montauk motel gone mod is near the shores of Fort Pond, but just a five-minute beach-cruiser ride from the surfer-stoked bonfires of Ditch Plains Beach (bikes for hire are on the premises). The cedar-plank walls, hammocks, and wicker furniture are part of the 1950s beach-holiday lure, as are bingo nights, fresh clam pizzas, and dance-offs. But the young and energetic crowd-including plenty of creative New Yorkers-keeps the place feeling especially contemporary. kingandgrove.com