My Stay at the Four Seasons Surf Club
As you know, I travel a lot. I’ve stayed in every conceivable type of hotel from tiny boutiques to five star resorts. I’ve experienced the best and the worst that the hotel industry could dream up. I’ve been known to move furniture and obsess over design details that I wish I could change. I can also tell in an instant if a room has been designed by a very tall man who had no concern that a shorter women might not be able to reach something. I can honestly say that the Four Seasons Surf Club in Miami is hands down the best hotel in which I’ve ever stayed and this post will outline why.
The Four Seasons Surf Club, from here forth known as just the Surf Club, in located in Surfside which just a little north of Miami Beach and right near the Shops at Bal Harbour. It’s a great location if you want to be at a luxury hotel a little removed from the fray of South Beach. The original hotel was built in 1930 for this very reason.
The Four Seasons started renovations and redevelopment of the site in 2014 which is when I drove by and saw the signs announcing the project. I’ve been wanting to stay there ever since and it was such a treat to finally experience it in person in January.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was a guest of the hotel just as any editor or travel writer would in order to review it. This did not in any way sway my review and I can attest that this post represents my honest opinions. My biggest worry is recommending any place that would disappoint my readers and followers so I take my referrals very seriously.
“The idea for the club was born on a yacht owned by tire tycoon Harvey Firestone on a winter afternoon in the late 1920s. Firestone and a few friends including Miami Beach pioneers Carl Fisher and Irving Collins cruised up the coast of Miami Beach on the Marybelle, when they noticed an incredibly beautiful beachfront landscape. In the midst of Prohibition, they were hankering for a private place to gather and once they laid eyes upon this location, the ideal place was found. Architect Russell T. Pancoast, who defined aesthetics of that era, was brought on to bring their vision to life.”
From the moment it first opened its doors on New Year’s Eve 1930, the Surf Club has hosted celebrities looking for a little relaxation including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elizabeth Taylor, Gary Cooper, Noel Coward, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Winston Churchill. Many of their photos line the walls of peacock alley which is what they call the long hallway to the beach in the original main building.
I’m not usually a fan of contemporary architecture but architect Richard Meier, along with Miami based Kobi Karp, and French interior designer Joseph Dirand did an excellent job blending the old and the new.
I first stopped by the Surf Club after my Art Basel press trip with La Prairie in December. I found it incredibly chic then and I only saw the main public areas.
I’m really loving this shade of pale green upholstery lately. It may be time for a change in my apartment.
The weather ran the gamut during my stay. The first day was warm but then became cloudy and rain arrived later. Since I knew it was going to rain, I decided to take advantage of staying in and experiencing as much of the Surf Club as possible. This is the view from my room the first evening.
My ocean front room was perfection. Everything was so well designed and thought was put into every detail. For a new contemporary hotel, my room felt very warm and inviting. The pale neutral shades were chosen to compliment the sand and greenery outside.
There is a lot of textures and shapes in the room that keep it from feeling cold.
The only criticism I had of the room is that the master controls for the lights and draperies were located on the left side of the bed and I sleep on the right. I wish hotels would put them on both sides so one person doesn’t control everything.
The green marble mini bar area added more texture and pattern.
I decided to order room service the first night since the SAG Awards were on television and there is nothing more luxurious than room service. I touched the table as a test to see if it moved and it did. Every detail was thought out even down to whether you might want to sit there and look out at the ocean or watch television. You could also move the chair to sit at the attached desk that way too.
I can always tell if a man designed a hotel bathroom without thinking about women but this one was perfect. There was lot of counter space to spread out all my products and plenty of room for two people.
I also loved that there was a separate shower and tub. I love taking a luxurious bath while traveling and did just that the first night.
Before I settled in for the night, I took a walk around the property to explore. There are two paths that run along the beach for walking, jogging, and biking. The hotel offers bikes to use during your stay and there is a small gym on the 3rd floor as well.
The ominous sky on the first night.
You can see the juxtaposition of the original old hotel building and the new hotel tower here. My room was on the 6th floor directly under the one with the open balcony door on the left side of the hotel.
What I didn’t realize before my stay is that there are only 77 hotel rooms in only that one tower. The rest of the towers on the right and more not visible on the left are the Residences. If you want to book a stay and the dates you want to stay are booked, I would suggest calling the hotel to see if you can rent out a residence.
This is an old photo of the Surf Club from its heyday. There are homes now across the street in place of those parking lots. You can also see they didn’t have dunes before but beach erosion has led to new measures to protect them from further recession.
I made a visit to the very chic hotel boutique Haremlique on both trips. I really wanted that green kaftan but I didn’t think I’d wear it enough to justify the price. An Instagram follower said she called to order it though so I’m glad someone will get to enjoy it.
I did however get one of the Haremlique travel bags on the top shelf when I stopped by during Art Basel. I wish I had taken a photo before I took the grey cashmere one I bought off the shelf. Many of you saw it when I posted it on Instagram but it was the last one. They said they will be getting more if you want one to try to get one now.
It dawned on me while staying at the Surf Club that this room was a very similar ocean front size to my room in the 1 Hotel in which I stayed during Art Basel but it made such better use of the space. I just knew the 1 Hotel room had been designed by a very tall man and it was confirmed when I Googled the design firm responsible. My new goal in life is to consult on hotel rooms since some developers and designers never take women travelers or their needs into consideration.
I loved having the balcony door open when I first checked in and while I was out there, I noticed that the couple directly next to me had a baby with them. When the door was closed at night, I didn’t the rain or wind outside that night or the baby next door. I was honestly shocked but they told me the hotel was hurricane proof so maybe that made it sound proof as well.
The morning of day two was freezing so I’m pretty sure the pool was heated otherwise those two would have experienced hypothermia.
The view from my room again.
There are so many chic things about the Surf Club but one of the best is the space that Le Sirenuse occupies in the old part of the hotel. This is the only other location of the famous Le Sirenuse hotel and restaurant in Positano, Italy.
If you can’t book a stay at the Surf Club, I highly recommend you stop by Le Sirenuse for a drink or a meal or just to see it. I think it looks especially beautiful in the day but it’s also very sexy at night.
The iconic green Champagne Bar at Le Sirenuse is a favorite spot to photograph for Instagram.
Chef Thomas Keller also has a restaurant on the property, The Surf Club Restaurant, but I didn’t get to see it during my stay. Due to the cold and wet weather, the outdoor seating area wasn’t set up but make sure you check it out too.
There’s also a more casual dining area on the terrace. It actually had different furniture when I visited in December but I much prefer this retro looking set. It was too chilly during my trip to sit outside and eat.
The weather during Art Basel in December was a little chilly for Miami but it was very bright and sunny. The weather I experienced in January was such a mixed bag and it was freezing on the one day I had time to lay out. That didn’t stop me or a few other hearty souls and I enjoyed some fish tacos in the sun before the clouds rolled in and the wind picked up. We all ended up sitting under towels until I eventually gave up and went inside. I didn’t even bother to try the pool but this women went for a few laps.
I loved the design of the public restrooms on the main floor.
The green tiles and brass fixtures made it feel like a beachy version of the bathroom at the Polo Bar in New York.
My friend in Miami met me for a drink at Le Sirenuse Champagne Bar before we met up with interior designer Billy Ceglia for drinks and dinner downtown.
The sunrise of my last morning at the Surf Club.
The light in the room each morning was so beautiful and I really loved the entire design by Joseph Dirand.
The sky got even prettier that morning.
On my last morning, I decided to try breakfast in the main dining room in Le Sirenuse.
I had a nice Italian speaking waiter who made me feel like I was in Italy.
I had the breakfast buffet but you can also order a la carte off the menu. I’m all about design when I travel and not a food blogger so I forgot to photograph my meals but they were all delicious.
I wanted to sit on the beach but the weather didn’t allow for it. They do have chairs and umbrellas on the beach with attendants to assist you. On the right is Winston’s on the Beach for casual outdoor drinks and meals.
Of course it was beautiful on the day I was leaving. You can see the lawn set up for an event because they were photographing the property during my stay. Not sure if you can tell but the fabric on the tables is patterned and looked much nicer than most hotel event tablecloths.
I also got to see inside a cabana before I left. I also found out that you can rent them for just the day even if you are not a guest of the hotel. The have a toilet, sink, and shower in the back and give you access to the pool right outside and the spa. It’s another great way to experience the hotel if you can’t afford a room or if they are fully booked. When I posted this information in my Instagram Stories, the same women who ordered the caftan also booked a cabana for a day trip from Palm Beach. I hope she enjoyed it.
There are other cabanas on the other side that face a lawn. Make sure you book the ones on the side with the pool. They get great sun and are more private.
After driving by the Surf Club development in 2014, my friend bought a book about the history of the Surf Club from Assouline at Books and Books at the Shops at Bal Harbour. The vintage photo above is of Frank Sinatra at the hotel from the book. It was amazing to be staying there four years later.
I took one more look at the gorgeous view before I was off to the airport. I can honestly say I was sad to leave. The Four Seasons Surf Club is probably one of the best hotels in the United States right now if not THE best. Every single detail was so well thought out and every single thing was placed in exactly the right spot to compliment the view outside. I’m not easily impressed but I was blown away.
As I mentioned, if you can’t afford a stay at the hotel or if they are fully booked, there are other ways to enjoy this amazing property. It’s definitely worth a visit when you are in Miami.
A look at the original main entrance.
photos by Heather Clawson for Habitually Chic.