- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Beyond South Beach, before Bal Harbour and just on the other side of Collins Avenue sits 1.3 miles of seclusion: Brickell Key, Miami.

The little island in Miami is draped in five-star hotels, private beaches and pina coladas, and it’s likely to become your favorite weekend getaway.

Where to stay: Check in to the Mandarin Oriental Miami. The fan-shaped hotel situated on the water welcomes guests with stunning views of Miami from any angle. The dark hallways are decorated with orchids and soft lighting, inspiring a serene mindset throughout the entire hotel. All the rooms in the hotel — standard size and suites — have balconies and private terraces. The room decor draws from Asian influence with a contemporary Miami feel. White beds, white flowing drapes, white towels and white furniture are surrounded by simple-stroke paintings in pinks, blues and reds, bamboo bath accessories and dim lighting.

The Mandarin is well-known around the world for its creative and distinct spa therapies, and the Mandarin Miami spa is no exception. Each of the Mandarin’s signature therapies are exclusive to the hotel. Treat yourself to a little luxury while you’re here with the Mandarin Orientals Signature Spa Therapies. Each treatment includes aromatherapy massage ritual and a traditional Chinese foot soak (which I can say with confidence is an amazing start to any day). The experience takes place in one of the spa’s suites overlooking the bay, and each therapist will consult with you on the importance of proper yin-yang balance. The 110-minute session is $320, but take advantage of the Mandarin’s Miami Getaway Package and you’ll receive $100 in hotel credits, which can be used at the spa.

In this case, extravagance doesn’t come at luxury prices. Book rooms starting at $249 in the off-season; $299 peak travel times.

What to do: Begin your day on a healthy note with a run or walk along the 1.3 mile trail that starts at the Mandarin. The trail takes you along the water and around the entire Brickell Key perimeter — a great way to see the island and get in a workout. Spend the day at the beach, courtesy of the Mandarin’s private man-made beach meant only for its guests. Reserve a cabana for the day and allow the hotel staff to dote on you for a while. The views from the beach are magnificent, so be sure to bring a camera to capture the Miami skyline from your private beachfront property.

Where to eat: Leave the sanctuary of your room at the Mandarin and head to the Viceroy, located only a few blocks from the hotel on the other side of the bridge. A $5 cab ride and you arrive at Eos, the Mediterranean-inspired restaurant on the 15th floor of Viceroy Miami. The menu has a Greek flare to its tapas-style food. Choose a couple items from each section (appetizers, starters, small plates, large plates and desserts) and enjoy a taste of everything. Don’t miss the tuna sashimi with watermelon and feta, the paella with clams, mussels and prawns, or the lamb chops with onions and mushrooms. The restaurant gets busy as the night gets long, so make a reservation early to ensure a table.

See-and-be-seen: There a few ways to “do” Miami in style. You could head to South Beach, stand behind the velvet ropes and hope to get into one of the nightclubs. You could head to South Beach, grab a table at one of the bars on Ocean Drive between 6th and 12th street and watch the drag shows in the street. You could make your way down Collins Avenue and take part in any one of the Birdcage-come-to-life extravaganza shows, or, you should sip champagne at Club 50. We prefer the latter.

Thankfully, if you’ve just had dinner at Eos, you’re only a few floors away from Club 50, the nightclub located on the 50th floor of the Viceroy Miami. The interior is decorated in the perfect sea green and cerulean blue leather sofas, but the outdoor area is where you’ll go to see-and-be-seen. Mojitos, margaritas and martinis make their way to the outside deck, where you’ll watch the reflection of other night-goers as they mingle among the mirrored deck or take a dip in Club 50’s pool. Only in Miami.

Direct flights from Washington-area airports to Miami or Fort Lauderdale are available from most airlines, including low-cost carriers JetBlue and AirTran. Take a cab from Miami International Airport, or hire a car for $90 from Fort Lauderdale.

Melanie Nayer is a travel writer and can be reached at [email protected]

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