Moxy gets the Miami Beach vibe right

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The rooms at the Moxy Miami Beach recall a ferry service that ran from Miami to Havana in the 1940s and '50s.
The rooms at the Moxy Miami Beach recall a ferry service that ran from Miami to Havana in the 1940s and '50s. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

Heretofore, Marriott's Moxy brand has been strictly an urban, big-city product. 

But the opening in February of the Moxy Miami Beach takes the badge into another market. The company is billing its new 202-room hotel as its first "resort-style" property.

South Beach, however, is about as urban as beach communities get, and so the fit between Moxy's target clientele -- "young, budget-conscious" travelers -- and the destination seems an inspired one.

The bar at the second-story restaurant Serena overlooks the street scene along Washington Avenue.
The bar at the second-story restaurant Serena overlooks the street scene along Washington Avenue. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

I spent a day and evening with my family recently as a guest at the Moxy, and we were surrounded for the most part by 20-somethings. My wife noted at brunch that many of the groups sipping prosecco and dining on the Mexican fare at the Serena open-air restaurant had a sorority-sisters look to them. Later, we briefly shared the lobby bar with a group of six young Midwestern guys chowing down on boxed pizzas.

The designers of the Moxy South Beach did a masterful job of blending the midcentury, modern style of Miami Beach with a contemporary Mexican influence and an overall tropical vibe. The lobby has a mix of indoor and outdoor spaces that immediately sets a warm-weather tone.

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The eight-story building has two pools -- a main pool on the second level overlooking Washington Avenue and a small decorative pool on the eighth-floor rooftop, which also features a small bar and lots of lounging space.

The outdoors-only Serena is adjacent to the second-floor pool, and both look out over the street in a very appealing way that lets guests feel a part of the street scene without actually being in it. Several hotels along Washington Avenue have taken the same approach of preserving a street facade and building a multistory hotel behind it, providing a nice platform for being simultaneously urban and protected from the street.

Visually, the dominant exterior feature is an eight-story brise-soleil screen, perforated in a contemporary triangular pattern and topped with the Moxy purple cursive logo. The screen helps arriving guests identify the hotel, which being set back from the street might otherwise be hard to spot.

Most rooms at the Moxy are notably small -- 224 or 240 square feet -- a design feature intended to keep rates reasonable. The room was cozy for two but crowded for three when my adult daughter was spending time with us. There was a decided resemblance to a cruise ship cabin, which was aided by the curvaceous design said to be inspired by an overnight Miami-Havana ferry that operated in the 1940s and 1950s.

An eight-story brise-soleil screen, perforated in a contemporary triangular pattern and topped with the Moxy logo, is the dominant exterior feature of the hotel.
An eight-story brise-soleil screen, perforated in a contemporary triangular pattern and topped with the Moxy logo, is the dominant exterior feature of the hotel. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

The floor-to-ceiling window helped expand the room visually and gave us a fine view of the art deco district, the sand and the ocean. A major space-saver is the rack-and-peg wall installation that substitutes for a closet. We had fun festooning it with clothes. There is a safe for valuables, but it took us about 20 minutes to realize it is hidden in the base of the bed platform. There was nothing to sit on but the bed, and no desk surface or dresser.

The two largest Moxy suites are 507 square feet with an L-shaped sofa, a wet bar, two large flat-screen TVs and decorative neon signage.

If you're confining yourself to South Beach, I'd try to do it without a car – especially with the rental car shortage sending prices into the stratosphere. But if you do need access to wheels, valet parking with in-and-out privileges is $42 a night. We parked at a city garage two blocks away for $20.

The hotel is full of whimsical touches. An oculus at the bottom of the second story pool provides light and amusement in the lobby.  An illuminated string of numbers in the ceiling over Bar Moxy in the lobby turns out to be the phone number of the El Floridita bar in Havana.

And the indoor-outdoor theme is extended to functions such as the fitness center and the conference rooms, which open onto the first-floor outdoor patio.

An oculus at the bottom of the second-story pool offers swimmers a view of the hotel lobby.
An oculus at the bottom of the second-story pool offers swimmers a view of the hotel lobby. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

Several of the dining/drinking venues had yet to open as of our visit, but the food at Serena, particularly the house guacamole, was scrumptious. I missed my chance to spend $5 on a kind of Latin frozen fruit bar called a paleta at the Los Buenos snack shop in the lobby. Sodas stocked in a cooler included tamarind, mango and guava flavors.

What's not to like? Small stuff. For example, a tankard of chilled water at the pool was empty much of the time, and the bottled water got expensive.

Jack Hueter, a sales manager for a medical device manufacturer in Philadelphia, booked a five-night stay at the Moxy South Beach even before it opened. He paid for the stay with Marriott reward points (fifth night free) and said the hotel lived up to his expectations.

"You don't get a lot in the rooms," said Hueter, "but the service, the amenities and the location more than make up for it."

Rates listed recently for a weeknight at the Moxy in June started at $156 on the Marriott website. A nightly $27 resort fee pays for Internet, beach cruiser bikes and two chairs at a concession on the beach, among other things.

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