Known the world over for its weather, beaches, increasingly important art, design and cultural scenes and of course its celebrated night life, Miami Beach is perhaps not the first destination you think of when you're planning a spa getaway. But it's for all these reasons that I like Canyon Ranch Living, Hotel and Spa Miami Beach so much. You're in the middle of everything, but it's extremely easy to turn it all off and spend the day hiking on the beach or taking in the fitness and wellness programs, and enjoying Canyon Ranch's renowned health-conscious cuisine.
Having had the opportunity to experience Canyon Ranch's larger and more immersive resort in Lenox, MA on several occasions, I happily accepted the invitation to have a more in-depth experience during the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Conveniently located on Collins Avenue and 68th Street, it is only a few minutes to both Surfside and Bal Harbour to the North, South Beach to the South, Wynwood and the Design District to the West, and the MoCA and cluster of mid-century modern shops Northwest. The resort has 750 feet of prime beach, on a stretch with a wide and well maintained board walk.
Bernardo Fort-Brescia, co-founder of Miami's most famous architectural firm Arquitectonica, took us on a tour of the resort they designed. The first thing you notice from the porte-cochère as you drive up is the wide open view to the beach through a palm grove. Connecting to the Miami of the past, the hotel is housed in the completely renovated, historic Carillon hotel; it proudly features its original, restored neon sign and recalls its reign as one of the most celebrated hotels of the 1950s. Today the Carillon tower houses the 150 spacious one- and two-bedroom hotel suites, as well as 80 condos, and a dining and retail area.
Bernardo pointed out several of the original design elements, and explained the complexity of the building's renovation. A testament to good design, it captures the original building's personality while bringing the space to a more current (and up to code) presence. One of the bigger challenges facing the design team was the building's numerous columns, which are now completely invisible as you walk through the suites. Other benefits of the restoration include the addition of floor-to-ceiling glass to better enjoy the views and interiors by David Rockwell and his team at Rockwell Group.
The core of the resort is the 70,000-square-foot Wellness Spa—it's as big as it sounds. Here, you get all of the Canyon Ranch love that made them famous. The Spa includes the Wellness Center, where you can consult with physicians about injuries, ailments, weight loss, prevention and healthy living. The fitness center offers nearly every type of cardio and workout equipment (including a climbing wall and Pilates machines), and dozens of exercise, movement and fitness classes. You can of course chill at one of the pools, sit on the beach, take a class at the outdoor fitness studio, or enjoy one of the 54 treatment rooms, which house some of the best spa treatments you'll find anywhere in just about every flavor. My favorites are Ashiatsu and Reflexology, the latter done on a Neuroacoustic Sound Table, which uses sound technology to help relax minds and bodied. The Spa also includes his and hers Aquavana thermal suites—a collection of hydrospas, saunas, steam rooms, laconiums (dry saunas) and showers.
The Hotel and Spa are flanked by two newly constructed condo towers, where one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments (from 720 to more than 3,500 square-feet) feature amazing city, bay and ocean views, Rockwell-designed interiors, and of course use of the Wellness Spa and restaurants. Residents also can relax at their own pools if they don't feel like mingling with the hotel guests. You can learn all about The Residences online.
Well-known for its approach to healthy eating, the Canyon Ranch Grill delivers on that promise with low calorie, tasty and fulfilling meals that feature local and organic food whenever possible. The South Beach Wine and Food Festival brought Executive Chef Scott Uehlein out from the Tucson resort, and he treated us to the most memorable five-course meal with fewer than 800 calories that I've ever eaten. Unlike the other Canyon Ranch resorts, the Miami property doesn't ignore the city's other temptations, and offers a really great selection of organic and biodynamic beer, wine and spirits. You can also eat the Carillon Café or poolside at The Cabana.