Nestled at the northern tip of Miami Beach, the Village of Bal Harbour should be on the travel list of anyone looking to experience the refined lifestyle of the rich and famous. With the see-and-be-seen vibe of South Beach only a short drive away, Bal Harbour’s location puts you close enough to the action, but with a healthy distance. It’s a place that allows you to steep yourself in luxury while staying out of the fray. A place that lets you just be; without pretence, without feeling you’re a part of some grand show.
I recently spent a girl’s weekend in Bal Harbour with my best friend, where we were treated to an experience like no other. These are my top five reasons Bal Harbour is the place to visit if you want to vacation like a celebrity.
1. World-renowned butler service at the St. Regis Bal Harbour
If you’ve never before experienced butler service, there’s no better place than a St. Regis property to do so. Famous for only the highest level of service excellence, butlers are available 24/7 for every St Regis guest. Just the idea of having a butler available denotes a sense of quiet and refined luxury that will instantly elevate your entire visit.
So, what exactly does a St. Regis butler do? The most common services include packing and unpacking, coffee and tea service, and garment pressing. Imagine, arriving in your room and being able to sit back on your ocean-view balcony while someone takes care of unpacking and pressing all your clothes. Or, have your morning coffee delivered with your choice newspaper and the day’s weather forecast. We personally enjoyed breakfast on our balcony each morning — delivered by a butler, who set the table complete with fresh orchids and a copy of the New York Times.
Thinking outside of these more commonly thought-of requests, your butler can help with almost anything you, quite frankly, don’t want to do yourself. Grab the wrong size dress at the store? Your butler can take it back and exchange it for you. Forgot your favourite brand of sunscreen? No problem. Dog needs walking? Consider it done.
We all know time really is the ultimate luxury. When your request is met with, “allow me,” you know you’re in the best possible hands.
2. Poolside cabanas
My thought at the word “cabana” used to conjure-up an image of a striped tent with a couple of lounge chairs inside. Not in Bal Harbour. Cabanas at the Ritz Carlton overlook the Atlantic Ocean and offer lounge chairs, a private fridge stocked with beverages and refreshments, and a private plunge hot tub. Secluded in their own corner of the property and with a personal server on-hand all day, you’ll be able to bask in laid-back luxury all day without ever having to lift a finger.
Over at the St. Regis, the cabanas are more like small, air-conditioned villas complete with day beds, TVs, bathrooms, showers, a private patio and personal butlers for the day. Because these cabanas are set near the pool deck, our butlers — Wagner and Fausto —indulged our request to spend time on the beach by setting up another day bed with a clamshell cover for us. They gave us a “butler button” that we could push to call them anytime we wanted something. With a steady supply of water, champagne, lunch fruit and sunscreen, we soaked up the Miami sun all afternoon without ever having to use our button once!
3. Remede Spa & fitness classes at St. Regis Bal Harbour
Butlers and private cabanas, can it get any better?
Believe it or not, yes, it can. The Remede Spa at the St. Regis Bal Harbour offers a tranquil and indulgent retreat that offers the ultimate relaxation from the moment you step inside. With a treatment menu that embraces Bal Harbour’s chic, fashionable and luxurious vibe, the only trouble you’ll have is deciding between the available services. All massages are customized to the individual guest – a wonderful departure from having to choose between one-size-fits-all options. Mix relaxation with deep tissue or aromatherapy and hot stones; therapists first explore exactly what you’re looking for and then expertly tailor the treatment to every individual.
Remede Spa also offers fitness classes, including yoga, strength, boxing and cardio. We opted for a morning yoga class on an outdoor terrace overlooking the ocean. Available for any fitness level, these classes are sure to be a perfect way to start your day. Also included is a reduction in any guilt you might have felt for spending the rest of the lounging on the beach or poolside while making full use of your butler button!
4. Well-connected concierges
Most good hotels have concierges available to assist guests with directions, dining and show reservations, transportation arrangements and providing forgotten items. What Bal Harbour concierges have that others don’t are connections.
Our concierge at the St. Regis is, in the words of our butler, “one of the most connected people in Miami." And they really need to be. When you think of the guests resorts like the St. Regis and the Ritz Carlton in Bal Harbour host – celebrities, dignitaries and some of South Florida’s wealthiest residents and visitors – it’s no surprise these concierges regularly make arrangements at high-demand venues.
In our case, we were determined to go dancing at Liv Nightclub at the Fountainebleau on South Beach. Currently the hottest nightclub in Miami, it boasts long lines to get in, high cover charges and doormen known for being choosy about who gets in and who doesn’t. With only our concierge’s business card that had Liv’s general manager’s name written on the back and the message, “Robbie sent us”, we were promptly escorted through the VIP line, past security and into the club. Just like that.
5. Bal Harbour shops and restaurants
The Bal Harbour Shops are home to the world’s most famous and exclusive fashion and jewellery brands, which will make for an ambient afternoon or evening surrounded by beautiful people and unparalleled luxury. Though frequented by the rich and famous, the Bal Harbour Shops enjoy a quietly refined atmosphere where hustle and bustle is replaced by an unhurried vibe. Shoppers stroll through the al fresco mall with its swaying palm trees, marble floors and fountains throughout. This layout makes the mall feel smaller and more intimate than its 100 shops would seem.
Of course, shopping in one of the world’s most exclusive malls wouldn’t be complete without a host of restaurants ready to serve-up gastronomic experiences like you’ve never seen before. The first of our two standout favourites was Makoto – an elegant Japanese restaurant with creative, new takes on traditional Japanese and American classics. When you visit, don’t miss the brussels sprouts with kimchi sauce or the skirt steak which is served sliced atop a small grill with a single piece of red hot charcoal underneath providing enhanced flavour with every bite.
Sharing the top spot was The Grill at Bal Harbour whose centre-cut filet could nearly be cut sans knife. Served with whipped potatoes and seasonable vegetables, I was almost too full to tackle the hot fudge sundae with sugar roasted pecans for dessert... Almost.
Have you lived the high life in Bal Harbour?
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