by KRISTY ALPERT

Head for Sumptuous South Beach.

ALTHOUGH THE SUN HEATS THINGS UP ALMOST YEAR~ROUND IN SOUTH BEACH, FLA., IT’S NOT JUST THE SHINING RAYS that make this Miami neighborhood such a hot spot for luxury travel. Afiectionately nicknamed “SoBe” by the locals, this lavish location sits at the southern tip of Miami Beach just east of downtown Miami and encompasses all the barrier islands between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

A true hotspot for celebrity sightings and high-end shopping, the area has quickly become known as a 24-hour city and is the place in Miami to see and be seen, from sipping afternoon cocktails at a beachside lounge to dining amongst the stars on decadent multi-course rooftop dinners. Whether it’s the beautiful places, beautiful weather, or beautiful people that catch your eye, there’s no denying South Beach’s sensual allure that contains the uncanny ability to satisfy even the most potent of wanderlusts for luxury-seeking travelers.

The Inn Crowd

The neighborhood of South Beach saw its biggest architectural revolution in the early 1930s with a Streamline Moderne Art Deco architecture style influencing most of the beachfront properties’ modern, yet classic design. The prevalence of the style gave the South Beach area almost instant bragging rights as the world’s largest collection of Streamline Moderne Art Deco architecture. The title remains even today, as most of the hotel properties have remained true to this Hollywood-esque style, with many hotels boasting renovated floorplans of the neighborhood’s original inhabitants.

One such hotel is The Villa by Barton G (www.thevillabybartong.com) a boutique luxury hotel housed in the former home of late fashion designer Gianni Versace. Known as the Casa Casuarina during Versace’s time spent living at the mansion, the newly renovated 190,000-square-foot hotel, restaurant and event space features 10 exquisite hotel suites with amenities ranging from a personal butler and Italian marble bathrooms to the Thousand Mosaic Pool and private rooftop lounge to refined continental cuisine at the hotel’s pebble-mosaic Dining Room.

Just a few blocks from Versace’s former home sits yet another historic building with roots dating back to the romantic 1930s. Built in the classic South Beach Art Deco style by renowned architect Henry Maloney when guests like Ernest Hemingway would regularly frequent the establishment, The Angler’s Boutique Resort (www.theanglersresort.com) at South Beach has been meticulously restored back to its Old Florida charm and splendor with extreme care being spent to cater to the modern needs of savvy travelers. This family-owned boutique luxury hotel is centrally located between the beach and the hottest shopping district in South Beach, and features four buildings with 45 spacious suites, each with its own private entrance. Not only is this hotel the only resort in South Beach with outdoor Jacuzzis, but it also features a spectacular spa and one of the area’s best restaurants, 660 at The Angler’s (786-594-5811) where Chef Carlos Torres ofiers visitors the chance to taste the true flavor of South Beach with his nuevo Latin fusion menu. 660 is the hotspot for Saturday and Sunday brunch, with Torres’ ceviche and short rib empanadas delighting the palates of these late risers.

For a departure from the ordinary, The Setai (www.thesetaihotel.com) ofiers what is undeniably one of the most sophisticated stays in town. All at once, this oceanfront resort is serene yet vibrant with its blend of Art Deco and Asian influences. Whether staying at one of the 85 suites in The Art Deco Building or in one of the 45 suites in The Tower, this ffve-star property caters to the every whim and desire of their guests, even ofiering three azure pools maintained at three separate temperatures for discriminating swimmers. Even with lush landscaping and decadent dining, the star of this hotel is The Spa at The Setai (305-520-6900), which ofiers treatments to restore and realign the body and spirit in specially designed spa suites overlooking the ocean and pool.

IN GOOD TASTE

Despite South Beach’s prime spot on the Atlantic, this coastal destination oThers culinary-inclined travelers infinitely more to taste than simply the catch of the day with its melting pot of cultural cuisines and world-class restaurants run by industry-leading chefs. For fiendish fashionistas looking to start their mornings oThin style, the News Café (www.newscafe.com) oTh Ocean Drive is the perfect spot to sip creamy cappuccinos while soaking in the morning sun and people watching. A favorite morning stop for former South Beach resident Gianni Versace, this quaint sidewalk café has become a landmark in the area with its comprehensive selection of international papers and magazines to choose from.

Any trip to Miami would be amiss without sampling some authentic Cuban cuisine, and Larios on the Beach (305-532-9577) serves up some of the best around. fle restaurant is owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan and is the perfect place to sample some festive Cuban home cooking (and a mojito or two) before heading to the beach for some afternoon sun.

When it comes to lavish provisions, South Beach has everything covered with spots like Escopazzo Organic Italian Restaurant (www.escopazzo.com) charming diners in their exclusive, 90-seat, Tuscan-themed space where it’s not uncommon to enjoy a seven-course tasting menu seated next to an A-lister while enjoying a bottle of one of their 400 diTherent labels of wine. For one of the area’s finest steakhouse experiences, travelers need look no farther than the carnivores dream at Red, the Steakhouse (www.redthesteakhouse.com) oThWashington Avenue. It’s here that Brad Friedlander serves up the most excellent steaks around, but even though his certified angus beef is what draws most people to this South Beach spot, it’s his specials that keep locals coming back-the chef is known for sourcing his purveyors very distinctly and only uses the freshest ingredients possible. Tip: never pass on the king crab when it is in season.

For South Beachers, dinner is just the beginning of the story. fle way to dine in South Beach starts with a late dinner reservation, followed by a series of nightcaps imbibed at local hotel lounges and swanky nightclubs. One of the best spots to grab after-dinner drinks is on the top Thoor of the Lincoln Road Parking Garage at Juvia (www.juviamiami.com). fiis multi-use space is fllled with more than just stagnant sports cars; it features shops and event spaces and the very cool Juvia rooftop lounge, where guests can sip caipirinhas and martinis while looking out on one of the best views of the city.

Modern Amusement

Venturing out in South Beach is a breeze with tons of places to explore, shop and play. Aside from the obvious sandy stretches of public beaches, this area boasts many other ways to relax and unwind in true South Beach fashion.

When it comes to quality shopping, the fashion district on Collins Avenue is the place to go. fiis stretch of stores spans 5th and 9th streets just steps away from Ocean Drive and boasts designer storefronts like Armani, Versace, Nicole Miller and more. For a more local shopping experience, fie Webster (www.thewebstermiami.com) offCollins Avenue is a Neiman’s-esque 20,000-square-foot luxury multi-brand boutique that offers three levels of luxury fashion, photography and entertainment shopping. Local favorites include Alchemist (www.shopalchemist.com), a local designer with a shop in the Lincoln Road Parking Garage (www.1111lincolnroad.com), and BASE (www.baseworld.myshopify.com) for menswear in the Delano Hotel.

The Delano Hotel (www.delano-hotel.com) also plays host to one of the area’s newest and most exquisite spas in the neighborhood: Club Essentia Wellness Retreat at Delano (formerly the Agua Spa). fiis 3,500-square-foot rooftop spa continues to offer a classic spa menu and has added on new groundbreaking preventative-aging procedures, focusing on the augmentation and restoration of each client’s energy, vitality and vigor. Key treatments include personally formulated IV supplementation, hyperbaric chambers, cellular therapy, hormone replacements, Botox and dermal flller administration as well as Viora laser and radio frequency treatments.

For more adventurous souls, the city boasts everything from Miami Culinary Tours (www.miamiculinarytours.com) to scooter tours by Roam fiere (www.roamthere.com) that take guests on a whirlwind trip through South Beach’s famous design district with stops at local art galleries, fashion houses (Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc.) and famous street art installations. But the ultimate excursion is a custom cruise aboard one of Water Fantaseas (www.waterfantaseas.com) premier yachts. fiis quality company offers full- or half-day excursions ranging from romantic cocktail cruises to a “star” gazing cruise that takes guests on a guided tour of the many sprawling residences along the waterfront.