By Carlos Harrison
Four pools. Four lifestyles. One place.
The 1 Hotel on South Beach offers a smorgasbord of watery delights on three separate levels, from nearly 200 feet in the sky to treetop level, just steps above the white sand beach. And you don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy them. You can rent a poolside cabana for the day if you just want a wet and wonderful getaway without an overnight stay.
Each level has a distinctly – and distinctive – artistic appeal.
Skirted by palm trees and looking out over the ocean, the beach, and the green oasis of surrounding properties, the hotel’s rooftop pool stretches to Olympic length. It's a David Hockney painting – in shades of iridescent blue, sandcastle white and sun-washed wood – in living 3D. But this high up, lounging on one of the bleached wood chaises or floating on your back in the sun-kissed water is almost like being part of the sky, riding a cloud.
This one might appeal to the younger crowd, especially on the weekends, when a DJ mixes up house music just a few steps from the sleek and shimmering rippled-chrome bar. Cabanas and daybeds line the clear glass walls offering views from city to sea.
The main pool sits 14 stories below that one, via a cool and covered walkway lined with hanging orchids and a living garden wall, on the third floor. This level boasts a more ample bar, the Sand Box, and a more ample, family-friendly pool. It's a Bauhaus-style infinity pool of connected rectangles, flanked on two sides by the soaring hotel, with its petroleum blue balconies rising in perfect symmetry against its white walls like a two-tone Mondrian.
This pool has a decidedly quieter vibe with mellower pop music wafting from invisible speakers at a conversation conducive volume. Children frolic – surprisingly quietly – while adults bask on seductively comfortable driftwood and white canvas daybeds, their cool drinks sweating on tables cut from raw tree stumps. Together, they form a mosaic of whitewashed wood and crystalline blue dotted with crisp white umbrellas like a Christo installation.
(In addition to the rows of cabanas with their gauzy white drapes and the perfectly aligned columns of daybeds surrounding the pool, this level also offers king-sized, two-person canvas daybeds anchored firmly in the water. Shade is a little spare, but it's prime real estate – if you like that kind of thing.)
Monica Heuer came from Philadelphia for a spring break escape with her 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. “My son already told me we have to come back.”
A half-level down from there lies a slender sliver with the look of an Art Deco designer’s touch, set perfectly at treetop level above the hotel’s private beach – an Erté amid the palms. It sits nestled on a washed wood and stone deck that’s apart enough to feel secluded, like a private island of luxury serviced by a steady flow of attentive staff. It’s the perfect, intimate space to while away the day, or to watch the moonrise over the ocean brushed by a soothing breeze from the sea.
A short walk beyond that lies the majestically massive rectangle shared by resident owners and One Hotel guests. It sprawls like an aquamarine gemstone in an arctic white expanse – quieter, removed, and huge. It is surrounded, of course, by the ubiquitous daybeds the color of driftwood and schooner sails, and perfectly positioned for a full day of rays as the sun arcs overhead. It has the stark crispness and sharp lines of precisionist painting, as if Georgia O’Keeffe had moved to the beach.
"I like the fact that they have so many pools to choose from, and the design of it," said Sari Cooper of New York, as she soaked up some sun next to her husband, gazing out at the crisp blue ocean beyond the see-through glass wall at the pool deck’s edge. "It's beautiful, and it's the perfect temperature."
When you go…
1 Hotel South Beach
2341 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139
Other great South Florida swimming pools:
The Villa, Casa Casuarina: OMG, the 54-foot long "Million Mosaic" pool at what was formerly the Versace mansion right on Ocean drive is over-the-top stunning. Even if you don’t go in it, you’ll want to see it. I don’t know that anybody really counted, but it looks like there’s at least a million or more brilliantly colored tiny tiles intricately interconnected in an elaborate nautical pattern of repeated filigrees with two-tailed mermaids and Poseidon, god of the sea. The mosaics include thousands of 24k gold tiles.
1116 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, FL 33139; (786) 485-2200
Delano Beach Club: The Delano may have the best lux infinity pool around, and just steps to the ocean, as they say. Wind your way along the Phillippe Starck-designed “Alice in Wonderland Garden Path” to the hotel’s 7,000-square-foot seaside resort. It’s got plush poolside daybeds and chaise lounges, naturally. And if your muscles need kneading after a swim, private spa service is available in the poolside cabanas.
1685 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139; (305) 672-2000
Mondrian South Beach: Surrounded by plush daybeds, ivy-covered cabanas, vibrant gardens and hammocks hung from palm trees, this one faces west, overlooking Biscayne Bay. That means spectacular sunsets and a view of Miami beyond compare, day or night. And, if a dip and the view have you feeling romantic, you can take a stroll down a “secret pathway” to one of the secluded “kissing corners.” Spa treatments, cocktails and a special menu by Chef Dustin Atoigue are also available poolside.
1100 West Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139; (305) 514-1500