To be honest, a weekend at Hilton Bentley South Beach in Miami is not how I thought I would use Citi Hilton Reserve Free Weekend. It’s certainly not the best way to use it—the best way would be adding a free weekend on top of another 5 days you would redeem at one of the best Hilton properties in the world. Why five days? Because of the 5th Night Free VIP benefit for elite members, and those of you who are not elite Hilton members—well, I don’t know, guys, you gotta be even lazier than me.
As such, a perfect use for the Citi Reserve Free Weekend would be redeeming it at one of these amazing properties:
But, as luck (or lack of time and organization) would have it, I had failed to incorporate the Citi Hilton Reserve stay into my travel plans, so the choice was either lose it or use it anywhere by March 15. Unlike other chains like IHG, Citi Reserve will not extend your free hotel nights beyond the expiration date.
Since I had been tired of never-ending bouts of New York winter attacks anyway, I decided to settle on a short break in Miami South Beach. I’d been debating between Diplomat, Hollywood (former Westin) and Hilton Bentley. I love Diplomat, but there is nothing in the vicinity, and the beach is lacking. South Beach, on the other hand, is noisy, tacky, but fun. Booking my stay was as easy as calling the number, although at first, the CSR did not realize what I was trying to do and tried to book it on points — at 80,000 points per night. After completing the booking process, he informed me that my first night would otherwise cost me $860. Yey!
I have an allergy to revenue flights (seriously, it’s a medical condition, I think), it had to be an award seat. Since I planned this outing on a very short notice, I decided to use British Airways Avios. The Avios program doesn’t have those vicious close-in fees and other restrictions, and besides it had a good availability on American Airlines. I was unable to book a flight with return on Monday, so had to extend my stay until Tuesday (not that I’m complaining). Two minutes and 8,000 UR points later, I had a confirmation for Miami Doral Hyatt Place as my refuge for the third night.
I arrived at La Guardia earlier in order to sample the newish LGA Centurion lounge. It was nice. There weren’t a lot of food items, but the egg benedict was to die for. The bar was fully stocked at 7AM, although I didn’t dare. 🙂 My only gripe was that by the time I left for the gate, the egg benedicts had been gone, and they didn’t seem to be in a rush to replenish it. Nice place and worth spending some time at.
The lounge is located pre-departure, so give yourself some extra time to get through security. My flight was on Saturday, at 9:45, and there were maybe a dozen of people in front of me. It sucked that I didn’t even have a chance to use priority access printed, who knows why, on my boarding pass
Getting There Part 2
When you buy a revenue ticket, you usually don’t think about getting to and from airports. I mean, what’s an extra $35-65 cab fare when you’ve already dropped $400-800-1,200 on a plane ticket? To me, however, having to pay for these commutes is an annoying fact of life, and when you fly several times a year, things add up quickly.
So, I was happy to find out that that Miami-Dade Transit operates an Airport Flyer bus. The bus (#150) runs express until it gets to Miami Beach, and then it still makes only a few stops. My ride on Saturday afternoon from the airport to the intersection of Washington Ave and 2nd, which was 5 minutes from my hotel, lasted about 45 minutes. Of course, taxi will do better—by 15 minutes perhaps.
I am an avid supporter of public transportation to/from airports. It’s a shame that here in New York, there is still no viable alternative to a cab or car service, so when there is an alternative, I’ll sure as hell grab it. You can say I’m obsessed with the airport commute. I think I was the first English-speaking blogger who discovered a cheap and efficient (time-wise) public transportation route between Paris and CDG for less than $5.
Anyway, the Airport Flyer bus fare is $2.65, while the taxi costs $32—about 14 times more when you add the tip, but it’s your call.
There is one caveat, however. If you check your bags, you’ll have to pick them up two Skytrain stations away. From there, it’s a long moving skywalk back to another automatic train called MIA Mover that takes you to the Metrobus stop. So considering that you can grab a cab right after getting your bag, you are likely to lose about an hour of your vacation time.
Conclusion? Don’t check your bags if you can help it. I wouldn’t have, but they made me put my suitcase into the thingy at the gate, and… the glove wouldn’t fit. What a shame!
Hilton Bentley South Beach is a Category 9 hotel that commands 80,000 points per night. The location of this hotel is beyond excellent. It’s at 1st and Ocean Drive, right in front of the beach. You walk down to the ground floor, walk through the restaurant, through the pool area, through the fence door, through a little wooden bridge—and here you are! It took me 5-7 minutes between my room and the beach chair. Can’t beat that!
On Saturday, I landed into the pouring rain. While riding the bus, I almost regretted my decision to explore local public commute, but by the time I got off, the rain paused for about 10-15 minutes. That gave me ample time to walk to Hilton Bentley without getting soaking wet. I lucked out. The rain won’t stop for more than 10-15 minutes at a time until late evening. Nevertheless, I went to check out the beach as soon as they took my luggage. The sea was angry that day my friends. This is the Hilton Bentley beach area or whatever they might call it.
And there is another thing I liked about the location; it’s all peace and quiet. Just a 10-minute walk to the heart of the action, but unless you knew that, you would never guess.
My room at Hilton Bentley
I arrived around 3PM and they didn’t have a room ready, so I borrowed one of their huge umbrellas they had by the door and went to the nearest Starbucks up the block to get some caffeine. They called me at 4 to say that my room was ready.
Hilton Bentley bills itself as an “all-suite” hotel, which I thought, was quite funny, since my room didn’t have much of a “suite” in it. In fact, I probably had the smallest room in the house, as they were full and couldn’t upgrade this Gold member. I believe them because, well, the hotel remained packed for the next two days.
This is an old building, and it shows, but they have done whatever they could, to make the guests’ experience better. Free breakfast buffet for Golds is small, but you can order eggs from the kitchen. And while my room, once again, was tiny, it was renovated and well-appointed, with a beautiful bathroom, balcony, a coffee machine, large fridge, and, weirdly enough, a microwave.
Since they were packed, they didn’t give me a late checkout either. However, they held my baggage and gave me the key to use the facility. I spend my third day at the beach, at the pool, in a Jacuzzi, took a shower in the gym, and gulped down a few mojitos during the Happy Hour—good time was had!
Update: forgot this in my original post, (facepalm)
It seems that Hilton owns a very narrow piece of beach there, and besides, it had the sign that the public was welcome. It seemed that most of the public did not use the chairs, umbrellas, or food services. Hilton Bentley charges a resort fee that includes a chair, and umbrella, and two bottles of water. Since I was staying on points, though, I didn’t have to pay it.
This was a very by-the-book stay, in that I didn’t get anything extra—read, anything I wasn’t entitled to. However, people were friendly and courteous, the common areas looked nice, the room was renovated, free breakfast was served, free internet was reasonably fast, and I wasn’t charged any resort fees whatsoever. And did I mention how much I liked the location? Oh, OK then!
Yes, of course, there were a few
- Hot water issues. Yes, I stayed on the top 10th floor, but still… You had to turn the shower on and wait for at least 5-7 minutes until it got warm. I love hot showers, so it was disappointing.
- Room cleanliness. Well, take off your shoes and walk around, then check the soles of your shoes. I suggest using the slippers (provided).
- People did forget my orders. At the beach. At the bar. At breakfast. The last was quite funny, actually, since I was the only patron at the restaurant at the time.
- The view. Just kidding. It is what it is. 🙂
Would I go back?
Not for $860 I won’t, and not even for ~$400, which seems to be their midweek rate. Nor would I blow 80,000 HHonors points either. But Miami is pricey, so if you are craving a free weekend in Miami Beach at a great hotel in a killer location, (or if money is not an issue) then Hilton Bentley is as good as it gets!
To be continued: Part 2: Public Transportation Hiccups, Hyatt Place Doral, New American soups in Admiral clubs.
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