Miami’s ritzy South Beach is known for its skyscraper hotels with gaudy architecture, glamorous pools and even more glamorous guests. But tucked away on a corner two blocks from the beach is the barely noticeable, completely understated Cadet Hotel.
If you’re looking for a down-to-earth, low-key stay in the upscale high-energy area, you will feel right at home at this boutique hotel, where the focus is on unique detail complimented by gourmet meals instead of larger than life cocktails and DJ-spun pool parties.
The structure, which was built in 1941, fits right into the art deco neighborhood. Ornate and colorful ceramic flowers frame the door to the lobby and the hotel’s outside glows burnt orange. As you walk in the building, which housed United States Air Force Cadets from 1941-1949, you are greeted by Clark Gable. Right beside the door sits a desk and a massive framed photo of the beloved dashing actor who once stayed on this very property. At the time, he was commander of the West Point Cadets. It is then you realize you are in for a unique and flamboyant experience. Before embarking on this journey, grab a creatively concocted cocktail from the tiny lobby bar. Take the narrow staircase or equally narrow hallway to one of 34 rooms in the two story hotel.
Small size does not discourage the Cadet’s designers and owners. They pack as much personality as possible into each of the rooms. I stayed in one of the two Junior Suites which, while only a bit bigger than a standard room, has all of the knick knacks you could dream of without overdoing it. From bowls of all shapes and sizes to stone horse statues, there is plenty to entertain in every room at this hotel, and no corner is left untouched. Pouches of lavender hang from the window curtains to give the room a refreshing scent and bookshelves are packed with reading material for a sophisticated crowd. The beds, luckily, are basic and comfy with down blankets and canopies (in the suites). The multi-room master suite, aptly named the Clark Gable Suite, is decked out in custom animal hair-covered furniture, a shag carpet and walk-on volcanic pebbles that lead to a four-claw bathtub.
As mentioned, the detail that went into curating the visitor experience at the Cadet Hotel is astounding. The owner of the property picks up tchotchkes on her travels and perfectly places them throughout the hotel, making it feel like the disheveled home of an artist. Wherever you are, there is something with an interesting backstory, like the bowl the owner brought all the way from China. It is clear that these hoteliers are overachievers, and if you don’t see it yet, walk out onto the back patio, which used to be a parking lot and is now a minuscule pool (pictured at top). A boutique hotel doesn’t need a pool, but the Cadet’s designers figured, they have an extra square to spare, so why not? Lit by hung lanterns and shaded by palm trees, the back area serves as a South Beach hideaway and is the definition of the word “oasis.” The gazebo behind the pool turns this former-parking lot on a busy South Beach street into a picture-perfect event space.
Maggie Parker is the assistant travel editor at Paste Magazine.