Secret Hotels of South Beach

The sizzling hotels of South Beach are fun to visit, but do you really want to sleep there? You'll be far happier at a place with real warmth

Vilma Biaggi, a Miami-based doctor, bought the 1941 art deco Cadet Hotel 20 years ago. Over time, the hotel has become her pet project; Biaggi just finished an extensive two-year renovation. Mint-green hallways are now lit by lamps with parchment shades, and the 40 rooms all have orchids and framed black-and-white photos by local artists. After studying historical photos of the hotel, Biaggi preserved the building's nautical-themed facade, a porthole-style window near the lobby bar, and an inlaid compass design in the lobby floor. A poster of Clark Gable reminds visitors that in the 1940s, the screen star--then a cadet commander--occasionally stayed in room 225. (The building used to be a way station for West Point cadets.) For breakfast, guests have their choice of waffles, omelets, or yogurt and muesli, which they can eat on the wide porch. The Cadet is only two blocks from the busy Lincoln Road mall, but sitting behind a thick curtain of foliage, you'd hardly know it. 1701 James Ave., 305/672-6688,, from $89 low season, $125 high.

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