The New Luxury Hostel of Miami Beach: the Freehand

Earlier this month, the first luxury hostel opened its doors in Miami Beach. Billing itself as a luxury hostel, the Freehand—designed by Roman & Williams, the team behind New York’s trendy NoMad and Ace Hotels—has the same hipster-chic vibe as its older siblings up north, but in true hostel fashion has primarily shared rooms for a fraction of the price of typical South Beach lodging. Unlike a typical hostel, though, bed linens and towels are provided. (Toiletries are also available for purchase.)

If you opt for a shared room, you can book just a bed (in either a four-bed or eight-bed room) or an entire shared room, just for you and your crew. When I was there last week for Art Basel, it was just me, my boyfriend, and a friend, so we booked a private quad room—four beds, a sitting area, and a private bathroom.

The bright and airy rooms have a nautical, summer-camp style, with wood floors, cheery blue and yellow accents, and woven blankets and rugs. We found our room comfortable, except it was oddly lacking a lamp. The bedside reading lamps hardly provided enough illumination, whereas the overhead light was harsh. Meanwhile, the small bathroom didn’t appear to have undergone much renovation other than fresh coat of paint—the faucet was annoyingly leaky. Don’t expect a phone or a television either (this is a hostel, remember?) but the free Wi-Fi was surprisingly fast and reliable, even by the pool.

Outside of the rooms, the hotel’s rustic lobby, outfitted with retro furnishings and a bookshelf full of old copies of National Geographic, was a welcome spot to sit and relax throughout the day, made even better the free daily breakfast of gourmet pastries, coffee, and juice.

The hotel is currently restoring an old house on the property, which will serve as a full-service restaurant when it opens in the spring, but The Broken Shaker, a cocktail bar, overlooks the pool and is open every night. On weekends, plates of barbecue are served poolside.

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Since we stayed during Art Basel weekend, the Freehand was booked to capacity, which meant that the lobby and the lush pool area were always buzzing.

If you’re not content to just lay by the pool with a drink in hand, the hotel’s beautiful backyard has an herb garden, ping-pong tables, and even a bocce court. (Just beware that if you’re hoping for a quiet room, you won’t want to face the pool, despite the nice views—music plays every night until the bar closes at 2 a.m.) What’s more, the hotel has put together activities for guests, in true “grown-up summer camp” fashion. During our stay, the activities board in the lobby advertised guided bike rides, kiteboarding, yoga on the beach, and even a tour of the Everglades.

Bike rentals are also available. We loved using the little red cruisers to ride around town during our stay, but the bikes were only free for the hotel’s opening week, which means that Miami Beach’s thriving bike share might be a better option for future visitors.

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