Insider's Guide to Spas
The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach




The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach: Spa, Sun & Style

Mary Bemis

I’m sitting outside in a shady spot, cross-legged on a yoga mat. It’s late morning on a Saturday in Miami Beach, and there’s a pleasant, slight breeze in the air. I’m listening to the sounds of the singing bowls, created by our instructor Carolina Russ, a cheerful yoga teacher with bright eyes and an easy smile who is leading a morning Mindfulness Meditation class at The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach.

The sounds of the singing bowls are resonating throughout my body, and while I’m supposed to have my eyes closed—I don’t—because I can’t take my eyes off the two lizards that have appeared. I’ve never seen lizards so still for so long. Apparently mesmerized by the sounds, they seem frozen in time. I can only imagine what the deep vibrations of the bowls must be doing to their tiny bodies. For these blissed-out, sun-drenched lizards, maybe this is the equivalent of my beach-side spa treatment.

Soaking Tubs & Pool-Side Treatments

I’ve come to Miami Beach to check out the newly revamped spa at the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, which was officially unveiled in March. At 17,000 square feet, the spa includes 14 treatment rooms (two of which are couples’ rooms with jetted soaking tubs), a few new high-tech gadgets you won’t find anywhere else in North America, like the innovative Timeless Capsule, a zero gravity relaxation chair of sorts that offers all kinds of bells and whistles—a hands-free massage, chromotherapy lighting, heat therapy, and a “meditative journey” brought to you through an iPad from nature photographer Louie Schwartzberg. There’s also a chic salon, and a newly revamped fitness center.

The hotel is the first in South Beach to offer a pool-side spa treatment menu, which guests may book from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. The menu is refreshingly simple and to the point, offering 15-, 25-, and 50-minute treatments that range from $25 to $185. Options include the Ocean Breeze massage, a Cooling Aloe Wrap, an Invigorating Hair and Scalp Treatment, and a Hydrating Facial Mask. The pool-side daybeds, big enough for two, and the stellar pool-side service are nice touches.

The clean new contemporary spa is nestled away in the historic oceanfront hotel—a lovingly restored 1953 Morris Lapidus-designed Art Moderne beauty.

Heading up the new spa and fitness center is veteran spa director Brandon Claypool, who was brought in to finish the renovation and open the new spa. With an extensive background in spa management, as well as in exercise physiology and massage therapy, Claypool is one of the best in the business—and joined the spa fresh off a stint at sister property, The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas. When he arrived in South Beach in November 2016, the spa was in major re-haul mode.

“Knowing the opening date, I was surprised to see the state of the spa when I walked in. There weren’t any ceilings or floors—but that didn’t bother me,” recalls Claypool who happily dove right into the project. (Those in the spa business know that this isn’t an unusual scenario.) “Some of the walls were purple, it reminded me of the movie Aladdin . . . the [old] colors were purples and golds. It was very ornate, very dated, very tired—and obviously not representative of a high-end spa.” That is certainly not the case now.

An Art Moderne Beauty with a Modern Spa

The clean new contemporary spa is nestled away in the historic oceanfront hotel—a lovingly restored 1953 Morris Lapidus-designed Art Moderne beauty. Lapidus, recognized as an American Original by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, was an architect known for his “Miami Modern” hotels that include the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc hotels. Originally the DiLido hotel, The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach opened in 2003.

The hotel—conveniently situated just steps from Ocean Drive—is in the heart of all that the area has to offer. But, if you’re like I am, you’ll prefer spending time relaxing in your oceanfront room with a color palette that draws inspiration from the Atlantic, or in the award-winning spa. The spa has a seriously loyal local following, and Claypool tells me that he has received excellent feedback about the renovated spa from locals who frequent it on a regular basis. In partnership with ESPA (try the Ultimate Body Experience), the spa also uses Carita and Skinceuticals for facials. Claypool oversees a staff of 35 full-timers—many of whom have been there since the hotel opened in 2003. (One of those is Darlene, an excellent therapist I highly recommend, who managed to get the majority of kinks out of my shoulders during a 50-minute oceanside massage.)

While most of my time was spent in the spa and small fitness center (I was happy to find a rowing machine, as well as brand new Technogym equipment), I enjoyed exploring the hotel’s original art collection—an impressive one worth $2 million and featuring a captivating mix of established and rising Miami artists. One of my favorite spots, architecturally, was the dimly lit lobby with its handsome wooden accent wall and sexy small bar in the back.

This is easy, old-world glamour at its finest.

Make Sure Not to Miss

A Mindfulness Meditation class with Carolina Russ

A complimentary boot camp class, held twice in the mornings, beachside

A Pool-Side Spa Treatment

Lunch at the hotel’s DiLido Beach Club, a laidback oceanfront restaurant serving a creative, fresh, and organic menu

Dinner at Tatel Miami, a sexy Spanish restaurant owned by Enrique Iglesias and Rafael Nadal. Feast on traditional foods like Spanish omelettes, to-die-for croquettes, and fine wines.


Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis is editorial director of She is an award-winning spa journalist, honored with Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and the distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She sits on the board of Wellness Warrior, is a Global Wellness Day Advisor and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.