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Bal Harbour, Reinvented

Where to stay, where to eat, where to shop. A step by step guide what to do in Bal Harbour, Florida
Bal Harbour Sunset

Regarded as the quiet and sophisticated residential neighbor of Miami Beach for over 60 years, Bal Harbour has undergone a quiet renaissance in recent years, introducing brand-new luxury accommodations, five-star restaurants, lavish shops, and family-friendly cultural attractions and activities, making it one of South Florida's most glamorous destinations.

Fashionistas, of course know Bal Harbour for the renowned Bal Harbour Shops, Florida's exclusive shopping mecca, but the opening of ONE Bal Harbour Resort & Spa in 2009, Bal Harbour's first new luxury hotel in four decades, ignited a flurry of notable new development.

Before the busy summer season began and just short of my third trimester, I embarked on the quick, 2.5-hour flight out of Delta's new LaGuardia hub intent on putting Bal Harbour's posh reputation to the test. The village is ideally situated less than 20 miles from both Miami and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood international airports, making the trip particularly convenient for northeast residents.

I took my reconnaissance very seriously I'll have you know, touring all of the oceanfront accommodations, reviewing spa treatments, soaking in over-size tubs, and indulging in five-star restaurants to bring you the best of Bal Harbour, all of which I experienced personally (you're quite welcome, wink!). Here's what to do in Bal Harbour:

Where To Stay

"1zKeR6Y" target="_blank">Bal Harbour Quarzo: The waterfront, 29-room, all-suite hotel opened in early 2011 and is a great option for families with its condo-sized spacious suites with full kitchens, private balconies, in-room massages, pool, and meditation gardens. It's very popular with South American travelers so be prepared for a little extra Latin flair! ($200-$420/night, + resort fee. Summer savings: 10% off a one-night stay, 20% off a two-night stay, or 30% off a stay of three nights or longer.)

ONE Bal Harbour Resort & Spa: I spent my first night of the trip in a spectacular suite overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway at this 18-story sophisticated, yet intimate property of 124 ocean-view studios and suites, nestled along 750-feet of pristine oceanfront. I felt right at home when I walked through the door and saw a Michael Aram Molten Collection platter on the entry-way table! There are only two suites per floor, with semi-private elevators, making it a great fit for families and the low-key or discreet traveler. The hotel’s amenities include a $4 million art collection, an ocean-view bar, secluded beach-front, a poolside garden café, a swimming pool with private cabanas, Mister Collins American restaurant, a fitness center, and a 10,000 square-foot waterfront spa. (Starting at $350/night, fourth night free, complimentary Wi-Fi, no resort fee, children's menu, children under 4 eat for free.)

Sea View Hotel: For families seeking the quintessential beach vacation, this historic, European-style, 220-room oceanfront property has an art-deco, throw-back feel with an Olympic-size swimming pool, poolside cabanas, and a milkshake shop. It was built in 1948, at the same time as The Delano, and has been owned by the same family since. Forty percent of the rooms are owned by residents and it's also very popular with Latin American travelers. ($200-$350/night, fourth night free, complimentary continental breakfast.)

St. Regis Bal Harbour: This five-star resort, which just opened earlier this year, was the final resting place on my itinerary and elevated the trip to a completely different level. It is the epitome of glamour. The resort features 243 rooms including seven, two-bedroom king suites and an over-the-top Presidential Suite, all with expansive private balconies with ocean views and butler service (coffee, ironing, etc. 24/7!). Its three, all-glass towers rise 27-stories above the beach and are surrounded by lushly landscaped grounds, including lavish oceanfront cabanas fully equipped with mini bars and flat panel televisions. Guests can dine at Jean Georges' J&G Grill and enjoy a full menu of spa and salon services at the 14,000 square-foot Remède Spa. Heavenly! (Starting at $499/night. Ask about the "Love Your Family" and "Sunsational Savings" packages.) 

Lobby, St. Regis Bal Harbour

Where to Eat

Carpaccio: If spying perfectly tanned and toned bodies on the beach all day hasn't caused you to lose your appetite, Carpaccio, the quintessential family-friendly Italian nestled inside Bal Harbour Shops, is a must. From over-size salads to perfectly al dente pastas, this is the place to indulge, as well as people-watch.

Jean-Georges’ J&G Grill: An epicurean's dream located within the St. Regis Bal Harbour, Jean Georges' waterfront grill offers a classic menu with a twist and a temperature-controlled wine vault housing one of the largest wine collections in South Florida. I sampled much of the lunchtime menu and find it impossible to play favorites, although the avocado pizza and buttered fettuccine stand out in my mind. (Insider tip: sip a blood orange mimosa.)

Makoto: Celebrity restauranteur Steven Starr's modern Japanese was welcomed into Bal Harbour Shops in 2011 and serves shareable plates of noodles, rice, roboto grill, sushi and raw-bar delicacies. Bonus points for the "scene." (Insider tip: try your chopstick skills on the Kobe Beef Fried Rice.)

Mister Collins: ONE Bal Harbour Resort & Spa's oceanfront contemporary American restaurant offers unique, made-from-scratch takes on culinary classics, and an extensive wine list and craft beer selection. (Insider tip: skip the bread, go for the pretzels instead!)

What to Do

Bal Harbour Village Kids Camp: The Miami Children's Museum's satellite kids club at the Sea View Hotel is great for fun-seeking three to 10-year olds, with themed sessions ranging from “Green Team,” where kids learn about recycling and gardening, to “Let’s Imagine,” a creative journey to conjure the world of wizards, fairies, and dragons.

Bal Harbour Shops: Florida’s most exclusive shopping destination for more than 40 years has over 100 boutiques representing the crème de la crème of international brands from Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels and Chanel to Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Valentino and Lanvin. Recently, the Shops welcomed Makoto restaurant by celebrity restaurateur Steven Starr and boutiques from Balenciaga, CH Carolina Herrera, La Perla, Breguet, Panerai, and Stella McCartney. (Insider tip: Books & Books hosts a weekly story time for kids on Sundays at 12:30 pm.)

Haulover Park: Situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intercoastal Waterway, families can fly kites high above the beach or spend an afternoon out on the water with a boating or fishing charter at this 99-acre urban park.

Museum of Contemporary Arts ("MOCA"): Families can enjoy South Florida’s longest running outdoor concert series with “Jazz at MOCA,” on the last Friday of each month. We visited and got to see the “Donna Karan & Philippe Dodard” exhibit and witness the museum's dedicated community outreach. It's an unexpected cultural outlet amongst Miami's ritzier, consumer-driven institutions.

Remède Spa: The 14,000 square-foot Remède Spa, exclusive to St. Regis, offers 12 treatment rooms and a full-service salon. I enjoyed a pre-natal massage that had me about as relaxed as I'm going to be this pregnancy!

The Spa, ONE Bal Harbour Resort & Spa: This 10,000 square foot facility offers 10 private treatment suites complete with ocean vistas, and a waterfront terrace and reflecting room for pre- and post-treatment relaxation. I was pressed for time the day I reviewed the Spa but opted for the Pure Oxygen min-facial (25 minutes), which I highly recommend!

Rounding out the activities that I think would appeal to any family are: movies on the beach complete with popcorn and plush couches, a Beach Fitness program offering free Pilates and beach yoga classes to both residents and guests (five days a week), and for joggers, a $3 million track, the only beachfront path of its type in South Florida.

Aside from the luxurious accommodations, top restaurants, upscale shops, and endless activities, what stood out to me most is how lush and pristine all of Bal Harbour is. There is essentially no public parking, so the properties and beaches feel private and are extremely well-maintained with palm trees and gardens as far as the eye can see. The combination of salt from the ocean and flowery scents from the gardens is an intoxicating mix.

My only issue is deciding who I want to return to Bal Harbour with. The family? Girls' trip? Or date weekend? There's really something for everyone and I cannot wait to escape the hustle and bustle of NYC and get back!

Who would you most like to experience Bal Harbour with?

For additional information, visit For more photos of my trip, visit Glamamom on Facebook and Instagram.

{I was not compensated for this post. My participation in the press trip was sponsored by Bal Harbour, who provided me with travel, hotel, meal, and spa accommodations for review purposes. I am under no obligation whatsoever to endorse or write about the trip. Photos 1,2,5 via Bal Harbour.}