The minute we got to Hotel Circa39, we knew we’d landed exactly where we needed to be.
It had been a long week. For the past eight days, one of my best friends, Alison, and I been working on volunteer service projects in the Dominican Republic with the new Fathom + Impact Travel cruise line, making and delivering clay water filters, planting mangrove trees along the swamps, and teaching English at a summer camp for school-aged children. We’d traveled all over the northern part of the country, helping out where we were needed in the mornings and exploring every inch of the island in the afternoons. When we reached Miami, our transitional space between the Dominican Republic and home, we knew we didn’t feel like partying or strutting our stuff in uncomfortable heels down South Beach’s boardwalk. We wanted to meet interesting people, swim in the pool, take long naps, and eat at tiny hole-in-the-wall Cuban restaurants. We wanted to see the Cuban district, dine at Espanola Way, and have drinks in quiet places. We wanted to meet people who worked and lived in Miami, and we wanted to meet travelers who, like us, had come to Miami for the first time with absolutely no idea what they might find.
These are the kinds of people we met at Circa39, a place that rightfully calls itself a happy home for explorers at heart. Once you go in, you’ll feel that way, too.
Circa39 is inside a cute art deco building (Miami-style, of course) right in the middle of Collins Avenue. If you know anything about Miami’s geography, this means that it is exceptionally strategically located—not only is it in the heart of the street that literally parallels the coastline, but it’s also a 5-minute ride to South Beach, a few blocks from any number of Cuban restaurants, nightclubs, and bars, and just a block from Miami’s iconic white sandy beaches.
It’s also full of exactly what I’m looking for when I travel: adorable lobbies with mismatched sofas and pillows, locally-sourced cafes with cute motivational travel posters on the walls, minimalist rooms with long lines and bold colors, a vibe that quietly but definitively lets you know that this is a cool, clean place.
When we walked into the lobby, I noticed an Australian couple sitting at the Wunderbar, watching American basketball; a pair of two Russian friends combing through their Miami guidebook on the couch, a few young families sitting on Jules Kitchen’s outdoor patio enjoying an early lunch. There were a couple of people already set up outside at the pool, which is adjacent to the bar, wearing oversized sunglasses and drinking pretty cocktails. There were guests with dreadlocks, guests who had clearly been backpacking across the world, guests with ripped jeans and sandals. But there were also guests in cute outfits, young families who clearly liked to travel off the beaten path, and couples of all ages and from all over the world who were honeymooning or traveling the States together.
My first thought: This is my kind of Miami.
Circa39 was completely renovated in 2014–and it shows in all of the best ways. Though it looks pretty small from the outside (and feels perfectly intimate on the inside), the hotel offers 97 guest rooms, arranged between two buildings connected by a set of wooden walkways over the backyard courtyard. In my talks with the staff, I found out that the furnishings are custom-designed, the floors are all solid wood, and that the shutters–those awesome, wide-lipped plantation-style ones I would love to have in my own house–were installed to inspire a kind of “beach feel.” I was told that the beds, TVs, bathrooms, and interior decor were all upgraded, too, all keeping with the theme of eclectic modern beach life.
During our stay, we stayed in one of the Double/Double rooms. The door opens to a little hallway with a large mirror on the wall and a built-in wardrobe (and yes, for those of you who are wondering, my obsession with bathrobes was happily comforted to see a beautiful terrycloth robe and slippers waiting for me in the closet). The room is huge, too, with enough room for a side table and chair, a dresser, and a side table between the beds. Bathrooms, too, are modern, with glass stand-up showers and stainless steel sinks.
And I loved, loved, loved the queen bed. A pillow-top mattress, fluffy comforter, and those simultaneously soft-and-firm pillows that seem to know exactly how to hold your head.
The next morning, we got up early and had a long breakfast at Jules Kitchen, a place that, as their website states, offers “global comfort food in Miami Beach for the globetrotter’s basic needs.” The kitchen is absolutely adorable, with white and blue checkered ceilings, weathered white cabinets, and little blue bowls. On the walls are prints of motivational travel quotes and gorgeous travel photography.
Our breakfast definitely seemed to reflect their commitment to comfort food: at $15.95/pp, the all-you-can-eat buffet is full of everything from Nutella to bagels to eggs to French baguettes and fruit. It’s fresh and simple–the kind of breakfast a traveler might look for before a long day of exploring a new city. Jules’ locally roasted coffee, which comes from the Panther Coffee company in Miami, is also delectable, whipped up into all kinds of delicious options, from double espressos to cappuccinos.
A quick flip through the menu revealed that they also offer tapas-style small plates, such as their “Floribbean” Glazed Wings, wings marinated in mango and scotch BBQ sauce, Shrimp “Bang Bang,” fried rock shrimp with sweet chili aioli, and Carne Con Queso Egg Rolls, which are—interestingly—egg rolls filled with braised beef, pepperjack cheese, cilantro slaw, and a homemade aioli dressing. All of it sounds absolutely spectacular.
I honestly didn’t want to leave the hotel after two days. We got to do everything we said we’d do: I spent a day wandering around Little Havana and eating fantastic Cuban pastries, we spent an afternoon sleeping in lounge chairs on the beach (compliments of the hotel, by the way), we ate dinner on Espanola Way and examined the salmon-colored buildings the district is known for, and we walked around aimlessly looking for–and finding–little Cuban spots and eating plenty of arroz con pollo.
And while I loved its style, I think what I loved most about Circa39 was that it seems to effortlessly straddle the divide between travelers who choose hotels and travelers who choose alternative accommodations like hostels or homestays. At night, the courtyard–dubbed the Wunder Garden–was buzzing with travelers playing games, having drinks, and chatting; by day, the bar and lobby felt like a very fashionable friend’s living room.
In other news, I’ve decided I want to decorate my next bedroom like the ones in Circa39. Sheer orange curtains, splashes of turquoise, lime green wallpaper on the walls, and a couple of eclectic lamps, art prints, and angular furniture. Yes, that’s exactly the kind of place I’d like to call home.
At the time of this writing, summer rates are starting at $119/night. You can book online through Circa39’s website or give them a call at (305) 538-4900. Reservations can also be made at Priceline.
3900 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33140
Special thanks to Circa39 for hosting my recent stay and for treating me to a lovely breakfast for purposes of this review.