The Pelican Hotel — A Charming South Beach Hideaway in the Middle of Ocean Drive

When people think of South Beach, especially in the throes of the always flashy Ocean Drive, the vision of young spring breakers typically comes to mind. However, on my recent trip to the very place where I stayed at the charming Pelican Hotel, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was much more than I bargained for. 

Pelican Outside

The Pelican Hotel sits directly on Ocean Drive overlooking Muscle Beach where all the perfectly fit men and women work out in the open-air gym, along with roller skaters and luxury cars passing by. Sure, there are other quintessential South Beach sights, including some random dancing and loud tourists here and there, but during the week — I was there Wednesday through Friday — the area is much calmer and more relaxed, and the clientele, especially at the Pelican Hotel, was anything but the usual young partygoer. Instead, there were families with smaller children and older adults on group vacations, giving the space a well-rounded feel where everyone is welcome. 

Guest Room

The hotel was created by the founder of Diesel and president of OTB Group, a man named Renzo Rosso, and its recent renovations have kept its classic Art Deco design while adding a slightly more modern and luxurious feel that is still approachable as is the friendly and helpful staff. 

Guest Room

Throughout the 33 colorful guest rooms which include spacious suites, you’ll find panoramic views of South Beach (with some facing the ocean), locally-made artisanal vintage accents, and bold furniture. 

Pelican Cafe Bar (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

Downstairs, the Pelican Cafe hosts a lovely indoor dining space that overlooks the street with a stylish illuminated bar where you can sip on anything from a classic Negroni to a signature Spicy Mango Mezcalita. There is also an outdoor patio for dining that is ideal for people-watching and enjoying the warm mornings while lingering over a wide selection of brunch items, ranging from a refreshing acai bowl to an egg white omelet with roasted potatoes.

Lunch Gnocchi

Speaking of food, Chef Gio does his magic in the kitchen. For lunch, I enjoyed the fish carpaccio of the day (which was branzino) that was decked out in sliced jalapeño and chopped bell peppers, along with the gnocchi tossed in a creamy sauce with black truffle. For dessert, I was treated to the cannoli stuffed with ricotta.


As for dinner, we started with the fried calamari and shrimp that was served with a marinara sauce before moving on to the salmon tartare that was special for the evening. The pasta course was my favorite which included the Cappellini al Pomodoro made with angel hair, cherry marinara sauce, and fresh basil followed by the whole 2-pound branzino that was grilled to perfection. Our meal was paired with wines — including a Pinot Grigio that was unexpectedly brilliant with the fish — from the extensive list that showcases varieties across Italy. 

Beach Access

The Pelican Hotel is directly across the street from the beach which makes it easy to get to while staying here. You can enjoy beach access with complimentary towels and chairs. If you want an umbrella, you will need to pay a fee of $20. The hotel has partnered with the Boucher Brothers, a company that provides the chairs and umbrellas to you once you show them your wristband received from the front desk upon check-in. 

There is a lot to do and see while staying on Ocean Drive but if you’d like to venture away from all that bustle, you’re close enough to some of the staples in South Beach, including Prime 112 — the s’mores pie is a must — and Smith and Wollensky with some of the best scenic water views around. 

Casa Matilda Risotta

Casa Matilda is newer to the area but a great addition and one I was happy to experience during my stay. Located on Washington Avenue, the buzzing cocktail spot and steakhouse blended with Mexican inspirations has a fun vibe with its elaborate decor that offers a a mix of resto-lounge and club — probably because they do offer musical performances — but serves some incredible food. There is an array of fresh raw seafood to start, including caviar appetizers and a Yucatan ceviche that we enjoyed made with fresh corvina filet. Since it’s a chophouse, there are many different style meats to enjoy, such as the Australian lamb chop and Japanese A5 wagyu, but the entrees are also not to be missed, especially the rich and creamy mushroom truffle risotto made of shiitake, trumpet, and oyster mushrooms all mixed with white truffle for a bite that melted in my mouth.

Anyone can experience (and enjoy!) South Beach — and you don’t have to be on spring break to do so. The Pelican Hotel showed me a different side of the traditional tourist area I didn’t know existed and I enjoyed every minute of it.  

(Photo of the Pelican Cafe Bar courtesy of the Pelican Hotel. All other photos by Carissa Chesanek )

About Carissa Chesanek (2 Articles)
Carissa Chesanek is a writer based in Brooklyn who primarily explores the food and drink scene in New York and beyond. Her work has been seen in Food Network, BroadwayWorld Food & Wine, Vinepair, Whisky Advocate, Real Simple, and Alcohol Professor. When she's not writing, she's on the hunt for the best Old Fashioned.