written by
Matthew Schroeder

Gorgeous beaches, fantastic dining and hot architecture can only mean one thing – you’re in Miami baby!

To learn more about what makes Miami so special, we spoke with James A. McLaughlin, a native Floridian and Chief Concierge at the beautiful Nobu Hotel Miami Beach.


Q: James, tell us how your career as a concierge began.


A: My career first started seven years ago at a luxury condo at the very tip of South Beach where many well-known people including some celebrities lived. I enjoyed being a concierge there, but having previously worked in the airline and cruise line industry I felt my expertise would be more valuable working within a hotel environment assisting new guests almost every day. Plus having been born in Key West has helped to contribute to my knowledge about the area and provide valuable insight to visitors instead of residents. So after a year I left and I have been working at the same property, Eden Roc, and now Nobu ever since.

Q: What makes Nobu Hotel Miami Beach stand out from all other resorts and hotels in the city?

A: The original structure of the hotel was formerly the iconic Eden Roc which was completed in 1956 by a famous architect at the time, Morris Lapidus, and it still remains a Miami Beach landmark today. The building contains the new Nobu Hotel and Nobu Restaurant, however you can still feel the glamour of the late 1950s and 60s when you enter the lobby due to the skillful renovation. 

Q: What are some unique experiences that Nobu Hotel offers its clientele?

A: The hotel offers clientele the full Nobu brand experience by the unique combination of being able to stay in a world-famous hotel plus dine in the world renowned Nobu restaurant on the same property. Also, the hotel’s rooms have a uniform Japanese design with a sense of detail and minimalism which offers a new take on luxury. The rooms even come with their own yoga mats and unique Japanese amenities in the mini bar as well.

Q: What do you consider the most distinctive feature of the hotel’s location?

A: The Nobu Hotel is uniquely situated directly on the beach between the Intracoastal Waterway and the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. There are very few resorts that can boast sweeping views of two bodies of water at once. Some of the rooms even offer both sunrise and sunsets. Also, the hotel is located just minutes away from trendy South Beach, in what is referred to as Mid Beach which is less crowded, quieter and has a more pristine beach.

Q: Beyond the hotel grounds, where do you do recommend your guests go for  an afternoon of sightseeing, and then  for an evening out?

A: Due to its tropical weather and proximity to miles of beaches, most activities are centered around being outdoors or on the water. Most people just enjoy lounging by the several pools or on the beach by the ocean or doing numerous water sports such as kayaking, paddle boarding or jet skiing.

For those that want to venture out, there is air boating in the Everglades or Biscayne Bay adventure boat tours by zodiacs. For those that want to see the city, we have arranged tours by private limo or antique classic cars to see Miami’s neighborhoods such as the lush village of Coconut Grove, the beautiful city of Coral Gables with its canopied streets and the historic Biltmore Hotel, Venetian Pools and more. Guests can also visit Little Havana to grab a cafecito and pastelito.

If shopping is in the cards, then guests may opt to cruise through the Design District, a high-end shopping mecca with the most luxurious fashion brands that rival Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. They can continue through Wynwood cruising by several streets full of murals painted by well-known artists, outdoor art exhibits, plus numerous studios, boutiques and restaurants.

At nighttime, why not enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine at the rooftop restaurant Juvia for a spectacular 360-degree view of all of Miami and Miami Beach, and then after, stroll down Lincoln Road which is a pedestrian promenade that bisects the island from the bay to the ocean. Lincoln Road is a “mixed bag” of outdoor cafes, shops, bookstores and theaters, plus great people watching. Should one want to visit the Art Deco District instead, I would recommend grabbing a drink at the former Versace Mansion and then take in the scene and neon lit hotels along busy Ocean Drive. There are  many popular bars, lounges and clubs  for those that are looking for real late night activities. The scene here is constantly changing.

Q: What are some of the city’s top restaurants that you would recommend?

A: Of course, at the hotel is both  Nobu, the world famous Japanese restaurant with some South American influences, and Malibu Farm which overlooks the ocean and offers simple farm to table dining that is fresh, organic and locally sourced.

For restaurants outside the hotel, I would recommend Casa Tua, a refined Northern Italian restaurant which features a lantern lit patio in a romantic setting. The restaurant is hidden from the street behind tall shrubbery with no signage. Casa Tua is like walking into someone’s villa. Another new favorite in the upcoming and hip Wynwood Arts district is KYU, an Asian-American woodfired barbeque restaurant with a diverse menu. One can also take in the Wynwood Walls, a series of murals along several streets beforehand. There is also the long standing Joe’s Stone Crab which is the oldest seafood restaurant in Miami Beach, established over 100 years ago when the only way to get there was by boat. Be forewarned that they do not take reservations and they are mostly opened during the stone crab season. Be sure to dine at one of the local Cuban restaurants, my favorite being Versailles in Little Havana, to get the real deal.

Q: For an extravagant experience that is unique to the city, what would you recommend?

A: Miami is surrounded by water and islands everywhere, so what better way to experience the city and its beaches than by a private yacht. Yacht charters can be customized based on the guest’s interests to create a truly unique sailing experience. One can explore Biscayne Bay and multi-million dollar homes and then anchor at sea with the Miami skyline as a backdrop. Four or eight hour excursions can include catered meals, onboard massage service and water sports, including wave runners.

Q: For the ultimate in pampering at Nobu Hotel what do you suggest?

A: For the ultimate pampering at the Nobu Hotel, I would definitely look no further than our Esencia Spa. The Nobu Nagomi Ritual is their signature treatment which will awaken your senses. The spa uses exclusive Natura Bissé products which are all natural and imported from Spain. The relaxation lounge overlooks the pools and ocean and even has a fireplace. After your treatment, I would suggest renting a cabana poolside or directly on the beach and enjoy your choosing of stocked Fiji waters, a tropical fresh fruit platter and Champagne. You could also end the day and enjoy the sunset hour by having a lite bite or something healthy to eat like Chef Helene Henderson’s signature avocado pizza from the wood burning oven at Malibu Farm overlooking the ocean.

Q: What are some of Nobu Hotel best kept secrets?

A: Nobu guests have complimentary use of the Esencia Spa facilities which include Jacuzzis, cold plunge tubs, sauna and steam room and a relaxation area with herbal teas and a private outdoor pool. Also, the variety of wellness classes such as Pilates, kickboxing, Zumba and yoga are complimentary, as well as use of bicycles to explore the beach. On Fridays there is live entertainment in the Nobu Lobby  Bar and a DJ that plays by the pool on Saturdays.

Q: What are some of the best kept secrets of the region surrounding Nobu Hotel?

A: The Nobu Hotel provides an ideal location to the most popular areas and attractions of the city such as South Beach, Key Biscayne and the Everglades. You are generally close to several sports stadiums, performing art centers and museums such as the Perez Art Museum of Miami, Villa Vizcaya and Bass Museum. Also within close proximity is great shopping at the Shoppes of Bal Harbour, Design District, Wynwood and Lincoln Road. So many well-known and local restaurants are walkable or minutes  away by taxi. Same day trips are even possible to Key West, Orlando, Bimini and the Bahamas.

Q: What do you most enjoy about your position as a concierge?

A: I like how the Concierge position allows me to work both center stage providing information, recommendations and coordinating important functions, as well as, behind the scenes orchestrating a variety of activities to provide guests with memorable experiences to take home with them. The Concierge truly is the “go to person” and point of contact for guests when it comes to the hotel and surrounding area.

Q: Final question — what is one thing you most want travelers to know and remember about Miami Beach and Nobu Hotel?

A: I think the travelers will always remember the international tropical vibe of Miami Beach and the diverse cultures that live here and come to visit. Hopefully from the Nobu Hotel, guests will have embraced the concept of Japanese kokoro, meaning the connection between their emotional feelings, spirit and soul is at the center of every heartbeat of the Nobu Restaurant and Hotel. Nobu himself says “what is important is that service comes from the heart!”

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