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One of Our Favorite Hotels in Miami Is Powered by Kayak

By Juliana Shallcross

Mar 16, 2022

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When Kayak met Life House: a hotel match made in tech-design heaven.

Photo by Patrick Chin

When Kayak met Life House: a hotel match made in tech-design heaven.

What happens when a travel search engine partners with a lifestyle brand to run a hotel.

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Miami’s hotel scene is as eclectic as the city itself, saturated with a dizzying amount of options for every type of traveler and every kind of trip. For decades, the most popular hotels were the minimalist boutique brands found in the historic art deco buildings along Miami Beach. Here, guests could mix fun in the sun with a wild after-dark party scene. 

But one of Miami’s newest hotels fits right into the city’s rapidly emerging identity as a technology hub for crypto companies and Silicon Valley transplants, where you can set the room temperature before you arrive and activate your own room keys. This hotel also taps into Miami’s subtle shift away from scenester party hotels to relaxing spaces that feel more like a small apartment building, where you can’t quite tell if the person behind the lobby bar works there—or lives there. 

These two reasons are why the Kayak Miami Beach hotel is now one of our favorite places to stay in Miami.

Yes, the travel metasearch site that scours the internet for the best-priced flights, hotel rooms, and rental cars has its very own hotel in Miami Beach. While you can book your stay directly through kayak.com or the mobile app, it’s nothing like the formulaic chain hotels that so often pop up in Kayak search results.

The property was designed by Life House Hotels, a company that embraces meaningful social interactions through welcoming common areas, friendly staff, and a “come as you are” vibe. (Indeed the hotel first opened as a Life House property in 2019, before transitioning to a Kayak in March 2021.)  The partnership is set up so that Kayak runs the back end of the hotel like bookings and property management through its proprietary software, while Life House oversees the overall experience, including design, decor, food and beverage, and the staff. 

Though the hotel is run by Kayak, Life House takes care of design, amenities, and more.

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“The first thing a person asks me is, ‘What's Kayak, a flight metasearch company, doing in the hotel business?” says Steve Hafner, CEO of Kayak. “The quick answer is because we think we can apply our technology to make the whole guest experience better.” Since Kayak had never been involved in hotel operations before, it partnered with Life House to learn the business. “They actually are very simpatico with our philosophy of how to reimagine the hotel experience,” Hafner says. 

Set on a quiet stretch of Miami’s Park Avenue, about three blocks from the beach along the Collins Canal, the 52-room hotel has an understated entrance—a painted black door flanked by two oversized pots stuffed with banana leaf plants. The bright orange Kayak logo is nowhere to be found. Instead, black squared-off letters that spell Kayak are hung next to the door, right above a plaque denoting the building’s art deco significance. 

When you step inside, you’re greeted by more greenery (potted plants are everywhere) but also a mixed assembly of chairs and low-to-the-ground couches with cushions in shades of brown, beige, soft pink, and burnt orange. To the left are communal tables lit by rattan chandeliers; straight ahead is a simple bar, its ends flanked by more plants. A subtle seductive Le Labo scent fills the air, transporting you away from the frenetic Miami Beach streets and to a slower speed.

Noticeably, there’s no imposing front desk. Instead, a small marble-topped console to the right of the entrance features two screens sunk into the countertop. Here is where guests can check themselves in—entering their reservation details and scanning their ID card before activating their room keys. Staffers are available to assist with check-in, but the Kayak assumption is that its guests are technologically savvy enough to handle check-in on their own, without it being a soulless tech-driven stay.

“Our guests are not looking for robots or drones. They want tech experiences that live in the background and make the stay better,” says Indy Adenaw, managing director of Kayak Hotels, who was brought over from Marriott International, where he worked on the Moxy Hotels expansion, to oversee the growth of Kayak Hotels. “It’s there when you need it, invisible when you don’t.”

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In the guest rooms, a tropical bohemia style pervades, with handwoven tapestries on the walls, and in some suites, a bar cart at the ready with small bottles of alcohol and mixers, limes and lemons. The beds are just the right amount of soft and topped with Revival New York linens while Le Labo toiletries are stocked in the bathroom. 

From left: The Layla Bar serves supremely tasty (and photogenic) Middle Eastern food; you can also dine al fresco.

The Layla restaurant and bar, which spans the ground level and a small section of the rooftop, is an intimate place for dinner, serving Middle Eastern food and delightful cocktails (the Summer Nights rum and watermelon concoction is a must) with a theme centered around Persian star-crossed lovers Layla and Majnun. On the rooftop is also a hot tub–size pool that’s perfect for a quick cooldown but spares you a raucous pool party. Despite its small size, the hotel never appears to be bursting at the seams, not even at night when locals pop in for drinks and dinner.

Whatever else you need is just a text message away with an actual Kayak hotel employee, not a chatbot. Through text, you can request amenities, change rooms, add more nights, or ask for ideas on what to do. Coming in late May to the Kayak mobile app is the ability to open the door to your room with your phone. All your trip info can be stored in Kayak Trips, the site’s trip-organizing service. 

While the style of the hotel may seem perfect for millennials, Hafner says Kayak is going after a mindset, not a demographic. 

“What we’re aiming for is a more inclusive, more welcoming Soho House,” Hafner says. “We want to have a great vibe; to be in cool, walkable neighborhoods; to have a great architecturally significant building; and to have fun communal spaces where the guests can connect with each other.”

Already Kayak and Life House have opened two more hotels in Playa del Carmen, Mexico—Kayak Sol and Kayak Luna—and 10 more are in development in North America and Europe. But Hafner says Kayak will add new partners other than Life House into the mix.

“We’re a partnership company,” he says. “Think about our core business. We partner with just about everybody in the travel business, from the operators and hoteliers and airlines [to] online travel agencies. The stuff that we think we can do better, we will bring it out, but we will always have partnerships with third parties.”

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