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YOUTH BEAT

Historic Neighborhood Is Also a Miami Bargain

November 29, 1998|LUCY IZON | Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. She can be reached at http://www.izon.com

Miami, gateway to the Florida Keys and the Everglades, is an easy stop for young travelers who make advance bookings. There are now two good, inexpensive facilities in the city's historic Art Deco District.

The Art Deco District is a square-mile area that features more than 800 renovated buildings dating from the 1920s to the 1950s. In addition to the draw of the beach, the revitalized neighborhood, which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, buzzes with night life and sidewalk restaurants.

At the corner of Washington and Espanola Way is the Clay Hotel, part hotel and part youth hostel. The building, with its arched doors, small balconies and tiled roof, has a colorful history. It once housed Al Capone's gambling syndicate, was Desi Arnaz's home, and is where the rumba originated. It has also been a popular setting for TV and film productions. On the lobby wall you'll see photographs of famous faces who have worked here--John Travolta, Sylvester Stallone and Elton John, to name a few.

The Clay Hotel has 120 hotel rooms and 200 youth hostel beds in rooms shared by four to six. Guests can enjoy small courtyards, lounges, a TV room and a kitchen and dining area. Hostel beds during the winter start at $14 per night for members of Hostelling International; nonmembers pay up to $3 more. Economy double rooms (with shared bath) start at $42. Private double rooms are $56. The Clay Hotel is located at 1438 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, FL 33139; telephone (305) 534-2988, e-mail info@clayhotel.com. Reservations are recommended.

Espanola Way is just two blocks from the beach and close to public tennis courts and an Olympic-size swimming pool. Guests can ride a free electric shuttle bus called the Electric Wave that circulates around the Art Deco District. The air-conditioned vehicles, which carry up to 22 passengers, pass each stop every eight minutes.

Surrounded by canals on three sides, at the edge of the Art Deco District at 2360 Collins Ave., is the Banana Bungalow Hostel. Banana Bungalow is an independent hostel service that has five North American locations. The New York City location has dissatisfied at least one of my readers; she was unhappy that there weren't separate-sex dormitory rooms, and she had complaints about maintenance problems. The Miami Banana Bungalow Hostel is, however, in a nicely renovated two-story motel with a large pool, and it's just a short walk from the beach. The rooms I saw were clean and bright, many with TVs. The dormitory rooms (mostly coed) have six bunk beds, air-conditioning and private bathrooms. There's a pool bar, and some activities and tours (such as an Everglades excursion) are organized. Dormitory beds (there are 120) cost $13 to $15, depending on whether your room has a television. Private rooms in the winter cost from $78.75.

In June, Banana Bungalow opened its newest location in Waikiki Beach, Hawaii. Dormitory beds start at $16, private rooms at $50. Surfboards, boogie boards and snorkeling equipment can be borrowed. Services include a barbecue, bar/restaurant, Internet kiosk and neighboring travel agency and car rental company. You can find the facility at 2463 Kuhio Ave., Honolulu, HI 96815; tel. (808) 924-5074 or (888) 2 HOSTEL, e-mail hires@bananabungalow .com. There are no membership requirements.

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Here are some helpful new sites on the Internet for young travelers:

Smarter Living has launched an electronic student travel newsletter that looks at special deals and destinations of interest to student travelers; visit http://www .smarter living.com.

If you are planning a cycling or biking trip through the Northwest and Western Canada, a list of suitable tent locations and budget lodging alternatives (for bad weather) is located at http://www .tenting-hostels.com.

Ryerson Polytechnic University has introduced a Web site with four helpful sections for student travelers: 15 tips for getting ready to travel, general travel information, study-abroad and work-abroad links. Find it at http://www .ryerson.ca/international services.

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