Travel Guide: Miami, Florida
Updated: Apr 2, 2021
"Party in the city where the heat is on!" Today we are jet setting to the hottest city on the planet, Miami! An iconic international hub full of art, style and excellent cuisine, Miami is an ideal destination for your next getaway!
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Miami is and always will be one of my top Florida beaches! Catch the sunrise on Miami Beach, explore the art district full of wall murals and finish the day with a swanky dinner and club hopping to do some celebrity spotting! There is a reason Miami is at the center of pop culture. With a reputation for having hot weather and even hotter people, Miami has become an icon of our world. Amazing events take place here all year from the ever growing Ultra Music Festival, Art Basel or the Food Network Food and Wine Festival. Don't think this place is just for the ultra-rich and celebrities though. There are a collection of budget-friendly options throughout the city that make this perfect for that epic bachelorette party OR the family-friendly beach vacation!
Miami is one of the most southern cities in the continental United States. Running along Florida's southeastern coast, Miami sits on a limestone formation with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Florida Everglades, a freshwater system, on the other. Miami Beach is the barrier island that runs along the east side of the city. Three main bridges connect the beach to the main city giving you scenic views of Biscayne Bay.
People aren't joking when they say Miami is HOT. It boast temperatures that can easily reach over 90°F/ 30° C on any given day and rarely drops below 60°F/ 17° in the winter months. Sounds like paradise to me! BUT if you are not used to this weather, I suggest coming in the cooler months so you don't sweat through your vacation! Because along with heat, Miami has A LOT of humidity! Afternoon storms are common in the rainy season which runs from May - November. This also coincides with hurricane season which, as you can image, is pretty active in this part of the world. My favorite months in Miami are April and October. It's a bit cooler than the summer months and you have less showers. But be warned! Showers can occur any time of year so bring your umbrella or raincoat!
Where to Stay:
South Beach Hot Spots:
When you think of Miami, you probably think of those neon lights of South Beach. These art deco icons are known all around the world. So why not stay there?! If you are looking to be in the center of the action, a stay on South Beach is a must. From the neon boutique hotels on Ocean Drive to the super lux resorts along Collins Avenue, these accommodations will definitely range in price from expensive to really expensive! Expect to drop some dough if you want to see a celebrity in the lobby! Some of the best hotel brands in the world have made their stake on the beachfront property of Miami Beach. There are a few budget-friendly boutique hotels if you really want to stay here without spending a fortune, but trust me, the expense is worth it! These accommodations are ideal for those that want to party all night and be able to catch the sunrise steps from your bed.
Downtown vibes in Brickell:
If you prefer a city view to the beach, take a drive across the bridge from Miami Beach into the heart of downtown Miami. Brickell has excellent resorts and hotels that offer you iconic city views. Brickell is a great place to station yourself if you want to see more of Miami than just South Beach. With a unique bar scene and amazing cuisine, Brickell offers a little less of a "touristy" feel and gives you a true taste of what it's like to live in Miami. With a quick taxi to the art district of Wynwood and Little Havana at your doorstep, this would also be a great place to base yourself for a cultural immersion into all Miami has to offer.
A stay off the beaten track:
A unique addition to your trip would be to set up camp in the Florida Everglades National Park. About an hour outside of the city center, you can take in this one-of-a-kind ecosystem. With multiple campgrounds throughout the park, this is an ideal spot for nature lovers. Kayaking, biking, hiking and good ol' slough-sloggin' will make this an adventure you won't forget! Just keep an eye out for those alligators!
What to Eat:
Miami is home to such a wide variety of restaurants and bars, it would be hard to narrow it down to just a few! It really depends on the vibe you are looking for. If you are staying in Miami Beach, you might want to sample a few of the fine dining restaurants that are tucked inside the lux hotels. Healthy eating is very important to many Miami residents so smoothie spots and veggie-friendly options can be found all along the beach. If you want a more relaxed dining experience, check out some of the local spots in Wynwood where you can sample street food from food trucks. Bakeries and bodegas also can be found on the many art-speckled corners of Wynwood. Brickell has more high-end dinning spots, some with stellar rooftop bars and views of Biscayne Bay.
One thing you truly shouldn't miss while in Miami is the Cuban food! There is a very rich Cuban culture in Miami and some of the best Cuban cuisine. For breakfast, grab a cafecito, espresso mixed with sugar served as a shot in tiny cups, and pastelitos, "tiny pastries" filled with an assortment of jams or meat and cheese. My favorite? Guava pastelitos! For lunch, try a true Cubano sandwich from one of the many sandwich shops in the city! Tacos, black beans and rice and tostones, fried plantains, also should make the cut! Cuba isn't the only Latin flair in the city and you can find cuisine from a wide variety of Central and South American countries!
What to Do:
Once again, activities really depends on your vibe and what kind of vacation you are planning! Ride shares and taxis are very common and inexpensive when traveling along the beach. If you plan to hop between the main city and the beach often, I would recommend renting a car as prices do jump when you have to venture over the bridges. Driving in Miami can be a little hectic though so if it's worth the peace of mind, just stick with the taxis! If you want to explore the Everglades or take a road trip down to the Keys during your stay, you will definitely need a car!
Take in the sights of South Beach
One of the main pulls bringing people to Miami are the beaches! White powdery sand, barely there bikinis and palm trees for days! You truly get that "vacation" vibe when you are in Miami. One of the most FAMOUS beaches (probably in the world!) is South Beach. Just a small portion of the whole of Miami Beach, South Beach runs along the south side of the island. Ocean Drive is the main drag that is lined with neon lights. Restaurants and bars dot along the drive while the other side is an open walkway facing the beach. You could easily spend all day laying out on the beach or taking in some drinks at the bars. You can also rent bikes along the walkway and give yourself a tour on wheels. You can't miss all of the beautiful lifeguard towers! The best time to come? Sunrise! With a setting on the Atlantic side of Florida, you get killer sunrises every morning! Whether you wake up early or end up staying up all night.. I'll leave that up to you!
Enjoy the nightlife
I can't tell you to come to Miami without highlighting the nightlife! Definitely a paradise for party-goers, Miami has a little something for everyone that want to have fun! Starting with the lux mega clubs of South Beach, these clubs have famous DJs and artists headlining most nights. Even with the expensive price tag, bottle service is the way to go here. You usually get your own space, drinks without having to wait at the bar and a space to sit and rest your dancing feet! There are many club promoters in Miami that will help you score a VIP spot. Most of the clubs play techno, hip-hop or Latin music. These clubs are amazing but possibly not for everyone! If you want a more relaxed vibe, go for the bars of Brickell. Still $20 a cocktail (this is Miami after all) but more likely to have a seat at the bar to chat and meet some locals. During Miami Music Week, there are special events at many of the bars and clubs! Make sure you check for ticketed events during any major festival times as some sell out very early!
Take a cruise on Biscayne Bay
If you are going to rub elbows with the celebrities, you might as well party like them! Yachts are a dime a dozen on Biscayne Bay and there are no better views of the city than from the water! You can rent a charter for the day to cruise around the bay. With a group of friends, this is without a doubt one of my favorite things to do in Miami! There is nothing better than sipping a cocktail while feeling the breeze through your hair with the Miami skyline as a backdrop! One of my favorite memories in Miami was spending New Year's Eve on a boat in the bay watching the fireworks over the city!
If a huge budget isn't possible for your trip, you can also rent kayaks and paddle boards if you still want to get out on the water. You can find many rental stalls along the causeways or the bay side of the beach. There definitely are days the bay is calmer than others so check the wind and wave situation before heading out!
Explore the street art of Wynwood
On the northern side of the city you will come across the art district, Wynwood. This is one of my favorite parts of the city. Everywhere you look there are splashes of color and art. You will even find them under your feet on the sidewalk as you walk! This neighborhood is very vibrant and has a wide variety of restaurants and bars. Many have outdoor seating giving you a chance to take in all the views! You can find wall murals almost everywhere in the art district but definitely check out Wynwood Walls. A unique collection of changing murals and art galleries, you can get the perfect picture AND pick up some artwork to take home! Perfect for a morning stroll and a great way to start your day!
Jump into a pool party
Another awesome party option is the pool party. Miami has the best pool parties hands down. Almost every iconic hotel along Miami Beach have some kind of pool party. My personal favorite party is at the SLS South Beach. Another time you should splurge for your own bottle service, gather a group of friends and spend the day by the pool! Many pool parties have huge DJs during Miami Music Week but also may be a little more tricky to get into. If you are trying to go during a festival time, make sure to buy tickets early! Some of the hotels have a more laidback atmosphere than others so there really is a little something for everyone!
Explore the Everglades
If you want to see what else Miami has to offer, you are going to have to take a little journey out of the city. Often overlooked by the bright lights and hotspots, The Florida Everglades are a diamond in the rough. Many people assume this is just a big swamp not worth noticing, but the Everglades are one of the coolest places I have ever been! Known as the "River of Grass", the Florida Everglades spread over 1.5 million acres of the southern tip of Florida. The Everglades are one of the most unique ecosystems in the world and there are plants and animals that live there that can't be found anywhere else in the world! As I said before, they have multiple camp grounds throughout the park and lots of room to explore. You can hike or bike along the trails at Shark Valley Visitor Center which is my recommendation if you just want to day trip from the city. You'll see lots of alligators and other wildlife! Just make sure you don't get too close! Even though these gators look relaxed in the sun, they are wild animals that have very large teeth! Keep your distance and you will be safe! If you want to camp and spend a few days exploring, I recommend Long Pine Key Campgrounds. There are many options for backcountry camping too if you really want to get rugged! Check out Everglades National Park for more info!
Miami definitely has popular times throughout the year. Expect prices to rise significantly during holidays and major festivals or events. Although pricey, these are some of the BEST times to visit! Whether for music, food or art, these events bring so much more to your experience!
If you are trying to visit on a budget, definitely avoid high season. Early fall would be your best bet! You also may want to find a boutique hotel or rental. You CAN stay in Miami on a budget! You just have to know where to look; try North Miami Beach or Edgewater.
It's also important to note how expensive dinning is here. Cocktails can easily be $20 and gourmet restaurants are pricey. If you are trying to stay on a budget, grocery stores are abound. Pack a picnic to take to the beach instead of spending a fortune on lunch in a restaurant! Many of the local restaurants are affordable as well! Cafecitos and pastelitos are inexpensive and a yummy part of the culture.
One of the best views of the city is from the bayside of Miami Beach. There are a few hotel bars and restaurants that line the east side of Biscayne Bay and they are the PERFECT place to catch a sunset over the skyline!
If you want to enjoy the beach without the crowds, take a trip to Key Biscayne. On the south side of the city, you take a bridge into Biscayne National Park. There is so much to do here from fishing and boating to snorkeling and scuba diving! The beaches are beautiful and usually less crowded than Miami Beach!
If you are looking for a family-friendly Miami itinerary you may want stay north of South Beach. Middle Beach and North Beach have hotels and rentals that would have plenty of space for a family. There is plenty of family-friendly entertainment like the Frost Museum of Science or Zoo Miami.
The rain and heat bring a flock of mosquitos. Make sure you pack the bug spray and spritz yourself before nightfall!
Miami would be a great jumping point for a road trip down through the Florida Keys! I will be sharing a detailed road trip itinerary shortly!
Miami holds a special place in my heart which is why I chose to live there for a few years! I just loved visiting so much I had to make it permanent. Some of my favorite memories are in Miami. It is such a lively city and has a tropical resort feel everywhere you go! Definitely a great option for my party people but could easily be a family-friendly destination as well with all kinds of culture and fun! Are you ready to take a trip south?!
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