Tropic like its hot! Miami has been on my list for a while, but when the temperatures hit lower 50s in the Bay Area, I knew I needed a tropical vacation and immediately booked our tickets to Miami.
Beautiful white sand beaches, warm days, world-renowned art, yummy food, glamorous beach clubs and Cuban vibes… Miami is perfect for a long weekend getaway.
Here’s your complete guide to this magical city – where to stay, eat and play and my recommendation of some fun things to do in the city.
WHERE TO STAY IN MIAMI
Miami has tons of hotels – luxury and affordable and Airbnb options to pick for your stay. In this blog post I will be breaking down the best places to stay in Miami based on areas. This city is not just confined to South Beach. Miami Beach area has Mid Beach where a lot of beachfront properties are located, Coral Gables with Spanish inspired architecture and Downtown Miami.
Each area has its pros and cons. It’s best to know what you plan on doing in Miami so you can better choose a neighborhood.
South Beach & Mid Beach: If you came to Miami to enjoy beach life, then it’s best you stay on South Beach or Mid Beach.
You’ll be within walking distance to the beach, restaurants, water sports and nightlife. Collins Ave and Washington Ave are two major hubs for fine dine, buzzing nightclubs and all the Miami action.
This newest hotel by David Grutman and Pharrell William is just steps away from the hustle of South Beach and is ultra instagrammable. Cozy rooms with artsy decor, pink library corner, outdoor pool with vibrant cabanas and lounge, tropical vibes everywhere- It’s the ultimate boho paradise.
They also have an in-house restaurant serving a delectable menu of Mediterranean cuisine and craft cocktails. Over the weekend they have pool parties with live DJ’s spinning some top charts; even if you are not staying at the hotel, you have to stop by the pool party. I’m sure you’ll have a blast.
The rooms were more on the cozy side, small spaces but so well set up with everything you need for a comfortable stay. And Oh, the pink phone and green leopard print robes were such a fun touch to the room.
Every corner was so photogenic, I couldn’t resist taking one too many photos.
One of the best stays in Miami – Mondrian Hotel is situated in the perfect location right on South Beach in a gorgeous oceanfront property.
This boutique upscale hotel offers a comfortable yet luxury experience and has a different vibe from what the other hotels have to offer on South Beach. Spectacular views of the Miami skyline add to the allure of the guest accommodations, while fully equipped kitchens offer a most convenient amenity.
The suites feature bright spaces with blue decor elements, stunning city and ocean views and separate living areas to stay and work.
The property also houses Baia Beach Club – the ultimate waterfront date night spot. You can enjoy a romantic sunset while you relish authentic Mediterranean flavors in a boho open-air oasis setting.
Coral Gables : For a more relaxed and tranquil vibe, move inland to Coral Gables – one of the oldest neighborhoods in Miami.
Check into the iconic Biltmore Hotel at Coral Gables. Nestled in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the States this national historic landmark is rooted with history, luxury and elegance.
The resort has 271 rooms and features incredible Mediterranean architecture with classic Italian, Moorish, and Spanish influences over the 150 acres of tropical landscape. It opened in 1926 and hosted an array of world leaders and famous celebrities ; President Roosevelt, Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Bing Crosby and Al Capone to name a few.
As soon I entered the room, I was swept away by the luxurious atmosphere – the color palette of the decor and fabric, plush bedding , crystal amethyst chandelier, and glorious views from the windows. The rooms also feature a separate living room with sofas and couch and all the amenities you could possibly need.
A grand historic lobby, the extravagant rooms with stunning golf course views, a world famous pool to swim in or lounge at, a tranquil spa with a lengthy list of massages and services to pick from, French and Italian fine dining options – it is the ultimate vacation paradise.
When you do visit the Biltmore Hotel, don’t forget to look up. The details are truly incredible.
WHEN TO VISIT
Miami boasts great weather year round, but beware of hurricane season between June and October. The weather is rainy and hot those months, but from November to May, it’s absolutely gorgeous and the best time to visit Miami.
You should also consider the various events in Miami, because, they can greatly impact the cost and availability of your stay!
- February: The Food and Wine Festival is in South Beach.
- March: Ultra Music Festival – There will be crowds and inevitably, hotels will be much more expensive.
- Memorial Day weekend is Urban Beach Week.
- Art Basel is early December.
So plan your stay accordingly around these dates to get the best of Miami.
HOW TO GET AROUND MIAMI
If you’re only planning to visit Miami Beach, a car is not an absolute necessity. There are airport shuttles to get you into town, as well as Uber, Lyft or Taxi.
Being car-free will allow you to walk around and explore.
Renting a bike for the day is another fun way to get around. There is a beautiful bike path along the beachfront where you can take in the Art Deco views and unobstructed stretch of palms.
You can rent the bikes through the CitiBike stations, or at your hotel(most of them offer bikes for 2 hours).
THINGS TO DO IN MIAMI
1. Go to the beach
You can’t visit Miami without seeing the world famous beaches of South Beach. Miami has beautiful white sand beaches, turquoise waters and the iconic Miami lifeguard stands.
The most popular public beaches are South Beach and Muscle beach – it is super lively filled with crowds.
If you are looking for a more quiet beach, I would head more north towards the Mid Beach. You’ll be walking distance to bars and restaurants, so its also a great spot to grab a bite. Also don’t forget to take a stroll down the iconic Ocean Drive with neon lights and Art Deco buildings.
The northern beaches have dedicated seating to hotel guests, but chairs & cabanas are available to rent for about $25. Sunbathe on the beach, build a sand castle or relax on a daybed , coz after all you came to Miami to enjoy the beach time.
2. Hop on a thriller Miami Speedboat Adventure or rent a Jetski
Another great way to enjoy some of the best views of Miami is to get on the waters. There are plenty of water sports you can try:
Ride the thriller Miami Speedboat
Buckle your seatbelts for a jet-fueled tour of Miami on a super fast speedboat. This narrated tour is the perfect fix for adventure and also learning about Miami’s islands and architecture. The 45 minutes tour, will take you through Port Miami, the US Coast Guard Station, Flagler Monument Island, the Venetian Islands and Star Island, where you get to see some of the celebrities’ multi-million dollar mansions and the spectacular Miami skyline. Its the ultimate sightseeing experience in true “Miami-Vice Style”
Rent a jetski
If you are feeling a little more adventurous, you can rent a jetski on Miami beach and take it for a spin.
Note: You are required to take a written test to get a temporary license to ride a jetski in Miami.
Other activities to try:
- Sunset Boat sails – great option for a romantic date
- Private Cruise Boat – good for group with 6 or more
3. Explore the Coral Gables area
Coral Gables is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in all the United States. Think tree-lined boulevards and opulent mansions – It is super grand every where you look and is just a splendor to explore during the holiday season.
George Merrick designed the area in the 1920s and regulations ensure that all buildings still adhere to the style that Merrick had envisioned for the community. You can admire the architecture, play golf or spend a relaxing spa day at the Biltmore Hotel, stop by the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, and the luxurious Venetian Pool for a dip while you’re here.
The Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden is an 84-acre garden which is home to tropical plants, flowers, and trees — including some rare species, such as the petticoat palm. You can explore on foot or hop on a 45-minute tram tour.
They also host rotating exhibits, such as a Jurassic Garden that features life-sized dinosaurs scattered around the lush garden. And during the holidays, the entire garden is brought to life at night with stunning illumination, spectacular special effects, and enchanted activities for everyone in the family.
4. Take an Airboat Tour to Everglades National Park
This one’s for all the nature lovers and explorers out there. The Everglades are a two million acre wetland ecosystem is home to hundreds of animal species including the endangered panther, the manatee, snakes, more than 350 types of birds, and of course, Alligators!
You can either drive up to the Everglades Park or if you book an airboat tour, you have the option to get pickup and dropped off from you hotel in a shuttle.
The airboat tour gives a a wonderful opportunity to explore the park and gets up close to some gators, birds and iguanas. You can also enjoy a gator show at the end of tour and take pictures holding a baby alligator. Another option is, you can rent a bike and ride through the 14 mile loop that takes you right into the alligator territory.
5. Take an Airplane and Champagne Tour of Miami
This is your chance to marvel at the Miami beach shoreline and take in the panoramic views of Miami’s most famous places from the sky while sipping on a glass of champagne. This 45-minute tour is the perfect way to celebrate a special day, anniversary, or just make your Miami vacation a little extra special.
Add this to your list of romantic things to do in Miami.
6. Visit the Vizcaya Gardens and Coconut Grove
This Italian Renaissance-style villa turned museum sits on a historic estate – you can explore the gardens, enjoy the outdoor sculptures and even take a peek at the art and decor indoors.
The architecture and gardens of Vizcaya are incredible, but the story behind this mansion is what intrigues me most. James Deering loved to throw parties and the architecture reflects the many guest rooms that he had. He even had a secret door to his room that leads to one special guest room that always remains a mystery.
7. Snorkel at the Biscayne National Park
When you visit Miami, you cannot miss the chance to swim with the beautiful fishes in the clear waters of Biscayne Bay. Hop on a boat at the Biscayne Bay and hit two reefs to see some colorful fishes, different varieties of sharks, turtles, jellyfish and other marine life.
8. Wander the Wynwood Walls Art Museum
If you’re looking for some artsy things to do in Miami, Wynwood is your place!
Wynwood is an artsy, cool neighborhood that is home to many art galleries and has colorful murals and graffiti on the walls. The famous Wynwood Walls attract thousands of visitors, both local and tourists and is one of the most Instagrammable places in Miami.
Checkout the long stretch of wall art or hit the Wynwood Yard for some great food trucks – you will definitely find a reason to love this neighborhood as such as me.
9. Walk along the Bayfront Park
The Bayfront Park is a 32-acre public, urban park in Downtown Miami, with large sidewalks to take a nice walk by the water and a marketplace. Grab 2 for 1 mojito, checkout a few gift shops, catch the sunset and swing your hips to some Latin music – you can make an evening out of it.
10. Get a slice of Cuban culture at Little Havana
Miami is home to a large Cuban community and you can get a taste of it in the Little Havana neighborhood, just west of the downtown area.
Immerse yourself in the neighborhood and sample some of the delicious Cuban food, explore the shops and Latin art, try a Cuban cigar and take in all the salsa music and street dancing. Visit over the weekend for more fun activities and dance nights at the Calle Ocho.
If you are looking for a place to quench your cravings for some delicious bites, hit the Sala’o. This restaurant combines its Cuban roots & seafood with an homage to the honorary Ernest Hemingway and his book “The Old Man and the Sea. You have to taste their Pichon Cubano (Cuban marinated chicken) and It’s so delicious, especially with a handcrafted, tableside gin & tonic.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Española Way is a charming, historic street lined with palm trees, twinkling lights and and old world European charm offering different options of bars and restaurants. It’s a hidden gem, located between 14th Street and 15th Street on Washington Avenue in South Beach.
All the pink lovers, here’s your paradise – the Strawberry Moon is vibrant pink themed club & bar with day beds & Art Deco touches. Located in the Goodtime Hotel, this photo-ready venue transports you into a classic Miami Beach Art Deco era, with a touch of energy and style from old world Havana, Cuba, and Beverly Hills.
The food is also super delish. You can enjoy some amazing Mediterranean plates and craft cocktails.
Hit this place for a weekend brunch or pool party – with live music, cute photographic corners and yummy food, you will definitely have a good time.
Must try: Moroccan Shakshuka, Chicken Kebabs, Jah-Mama-Mary and Ja-Ja Margarita
Your fix for late night Mexican eats and drinks. The place is vibrant and has an outdoor and indoor bar and offers some spicy cocktails that will get you set for the night.
Its one of my favorite spots for oceanfront dining in Miami. Indulge yourself in some tasty Mediterranean bites and craft cocktails as you catch a romantic sunset against the Miami skyline. The restaurant is amazingly set up with Bohemian inspired decor elements, a poolside bar and hints of greenery everywhere – gives you the best tropical vibes.
They also have a Sundown Social Happy Hour at the Bar every evening from 5-7pm , with drink specials and half off snacks – I highly recommend it!
Must Try: Dukkah lamb Ribs and Mezze
Another popular spot for a girls night out/brunch. Open-air terrace restaurant/bar with vibrant decor accents and serving a modern interpretation of traditional Latin & Mexican cuisine. And let’s not forget the wonderfully lit, filled with florals deck – SOOO DREAMY.
Must try: Verde Agua Chiles, Huaraches Chorizo, Serena Margarita and Bloody Maria
If you are in a mood for good Asian food – Jaya is the place. A Pan-Asian journey featuring the bold, bountiful flavors from Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, India, China and Japan and is one of the best restaurants in Miami I’ve tried. The ambiance and delicious flavors definitely carves a place in your heart.
Come in here, for a Weekend Jazz Brunch to enjoy a impressive buffet spread of everything from American to Asian, from seafood to some fine cuts of meats and a mesmerizing live Jazz performance as you dine. They also have a live ice cream bar and tons of dessert options to satisfy your sweet tooth cravings( definitely my favorite section of the buffet)
Must try: Tandoori Sea Bass, Dim Sum and Indian Curries
With locations all over the US, including New York & Los Angeles, the Broken Shaker is known for its vibrant atmosphere and an eclectic menu of innovative cocktails.
Grab a cocktail in the backyard oasis for a fun night out in Miami.
Must Try: Kimchi Fried Chicken Sandwich, Thai Thai Baby and Shaker Hopper
Take in all the views of Miami Beach at Watr, a rooftop Japanese-Peruvian Restaurant located on Collins Ave.
The water themed ambiance, white cabanas accent, delicious sushi and fun craft cocktails will not disappoint you.
Must Try: Chicken Yakisoba Noodles, Watr Roll, Oaxacan Paloma and Island Time
Put on a suit or pull out your favorite dress, coz you definitely don’t want to be underdressed for this classic fine dine. The Villa Casa Casuarina is the former Versace mansion, and offers the best ambiance, oversized Italian marble bathrooms, a gold-clad pool, a lavish rooftop lounge and private bars – Everything is SUPER Fancy!
The dinner and lunch menus boast Italian Mediterranean food with curated wine selections. It’s a HIT spot for a Romantic Date Night.
Must Try: Mansion Board, Australian lamb Chops and Whole Branzino
The best place to enjoy the buzzing vibe of the colorful art deco district. With live Latin music and entertainment, this place is pretty lively and attracts a lot of crowd. You will be treated to gourmet food, Salsa to Bachata and Reggae to Pop live performances, and tropical themed cocktails.
Downtown Miami & Brickell
This is one of the newer hotspots in Brickell, at the shiny new East Hotel in Brickell City Center. It has a beautiful, tropical rooftop deck with lounge where you can sip cocktails and have Asian style tapas with some of the best city views all around you.
Must try: Boneless Korean Chicken Wings and Bang Bang Shrimp
A boho-chic, waterfront restaurant sets the stage for traditional versions of Greek cuisine. This restaurant is ultra instagrammable – with a trendy bar, island-inspired riverfront setting, a central dining area with lanterns and bougainvillea accents, a floral swing and best views of Miami skyline.
The cocktails were innovative and the food was well plated and delicious. I absolutely loved their cocktail – Puffer Fish Paloma. The cocktail is served in a fish shaped glass and the way you are supposed to drink it is you first give a kiss on the lip of the fish(which is rimmed with some super spicy salt) and then take a sip of the drink. It was SOOO GOOD!
Must try: Grilled lamb and Chicken Souvlaki
Tucked away in the historic neighborhood of Coconut Grove, Peacock Garden is a hidden gem of Miami. Inspired by the restaurant’s unique “secret garden” setting, Peacock Garden features an indoor/outdoor dining room and bar. You are surrounded with green plants and flowers as you dine under the shade of tree canopies during the day and underneath starry skies at night – It is a great date spot.
The menu offers refreshing seafood, fresh fish, steaks, salads and pasta options.
Must try: Scottish Salmon and Wagyu Skirt Steak
One of my favorite places in Miami for Happy Hour!
Its a Funky bayside hangout with drinks, a raw bar and live music. However, it is probably most known for its popular weeknight happy hour scene.
It is a great option for an elegant and romantic meal. A traditional Italian restaurant set in the lush Biltmore courtyard with a fountain and best views of Mediterranean architecture. The food is inspired by local and seasonal ingredients and oh so delicious. They also have an impressive wine list.
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