Destinations | North America

Miami guide – beaches, food, and The Keys

30 Jan 2020 | Destinations, North America

Miami will always have a special place in my heart. One of my best friends lived there for over two years, and she was the best Miami guide! It was also the first trip that my husband and I made together, and it’s where our love really ignited. It turned into a whirlwind love story that began in Miami and resulted in a Vegas wedding (you can read everything here)! 

In tropical Miami – perhaps one of the most iconic destinations in the States – life seems to be immersed in a permanent holiday atmosphere. The pearly white sands of Miami Beach add to this feeling. However, Miami has much more to offer than sun, sea and bling bling. Anyone who makes the effort to explore the city will convince you of that. Those who are tired of all the crowds can discover the natural beauty of the Everglades or the Florida Keys. 

More than 65% of the inhabitants have Spanish as their mother tongue. Nowhere else in the US can you find such a unique mix of Anglo-American, Latin and Caribbean influences on this scale.

I’ve already visited Miami three times, and I would go back immediately without hesitation. Lovely beaches, a buzzing nightlife, splendid shopping facilities and the most beautiful sunsets in the world… 

In this Miami guide, I’ll take you through a magical city I never thought would steal my heart.

** Disclaimer: This post contains affiliated links which means that purchases made through these links reward Bey of Travel a small commission without any additional charge for the purchaser.** 

Best way to move around

By far the most convenient way to get around is through apps like Uber or Lyft. You only have to wait a maximum of five minutes for your driver regardless of where you are in this metropole. As it’s way cheaper than a normal taxi, you should definitely install the Uber or Lyft app before your trip.

The metro provides a free monorail that connects the most important places in the center, so you can also easily move around on public transport.

Where to stay

The Standard Hotel

An adult-only hotel with pleasant rooms, a lovely swimming pool and one of the best rooftop terraces in the area to enjoy a beautiful sunset with a cocktail in hand. In short, this hotel has everything for a relaxing holiday. More info and booking can be done here.

Faena Hotel Miami Beach

Rather stay closer to Miami Beach? Faena Hotel is ideal! It’s within walking distance of the beach where it’s all about ‘to see and to be seen’. More info and booking can be done here.

Freehand Miami

A luxury hostel that also rents out private rooms. Ideal if you want to discover Miami on a budget! More info and booking can be done here.

Things to do in Miami

Art Deco district

The beautiful Art Deco district is a protected heritage site – one of the largest in the entire US – and it stretches out between 6th and 23rd Street.

In the late 1970s South Beach was fully upgraded, and more than 1,000 buildings received a protected status. The festive shapes and pastel colors, the inviting classic neon lighting incorporated in the facades and the overall nostalgic atmosphere quickly became the showpiece of the entire city.

Ocean Drive

The most beautiful strip of Art Deco hotels is located along Ocean Drive. It’s a tropical catwalk for sports cars and celebrities, where music reverberates around the clock from its many outdoor cafes and clubs, and where the city’s most beautiful and hip people parade nonstop. A walk down Ocean Drive immerses you in countless iconic movie scenes.

Open-air cinema

Take a trip to the open-air cinema in Miami! In the SoundScape Park at New World Center, movies are screened weekly from 8:00pm (regardless of the weather). The cinema can be found on the corner of 17 Street and Washington Avenue.

Stroll through the wonderful world of The Everglades

On the official website of Everglades National Parks you’ll find several hiking trails that take you through The Everglades. Walk alongside countless alligators and try to spot various birds and flamingos.

Think about the wellbeing of the alligators! Airboat rides may look fun, but the loud motor disturbs the animals in their natural habitat. As the boats make an incredible amount of noise, your chances to spot animals on foot along the hiking tracks are much higher than on an airboat. 

Touristic places where you can hold alligators are also a no-go! Don’t let them trick you – many of them brand themselves as ‘reserves’, which could not be further from the truth.

Tip: Be sure to bring bug spray, as the Glades are full of mosquitoes. I was literally covered in mosquito bites from top to bottom after our visit to the Everglades. It was a funny sight for my husband enjoying all those red bites on my legs!

Venetian Pool

The Venetian Pool is one of the most beautiful pools in the world. It was carved out of rock and the design was inspired by the Venetian lagoons. The water of the Venetian Pool comes from natural sources – so it can be quite cold. No chemicals are added, and the water (more than 3.5 million liters in total!) is replaced every night. Address: 2701 DeSoto Blvd, Coral Gables, FL 33134.

The Venetian Pool is located in the Coral Gables district, between Coconut Grove and Little Havana. Coral Gables is a 19 km2 district with its own administration and internal rules. The district has the allure of a suburb with lots of class. Architect, entrepreneur and founder George Merrick has a large stake in this European-looking neighborhood, with mainly Spanish and Italian elements. The Miracle Mile is the central street where you can find beautiful Mediterranean buildings, shops and cozy cafes.

Kayak among the Manatees

Prefer something more active? Go kayaking between the manatees on the Orange River. Besides spotting Manatees, a day trip to Manatee Park is simply a super fun experience and a peaceful day trip.

Visit Wynwood Art District

Wynwood Art District is perhaps one of the coolest neighborhoods in Miami! If you’re an art lover, you can spot large, hip, diverse street art on every corner and side street. Walls are covered top to bottom with fantastic, and often challenging, paintings. All kinds of motivational, political or peaceful messages are also sprayed onto the pavements. 

Not long ago, Wynwood was simply a slum full of empty warehouses. Today it’s become Miami’s premier artistic district. The most impressive graffiti can be found on the famous Wynwood Walls: a great collection of street art spread across a sprawling courtyard. An explosion of color and shape – well worth the trip a few hours away from the beach.

Stroll through the neighborhood and admire all these gorgeous artistic pearls. It isn’t just about the art, though – it’s also a super hip neighborhood with nice shops and good food on every street corner.

Basketball

Are you a basketball fan? Be sure to support The Miami Heat for an evening at The American Airlines Arena. Even if you’re not a fan, the unforgettable experience is worth the pricey tickets.

Best beaches in Miami

 

South Beach

Any image of Miami you’ve got in your head before visiting is likely to be the small sandy stretch of Miami Beach. It’s truly a paradise for the senses: extensive beaches, the Atlantic Ocean as blue as can be, colorfully decorated lifeguards, pumped-up beach boys with reflective sunglasses and top models in tiny bikinis.

To be completely honest, it wasn’t really our thing, and definitely wasn’t the best beach in Miami. We spent some time there, but merely to cross it off our checklist.

Crandon Beach

Prefer a slightly quieter day at the beach? Head to Crandon Beach to enjoy your time without being disturbed. Don’t forget to prepare your own picnic, as you won’t find any shops around.

Bal Harbor

Bal Harbor is a small beach north of Surfside. Sports fanatics can take advantage of the ‘Vita course’ – a fitness course with various equipment. Fun fact: there seems to be more millionaires living in Bal Harbor than in any other American city.

Food and drinks in Miami

 

  • Mandolin Aegean Bistro for a delicious, pure kitchen
  • Have dinner at Alter Miami
  • Enjoy a night out at The Brick, Wynwood
  • Visit Little Havana – you can eat authentic, cheap food almost everywhere
  • Enjoy cheese, wine and dine in a romantic setting in Lagniappe House

The Keys

 

If you have time, definitely make a trip to the Keys! The drive from Miami to the Keys is one of the most beautiful and iconic road trips in the United States. Expect to be on the road for around 3.5 hours. You can also fly to the Keys  – but trust me, the road is worth the effort! 

The Florida Keys are a series of small tropical islands in the far south of the state, linked by an almost 200km long overseas highway. This beautiful drive to one of the southernmost islands of The States is a bucket list trip that you simply have to do by car!

Rather avoid traffic jams? The boat provides the perfect solution. The Key West Express departs from Fort Myers Beach or Marco Island, and will take you to Key West in three hours.

Best time to stay in The Keys

The best time to visit The Keys is between March and May. During this period you should find hotels at reasonable prices. However, our budget has other ideas about what ‘reasonable prices’ are. The Florida Keys are expensive, especially during the peak winter season, when hotel prices skyrocket. The stormy summer months are the cheapest – but the chances of visiting during a hurricane are significantly higher.

 

Where to stay in The Keys?

 

Amara Key Resort, Islamorada

This classy resort has a stunning view over the pool and beach straight out of the lobby. The rooms are gorgeous earth tones and jungle greens, making it a beautiful resort where you can relax completely. More info and booking can be found here.

Cheeka Lodge & Spa, Islamorada

With The Keys’ longest pier, two pools, a beautiful beach, countless activities and a spa, you won’t be bored for a second during your stay. More info and booking can be found here.

Heron House, Key West

Looking for a quieter place to stay? This adult-only hotel has the most romantic rooms, is quite affordable and has an amazing swimming pool. More info and booking can be found here.

Things to do during your stay in The Keys

 

One thing is certain – from Key Largo to Key West, you’re immersed in a tropical paradise where you can’t possibly be bored for a second. There are countless activities to do.

The Everglades are located in the backyard of Key Largo, and offer a tropical adventure you simply must experience. Book an eco-tour to learn more about this beautiful region among the dolphins, manatees and various bird species. Go kayaking, paddle boarding or walk among the alligators! Another cool activity is visiting the home of the world-famous American writer Ernest Hemingway. His literary legacy is of everlasting value, and it’s so interesting to see where he created his work. More info can be found here.

The best (and cheapest) activity on The Keys is without a doubt witnessing a sunset. The sky changes from orange to deep purple, and will give you the ultimate holiday feeling wherever you are on the Keys. Head down to Mallory Square for the world famous Key West Sunset celebration. You can also buy a souvenir in one of the cozy shops here to remember your trip!

You cannot leave The Keys without tasting the world-famous Key Lime Pie. There are plenty of places you can sample this delicious cake, including Key West Key Lime Pie Co.

Tip: Watch your speed and do not drink a drop of alcohol if you’re driving! We were stopped twice on our way back to Miami, and the police in America really cannot be compared to the police in Europe. They don’t joke around. Obviously we hadn’t had a drink and respected the speed limits – but it was still a nasty situation every time!

Miami is a super romantic destination, where you can blissfully enjoy not doing anything. It’s also a perfect destination to take your children. Fancy something a bit more adventurous? Read my USA West Coast or 3 days in San Francisco blogs.

Belgian citizens need an ESTA, for a maximum stay of 90 days. You can apply for the ESTA online. Your passport needs to be valid during your stay.

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