The Ultimate Travel Guide for Miami, Florida

After living in Miami for 13 years and spending 11 of those years on South Beach, I feel qualified to give you a comprehensive travel guide for Miami, complete with places only locals know about.

I will separate this guide into South Beach and the rest of Miami, also known as “Mainland Miami”.

If you only have a couple of days I would suggest just visiting South Beach. If you have a week, you will want to see more of the city.

Miami’s South Beach

South Beach is the most famous part of Miami and the part often seen on television.

It is the southernmost part of Miami Beach which stretches from 1st street to 40th street. It’s glamorous, wild, and beautiful with stunning hotels along the beach and historic art deco buildings.

From Miami airport it is only 11 miles and takes about 20 minutes without traffic.

Things To Do in South Beach, Miami

1. Check Out the Beaches

Things to do in South Beach: Miami's best beaches
by Visitor7 – things to do in South Beach

No visit to Miami is complete without seeing the turquoise glittering beaches.

The southernmost beaches are the party beaches. Further north and close to the upscale hotels, the beaches are calmer and quieter.

2. Go for a Drink on Ocean Drive

Things to do in South Beach: Ocean Drive, Miami, Florida
by Sandor Photography (Artwork owned by the Beacon Hotel)

Ocean Drive is Miami’s most iconic street, probably because of all the movies it featured in, and therefore one of the must-sees on a trip to Miami Beach.

This iconic strip has art deco buildings and is full of restaurants with happy hours that start at 1100 am, so get ready to have some mojitos and enjoy some great people watching!

3. Visit South Pointe Park

Things to do in South Beach Miami, Florida

This is a local’s favorite. It is a beautiful park at the tip of South Beach.

You can watch the cruise ships depart from the port here on weekends around 4 or 5 pm.

4. Shop or Dine at Española Way

Things to do in South Beach: Miami Espanola Way

This small charming street is easy to miss, so make sure you don’t.

It’s a popular shopping and dining area that has a Spanish vibe with small boutiques and restaurants.

Española Way is located between 14th and 15th streets, between Washington and Pennsylvania Avenues.

5. Go Paddle Boarding

If you haven’t done this, it is surprisingly relaxing, and not to mention, a great workout.

There are many places to go paddle boarding in Miami Beach and you can often find Groupon deals for discounts. You can do this in the bay or the ocean. The bay is calmer and therefore less challenging.

Trust me, paddle boarding looks much harder than it actually is. If you have decent balance skills you can do it. I suggest telling the operator you’ve done it before, otherwise they may make you take a lesson.

On Purdy Avenue on the bay side of the beach just north of Dade Blvd, there is a kayak/paddle board rental place called Miami Beach PaddleBoard.

6. Check out Some Spas

Things to do in South Beach: Miami Spa - travel tip
source: The Standard Hotel

Miami Beach is home to many amazing spas.

One of my favorites is at The Standard Hotel, on the Venetian Causeway just minutes from the beach. It is stunningly beautiful. Children are not permitted at the pool, but dogs are! You can opt to just have a meal on the water, but I suggest booking a spa appointment. Once you spend over $100, you get a free day pass to the rest of the facilities. Totally worth it because they charge more than that for a day pass. It’s a whimsical and relaxing spot.

Another fantastic spa in Miami is the one at the Setai Hotel.

7. Stroll Along the Boardwalk

Miami South Beach boardwalk
by Daniel di Palma – things to do in South Beach Miami

The boardwalk stretches from 23rd to 46th street. Prior to this, starting just north of Nikki Beach around 5th street is a paved ocean side walkway that eventually turns into a traditional wooden boardwalk, and then around 30th street, a paved walkway behind all the hotels.

Unless you are staying at one of the fancy hotels along the boardwalk you may not ever see it.

Note that there are no roller blades or bikes permitted north of 21st street.

It is a nice walk along a scenic part of the beach. Plus you can see the “backyards” of all the fancy hotels with the cool pools.

8. Go to the New World Symphony

Miami New World Symphony

Get some culture in your life and enjoy some beautiful music at the New World Symphony.

Or at least just come by and gawk at the stunning architecture and gorgeous landscaping complete with interesting arty structures.

You can bring a blanket, some wine, some food and picnic or simply lie under the stars and listen to the symphony from the state of the art outdoor speakers and watch on the giant screen as the symphony performs inside.

This is one of the best free activities that Miami has to offer. The wall cast concerts are usually on Saturdays. But check the schedule on their website for more information.

On Wednesdays they show an old movie. And they even have Saturday morning free yoga here in this beautiful space!

9 Don’t Miss Lincoln Road

Lincoln Road, Miami
by Visitor7

This is a pedestrian only street full of shops, cafes and restaurants that runs east to west from the beach to the bay.

Lincoln road is located between 16th and 17th streets. The area is always bustling with activity and is a great spot for people watching.

Where to Stay in Miami’s South Beach

  • Mid-Range hotel: Dream Hotel
    For less than $300 for 2 nights you can enjoy a beautiful rooftop pool overlooking the ocean.
  • Luxury hotel: SLS
    This is the place to be seen. It truly embodies South Beach with the white breezy Philippe Starck decor. It also hosts Jose Andres’ Bazaar restaurant and Hyde Beach Club.

But you can find hotels in all price ranges in South Beach and hostels as well. I suggest checking Booking.com to find the best hotels in South Beach.

Places to Eat in South Beach

Like the hotels, there is a large range. A few of my favorite places to eat in South Beach:

  • Budget: La Sandwicherie
    French style sandwiches that are a hit with locals and tourists. Try the Roast Beef and Camembert with extra cornichons and dressing.
  • Budget: Fratelli La Bufala
    Authentic Neapolitan style pizza.
  • Mid-Range: Byblos
    Mediterranean with a twist.
  • Mid-Range: Pubbelly Sushi
    Inventive Sushi and Japanese fare.
  • Luxury: Prime 112
    The steakhouse to top all steakhouses. They are known for their killer side dishes including the best lobster bisque and truffle macaroni and cheese you will ever have.
  • Luxury: The Bazaar by Jose Andres
    This is an epic experience, the creative molecular gastronomy of Jose Andres. The portions are small but the food is beautiful and delicious. Be prepared to splurge!

Clubs and Bars in South Beach

  • Liv: one of the largest and most famous clubs in the world!
  • Story

That’s it for South Beach. Now let’s continue this Miami travel guide with some tips for Mainland Miami. And like I said, while you probably want to check out South Beach first, if you have enough time, do explore mainland Miami too!

Things to Do in Mainland Miami

1. Explore Wynwood

things to do in Miami on the mainland

This is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Miami.

Wynwood is an artsy, gritty neighborhood that is home to many art galleries and boasts impressive murals on the walls. The famous Wynwood Walls attract quite a bit of attention.

There are many great restaurants and bars here too.

2. Go Shopping in and around Miami

shopping in Miami, Florida, USA
by Phillip Pessar – shopping in Miami

Shopping in Miami is plentiful and fabulous with many great malls.

Aventura Mall is a large indoor mall with a diverse mix of stores. It is located 20 minutes north of Miami in Aventura. Beware there is always traffic!

Bal Harbor Shops is considered one of most beautiful malls in the world. However, the shopping is what I would call “Luxury on Steroids”. I could easily spend an entire paycheck on just one item in one store. It is mostly high-end designer boutiques and there are a few excellent places to eat here.

The Shops at Merrick Park has a perfect combination of beauty and great shopping. Flanked by Nordstrom’s and Neiman Marcus, this outdoor Mediterranean courtyard-style shopping mall is a pleasure to walk through.

Bayside Marketplace is a touristy outdoor shopping and dining area on the bay. The restaurants here are fun and family friendly but not known for gourmet cuisine. It is only 5-10 minutes from South Beach depending on traffic.

3. Visit the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya villa in Miami - one of the best things to do in Mainland Miami
source: Vizcaya.org

This Italian style villa was once the winter home of James Deering, built in 1910. It is now a museum with gardens and a National Historic Landmark.

It is a lovely place to visit on a nice day.

They also host a number of events including a Halloween and New Year’s Eve party. And they also do High Tea on the Terrace from time to time. You can check their calendar for event information.

For more information: Vizcaya.org

4. Go to the Everglades

Everglades - one of the best things to do around Miami

The Everglades is a two million acre wetland ecosystem that reaches from central Florida, near Orlando, all the way south to Florida Bay.

South Florida was at one time mostly Everglades but construction has aggressively encroached on this river of grass that is home to hundreds of animal species including the endangered panther, the manatee, 37 types of snakes, 350 types of birds and of course, alligators!

There are tons of ways to explore the Everglades. One of my favorites is to bike ride at Shark Valley. You can rent bikes and there is a 14-mile loop that takes you into alligator territory. Halfway through is an observation tower where you can look down into the water. You are guaranteed to see TONS of alligators. There are also beautiful birds and the scenery is a tranquil nature lover’s paradise.

It’s really fun to take an airboat ride where you can really get into the heart of the Everglades and see even more gators. One of the best airboat Everglade tours is done by the Miccosukee Indians and is called Buffalo Tigers.

You can find good prices for Everglade tours and activities via GetYourGuide.com

5. Spend Some Time in Brickell / Downtown Miami

Miami travel tip: Brickell & American Social
source: American Social

Located directly on Biscayne Bay is the financial and business district of Miami.

The Brickell neighborhood in downtown Miami is a hotspot for young professionals and it has more of a local vibe than South Beach.

Some of my favorite things to do in Brickell:

  • Perez Art Museum: A beautiful museum with a great brunch at the restaurant Verde.
  • Sugar at East: Located in the East Hotel at the brand spanking new City Center, this rooftop bar and garden is beautiful and the views spectacular. Bring your standing shoes because you may have to wait in line.
  • American Social: A bar/restaurant with good food and a great scene. Located on the Miami River this is the place to have outdoor happy hour or to watch a game. The Sunday brunch here is great as well.

Where to Stay on Miami’s Mainland

But again if you want a complete overview of all hotels in Miami I recommend checking Booking.com

Sightseeing and Attractions in Miami

Miami has a lot to offer from shopping tours to boat tours or a day at the Miami Seaquarium.

For good deals on tours and attractions in and around Miami check out GetYourGuide.com

Tip: if you plan to visit several attractions in Miami or go on more than one tour, then get the Go Miami Card to save money!

Also Read: The Best Places to Visit by Boat in Miami

I hope you found this Miami travel guide helpful. Enjoy your trip!

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A complete travel guide for Miami with tips from an insider about what to do, where to eat and where to stay.

 

This Miami travel guide contains affiliate links. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, at no additional cost to you.

Cherene

Author: Cherene
I am Cherene Saradar and am a full-time nurse anesthetist in Miami. I am an avid traveler and travel blogger. I have been traveling my whole life and I love to share my stories, tips and to inspire others to travel more. Wander along at www.wanderingredhead.com

27 thoughts on “The Ultimate Travel Guide for Miami, Florida”

  1. You can also visit live music venues like Bougainvillea’s Old Florida Tavern, Neme Gastrobar and Gramps. Hence, whether you are on a lookout for punk rock or prefer to amuse yourself of Jazz, Miami is the place to be.

    Reply
  2. Miami is a great place for honeymooners, great restaurants for romantic dinners, upscale spas plus all the nice places mentioned on this article.

    Reply
  3. Some great tips thank you. We arrive on the 18th August from England for 2 weeks and we are staying near North Beach. Would you say it is easy to get to South Beach and Downtown Miami from there? We don’t mind walking and have seen bike hire. Any suggestions welcome. Thank you

    Reply
    • Hey Michael. It’s pretty easy by car or maybe bike. It’s kind of a long distance to walk. The city has good bike rental system and there is also Uber or Lyft, ride share services. From North Beach to South Beach without traffic, it is about 15 minutes and would maybe cost $15 in an Uber. I hope that helps!

      Reply
  4. Hi Alex. Wow that’s such a difficult choice… I think to a 16 year old the keys might be more appealing but if you love nature then the Everglades is definitely a place you want to visit…

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  5. Thanks for these ideas! We are going to Miami at the end of the month. We don’t know yet if we are going to visit the everglade or the keys. What do you prefer ? We love nature, I am with my 16 years old teen and my husband

    Reply
  6. I was in Miami for only two days, spent a day at the South Beach and went on a guided tour at The Everglades around 9pm at night. It is really a weird experience (good weird) to be in the park during the dark and see tons of creatures, including alligators. I wish to visitn Everglades again during the day and check out the rest of the spots you mentioned here. Española Way looks so charming!

    Reply
  7. Being a nature lover, for me The Everglades looked the most exciting. Gators and bird watching must be real fun I guess. It’s saddening though to hear about the construction encroaching in. Hope the natural ecosystem from this point on remains intact and safe.

    Thanks for the great tips about the hotels and eateries.

    Reply
    • The Everglads are a nature lover’s paradise! There are so many different species there. I hope it stays safe also. Glad you liked the tips. I have eaten at many places! LOL

      Reply
  8. Such a resourceful blog post for people wanting to visit Miami! I’d definitely check out the spa and beaches! Would love to visit some day so when I do I’ll make a note of all these places to visit and eat at! Thanks! 🙂

    Reply
  9. I’ve never been to the US but I’d love to travel there soon. I’m also fascinated about Miami after watching the series CSI Miami haha. Do you think this place is good for a female solo traveller?

    Reply
    • I think it is safe for a female traveller. You have to be cautious like in any other big city. I have been living here for 13 years, living alone most of that time. I walk around by myself at night on South Beach and Downtown on the main roads and feel safe.

      Reply
  10. The ocean drive looks so appealing. It reminds me instantly of Mumbai’s (India) marine Drive. It is semi circular in shape and looks like a bejeweled necklace from a high rise building. Marine Drive is also lined with old art deco buildings.

    Reply
  11. Great tips! I’m definitely saving this article on Pinterest because I’m moving to Florida in February and I’ll be visiting Miami for sure! Thanks a lot!

    Reply
  12. I’ve only been to Miami once and for a super short period of time, so bookmarking this for future reference when I come back 🙂 I really liked the Aquarium, Key Biscayne, Vizcaya and the beaches. That’s about all I managed to visit when I was there, as I decided to do to Key West for a daytrip and afterwards we already headed out to the Caribbean.

    Reply
  13. Espanola Way and Wynwood look the most interesting to me. Although I like Miami, it is not one of my favorite American cities. However, my favorite road trip is from Miami to Key West. I enjoyed it even more than the Pacific Coast Highway!

    Reply

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