Miami is a fantastically unique City and one of the US’ most popular destinations. Its a mix of different cultures, incredible beaches, laid-back style, and red-hot nightlife make the City a perfect place to combine a city visit with a beach holiday.
However, like most places when people first think of visiting a destination, it becomes clear they know very little about the actual practicalities of visiting. Our Miami Visitors guide is designed to get you around the City, Let you know what and where to eat, where to stay, what the weather will be like, and what to do when you are there. All while finding the best prices and the easiest methods. So whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned Miami Traveller this guide is for you.
The Metropolitan area of Miami is HUGE. it is one of the largest in the USA, with over 6 million inhabitants. This is dwarfed by the 40 Million Visitors every year. Most of whom head to Miami City and Miami Beach.
The City is built up and around Biscayne Bay. With the City of Miami residing on the Mainland and Western Shore and Miami Beach (A City in its own right) taking up the landmass of the Barrier Island that creates the bay and protects the shores of Miami from the Atlantic Ocean. Several Bridges and Causeways staddle the bay and connect the Citys:
- Sunny Ilse Bridge
- Broad Causeway (Toll $3)
- JFK Causeway
- Julia Tuttle Causeway
- Venitian Way (Toll $3.00 Eastbound)
- MacArthur Causeway
- Rickenbacker Causeway (Toll $3)
Miami Beach Running North to South is imaginatively named North Beach, Mid Beach, and South Beach…Clever huh!
Miami City is a little more eclectic and mixed with a lot of districts taking up the moniker of the ethnicity of its early settlers such as Little Havana and Little Haiti. Downtown Miami soars skyward with its impressive waterside skyscrapers but offers little for tourists. Coral Gables and Coconut Grove sit to the South and are very pleasant relaxed areas well worth visiting for laid-back trips.
Where to Stay
Most Tourists head for South Beach. This is the beating heart of the area and the location of many hotels restaurants and nightclubs along with the incredible Beach at Lummus Park where the warm Ocean waters lap, or crash against the shore.
The Art Deco District is a wonderfully unique area packed with a huge number of hotel options from budget Motels to Ultra-Luxury resorts, With a huge range of boutique-style hotels in between some of which are real steals!
While we heartily recommend staying in the South beach area it is rather boisterous and crowded so if you are looking for a different trip there are other options.
Read our Full Guide here on where to Stay in the Miami Area.
For those Staying primarily in South Beach then getting around is pretty easy, as most things are within walking distance. Or a short and cheap taxi / Uber ride if you are dressed up. But for those wanting to go further afield, it gets a little more tricky. And you should definitely head further afield!
By far the easiest and often the most cost-effective option is to hire a car. While some cities have great public transport infrastructure, Miami is not one of those and as such, it’s much easier to get about via the roadways. Hire car is cheap however the road network is littered with Tool roads and Parking can be brutally expensive. Still, It’s still the best option and definitely, if you plan to head out to the Everglades or the Keys, Fort Lauderdale, or anywhere outside the immediate Metro Area.
Like all cities, taxis are readily available, and convenient but pretty pricey. Regular trips really add up and can make any vacation very expensive. We tend to limit Taxi use to when we are out and about town. And even then we prefer the cheaper and more convenient Uber / Lyft.
Uber / Lyft
Ride-sharing apps are transforming the way we get about places and Miami has plenty of Uber / Lyft drivers on hand to whisk you to where you need to be. Again we limit these to shorter journeys and try not to rack up too many trips.
When cost is a big factor it’s often best to utilize the City’s Public transport system. Unfortunately, Miami lacks the quality found in other cities and we find it frustrating and overly complicated. It is a case of the system being in place to cater to the locals rather than tourists. However, if a hire car is out and cost-saving is important then this may be your only option, we fully detail your options in our full guide on Getting around Miami click here.
Things to Do
For most people, the first thing that springs to mind with Miami is sitting on the beach, having cocktails, and the Night Life. And well that’s a pretty good vacation right?! But there is a lot more going on besides just relaxing and partying, but of course, that is not to be ignored too!
Miami Beach is the centerpiece attraction and the Golden stretch of sand runs from North to South along the entire Miami Beach Peninsular. Beach life is the order of the day in Miami, and lounging around on the golden Miles is first and foremost in most people’s minds. While the main Miami Beach is a thing of Glory, there are other beaches too, such as
Miami is one of the Clubbing capitals of the world and It has its share of super-clubs that attract some of the world’s best DJs such as Calvin Harris, Tiesto, and David Guetta, Along with a whole host of local and exceptionally talented DJs,s.
But if EDM And Superclubs are not your things, there is a whole host of alternative options for enjoining the evening, From Decadent Latin bars such as the Mango Tropical Cafe or just sitting back in one of the hundreds of bars and lounges and just enjoying the night air and evening Buzz.
Miami was built on Immigration and thousands of Cubans flocked to the American shores as either economic refugees or in Exile from the Communist government. The enclave of Little Havana was where most of them made their home.
Now the area is less Cuban than it used to be, as people from all over Latin America have found a home here, but it still has a fantastic Cuban Flavour. The Main Street, Calle Ocho, is still a living Museum of Cuban Life. Coffee Shops, Fruit stands, Street food, and Cigar vendors, along with old-timers playing dominos in Maximo Park. It’s a real expression of what Miami is all about. You can’t really say you have been to Miami without visiting Little Havana.
There are many different attractions to keep you busy during the day in Miami when you start getting bored of the beaches and pools. Tour the Bay on a Jet Ski, Jet Boat, or sightseeing Cruise. Take a guided Bus tour of the City, and visit the Miami Zoo, Seaquarium, Jungle Island, or Little Havanna while aboard.
You can find a list of all our favorite things to do here
If you choose to fill your day with expensive activities however it can end up costing quite a bit so we have a few ways you can keep these expenses to a minimum so you can Max-out on the nightlife. Either Visit our Maimi Money Saving Guide or consider a Go Miami Pass …
Miami Go Pass
We are big fans of City Passes and when visiting a City find them fantastic for finding out what is available, planning our trip out, and saving a whole heap of money over paying at the gate.
We take an in-depth look at the Pass and show you what you can see and how much you can save in our Miami Go Pass Review
Unsurprisingly, in an area where water is so intrinsically woven into the City, Water sports are a big thing. Whether that’s Jet Skiing, Speed Boats, Bay Cruises, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Deep Sea Fishing, Scuba Diving or even Sailing there is a plethora of water sports on offer and something for every taste and “thrill” level. You can even fly about Like Ironman on a Jet Ski-powered Jet suit!
Our Full Guide to all the Best Things to Do in Miami can be found here.
Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World along with a plethora of entertainment, dining, and hotel options. Orlando is the number 1 Family destination in the USA. It’s a perfect complement to Miami, which is mainly an adult playground. A Split base Holiday with adult Time in Miami and Family time in Orlando makes for an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime vacation.
The Everglades National Park is only an hour or so’s drive from The City and is an area of incredible beauty and interest. These Huge sprawling grass and wetlands Take up around half the landmass of the Florida Peninsular, however, the Park is a lot smaller but still a staggering 6,100 Squared Kilometers making it the 3rd largest US national park outside of Alaska.
There are many ways to experience the Park, such as sailing or canoeing through the mangrove inlets, Cycling around sunbathing Alligators at Shark Valley (you can take the tram if that makes you feel safer!) o like most people take a ride on an Air-Boat.
However, if you want to see it if you are heading out of Miami don’t miss the Everglades.
The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a chain of Islands that run off the end of the Florida Peninsular. Route 1 is a phenomenal overseas highway that runs for 113 Miles linking u all the Islands. Starting at Key Largo and passing through, Islamorada, Marathon, Bahia Honda Key, Big Pine Key, Sugarloaf Key, and Finally Key West, to name just a few. Key West is the Southernmost Point of the United States. The Road itself is one of the Best Drives in the USA (World?)
The road leads to a whole host of incredible attractions, such as snorkeling or diving on the only coral reef in the United States mainland, Fishing from one of the many bridges, or a deep-sea trip. kayaking, Paddleboarding, hand-feeding Giant Tarpon or just chilling on a secluded beach doing absolutely nothing.
There is something for most people in the keys and we highly recommend a visit preferably spending a night or two (or more) to get the full experience.
Florida is the Sunshine State with good reason and Miami sits on the warm Atlantic coastline and boasts seemingly endless days of sunshine, year-round. One of Miami’s biggest advantages is it remains warm when all around it in the US are experiencing winter, sometimes savage cold winter. Making Miami the perfect place to escape those long cold winter blues.
Sitting on a Beach sipping cocktails in January while those at home are digging their cars out of the snow is a major draw. And while the temps are not scorching in the winter months they are still very favorable to home.
Summer is much wetter and most days see rain. This is in the form of heavy afternoon showers mostly however and most days also boast a good number of hours of sunshine. The only downer is the heavy weather systems that can roll in from the ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. These can cloud up a couple of days at a time and cause some more prolonged rain, but these are the exception, not the norm.
Hurricane Season brings its own risks running from May to November but peaking in August, September, and October, you run the risk of being caught up in one of these jumbo storms that build out in the Atlantic. The Chances of Miami taking a hit when you are there are pretty slim but it can pay to make sure you are insured in case your trip gets canceled unexpectedly.
Our Full Miami Weather Guide can be found here with more detailed Hurricane Advice and Precautions.
Eating and Drinking
Miami is a top food destination. Not everywhere in Florida, or the United States, have truly great food scenes, but Miami certainly bucks that trend. The huge influx of people from different cultures brought with them their cuisines and this has merged, over time into its own Cuisine unique to the area.
Known as Floribbean this unique fusion of American and Caribean flavors makes for a truly unique experience of flavors. You will also find a large amount of great Cuban food in the area and the Cuban Sandwich is a must-try.
Being right on the Atlantic coastline it’s unsurprising to find a lot of seafood options too. The World Famous Joe’s Stone crab is one of the best dining experiences anywhere in the world.
Miami is also the Playground of the rich and the famous so many fine-dining restaurants have been set up in Miami to service this level of clientele. So if you are looking for that special celebration meal you are sure to find somewhere very special in Miami.
Our full Guide to Miami’s incredible food scene can be found here.
Have Your Say?
Let us know in the comments below if you have anything to say about our Miami Visitors Guide. Or let us know if you have any comments. Make sure you check out all our expanded articles about Food, Transport, Things to Do, Weather, and places to stay. We hope to cover EVERYTHING you need to know to have a perfect Miami Vacation.