I can see why so many Americans head to South Beach Miami for their holidays. It’s one of the coolest places I’ve ever been and I can’t find anything I don’t like about it. Art Deco buildings, Cuban vibes, shopping, food, giant cocktails and a beautiful beach.
I’ve been to South Beach Miami twice and both trips ended up being very different.
The first time Lawrence and I went it was Memorial Day Weekend along with Urban Beach Week, south beach was buzzing. The streets were filled with people, the sun was shining and the giant cocktails were flowing. It would have sucked if you needed to drive, as there were so much traffic and road closure but thankfully we were staying within walking distance to everything. There was so many cool cars driving around, I felt like I was on the set of Fast and the Furious or something.
I was blown away at how beautiful the beach was, such clear blue water even with hundreds of people swimming around.
We hadn’t planned on being in Miami for this holiday weekend, it just worked out that way but I’m so glad we were. The city had the coolest vibe, everybody was in holiday mode & enjoying themselves. If you hate big crowds though maybe avoid this weekend.
Our second visit to Miami was in September and it was only days after hurricane Irma. We were in New York when the storm hit South Beach and we had a cruise booked for the following weekend, leaving from Miami. For a few days we had no idea what was going to happen, would the cruise be cancelled, would we even be able to get into Miami?!? Understanding that weather can be somewhat unpredictable, we tried not to think about it too much.
The day of our flight to Miami we knew that Irma had passed and were notified that our flight hadn’t been cancelled but our Miami hotel had been, due to not having electricity. We had no idea what to do, would we be able to find a new hotel in Miami…. Is it even appropriate to go after such devastation?
We looked into extending our accommodation in NYC and that was going to be $500 per night (yikes) so we figured we’ll just go, suss it out when we arrive and if the cruise cancels, we could get a flight to Mexico. We contacted the Intercontinental hotel in downtown Miami and they were open for business, it was just their pool that was closed due to damage. We arrived after dark so the only damage we noticed was a few uprooted trees. The next morning we got the local bus to South Beach to suss everything out. To my surprise there wasn’t too much damage & the palm trees were still standing strong. There were a few restaurants and clothing stores closed with notes up saying ‘closed until further notice’. It was sad knowing that so many people’s homes had been damaged & a lot of places were closed just due to the fact that their staff couldn’t get to work. Everyone we spoke to was in good spirits and happy to put Irma behind them. It’s a strong city and we found everyone to have very positive attitudes. Finding a hotel started to become a bit of a challenge as most were either sold out or closed. But we struck gold when we found Penguin Hotel on Ocean drive, perfectly located across the road from the beach and only charging $250 dollars for two nights.
Over the next couple of days we found the vibe in south beach to still be fun and exciting, just much quieter compared with our first visit to Miami. As expected the beach was covered in seaweed and unfortunately plenty rubbish but every day there were workmen & machinery cleaning up the sand. The water was still beautiful and blue just not as picturesque as last time.
Accommodation: I think anywhere on South Beach between 17th Street & 5th Street, on the east side close to the beach, would be a great location. You’d be close enough to everything, it might take 10-15 minutes to walk somewhere but there’d be plenty going on in-between.
I’d definitely recommend the Penguin Hotel, it was a gorgeous, art deco style hotel, with friendly and accommodating staff. The locations was perfect, right amongst everything and it was always very clean.
Food / Drink: If you walk along Ocean Drive or Lincoln Rd Mall you’re bound to find something that will take your fancy. Staff will be calling for your business and advising you of their current drink specials.
If you want to try Cuban food head to Havana 1957, they have three locations on South Beach. We spent an afternoon at the Ocean Drive one, I can’t say we ate a lot but we definitely took advantage of the 2 for 1 mojitos. The Cuban tasting plate was really good though, we got a bit of everything and our waiter Sergio was lovely, he was from Havana of course. Afterwards we headed to La Baguette Bar & Grill, we weren’t given much option with this, passing by the waitress basically just said ‘you guys sit here’. We found her pushiness kind of amusing and we were having trouble deciding anyway haha. I vaguely remember having some Mexican food there which I think was pretty good but it was the giant cocktails that really got us. Luckily they were 2-for-1 because usually these cost $60 each and in case we weren’t getting drunk enough, they bought out free shots as well.
The next day nothing was better than a fresh baguette from La Sandwicherie, this is a small French, hole – in – the – wall, type cafe. Serving baguettes and croissants with the freshest salads, cheeses and meats…. Ahhhh so delicious, there are so many options on the menu we ended up going about 5 times.
Shopping: Miami has some really good shopping, big brands to small boutique stores and the fun touristy shops that sell all the “Miami Beach” merchandise. I’d say Lincoln Rd Mall has the most stores in the one area but also head down Collins Ave, there’s plenty of awesome stores along there, including the Kardashians DASH store (corner collins and 7th street).
Things to do: Due to the hurricane our last visit to Miami didn’t involve many touristy activities, which was fine because the weather was perfect. We spent our days shopping, at the beach, eating and drinking.
When Lawrence and I were in Miami a couple of years ago we got a bus down to Key West. It was such a good day that I’d love to do it all over again. Driving along the bridges between the keys was awesome. Key West itself was gorgeous, it has an island feel to it, so many cute little buildings and cafes. The highlight of the day though was sky diving, back then it cost $250 each for a tandem jump. We were taken from their office in town to the air strip, had a bit of general training and we were off. Not only was the jump incredible, the plane ride up was beautiful, flying over the keys and with such clear water you could see the reef’s below.
Not everything in life goes to plan, not even if it’s booked and paid for. That’s ok though, this trip was a reminder to just go with the flow and see what happens, we can’t always be in control but we can make sure we look at the positives regardless.
If you’re looking for accommodation in Miami, click on the Hotwire link below. I suggest selecting all South Beach areas and you can’t go wrong.