Where we’re at: I’m recapping my summer of 2018, which included this trip to Florida in July. In other news: after the first week sold out so quickly, we opened up a second set of dates for my Wander Women Red Sea Retreat. I’m pinching myself that I get to spend so much of September in Sinai’s coolest beach town. And you can join me! Grab a spot while you still can.
Regular Wanderland readers may have caught on by now that I spend a lot of time in the Sunshine State. I’m a huge fan of all things Florida, and one of my favorite destinations there is the glittering modern metropolis of Miami. I couldn’t wait to return for a third time as part of a two week trip through Miami the Florida Keys, which started and ended in Miami when Ian joined me to kick off the trip with a romantic weekend in South Beach before I left for a bachelorette in Key West, and then my friend Heather and I circled back towards the end of our big diving adventure through the Keys.
But this post is all about The Magic City. By branching out and discovering some of its most diverse neighborhoods, I feel like I got a better feel for this city on this trip than I ever have before. From South Beach to Wynwood to Little Havana to Brickell and beyond, we covered a lot of ground! Here’s a little look at what we got up to, which I happen to humbly feel would make the perfect long weekend in Miami.
Where to Stay
The Julia Miami
Ian and I kicked off the trip in style at The Julia, an adults-only boutique hotel in South Beach. This hotel is the rare gem that will give you sticker shock in a good way — you just won’t believe that you could get a deal this great just two blocks from the beach. We loved that we were walking distance from so much, as we adored strolling around and taking in South Beach’s famous art deco architecture.
The quirky and chic interior just screamed Miami to us — as did the free daily happy hour with wine and cheese. Yes please! Breakfast was a simple affair, just coffee and tea and a few pastries in the lobby, but with so many great restaurants nearby we were pretty pleased to have an excuse to stroll around and explore.
Rooms start at just over $100 a night, but we were thrilled to find ourselves in one of the slightly pricier deluxe rooms, with sky-high ceilings and an Instagram-worthy paper chandelier installation. Rooms are pretty compact — this is a city, after all — but that never bothers me when there’s a big ol’ beach to play on nearby.
Stylish, reasonably priced, and perfectly located — it doesn’t get much better than this.
Where to Eat in Miami
Our eating plan in Miami was pretty simple — keep it light and healthy during the day, and all bets off after dark. We also, with a few exceptions, mostly stuck to places within walking distance of our hotel, since it was so centrally located and well, we love to walk.
We had a gorgeous breakfast at the colorful and cute organic restaurant Lilikoi, which won our hearts the moment we saw they had fresh coconuts on the menu. They serve up super healthy options for breakfast and lunch, and I know I’ll be back to sample more someday.
The beautiful Pura Vida has a few locations around Miami — we stopped by their South Beach location for a light lunch, and were thrilled with the selection of acai bowls, buddha bowls, salads, fresh juices, and other snacks. Eating well is so accessible in Miami.
Call Me Gaby
For dinner one evening, we strolled down to the excellent Italian restaurant Call Me Gaby. They managed to create a lush little gardenscape right off the Miami streets, and we loved our beautifully plated meal of pizza, pasta, grilled veggies, and sparkling wine.
Another night, we were craving some Miami heat — so we headed out to bar slash eatery Bodega. The restaurant was a bit more casual than I expected, but it’s the perfect place for a playful and delicious dinner of tacos, burritos, and antojitos. After we ate, we slipped through the porta potty door (just trust me) and into the uber cool nightclub in the back.
One of my favorite things about Miami is that it’s perfectly acceptable to sit down for dinner at 10PM. But Bodega takes it a step further — you can fill up until five. On our way out of the bar, we grabbed nutella churros to go for dessert. What a dream night!
The Broken Shaker
On my brief way back through Miami after the Keys with Heather, I stopped at an old favorite — The Broken Shaker! Miami can seem really sleek and hip, and The Broken Shaker, part of the Freehand Hostel, where I previously have stayed, is refreshingly hipster in the midst of all that. We also had dinner at the onsite 27 Restaurant, which I had been wanting to try for ages. I loved it and can’t wait to go back for brunch!
What To Do In Miami
Splash Around South Beach
You just can’t come to Miami without spending time stretched out on South Beach, enjoying the sun and sand and incredible people watching. We looped all the way down to the pier on our beach day, then walked north, checking out all the iconic art deco lifeguard stands that make this beach so unique. While the seaweed problem was at an all-time high while we were there, it certainly didn’t stop the droves of beachgoers from having a good time.
Check Out the Wynwood Walls
I still can’t believe it took me three trips to Miami to get to Wynwood, the hip warehouse district known for ubiquitous street art, craft breweries and funky local galleries. We wanted to go a bit deeper than just wandering around and snapping a few photos, so we dove all the way in with the Best of Wynwood: Street Art and Gallery Tour, which is led my an actual Miami native Wynwood artist. We stuck around, too, for lunch at a local restaurant, drinks at a dive bar and a bit of window shopping around the neighborhood’s cute boutiques before heading back to South Beach. More than almost anywhere I’ve ever traveled before, Wynwood truly is an outdoor museum.
We gleaned so much insight from our guide, I left totally smitten with Wynwood. Stay tuned for a full detailed review of our tour and our day here.
With the perfect sidewalk stretching miles along the beach, it would be hard to talk yourself into anything but running, walking or biking along the ocean for a little travel workout in Miami. But yet, I had a few points left on my ClassPass while we were passing through, and so headed to Tropical Vinyasa yoga for a sweaty flow. It was just the cutest little studio ever and made me wish I had time to check out more distinctly Miami workouts — after all, this is a city that loves to stay fit.
Eat Your Way Through Little Havana
Little Havana is another neighborhood of Miami that I felt it was almost criminal I’d yet to explore. After having a great experience with a food tour of South Beach on my very first trip to Miami years ago, I enthusiastically signed on for a Little Havana Food and Walking Tour with the same company. This is another tour that deserves a deep dive post of its own, but suffice it to say Little Havana was everything I dreamed of — like a trip to Cuba an Uber ride away!
Explore Miami’s Art Deco Tour
I’m obsessed with all things art deco. And so when I saw a South Beach Art Deco Walking Tour for a mere $35, I knew it would be the perfect activity to do with Heather, who was hitting Miami up for the very first time. As fun as it was wandering around South Beach and into some of its most iconic South Beach hotels, the real thrill was in hearing the salacious history of this swampy town from our incredible guide, a past nightlife writer turned novelist who lived through some of Miami’s most decadent decades.
Hearing his tales of partying with Madonna in the Versace mansion? Worth the price of admission alone! Stay tuned for more about this fascinating tour.
They might not have the coral of the Keys, but they are known as the “Wreckreational Dive Capital of the World,” with seventy-five and counting boats, tanks, planes, and cars submerged beneath the surface. Miami dive shops plan out their dive sites and trips months in advance thanks to the stable conditions in the bay, making it easy to plan a trip that suits you. South Beach Divers offers a diverse lineup of reef dives, wreck dives, and special conservation events like clean ups and shark tagging trips. Considering the convenience of leaving straight from South Beach harbor, I’d love to check out more local diving on a future trip.
If you’re planning just a quick weekend away, don’t forget to consider the 24 hour no-fly rule, and as with any dive trip, even a quick one, don’t descend without scuba dive insurance. World Nomads offers both that and travel insurance, and I recommend you carry a policy for each.
In total I spent six nights in Miami, though with all our coming and going they went by in a blink. To me, there’s no wrong amount of time to go to Miami — with a quick weekend, you can get a hit of the local flavor and dig your toes in the sand, while a longer trip will give you plenty of time to get off South Beach and explore the many neighborhoods that make Miami the diverse, fascinating destinations that it truly is.
Many thanks to PADI and to The Florida Keys for their hospitality. Read more about the top scuba sites in the Florida Keys, and dive and travel tips for the Florida Keys on their sites and follow their social media accounts for daily doses of scuba and sunshine. Want to book a dive trip to Florida? Check PADI Travel for more information!