If you’ve been following me on any form of social media over the past month, you’ve probably noticed a slight obsession with beaches. Things picked up at the beginning of this summer and by the end of June I’ve visited at least 5 major beaches. Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend the iHeartRadio Pool Party in Miami. While I was busy for most of that trip rocking out to Pitbull and Ke$ha, I made sure to save some time to visit what is arguably one of the world’s most famous beaches.
Miami’s South Beach is legendary for its nightlife, parties and (in my opinion) some of the sexiest people on the Eastern Seaboard. Since coming of age and having an interest in “all things fun,” the words “South Beach” have been buzzing in my ears. It wasn’t until I flew into Miami on this most recent trip (I’d been before, but only as an under-21), that I realized how big Miami Beach actually is. It’s much more than the parties on South Beach. It’s sun & sea & sand, and hot restaurants, celebrity-spottings and classic architecture—all rolled up into what looks like something out of a music video. Okay, so maybe that stereotype sticks…but as it turns out South Beach is only a tiny portion of Miami. Just so happens to be the loudest.
First of all, it’s important to note the geography of Miami. Downtown Miami is on the mainland, and Miami Beach is a small archipelago between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay. Miami Beach consists of a sliver of islands, with the southernmost tip the legendary South Beach neighborhood.
South Beach seems to be the center of attention for most tourists to Miami, but my hotel (the Fontainebleau) is actually located in Mid-Beach. The whole geography was slightly confusing, though, because I never fully understood the differences between Miami, Miami Beach, South Beach and North Beach before arriving. And I didn’t even realize there was a Mid-Beach (even if it’s logical). From what I discovered, South Beach is where you’ll find your parties, big beaches and art deco. Mid-Beach has some of Miami’s most historical hotels (notably the Fontainebleau from 1954 and the Eden Roc from 1956—both places my parents have since told me plenty of stories about…) with a slender piece of quiet beach. And North Beach is, well, I don’t know. It’s north and almost 40 blocks away from sexy South Beach. So I couldn’t be bothered on my short weekend.
I didn’t venture much further than my hotel this weekend (thanks to a jam-packed itinerary of music, sun and swimming), so I didn’t get the chance to explore Miami proper. I barely even made it down to South Beach! But the few hours I did spend on the actual sandy part of Mid-Beach was incredible. This is definitely a beach I need to visit again!
The water was clear and had that turquoise glow that I thought only existed in the Caribbean. The sand was soft; the water, fresh. The wooden boardwalk along the ocean-side beach wasn’t very crowded when I visited around 10am. I also found it rather easy to get to convenience stores for typical beach shopping (snacks, sodas, swimsuits & sunscreen), though there was little reason to live the comfort of my hotel’s lounge-chair service (from 11am). Coming off a month of visiting beaches around the world, I’d say Miami Beach fits rightfully near the top (as it so often does). Let’s just hope it stays above sea-level, too.
Comparing Miami Beach to Tel Aviv (which has often been called the “Miami of the Middle East”), I definitely understand the similarities. But Miami has more of an established feeling in its Atlantic air…with a lot more glamour to boot. Miami is definitely my kind of city for a beach holiday, but I think the fast-paced “Miami lifestyle” (more on that later) would wear me down pretty quickly—physically and financially. We’re talking Cuban sandwiches (pork & cheese galore!), sugary piña coladas, expensive nightclubs and resort prices. Plus I’m fairly certain there is a law in Miami that everyone must visit the gym 10x per week. And I just can’t deal with that kind of regiment. Miami is all well and good for a vacation (and an awesome vacation at that), but too much fun in the sun and you come away all red in the face…and the checkbook.
Luckily, like most beach holidays, you can always find a way to do it cheaper. Miami Beach has more hostels than most American cities, and many of them seem to be pretty snazzy too. Of course, when you splurge on a hotel, you’ll often get pool-access and free lounge-chairs on the beach. And trust me—the hotel pools in Miami are where you’ll want to be. My hotel’s pool felt like a celebrity hang-out (maybe that’s just because there were so many around for the iHeartRadio Pool Party!). Not to mention that the pool was also rated among the world’s top 50 swimming pools!
More budget tips for Miami? Stick to the cafés, Jewish delis (seriously so so good!) and coffee shops for breakfast & lunch…and keep an eye out for set-menu specials for lunch & dinner at most hotel restaurants. But truthfully: if you want to vacation in Miami, you might as well do it right. Live it up, dress to impress and hope to be seen. This is a city with its eyes wide open (behind a $500 pair of sunglasses).