Only in Miami can you can hop from alligator-watching in the Everglades to people-watching on South Beach in an afternoon.
For the best wildlife viewing, head to the Everglades. The sprawling wetland is home to an incredible number of animals, including manatees, river otters, and 360 species of birds. It’s not uncommon to see a massive alligator basking on one of Everglades National Park’s many nature trails—if that happens, be sure to give these animals plenty of space.
South Florida is home to the only tropical reef in the continental United States, beginning just north of Miami and stretching 360 miles through the Florida Keys to Dry Tortugas National Park. Visitors can expect to see vibrantly colored ecosystems teeming with life, including 500 species of reef fish, 45 species of stony coral, and the occasional shark.
Biscayne National Park may be close to downtown Miami, but it feels like another world. Some 95 percent of the park’s 172,924 acres is covered by water and includes mangroves, seagrass beds, coral reefs, and more. Take it slow with a ranger-led canoe trip through the mangroves, where you have the chance to see turtles, endless fish, and even manatees.
Everglades National Park covers 2,400 square miles and is the third largest park in the lower 48 states. It’s home to over 20 rare, threatened, and endangered species, including the Florida panther and manatee. Due to habitat degradation, the site was named on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2010.
When Cubans fled their country after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, many settled in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, whose coral rock and stucco houses are reminiscent of many seen in Cuba’s capital. Wander down Calle Ocho to peruse cigar shops and sample a café Cubano—a small but potent serving of Cuban coffee.
Best Day Trip
Just an hour and a half south of Miami lies the island paradise of Islamorada. Spend the morning deep-sea fishing or snorkeling, then browse the galleries that line the Overseas Highway. For lunch, head to the Lorelei Restaurant and Cabana Bar for their famous fish sandwich and relax in one of their waterfront Adirondack chairs.
Off the Beaten Path
Skip the crowds on Miami Beach and head to the hidden gem of Crandon Park, just over the Venetian Causeway on Key Biscayne. The park is home to the white sand and calm waves vacationers have come to expect from South Florida, but lacks the bustle of South Beach. Visit the Nature Center for a walk through the mangroves, or rent a kite board to explore the water.
South Beach’s Art Deco Historic District houses the iconic pastel buildings and chrome accents Miami is known for. The best way to explore is by foot: Start your tour at the intersection of Fifth Street and Ocean Drive and head north. Hit the Art Deco Welcome Center to get some history on the neighborhood and stock up on themed souvenirs.
Miami Beach’s nightlife is centered in South Beach. If you’re looking to dance, you’ll have your pick of Latin, hip-hop, and electronic clubs that are hopping late into the night. Be warned—people dress to impress, and a night on the town can rack up a massive bill. But for a taste of the scene, it’s worth the splurge.
In a break from the rest of Miami’s tropical architecture, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a nod to the Italian Renaissance. The 34-room villa was built in the 1910s and now hosts a museum and expansive natural landscape. Venture outside to see the stone breakwater that faces the bay and holds elaborate Italian-style sculptures. Stay until the museum’s closing at 4:30 p.m. to enjoy the late-afternoon sunlight on the water.