VIBE: Active, Busy Beach
Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33140
Our two day trip to Miami Beach recently left us breathless. Driving there was challenging but once we arrived there wasn't much to say except "wow"!
As Florida residents who have visited over 25 beaches, you might think it's hard to impress us. Miami Beach is a magical place with a vibe that's unmatched anywhere else in Florida. It's been 31 years since we visited Miami Beach on our honeymoon cruise. The beauty of the beach is hard to beat, but it's all the activity that's fascinating. We did find a few pitfalls during our Miami Beach break and we'll share them with you.
The 4-hour drive down I-95 south to Miami Beach was not pleasant. There was a crash near Vero Beach and a 45-minute delay in Fort Lauderdale. We decided to take Florida's Turnpike, a toll route, to help us avoid that slowdown. Unfortunately, it is only 2 lanes most of the way which slowed us down. It cost $15 to take the toll route. The most fun we had during the drive was passing the "guitar hotel": the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. It wasn't too bad driving through Miami to the ocean...but a lot of cars on streets that are too tiny!
Miami Beach Sand
We stayed in the mid-Miami Beach area near the famous Fontainebleau Hotel. It is considered a safer area. The experience of walking out of your hotel, crossing the boardwalk and onto the Miami Beach sand is incredible. So tropical and colorful. It really is an experience like no other.
The sand on the beach here is amazing. It is soft and warm. It is similar to the sugar sand beaches in Siesta Key, but thicker. It's white in color and sparkles in the sun, due to the quartz content. Down near the ocean water, the wet sand feels like silk on your feet. Upon entering the water to swim the sand is very soft and it can be hard to keep your footing when the waves come in. Miami often has to bring in sand from other parts of Florida to replenish the beach due to erosion. This is not an easy beach to walk on due to the slope, but many people walk the beach every day.
Miami Beach Ocean Water
The ocean water in Miami Beach gets mixed reviews from us. It was a beautiful emerald color and glassy. It was very warm at 88 degrees. We could see right down to our feet which is important to us! However, there was a lot of seaweed. We were aware of this issue before our arrival and decided to visit Miami Beach anyway. The city does a pretty good job of cleaning up the seaweed every morning and raking the sand. It happens every year. We also saw a large, pink jellyfish: it was about the size of a frisbee! What we were not prepared for was the plastic debris floating in the waves. Bottles caps, plastic wrap, even wrapping paper. Most Florida beaches are pretty clean so this was a bit disturbing. Was it stirred up by an ocean storm? Too many people? South Beach was better. Whatever the cause, we did our part and took our trash away with us at the end of each day.
Miami Beach Parking and Amenities
Parking in Miami Beach? Well...it isn't free and it isn't plentiful. We parked across the street from our hotel in the Charles parking garage on Collins Avenue. It was really tight in our mid-size pickup truck! The parking fee was $45 per day. Convenient but pricey. If you use a hotel valet service it can be even more money. There is beach parking just north of the Fontainebleau hotel at Indian Beach Park. The address is 4601 Collins Avenue. The fee is a flat rate of $20 no matter how long you stay at the beach for (similar to the parking fee in Fort Myers Beach). The Miami Beach park has bathrooms, showers, water fountains and a park for kids. We don't think you can park overnight, however. The Miami Beach Boardwalk is 7 miles long and goes right to South Beach. Lots of people ride their bikes, rollerblade and jog along the boardwalk. There are fountains and doggy bags available.
Miami Beach Activities
Miami is ranked the eighth most popular travel destination in the US, according to the 2022 Travelers Choice Awards. This comes as no surprise considering how warm it is. Like many other Florida beaches, there is no shortage of activities to do. Watersports, jetskis, walking, shopping and eating. You can find a number of unique tiki bars and restaurants along the boardwalk. Dining outdoors in Miami Beach is a must...along with a cocktail or two. It is a great setting for a beach wedding or romantic getaway.
Here is aconvenient map of the Miami Beach Boardwalk. There is a free trolley service that serves all of Miami Beach. What could be better? We love the Florida beaches with trolley service like Anna Maria Island, Clearwater Beach and Fort Myers Beach.
Look Out! This Could Happen...
The thing to be most prepared for in Miami Beach is how much everything costs. A burger, fries, side salad and one drink each came to $97! The gratuity was included at 18%. We expected the hotel to be expensive but the food, although delicious, was a bit crazy. Even a margarita was $15. We are not complaining because we had a wonderful time. Just be prepared to have your credit card ready. All the hotels have a daily resort fee and costly valet parking. Buyer beware when you go to some restaurants and nightclubs where they offer 2 for 1 deals. They may actually cost you more with hidden charges on your bill.
Our Miami Beachfront Hotel
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Miami Beach-Oceanfront and they gave us a great room on the eighth floor. Unfortunately, there are NO balconies. The hotel was slightly older but in good shape and very clean. There were a lot of families because "kids stay and eat free". Two beach chairs with an umbrella were included in the resort fee, as well as beach towels. Most Miami Beach hotels have a resort fee in addition to your room rate. The front desk staff was nice but we did have one problem. Our package included breakfast which the hotel did not honor. We booked through a third-party (Booking.com). The front desk said the reservation with breakfast included did not show up on the Holiday Inn reservation system. So...we were not pleased. Booking.com did assist us in obtaining a credit. If you decide to stay at this Holiday Inn, be aware there could be issues with third party reservations. The breakfast buffet costs $24 per person otherwise. We usually stay with Hilton Hotels like we did in Juno Beach.
What We Really Think About Miami Beach
We are not in agreement about Miami Beach. This doesn't happen to us often! I loved it (Susan) but Bruno did not. He thought it was too touristy. When we arrived on the weekend it was very crowded (no surprise), but by Monday the beach was less busy. It is a popular beach destination and a highly-populated city. There are wall-to-wall high rise apartments and condos along the oceanfront, which are really interesting. What I loved was the action and tropical vibe. Walking along the boardwalk, there was always something to see. It was interesting to hear all the different languages being spoken by tourists and locals. Bruno didn't like the crowds. It was also very humid, even at night. We live in Florida and even we found it hot!
We need to go back and explore the Miami downtown Brickell area which overlooks Biscayne Bay. It's full of restaurants and bars that can be explored by scooter. Is South Beach worth visiting? Two days didn't allow us to explore the entire South Beach Ocean Drive scene where things really heat up. The pastel, art deco style buildings are part of the vibrant, tropical scene. We did take the free trolley down to South Pointe Park to see if any cruise ships were sailing by (read more about South Beach here). The skyline at sunset is outstanding. Brush up on your Spanish before you go and you might make some new friends.
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Susan and Bruno are travel bloggers. We write about Florida beaches on every coast. Our opinions only.