Beautiful beaches and art deco delights are just some of Miami’s many charms – there's also the blazing nightlife, tropical gardens, lively arts scene and sizzling cuisine.
Architectural Jewel Box
Even if there was no beach, Miami would still have undeniable allure. The gorgeous 1930s hotels lining Ocean Dr are part of the world’s greatest collection of art deco buildings. Tropical motifs, whimsical nautical elements and those iconic pastel shades create a cinematic backdrop for exploring the streets of Miami Beach. Of course, you don’t have to see these architectural beauties at arm’s length. Lavishly restored, Miami’s art deco and mid-century modern hotels are also the playground for locals and out-of-towners alike, with sunny poolside terraces, artfully designed dining rooms and plush nightclubs.
Creativity, Miami Style
Chalk it up to Miami’s diverse population, or perhaps its love of always being on the cutting edge. Whatever the reason, creativity is one of the great hallmarks of this city. From art and design to global cuisine, Miami remains ever on the search for bold new ideas, which manifest themselves in surprising ways. You’ll find brilliantly inventive chefs blending Eastern and Western cooking styles, sustainably designed buildings inspired by South Florida ecosystems and open-air galleries where museum-quality artwork covers once-derelict warehouses. The one constant in Miami is its uncanny ability to astonish.
Nights in the City
When the sun sets and the brilliant colors of a South Florida sunset fill the sky, that’s when the best part of the day begins for Miami’s party people. By moonlight, all the magic of the city unfolds, in its salsa-filled dance halls, swanky candlelit lounges, and rooftop bars with sweeping views over Biscayne Bay and the glittering city skyline. While there’s plenty of bling on display, Miami has something for all, from backyard bars full of indie rockers to hidden dens of debauchery concealed behind neon-lit taco stands.
The Great Outdoors
Few cities are as blessed as Miami when it comes to natural beauty. White sandy beaches are lapped by teal waters – perfect for sunrise strolls along peaceful stretches of Mid-Beach to scenic paddles in search of manatees off Virginia Key. You can look for colorful bird species while walking the trails of Oleta River State Park, or go to any of the tropical gardens across the city. With year-round sunshine, and a love for celebration, the open air is also where Miami’s biggest parties unfold – whether at massive music and dance festivals or the neighborhood fiestas that pack Miami’s calendar.
Top 9 beaches in Miami
5 min read — Published Feb 11, 2021
Lonely Planet EditorsWriter
Perpetually linked with a glamorous South Florida lifestyle, Miami has some of the state's best beaches. These are our favorites.
Discover some of the most unique and fulfilling experiences your next destination has to offer.
Tips & Travel trends to help you pick the perfect time to visit this destination.
Add visiting these must-see local hot spots and culture centers to your next travel itinerary.
Plan a day trip full of local flavor and get back in time with these same-day options.
Browse the various transportation options to make your trip that much easier when you arrive.
Ways to maximize the fun without spending a dime on your next great adventure.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Miami.
If you don’t make it to the Florida Keys, come to this park for a taste of their unique island ecosystems. The 494-acre space is a tangled clot of tropical fauna and dark mangroves – look for the ‘snorkel’ roots that provide air for half-submerged mangrove trees – all interconnected by sandy trails and wooden boardwalks, and surrounded by miles of pale ocean. A concession shack rents out kayaks, bikes, in-line skates, beach chairs and umbrellas. At the state recreation area’s southernmost tip, the 1845 brick Cape Florida Lighthouse is the oldest structure in Florida (it replaced another lighthouse that was severely damaged in 1836 during the Second Seminole War). Free tours run at 10am and 1pm Thursday to Monday. If you're not packing a picnic, there are several good places to dine in the park, including Boater’s Grill and Lighthouse Cafe. Stiltsville used to be quite the party spot in Key Biscayne, but not since the midcentury © Photo by Hoberman Collection/Universal Images Group via Getty Images Stiltsville Head to the southern shore of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and you'll see, way out in the distance, a collection of seven houses that stands on pilings in Biscayne Bay. The buildings, known as Stiltsville, have been around since the early 1930s, ever since 'Crawfish Eddie Walker' built a shack on the waves. More buildings were added over the years, and the 'village' was, at times, a gambling den, smuggling haven and, during the 1960s, a bikini club where women drank for free if they wore a two piece, and anything could famously go. At its peak in 1960, there were 27 'homes' in Stiltsville, but as one might guess, hurricanes and erosion took their toll. No one lives in Stiltsville today, but it is possible to take a boat tour out here with the illustrious historian Dr Paul George. In 2003 the nonprofit Stiltsville Trust was set up by the National Parks Service to rehabilitate the buildings into as-yet-unknown facilities; proposals include a National Parks Service visitor center, artist-in-residence colony or community center. Many years down the track, not much work seems to have progressed toward this idea, but if you’d like more information, check out the Stiltsville website. Bill Baggs Cape is incredibly close to Miami and easy to access – but that means it can fill up fast on weekends and major holidays ©James Kirkikis/Shutterstock Getting to Bill Baggs Cape It takes under twenty minutes to drive to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park from Miami proper. Admission to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park runs $8 per vehicle with a limit of 2 to 8 people per vehicle. It's $4 for a single-occupant vehicle or motorcycle. If you don't mind a 17 mile bike ride round trip, the causeways out to the keys can make for a lovely cycling route, too. Bus Route 102 provides service from Brickell (near Brickell Station on SW 1st Ave) over the Rickenbacker Causeway and all the way down to the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, too. It's a $2 entrance for pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, and per passenger in a vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass. This is Miami after all, so don't forget that you can boat in to Bill Baggs Cape, too. Dropping anchor overnight at No Name Harbor costs $20 per boat, per night. Picnic facilities can be rented for $50 per day (plus tax) for one of the 15 pavilions that accommodate up to 40 people. A larger pavilion that can accommodate up to 80 people cost $100 per day (plus tax). Electricity to these larger shelters will cost an extra $15 per day.
Few American parks can claim to front such a lovely stretch of turquoise as Biscayne Bay, but Miamians are lucky like that. Noted artist and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi redesigned much of Bayfront Park in the 1980s and dotted the grounds with three sculptures. In the southwest corner is the Challenger Memorial, a monument designed for the astronauts killed in the 1986 space-shuttle explosion, built to resemble both the twisting helix of a human DNA chain and the shuttle itself. The Light Tower is a 40ft, somewhat abstract allusion to Japanese lanterns and moonlight over Miami. Our favorite is the Slide Mantra, a twisting spiral of marble that doubles as a playground piece for the kids. Notable park features are two performance venues: the Klipsch Amphitheater, which boasts excellent views over the bay and is a good spot for live-music shows, and the smaller 200-seat (lawn seating can accommodate 800 more) Tina Hills Pavilion, which hosts free springtime performances. Look north for the JFK Torch of Friendship, and a fountain recognizing the accomplishments of longtime US congressman Claude Pepper. There are a huge variety of activities here, including flying trapeze classes and free yoga classes, plus a great playground for the kids.
Just five minutes from Memorial Boulevard Park, which honors a number of Cuban heroes, Máximo Gómez is the big beating heart of Miami's Little Havana. Indeed, 'Domino Park's name-sake was a Dominican military leader who served in both Cuba's Ten Years' War against Spain and the war for Cuban independence. The neighborhood’s most evocative reminder of Cuba, Máximo Gómez is where the sound of elderly men trash-talking over games of dominoes is harmonized with the crack of dominoes, the scent of wafting cigars and the sound of salsa spilling into the street. The tourists taking photos all the while does take away from the experience, but a sunrise-bright mural of the 1994 Summit of the Americas add to the atmosphere. The park is effectively always open, but is best visited in the early morning or around sunset; the heat of the day is less baking and there is sometimes an air of quiet (for Miami) reverence.
South Florida – a land of escaped slaves, guerrilla Native Americans, gangsters, land grabbers, pirates, tourists, drug dealers and alligators – has a special history, and it takes a special kind of museum to capture that narrative. This highly recommended place, located in the Miami-Dade Cultural Center, does just that, weaving together the stories of the region’s successive waves of population, from Native Americans to Nicaraguans. The collection is spread between two buildings. Start off in the permanent collection, which has interactive exhibits showing life among the Seminoles, early Florida industries like sponge diving, and wealth made from 'wreckers' (those who salvaged treasure lost on the reefs). More recent-era exhibits touch on the history of Jewish and African American communities in South Beach, Cuban refugees (with a rustic homemade boat that managed to survive the treacherous crossing to Florida) and cultural expression in public spaces (highlighting traditions such as street art, parades, protests, vehicle customizing and religious practices). Get off the Metromover at the Government Center stop.
One of Miami's most impressive spaces, designed by Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron, integrates tropical foliage, glass, concrete and wood – a melding of tropical vitality and fresh modernism that fits perfectly in Miami. PAMM stages some of the best contemporary exhibitions in the city, with established artists and impressive newcomers. The permanent collection rotates through unique pieces every few months – drawing from a treasure trove of work spanning the last 80 years. Don't miss it. The temporary shows and retrospectives bring major crowds (past exhibitions have included the works of famed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and kinetic artist Julio Le Parc). The outdoor space has hanging gardens that took an entire two months to install. If you need a little breather amid all this contemporary culture, PAMM has a first-rate cafe, or you can simply hang out in the grassy park or lounge on a deck chair enjoying the views over the water. This art institution inaugurated Museum Park, a patch of land that oversees the broad blue swath of Biscayne Bay.
Visit this excellent design museum early in your stay to put the aesthetics of Miami Beach into context. It’s one thing to see how wealth, leisure and the pursuit of beauty manifest, but it’s another to understand the roots and shadings of local artistic movements. By chronicling the interior evolution of everyday life, the Wolfsonian reveals how these trends manifested architecturally in SoBe’s exterior deco. Take a look at the Wolfsonian’s own noteworthy architectural features with its Gothic-futurist angles and lion-head-studded grand elevator.
Encompassing 45,000 sq ft, this vast not-for-profit exhibition space houses one of the best art collections in Wynwood – Martin Margulies' awe-inspiring 4000-piece collection includes sculptures by Isamu Noguchi, George Segal, Richard Serra and Olafur Eliasson, among many others, plus sound installations by Susan Philipsz and jaw-dropping room-sized works by Anselm Kiefer. Thought-provoking, large-format installations are the focus at the Warehouse, and you'll see works by some leading 21st-century artists here.
When most people think of Miami Beach, they're envisioning South Beach (SoBe). This area is rife with clubs, bars, restaurants, models and a distinctive veneer of Art Deco architecture. The beach itself encompasses a lovely stretch of golden sands, dotted with colorful deco-style lifeguard stations. The shore gathers a wide mix of humanity, including suntanned locals and plenty of tourists, and gets crowded in high season (December to March) and on weekends when the weather is warm. You can escape the masses by avoiding the densest parts of the beach (5th to 15th Sts). Keep in mind that there's no alcohol (or pets) allowed on the beach.
The world-famous art-deco district of Miami Beach is pure exuberance: an architecture of bold lines, whimsical tropical motifs and a color palette that evokes all the beauty of the Miami landscape. Among the 800 deco buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, each design is different, and strolling among these restored beauties from a bygone era is utterly enthralling. Classic art-deco structures are positioned beautifully between 11th and 14th Sts – each bursting with individuality. Close to 11th St, the Congress Hotel shows perfect symmetry in its three-story facade, with window-shading eyebrows and a long marquee down the middle that's reminiscent of the grand movie palaces of the 1930s. About a block north, the Tides is one of the finest of the nautical-themed hotels, with porthole windows over the entryway, a reception desk of Key limestone (itself imprinted with fossilized sea creatures), and curious arrows on the floor, meant to denote the ebb and flow of the tide. Near 13th St, the Cavalier plays with the seahorse theme, in stylized depictions of the sea creature and also has palm-tree-like iconography. Note that it's best to go early in the day when the crowds are thinnest, and the light is best for picture-taking. For deeper insight into the architecture, take a guided walking tour of the area offered daily by the Miami Design Preservation League.