A tour of the most outstanding places of the Sunny State, from one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the United States to the last of the keys of the peninsula, passing through the elegant Naples in the Gulf of Mexico.
The reasons to fall in love with the South of the State of Florida, in the United States, are endless. Large skyscrapers and shopping centers coexist in Miami with miles of white sand beaches, art galleries and a hedonistic nightlife. Two hundred kilometers west, Naples surprises with a much more relaxed and sophisticated atmosphere, with beaches where the sea water is always turquoise, warm and crystal clear. And finally, to the south, it is unmissable to undertake an adventure through the keys along the Ocean’s Highway, a highway with incredible landscapes on the sea, culminating in the enchanting island of Key West.
Beyond South Beach
Portrayed in hundreds of movies and television series, South Beach is Miami’s most iconic neighborhood . Beaches, art deco architecture, renowned shops and a frenzied nightlife of clubs, bars and restaurants set the pace in the area. But Miami is much more than South Beach. Its cosmopolitan air, where the Latin accent is mixed with the American one, added to the tropical climate and the white sand beaches, make it an attractive city full of vibrant contrasts.
While many believe that in Miami there are only beautiful beaches, mega shopping centers and a hedonistic nightlife, few know that there is also culture, art and good food. Wynwood and the Art District, as well as Little Havana , are proof of that.
The neighborhood of Wynwood became fashionable in recent years thanks to its spaces dedicated to street art. Located in an area that was once industrial, its streets now house impressive graffiti artists from all over the world, galleries (some are free), cafes and restaurants. In another part of the city, within the county of Miami-Dade, is Little Havana, the epicenter of immigration that settled in the United States after 1959, when Fidel Castro assumed power on the island. Calle Ocho is the main artery: the aroma of cigars and coffee, plus the colorful facades, are a hallmark of the place. Located above it, Hoy Como Yesterday is a must for any visitor because it focuses the best Cuban cuisine, mojitos and live Latin music.
Those who want to get to know the other side of South Beach should visit North Beach. While in the first, Art Deco architecture and nightlife predominate, in its counterpart a much quieter and modernist style, called MiMo, prevails. The landscape is made up of large blocks of buildings built after the Second World War, palm trees and beaches with a notoriously smaller number of people.
In Downtown, the financial and banking center of the city, Brickell is one of the most thriving areas due to the large number of skyscrapers and luxury hotels. It is the ideal place to end the night drinking a cocktail in one of the rooftops with spectacular views. The most recommended are Sugar (in a 40th floor), Wet Deck and Dolores, But You Can Call Me Lolita, in a nod to Vladimir Nabokov’s novel.
To the south of the city, whether for a walk in the evening or at sunset, the charming neighborhood of Coral Gables – where the historic Biltmore luxury hotel is located – and Coconut Grove – bordering the Bay of Biscayne – complete the agenda of unmissable places within the fascinating Miami.
Beaches mode off
Within Miami, but away from the noise and tumult of Ocean Drive, Fort Lauderdale, Key Biscayne and Sunny Isles offer the perfect combo of tranquility, relaxation and pleasure. The best thing is that its proximity allows you to go back and forth in the day. About 10 minutes north of Miami Beach, Sunny Isles is ideal for family visits. Along the coast there are many towers and luxury hotels that offer views of the sea and exclusive access to the beach. To take into account -especially if you visit with children-, reaching the far north there is a section reserved for nudists.
A little further north, in Broward County, Fort Lauderdale is known as the ‘Venice of America’ for its innumerable canals. The Hollywood Beach Broadwalk is a four-kilometer walk along the beach with restaurants, shops and hotels. While, half an hour south of Miami Beach, the island of Key Biscayne offers – for many – the best beaches in the United States. In an idyllic setting of palm trees, lush vegetation and deep blue waters, the most beautiful are Bill Baggs -with an iconic lighthouse built in 1825-, Crandon Beach Park and Virginia Key.
The pretty girl from the west
200 kilometers from Miami, Naples surprises on the west coast of Florida with elegant boutiques, golf courses, large mansions, a long pier to watch the sunset and white sandy beaches and turquoise sea due to its location in the Gulf of Mexico . It is one of the cities with the most expensive square meter within the United States and the destination chosen by many millionaires to retire. Therefore, its streets look like a film set where everything is neat, clean and perfect. The beaches Vanderbilt and Bonita are the most visited . Being located on the Gulf, the color of its waters is much clearer than in Miami, even transparent. At the golden hour, the appointment to watch the sun set over the sea is given on the historic wooden pier built in 1888, on the Naples Municipal Beach. After the passage of Hurricane Irma, in September 2017, the public was closed for a while, but is now open again with all its restored splendor.
At night, the plans move to Fifth Avenue. Surrounded in both hands by tall palms lit with small yellow lights, it offers important trendy brands, art galleries and restaurants with a magnificent colonial architecture. For shopping, 25 minutes to Fort Myers is the shopping center Miromar Outlets, with more than 140 brands. It is very similar to Orlando outlets, but more orderly.
The last of the keys
Cradle of pirates and treasure hunters, Key West is the southernmost point of the Florida peninsula and the closest place to Cuba in the United States. The iconic 90-mile buoy is the graphic representation of the place.
To get to this small tropical island from the south of Miami you have to travel 250 kilometers along the Ocean’s Highway, a highway built in a straight line above the sea that joins an infinity of small islets and cays.
The best plan is to rent a car to stop at all. The adventure begins in Key Largo , continues through Islamorada and the city of Marathon , and culminates in Key West. Once reached the final destination, 24 hours reach to rest from the trip and immerse themselves in its history and charm. Key West has been, throughout history, a haven for pirates and a paradise for treasure hunters.
But it was also the place of inspiration for renowned writers like Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams – on the island there is a museum and a permanent exhibition dedicated to them – who chose their beaches and coasts to live in an unpretentious environment.
One of the unmissable plans is to approach the dock of Mallory Square, where moored cruisers, to watch the sun set over the ocean. The alternative is to watch the sunset from Fort Taylor Beach, a small beach hidden behind Fort Zachary Taylor. At night, the proposal is to walk down Duval Street – its main street for a drink at Sloppy Joe’s, a historic American-style bar that was very popular with Ernest Hemingway.
Malls x 3
* Sawgrass Mills: It is one of the great attractions of Fort Lauderdale. This shopping center is the largest in the United States and represents a true paradise for shopping fans. It offers more than 400 stores, the vast majority with outlet prices, so the ideal is to dedicate a full day.
* Dolphin Mall: It has the advantage of being close to the Miami International Airport, so it is a good option to make last minute purchases. About 30 minutes from * South Beach, it is the closest shopping center to the city. As it does not have many outlet stores, it is advisable to reserve it for a very punctual purchase.
* The Falls: It is a great outdoor shopping area, with lots of greenery, waterfalls and shops very well decorated. It has bars, restaurants and recreational areas to relax in an extremely pleasant atmosphere.