Although I’m much more a lake lady than a beach bum, I wasn’t about to miss a weekend escaping D.C.’s chilly winter for a weekend in South Beach, Miami. Although South Beach is known for it’s gorgeous sand beaches and aqua waters, Florida’s elite ‘hood has so much more to offer beyond string bikinis and roller blades (but trust me, there was plenty of those too). Since sunbathing for a few hours only sounds good in theory (to me), I stumbled across some unique experiences that let me absorb the culture of southern Florida. Having been one of my first weekends traveling solo, I made sure to get all the deets ahead of time for which streets and landmarks I should stick by #safetyfirst.
I stayed at Hyatt Centric right on the main drag of South Beach. It’s two blocks from the beach and a few blocks from Lincoln Road, the main shopping strip. This is a great place to get oriented with the South Beach culture. When I arrived in town that night, I stopped at one of the many open air restaurants to take in the sights and sounds of eager shoppers and noisy parrots before getting to bed. The next morning, I woke up to spectacular views of the early sun rays coming over the city. Not one to miss a photo op, I snuck out in the early morning with the committed joggers and gold diggers to hang our near Lummus Park before the crowds rushed in. The sunrise illuminates the hotels and condos in a golden glow, it was definitely worth the missed hour of sleep. While I might not be one for sun tanning at noon, I can rock 6am with the best of them.
After some morning stretches on the beach, I headed over to Exhale Spa to fit in a work out. Bonus perk, I was able to get a discount for my yoga-based cardio class due to the hotel I was staying at. Apparently these folk are used to the southern humidity because I clearly the sweatiest (and palest) person in the room. Nevertheless, a sweat was a good way to prepare for an active day ahead of me.
I won’t totally blame my recent obsession with Narcos for my obsession with Miami culture, but I was absolutely thrilled to stumble across a tour that talked about the history of South Beach (including the infamous drug trade) rooted in its architecture and notable art deco style throughout the beach. My tour guide, James, was clearly knowledgeable on the subject and got us secret access inside distinguished hotels and celebrity homes. I won’t spoil too much, but I came into South Beach thinking there was little behind the tan lines and recognizable diet plan, man was I wrong. All you need is a camera and your walking shoes for a seriously unique perspective on how this exclusive shore culture came to be.
To round out the evening, I indulged in some new-to-me cuban food. Morenos Cuba was the spunkiest hidden gem tucked behind a quaint row of condos. Decorated with colored lights and colorful murals, Morenos offered an escape from the hustling of downtown. Since I was in a mission to avoid the spring break party scene, it was nice to enjoy a delicious local meal with the locals. After my second mojito, a local band came out to play on what I can only assume was a ukulele. Although this might differ than the traditional electro clubs and laser Miami is known for, the restaurant goers who were brave enough to salsa across the floor provided ample entertainment. While I knew I was missing out on the quintessential nightlife experience, this was more my style. My night ended with an empty glass and in bed by 11.
My final morning in South Beach could only be spent at one place. The Front Porch Cafe has glowing reviews on almost every rating system so I was excited to try out their fresh dishes. I filled up on a veggie omelet, fresh fruit and a cold iced tea while sitting underneath the awnings on their, fittingly, front porch. Make sure you take a trip through the hotel it’s stationed under, a giant checker board, instagram pictures stops and glass ceilings to the pool above make it an overall worthy experience.
Since I had filled up on sand time to last through the rest of this cold spell, I walked the boardwalk back to my hotel and hung around the pool until it was time for my flight. I have often thought it was impossible to fit in everything there is to see on the road in a single weekend. Yet, albeit slowly, I am learning that’s not actually the point. Instead of following other’s must-dos in Miami, I designed my own, tailored to what brings me joy while still venturing out of my comfort zone. Balance isn’t found in the place you are, it’s created within you wherever you go.
Have you been to South Beach? What’s your favorite way to spend time on the beach?