Miami Beach is not Miami. It often gets caught in the blanket of “greater Miami”, but it is a city unto itself. Its nickname is simply “The Beach” because that’s mostly what there is here.
Miami Beach is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the U.S. because of all the beaches. It’s really a narrow, seven mile long island just to the east of Miami proper. Technically it is a barrier island, but technical or not, it’s all about restaurants and attractions, places to shop and nightlife, and… oh yea…. those beaches.
As you can imagine, most activities center around the beach and the ocean. There is the usual array of beach toys from boogie boards to wave runners. You can rent bicycles and scooters. There are charter boats aplenty if you want to go fishing. Arrange for scuba diving or snorkeling trips. Even arrange for a floating wedding if that’s your heart’s desire.
Of course there is always the option of just lounging on the beach. The Surfrider Foundation (which is a non-profit organization that rates the quality of beaches in the U.S.) rated it as the premier urban beach in the country.
There is a beautiful boardwalk and an outdoor shopping mall… either great for strolling. Into golf? This skinny island even has a world class golf course.
South Beach (also known as SoBe) is the “hottest” beach in the area with nightlife and a wide sandy beach. It’s pretty much what everyone thinks a tropical beach should be…. wide and sandy, lined with palm trees, with clean, clear, turquoise water. It’s a great swimming beach year round. (But not too good for surfing because the waves are usually too small.)
South Beach has exuberant Art Deco architecture. Visit the Art Deco Historic District which has buildings constructed during the 1920s, 30s and 40s. The colors and styles are sure to make you smile.
The nightlife is particularly exuberant in trendy SoBe. You’ll mingle with quite an international set with tourists from Europe, Latin America and Canada as well as the U.S. Some of the most popular nightclubs can be very hard to get into, so if that’s what you want to do, you should talk to your hotel concierge to see if they have tickets or can at least give you tips on how to get in.
If you get tired of the beach and nightlife, there is a botanical garden, and there are several museums and galleries. You can catch a play at one of the theaters. The Miami City Ballet is based here as is the New World Symphony.
You’ll find a wide range of hotel accommodations from ocean front resorts and boutique hotels to budget hotels and hostels for frugal travelers. Depending on your travel budget, those lower end hotels might be a good option, because Miami Beach does tend to be a little expensive. Another option is to stay in Miami proper and just visit The Beach for day trips.
You can fly into either Miami International Airport or Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport. It is probably cheapest to take a taxi from the Miami Airport. The Fort Lauderdale airport is smaller and friendlier, but farther away (about 26 miles). A private shuttle might be cheaper than a taxi.
So for a great beach vacation right in a city, think about Miami Beach. Water sports, culture, shopping and night life… The Beach has it all.