Source: Croatian Traveller
Miami lies in the region with tropical monsoon climate, so the summer months are not the best time to visit. That is why it is ideal during the winter – average air temperatures in January are around 20 degrees Celsius. Sea temperature never goes below 22, 23 degrees Celsius, but in the summer it nears 30 degrees.
The best known part of Miami is an island located several hundred meters east of the town, connected with several bridges. It’s called Miami Beach, while the part south of the 23rd street is called South Beach: it is where coconut was grown in late 19th century. The beach is more or less the same: the only difference is that Miami Beach is a posh part of the island, with a golf club and luxury residences, like the Fontainebleau Resort, where you can dine in one of the three excellent restaurants. Of course, you will be served a very decently sized serving of originally prepared and rather expensive food. You will find the rich and the famous either in Miami Beach or in their residences on two small islands, Hibiscus Island and Palm Island, between South Beach and the city center.
On the other hand, South Beach is adorned with small hotels, cocktail-bars along the beach, reasonably priced food and wild nightlife. The first avenue along the beach is called Ocean Drive and is full of restaurants and hotels, but it is not loud and flashy. There you can have a cocktail and enjoy yourself – we recommend the bar of hotel Cardozo (13th street). The happy hour in the afternoon gets you two for the price of one (each is 0.7 liters, $23), but if you do so, don’t go back into the sea. There is good food everywhere, and on Ocean Drive it is much more pleasant, vivid, this place is “happening”. For those who left their credit card in the hotel, there are a few small and cheap restaurants with tasty burritos and fajitas (13th, 14th, 15th street or Lincoln Rd, avenues Collins and Washington, all within 10 to 15 minutes’ walk). Those who come for a jog, swim and tan (and those are in abundance), and are looking for a healthy snack, may be satisfied by the Juice & Java (1346 Washington) with an excellent selection of vegetarian wraps and smoothies. The whole of South Beach can be crossed on foot within an hour or two. There is nothing spectacular here: small art deco hotels (overnight stay is $120 upwards), palm trees, sand, and you should see it while taking a break from the beach. The night life is famous: it is going to find you.
The business part of the city, Downtown, is full of office spaces in skyscrapers, but you can also find a few interesting restaurants or cafés there. Judging from what we saw (and we were not trying very hard), Miami is not a prime shopping destination, rather try New York. Of course, you can find all sorts of things in a city of five million people, but I believe that this is simply not the time… or place. If not out of need, than out of curiosity, ride the circle line of the elegant overground rail: there are just a dozen stations around the center. The view of the city is excellent, and the ride is free.
The 8th street, as one of many parallel streets, leads from Downtown to the west. From 12th to 27th avenue it is called Calle Ocho and is the central street of Little Havana. This part is characteristic for a somewhat poorer look, single storey or one storey houses, numerous churches of various faiths: some are indeed unusual, especially from the viewpoint of aesthetic “simplicity”. They look like converted garages of warehouses, nicely painted with quotes from the Gospel on the façade. Poverty can be seen everywhere, but it is compensated with high spirits, good music and bright colors. Everywhere you can eat a snack from the cuisine of Honduras, Salvador and Cuba, of course. Take into account that Cuban cuisine is not very light: there is some seafood, but chicken and pork are its chief ingredients. Traditional Cuban sandwich is made either with grilled chicken or roasted pork, with ham and other ingredients, like mayonnaise and pickles. Pan con bistec is the traditional steak on bread, served with finely chopped potato chips. Two side dishes we see quite often are rice (arroz) and beans (frijoles), often combined.
When you get tired of swimming and sipping cocktails in South Beach, change the décor and take a trip to Key West (around 3 hours by car), the southernmost point of the US, with the view of Cuba in the distance. A picturesque town on the island does not belong to the domain of unspeakable beauty, but it is more than nice to walk around, and even more for excursions by boat, to see the famous coral reefs, for example. The other option is the Everglades National Park, the biggest swamp habitat on the continent with incredible biodiversity. In one morning, you can come there and participate in a guided tour around the swamp, seeing various reptiles and birds. (Alligators, contrary to some beliefs, do not jump into boats, on the contrary, they just bask in the sun, motionless). Third: Miami is the biggest port in the world for cruises – the choice is yours, a three day excursion to the Bahamas or seven days around the Caribbean. This again means plenty of sunbathing on somewhat nicer, but still tourist beaches. But they take great care to entertain and feed you, all included in the price of the ticket.
Spanish is mandatory in Miami: you will probably meet people who speak English, but everybody speaks Spanish. That is why you should learn at least one hundred words of Spanish: you don’t need more on vacation. This investment on your behalf will pay off nicely: it is said that the population of all great US cities on the coast, all the way up to Boston in the north, will be more than 50 percent Hispanic by 2025. Feliz viaje.