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Updated: January 29, 2021
The Best Areas to Stay in Miami
Sun-kissed Miami is known for long sandy beaches, glitzy nightlife, non-stop shopping, Art Deco architecture, and a lively fusion of cultures – and with its tropical climate, Miami welcomes visitors all year long. Miami’s metropolitan area is a patchwork of wildly diverse neighborhoods covering the inland City of Miami and the separate island city of Miami Beach – effectively a giant sandbar in Biscayne Bay. The bulk of the City of Miami’s hotels and attractions are located in museum-filled Downtown and the business hub Brickell both in the City of Miami. However, hip, artsy districts such as MiMo and Wynwood are increasingly offering more high-quality accommodations. Some of the city’s most culturally significant neighborhoods, Little Havana and Overtown, boast a perfect mix of flavorful restaurants, eclectic shops, and historic sights. Shoppers should head to Coconut Grove or the Miami Design District, while couples celebrating a romantic occasion should consider staying in Coral Gables.
Miami’s famous South Beach neighborhood is located on the island city, Miami Beach. This stylish enclave offers the quintessential Miami package: a white sand beach, a cutting-edge culinary scene, and hot nightlife. For a relaxing, family-friendly beach vacation head to the north end of Miami Beach; the North Beach, Surfside, and Bal Harbour areas offer a quiet retreat while still being easily accessible to dining, nightlife, and shopping. To truly get away from it all, head down south to Key Biscayne. In the center of Miami Beach is Mid-Beach, an upscale community with a relaxed vibe and chic restaurants.
Public transportation is pretty efficient here, but having a car can make exploring the whole city much easier. Individual neighborhoods are easy to walk around, while Downtown Miami is served by Metromover, a free elevated light rail service. Otherwise, the city is connected by Metrobus and Metrorail. Local taxis and ridesharing services are easily available throughout Miami.
The Best Places to Stay in Miami
- Best Luxury Hotels in Miami
1 Hotel South Beach • Biltmore Hotel • Four Seasons Miami • Mandarin Oriental • Setai Miami Beach • St. Regis Bal Harbour
- Best Family Hotels in Miami
Loews Miami Beach • Mutiny Luxury Suites • Hampton Inn & Suites Brickell-Downtown • Homewood Suites by Hilton – Airport West
- Best Boutique Hotels in Miami
Kimpton Palomar South Beach • EAST Miami • Hyde Suites Midtown • Colonnade Coral Gables • Palihouse Miami Beach • Miami Beach Edition
- Best 3-Star/4-Star Hotels in Miami
Aloft Coral Gables • Urbanica The Meridian • Sun Harbour Boutique Hotel
- Best Cheap Hotels in Miami
Copper Door B&B • Miami Hostel • Posh Hostel South Beach
Best Areas in Miami for…
- Best Neighborhoods for Nightlife: South Beach and Downtown
The elegant Art Deco blocks of South Beach, especially between 5th and 24th streets, are always buzzing at night. The open-air pool bar at the Clevelander Hotel is a classic spot to start the evening, while Wet Willie’s serves infamous candy-colored frozen cocktails; even sweets emporium serves extravagant cocktails and martinis. Other favorites include Swizzle Rum Bar & Drinkery and old-school local haunt Mac’s Club Deuce, by most counts, the oldest bar in Miami. Much of the club scene is LGBT+ oriented; check out the venues Score and Twist. At the high end, club nights at Mynt Lounge regularly attract celebrities. Conveniently, South Beach boasts a vast range of accommodation within stumbling distance of the bars. Across the bay in Downtown Miami, the Park West warehouse district also contains major dance clubs like Club Space and E11EVEN, but there’s little to do here other than dance, and many clubbers prefer to taxi in from elsewhere.
- Best Neighborhood for Shopping: Miami Design District, Coconut Grove, and South Beach
Miami Design District tops most shoppers’ lists. Once exclusively the domain of furniture and design showrooms, today it’s a compact, easy-to-navigate-on-foot neighborhood of over 60 high-end fashion boutiques, from Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton to Hermes and Christian Louboutin. A close second is the Coconut Grove neighborhood, which contains the CocoWalk mall and its own spread of indie boutiques such as the Bazaar Project and Goldenbar. For mainstream stores it’s hard to beat pedestrian-friendly Lincoln Road Mall in South Beach. All three areas offer excellent accommodation options.
- Most Romantic Neighborhood: Coral Gables
George Merrick’s 1920s Mediterranean fantasy has held up well, with Coral Gables a vast, laid-back neighborhood of leafy streets (Coral Way is lined by over 1200 giant banyan trees), and retro Mission Revival and Art Deco villas. Highlights include the giant pastel-colored Biltmore Hotel, which still serves a decadent afternoon tea, and the Venetian Pool, a gorgeous public swimming pool with grottoes and decorative bridges.
- Best Neighborhoods for Food and Restaurants: Little Havana/South Beach/Coconut Grove/Wynwood
Miami’s culinary scene is incredibly diverse and spread widely across the city – there’s good eating in almost every neighborhood with some specialties, such as Cuban food in Little Havana. Though it has its tourist traps especially on the oceanfront, South Beach is one of the best, with legends such as Joe’s Stone Crab and Big Pink, classic Italian La Locanda, Peruvian-Japanese INTIMO, and Mexican specialist Dulce Vida. Coconut Grove is another foodie hotspot, home to sustainable burgers and local beer at LoKal, the outdoor deck at Glass & Vine, stylish favorites GreenStreet Café, and Le Bouchon Du Grove, plus the justly popular tacos al pastor at El Taquito.
Finally, Wynwood is another neighborhood foodies should check out, known for high-end spots like Bradley Kilgore’s Alter, and Michael Lewis’s modern Asian bistro KYU.
- Best Neighborhood for Families: Surfside
Much less hectic than South Beach, Surfside offers calm, mostly empty beaches separated from Collins Avenue by a wide strip of greenery and dunes. The paths and boardwalk here make for safe excursions along the shore, while sweet treats are provided by the likes of Serendipity Creamery.
- Safest Areas in Miami
Crime has certainly reduced in Miami since the 1980s, and most of the neighborhoods below are very safe during the day. Coral Gables and Coconut Grove are two of the safest neighborhoods in Miami proper; the beach areas are reasonably safe, especially during the day, but it’s best not to venture onto the sands late at night.
- Unsafe Areas in Miami
Downtown Miami does experience higher crime rates compared to the rest of the city, and precautions should be taken at night here, as well as in Little Haiti, Wynwood, and Little Havana. Though beaches are generally safe, don’t leave valuables unattended onshore while taking a swim.
The Best Places in Miami for Tourists
Downtown Miami is where the city began in the late 19th century, and today it remains the administrative and cultural heart of Miami. The iconic Freedom Tower was the entry point for Cuban refugees arriving in Florida between 1962 and 1974. Amidst a cluster of more recent glass and steel skyscrapers, offices, hotels, and pricey condos, the Bayside Marketplace mall anchors the waterfront district, where boats leave for cruises of the Biscayne Bay islands. Miami’s principal museums are all Downtown: Pérez Art Museum Miami (pictured above), Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, and HistoryMiami Museum. Miami Children’s Museum and Jungle Island are nearby on Watson Island. AmericanAirlines Arena hosts the Miami Heat, while architect Cesar Pelli’s Adrienne Arsht Center is home to the Florida Grand Opera and Miami City Ballet. Also here is the Port of Miami, one of the world’s busiest cruise ship hubs. Brickell lies just to the south across the Miami River, principally known for being the city’s financial center and home to some of its most luxurious business hotels.
2. South Beach
For many visitors, South Beach is Miami. This legendary stretch of sand runs from the southern tip of Miami Beach – a chain of man-made barrier islands connected to Miami proper via causeways – north to 23rd Street and Dade Boulevard, where Mid-Beach begins. It’s best known for its trendy nightlife, waterside promenade at Ocean Drive, culinary scene, the biggest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world, and the white-sand beach itself, one of Florida’s best. Pedestrianized Lincoln Road is the neighborhood’s shopping district, while Española Way is a Spanish-themed street of restaurants and boutiques. Other non-beach attractions include the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum and The Bass art museum, while the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach is a poignant memorial to the victims of Nazi Germany.
Coconut Grove was founded in the 1870s partly by Bahamian immigrants, and today it’s one of the city’s premier shopping neighborhoods known for its oak-lined streets, boutiques, galleries, excellent restaurant scene, sidewalk cafes, and bayfront marinas. Some five miles southwest of Downtown Miami, it’s home to the annual Coconut Grove Arts Festival and Caribbean style carnival, as well as historic tourist attractions such as Barnacle Historic State Park, the Kampong tropical botanical garden, and Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, the former home of industrialist James Deering. Premier shopping malls include CocoWalk and Mayfair in the Grove.
Around two miles north from Downtown Miami, the former warehouse district of Wynwood has morphed into the arts hub of South Florida in just over a decade. It began with the Wynwood Walls, an outdoor graffiti museum, with murals and street art now encompassing the entire neighborhood. Today there are more than 70 art galleries here, as well as hip restaurants and bars. Some of the best galleries include the Oliver Cole Gallery, Art Nouveau Gallery, and Bakehouse Art Complex. Other attractions include the Miami Selfie Museum, the Museum of Graffiti, Rubell Museum, and Margulies Collection at the Warehouse. Across I-195 from Wynwood, the compact Miami Design District home to over 130 art galleries, hip shops, antique dealers, restaurants, and bars clustered around the main drag, NE 40th Street. Other attractions include the Haitian Heritage Museum, the De la Cruz Collection, and Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami. Local celebrity chef Michael Schwartz also runs Michael’s Genuine Food here.
5. Coral Gables
One of Miami’s most distinctive and historic neighborhoods, Coral Gables was conceived by real estate developer George Merrick and constructed in the 1920s with a lavish Mediterranean theme. Today the canopied streets, Spanish-style houses, and formal gates are still there, in addition to modern boutiques and hip restaurants. The main drag is SW 22nd Street, which is known as the Miracle Mile, lined with shops and eateries. Nearby is Coral Gables Museum, but the biggest sights in the neighborhood were conceived by Merrick: the famous Biltmore Hotel (seen above) and spring-filled Venetian Pool. To the south, the University of Miami campus contains the lauded Lowe Art Museum. The free Coral Gables Trolley runs from the Douglas Metrorail Station to Flagler Street along Ponce de Leon Boulevard (there’s also a Grand Avenue Loop Route).
Little Havana remains a major hub of Hispanic culture in Miami. Some two miles west of Downtown Miami, this was the city’s first major Cuban enclave and today it remains studded with Latin-inspired cafes, restaurants, and stores, especially along SW 8th Street, or “Calle Ocho”. The excellent Cubaocho Museum is here, a combination art museum, music venue, and rum bar. Of course, this is the best neighborhood to sample delicious Cuban food at places like El Rey De Las Fritas and Versailles and to see the monuments to Cuban freedom on Memorial Boulevard. Accommodation in Little Havana primarily comprises apartment rentals and cheap motels, though Life House is one of the city’s most exclusive boutique hotels. Separated from Little Havana by the Spring Garden and Lummus Park districts, Overtown is the historic heart of Black Miami, operating as its commercial and entertainment center from the late 19th through mid-20th centuries. To get to grips with Miami’s early African-American history, take a walking tour of Overtown or visit The Black Archives – Historic Lyric Theater. One of the city’s best value hotels is in Overtown: the Copper Door B&B.
Miami Beach’s Mid-Beach neighborhood runs along the Atlantic shore from 24th Street to North Beach, a three-mile strip of sand lined with plush resorts, cocktail bars, and cafes. It’s a popular place to stay, with historic resorts such as the Fontainebleau, posh restaurants such as Nobu and Hakkasan. Expect a more relaxed atmosphere than you’ll find South Beach, while still offering convenient access to Miami Beach’s best dining, nightlife, and sights.
8. Key Biscayne
Linked to the mainland via the Rickenbacker Causeway, Key Biscayne feels like a million miles away from South Beach. Services, hotels, and apartment rentals are located in the residential section of the island (known simply as the “village”), but the real attractions lie beyond here: Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, the Miami Seaquarium, Crandon Park Beach (one of the best beaches in the city), and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, featuring swimming beaches and historic Cape Florida Lighthouse.
The MiMo (AKA Miami Modern) district runs along Biscayne Boulevard roughly from NE 50th Street to NE 77th Street some four miles north of Downtown Miami. It’s one of the city’s hippest neighborhoods, featuring some of its best boutique hotels, including The Vagabond, restaurants such as Blue Collar, and prime examples of the mid-century “Miami Modern” architecture it’s named for. Nearby Little Haiti is one of Miami’s most colorful neighborhoods. Its Caribbean culture is best experienced in and around the Little Haiti Cultural Center. The closest good hotels to Little Haiti are in MiMo.
The northern half of the island making up Miami Beach is comprised of three fantastic neighborhoods. North Beach is the area between W 63rd St and 87th St. Surfside runs from 88th St north to 96th St, while Bal Harbour is the northernmost of these districts, spanning the area between 96th St and the Haulover Inlet Bridge. Known for beautiful stretches of sand and surf, these relaxing, family-friendly areas are all connected by a 6-mile beachfront pathway with one lane devoted to walkers and runners and another open for everyone, including bicycles and dogs. North Beach is the closest of the three to South Beach, making for easy access to the shopping and nightlife there. Attractions here include the North Beach Bandshell, a mid-century amphitheater for open-air concerts, and North Beach Oceanside Park, a beachfront green space with shaded walking paths under the canopy of native trees. Surfside is an upscale, residential beach community with a highly walkable downtown area filled with shops and restaurants. From January through April, visit Surfside for the family-friendly Third Thursday Block Party, while summer visitors should check out the First Friday Beach Picnics. Bal Harbour is a wealthy enclave known for luxury shopping and as a retreat popular with celebrities and low-key elites. Expect to find pristine beaches, top-notch dining, and lavish accommodations here.
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