There are many iconic movies and TV shows based in Miami like Miami Vice, Dexter, The Birdcage, Scarface, and There’s Something About Mary to name a few. It’s one of the places I’ve wanted to visit for a long time, so this year as a birthday gift to myself, I decided to spend a weekend in Miami.
We flew into Ft Lauderdale because it was significantly cheaper than Miami airport. We picked up our rental car and drove to the Airbnb apartment in Miami Beach which was only about an hour away.
I’ve used Airbnb on all my trips for the past 2-3 years and never had a bad experience. Miami is the first place where I had hosts cancel on me multiple times and it was always in Brickell area. After about two or three cancellations, I decided to give up on that location and ended up getting a very nice one bedroom apartment in Miami Beach. The apartment was one block away from North Shore Open Space Park and the beach.
Unfortunately for us, it rained the entire weekend and we weren’t able to enjoy the beach. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun.
We spent Friday evening exploring Miami Beach, eating Cuban food at Sazon and drinking mojitos. The lentil soup was probably the best thing we ordered at Sazon. It stopped raining at night so we went to the beach which was completely deserted. Somehow I expected a few people on the beach at night but there was literally no one around. There were a few people on the boardwalk but the beach was eerily empty. Granted, it was also very windy.
On our walk we came across a bar with outdoor seating named Roni’s by the ocean so we ordered a few appetizers and drinks before going back to the apartment. Again, I expected there to be more people out on a Friday night at 11 pm in Miami Beach but it was surprisingly quiet. The streets were so empty that I wasn’t sure it was safe to walk around. We just took a Lyft back to the apartment and called it an early night.
Since it was predicted to rain Saturday we decided to go to Everglades National Park instead of the beach. Turns out Everglades NP is the third largest park in the lower 48 states but most of the park is only accessible by boat. There are many options for airboat tour but we decided to go with Miccouskee Indian village airboat ride for $20/person which includes a short stop at hammock style Indian camp.
During the boat ride there are plenty of alligators to see and many, many different kinds of birds like Anhinga, wood stork, Ibis, green heron and more. If you are into bird watching, Everglades NP will not disappoint. The water level was low since there hasn’t been too much rain this year so we didn’t see too many big alligators. The ones we saw looked big enough to me but the tour guide disagreed. Here are a few more pictures of the Indian Village and airboat.
Across the street from the airboat ride, there is also an Indian village you can walk through for an additional $15/person. We didn’t really want to do that so instead we decided to go to their restaurant for lunch. They had Gator bites and frog legs on their menu so of course we had to try it. Gator bites were surprisingly delicious and tender.
After lunch we drove to the Ernest F. Coe visitor center. It’s a very informative visit center and there are a few trails. You can also rent bicycles and ride to a lookout point or take a trolley there. Instead of doing that we decided to go on a short Otter trail hike. It’s an easy hike along the water.
Every time we stopped to look around, we saw dozens of turtles, baby alligators, and so many birds everywhere. We even saw a bird eating what looked like a snail. See that video here. On the way back, we had an only in Florida experience: we saw an alligator sleeping on the side of the road.
Next, we drove to Royal Palm visitor center, the start of Anhinga Trail and Gmbo Limbo Trail. The Gumbo Limbo Trail was much shorter and had lots more trees everywhere. It felt very tropical. The Anhinga trail was far more exciting. At the very start of the trail, we saw 4 huge alligators napping.
A few steps away we saw a great white heron chilling in front of a few more alligators. Anhinga are very impressive birds. They can dive under water to hunt for fish and fly high in the sky. Once they dive underwater to hunt for fish, they have to dry their wings before they can fly. We saw so many Anhings with their wings spread out and facing the sun.
By the end of this hike we were beat and wanted to get back to Miami Beach, have some delicious Cuban food, a few mojitos and call it a night. The drive back from Royal Palm visitor center to Miami Beach was about two hour long. Once we parked the car, we tried to find a place for dinner and drinks which turned out to be harder than expected in north shore Miami beach.
Most restaurants only had wine and beer which was very strange. The only restaurant in the area that had a full bar was Sazon but we’d already eaten there Friday. We ended up eating at Locura Peruvian restaurant. The food wasn’t bad and the pisco sours were okay. There must be some local law preventing restaurants from having a full bar.
Our last day in Miami was still cloudy and overcast. We started the day with delicious Cuban breakfast at Puerto Sagua in South Beach. I absolutely fell in love with cortadito, Cuban espresso. I ended up having 3-4 of them on our last day in Miami. The restaurant was very close to the south end of the art deco historic district. Since it hadn’t started raining yet, we went on a self guided tour of the area which took about 40 mins. Here are some pictures from that walk.
After that we drove to Wynwood Walls in Miami. This was my favorite part of Miami. Every building in this neighborhood is covered with amazing murals and graffiti. A few decades ago, this neighborhood had lots of run-down warehouses. Today, this area is one of the most happening districts in Miami with lots of galleries, craft breweries, bistros, and late-night bars. The murals and graffiti on every building is so cool and impressive.
The surprising thing was how many of these murals and paintings had New York references. And this wasn’t just at Wynwoood but everywhere in Miami. One of the gas stations we stopped had New York related signs.
After spending almost 2 hours walking around Wynwood we were getting hungry. The one thing we wanted to eat before leaving Miami was stone crab. We called a bunch of restaurants but had no luck. We gave up on stone crab and picked a seafood restaurant with great reviews in Little Havana. Luckily, La Camaronera had stone crabs! Yay! The snapper sandwich was also one of the best I’ve tasted.
The desert of flan and tres leches cake, it was almost time for us to head back to the airport. But I couldn’t leave Miami without stopping at the iconic Versailles Restaurant. We basically went from one restaurant to another but I had to have one more cortadito. I didn’t want to leave without trying guava pastry at Versailles. It was totally worth it.
We spent an entire weekend in Miami without going to the beach and it was still perfect. If anything, I think it was more fun this way. There are many places with nice beaches but Everglades NP and Wynwood walls are only in Miami and I’m glad I visited those places instead of a beach.
See here for more pictures of Miami, Food, Everglades NP, Art Deco walk, and Wynwood walls.
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Thanks for your detailed descriptions! Very insightful.