Miami is where everyone goes to play. Famous for cruises, South Beach, Cuban food, beautiful people, and wild clubs and parties, Miami is a wild and eclectic city. It is where you go for fun in the sun.
To be honest, I don’t love Miami. It’s the worst of NYC and Los Angeles all wrapped up into one place. I’d never live here.
That said, it’s a go-go-go city that can be really fun and exciting for a few days. You can have some fun in the sun, eat incredible food, and enjoy some fabulous nightlife.
I find people love or hate Miami. While I’m definitely not on the love side, if I were stuck here for a weekend and I was looking to party, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
This travel guide to Miami will give you a list of all my favorite tips on what to see, how to get around, and how to save money!
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Miami
1. People watch on South Beach
2. See the art in Wynwood
3. See Coral Castle
4. Explore the Everglades
5. Visit Little Havana
Other Things to See and Do in Miami
1. Visit the Vizcaya Estate
No visit to Miami is complete without a stop at this historic 50-acre estate. This European-style mansion offers a glimpse at life in turn-of-the-century South Florida. It was built by industrialist James Deering as a way to show off his wealth to all his friends and is filled to the brim with Renaissance furniture, artwork, and tapestries. The 10-acre Formal Gardens were built to resemble France’s Versailles, but with palm trees, rare orchids, and Cuban limestone. Admission is $18 USD.
2. Lounge on the beach
Besides the famous South Beach, there are lots of pristine beaches around Miami. Other great beaches include Virginia South Beach, Haulover Beach (the only legal nude beach), and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Arrive early on the weekends to beat the crowds. And don’t forget your sunscreen!
3. Go clubbing
There is a very active nightlife in Miami, and if you like clubs, Miami is one of the best places in the world to go clubbing. There is usually a $20-30 USD cover to get in and most drinks are at least $10 USD. Check out E11even, LIV Miami (the city’s most famous), or Basement (complete with an ice-skating rink and bowling lanes).
4. Day trip to the Florida Keys
This archipelago stretches out along the south of Florida and offers stunning white-sand beaches, palm trees, and prime ocean real estate. Visit nearby Key Biscayne, the northernmost island located just 15 minutes from town, for some great waterfront parks, a scenic bike path, beautiful views of Miami, and some swimming spots. If you want to spend the entire day, pack a picnic and hang out in Crandon Park or go swimming at the east end of the Key. You need to arrange your own transportation to get here, though (the Keys are about two hours from Miami by car).
5. Wander Fruit and Spice Park
Established in 1943, this tropical botanical garden contains 500 species of fruit trees and spice plants spread out over 37 acres. The park is landscaped beautifully with lots of shaded paths. Spend some time just walking around and soaking up nature and smelling all the wonderful fruits and plants. They also host events and festivals here so check the website for details when you’re in town. Admission is $10 USD. Guided tours are conducted every day at 11am, 1:30pm, and 3pm.
6. Check out Coral Gables
Coral Gables is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in all the United States. It’s home to tree-lined boulevards and opulent mansions. George Merrick designed the area in the 1920s and regulations ensure that all buildings still adhere to the style that Merrick had envisioned for the community. Other than admiring the architecture, stop by the tropical botanical garden, the Lowe Art Museum, and the opulent Venetian Pool for a dip while you’re here.
7. Explore the Art Deco Historic District
The Art Deco Historic District is an area of Miami Beach noted for its concentration of over 800 Art Deco buildings all within one square mile (Art Deco was a popular architecture style from France, common between 1910-1939). Consider joining a walking tour that takes you past the white and pastel-colored stucco buildings beautifully restored to their former glory thanks to the Miami Design Preservation League. Walking tours start around $30 USD and usually last a couple of hours.
8. Visit HistoryMiami
This is the largest history museum in the state. Although the exterior is pretty plain, HistoryMiami is an insightful museum that takes visitors through the city’s history — from its humble beginnings as a mosquito-filled swamp to the modern, bustling metropolis it is today. You can find exhibits here on everything from football to a whole gallery dedicated to folklore. Admission is $10 USD.
9. Explore Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
This 84-acre garden is home to tropical plants, flowers, and trees — including some rare species, such as the petticoat palm. You can explore on foot or hop on a 45-minute tram tour. There’s also a “Wings of the Tropics” living exhibit with 40 different species of butterflies. They also host rotating exhibits, such as a Jurassic Garden that features life-sized dinosaurs scattered around the lush garden. It’s $24.95 USD to visit.
10. Visit the Ancient Spanish Monastery
Built in Segovia, Spain in 1141, this monastery was intended to be a part of William Randolph Hearst’s property in California. Because the U.S. would not allow that, the monastery remained in New York until 1954, when businessmen bought it and assembled it in Miami. Admission $10 USD and guided tours are available on weekends.
11. Visit the Frost Science Museum
Upgraded in 2017 to a massive 250,000 square foot complex, the Frost Science Museum is a state-of-the-art museum with four different buildings dedicated to science, including a planetarium and a three-story aquarium. The aquarium takes you from the surface of South Florida’s aquatic world down to the deepest depths, featuring everything from sharks to tuna to tropical fish. There are also exhibitions on dinosaurs, biology, and more! Admission is $29.95 USD.
12. Browse the Pérez Art Museum Miami
The PAMM is one of the biggest modern art museums in the city. Its new building on the Biscayne Bayfront is a whopping 200,000-square-feet so there’s a lot to see here, including a rotating permanent collection of over 1,800 items. Exhibitions include everything from paintings to kinetic sculptures. Don’t forget to check out the outdoor hanging sculpture garden — its elaborate design took two months to assemble! Admission is $16 USD.
For more information on other cities in the United States, check out these guides:
- Austin Travel Guide
- Boston Travel Guide
- Chicago Travel Guide
- Hawaii Travel Guide
- Las Vegas Travel Guide
- Los Angeles Travel Guide
- New York Travel Guide
- Philadelphia Travel Guide
- San Francisco Travel Guide
- Seattle Travel Guide
- Washington D.C. Travel Guide
Miami Travel Costs
Hostel prices – A bed in a 4-six6bed dorm averages $70 USD per night. For a room with eight beds or more, expect to pay $55 USD. A basic private room with a shared bathroom starts at $80 USD. Free Wi-Fi is standard but most hostels don’t have full kitchens. Some offer free breakfast so book those if you’re on a budget.
Camping is available outside the city in the nearby national parks (Everglades, Biscayne, Big Cypress) for as little as $10 USD per night for a basic plot without electricity.
Budget hotel prices – Budget two-star hotels start at $150 USD in peak season. In the off-season, rooms start from $110 USD. Expect basic amenities like free Wi-Fi, TV, AC, and a coffee/tea maker.
There are lots of Airbnb options in Miami. A private room costs about $75 USD per night while an entire home/apartment averages $180 USD.
Food – There’s a lot of Caribbean flavor in Miami. In Little Havana, you can find delicious Cuban food for less than $10 USD. You can get a filling sandwich for $7 USD, and tacos or empanadas for $5 USD each. A small plate of jerk chicken goes for $10 USD. A slice of pizza is $5 USD while fast food (think McDonald’s) costs about $8 USD for a combo meal.
You can eat at a mid-range restaurant for $12-20 USD per main course, including vegetarian dishes and buddha bowls. Seafood and pasta dishes are between $15-25 USD.
Beer costs around $8 USD while a latte/cappuccino is $4.50 USD. Bottled water is $1.50 USD.
If you want to splurge, be prepared to spend big. A tasting menu costs at least $55 USD; otherwise, things like pasta dishes in high-end restaurants start at $25 USD. Steaks start at $45 USD while seafood starts at about $40 USD. A glass of red wine averages about $14 USD.
If you cook your own food, expect to pay $60 USD per week for basic staples like pasta, rice, vegetables, and some meat.
Backpacking Miami Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Miami, expect to spend $80 USD per day. This budget covers a hostel dorm, cooking your own meals, using public transportation to get around, limiting your drinking, and doing mostly free activities like hitting the beach. If you plan on partying or drinking, add at least $20 USD per day to your budget.
A mid-range budget of about $175 USD covers staying in a private hostel room or Airbnb, eating out for most meals at cheap Cuban restaurants or fast food joints, enjoying a few drinks, taking the occasional taxi, and doing some paid activities like clubbing or museum visits.
On a “luxury” budget of $360 USD or more per day, you can stay in a hotel, eat out for all your meals anywhere you want, party at the club, rent a car to get around, and do as many tours and activities as you’d like. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you spend more, some days you spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.
Miami Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Miami is an expensive city, especially if you’re staying near South Beach. But, as with any major city, there are plenty of ways to save if you know where to look. Here are some ways to save money in Miami:
- Look for package deals – Because Miami is a popular tourist destination, you can often find package deals for attractions and hotels. The official Miami and Florida tourism websites each have sections dedicated to travel deals.
- Get the Go Miami Card – If you are going to see the main sights around Miami, get the Go Miami Card. You get free admission to over 30 major Miami attractions for one price. The cards are good for up to 14 days, and you can build your own pass based on what you want to see. You can save up to 45% if you choose the 5-day pass.
- Couchsurf – Couchsurfing is the best way to get insider tips and free accommodation. You’ll connect with a local who has a couch for you to stay on for free in exchange for sharing your culture and travel experiences with them. It’s a win-win and a great way to lower your travel costs!
- Take a free walking tour – This is a great way to learn the history behind the places you are seeing and to avoid missing any must-see stops. Free Tour Miami offers a daily tour that will introduce you to the main sights. Just be sure to tip your guide!
- Fly into Fort Lauderdale – Fort Lauderdale is just an hour north of Miami and flights there are often cheaper than to Miami.
- Save money on rideshares – Uber and Lyft (my preferred company) are way cheaper than taxis and are the best way to get around a city if you don’t want to take a bus or pay for a taxi. You can save money off your first rides with the following codes: Lyft (MATTHEW999 to save $10 USD) and Uber (jlx6v to save $15 USD).
- Bring a reusable water bottle – The tap water is safe to drink here so bring a reusable bottle to save money and lower your environmental footprint. LifeStraw makes a bottle with a built-in filter so you can always ensure your water is clean and safe.
Where to Stay in Miami
There are plenty of hostels in Miami. Here are my recommended places to stay:
For more hostel suggestions be sure to check out my list of the best hostels in Miami!
How to Get Around Miami
Public Transportation – Miami has a free trolley service that navigates Miami Beach, Miami, Coconut Grove, Little Havana, and Coral Gables (you can see the schedule on miamigov.com/trolley). It’s actually a bus disguised as a trolley, but it’s free so who cares!
Miami’s local bus system is called Metrobus, with each ride costing $2.25 USD. You have to pay in exact change on board or use an Easy Card, which you can purchase from Metrorail stations (as well as some shops and pharmacies). If you need to transfer, you must pay another $2.25 USD — unless you have the Easy Card.
There’s also a monorail which is useful for getting around Downtown Miami. Its 21-mile route provides an excellent overview of the area. Trains run every 5-15 minutes and are free!
Bicycle – Miami’s bike-sharing program is called Citi Bike. The city is not very bike-friendly though so I recommend only going this route if you’re an experienced cyclist. A 30-minute access pass is $4.50 USD, while it’s $6.50 USD for an hour. A one-day pass is $24 USD.
Taxis – Taxis are expensive here! Fares start at $3 USD plus $2.70 USD per mile thereafter. A short 20-minute ride is likely to cost $30 USD so skip the taxis if you can!
Ridesharing – Uber and Lyft are way cheaper than taxis and are the best way to get around a city if you don’t want to take a bus or pay for a taxi. You can save money off your first rides with the following codes: Lyft (MATTHEW999 to save $10 USD) and Uber (jlx6v to save $15 USD).
Car rental – Car rentals cost as little as $35 USD per day for a multi-day rental. Drivers will need to be at least 21 years old. I would only rent a car for day trips outside the city. Traffic here is slow and parking is expensive.
When to Go to Miami
Miami is relatively warm all year around. During the winter (December-February) the temperature is usually in the high 70s°F (high 20s°C) with very little precipitation. However, this is peak season for travel, meaning higher prices and bigger crowds.
Spring is the best time to visit, from the end of February through May (although don’t come in March if you want to avoid Spring Break mayhem). It’s still warm enough to hit the beach during this time (daily highs average 77°F/25°C), but with fewer crowds and lower prices.
Hurricane season is from June to the end of November. While this doesn’t mean you should avoid visiting Miami during this time, you will want to keep an eye on forecasts and ensure you have travel insurance.
How to Stay Safe in Miami
Miami is a safe place to backpack and travel. Violent attacks are rare and tend to be confined to certain areas, like Liberty City, Overtown, and Opa-locka where gang violence is more common. Avoid these areas if you can, especially alone after dark.
If you’re not a confident driver, avoid driving in Miami. Traffic is often bumper-to-bumper, and accidents are not uncommon. If you rent a car, don’t leave any valuables in it overnight. Break-ins are rare but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
As a tourist, you’re most likely only going to encounter petty crime. Pickpocketing is common on the South Beach promenade, so be mindful of your belongings at all times. Don’t bring valuables to the beach. Period. Thieves are known to take advantage of distracted visitors.
If you go out clubbing, always keep an eye on your drink. Avoid walking home alone at night if you’re intoxicated.
If you experience an emergency, dial 911 for assistance.
You can more about the 14 major travel scams to avoid when you travel.
Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, move. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it when you’re in Miami. Follow that rule, and you’ll be fine.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance, especially if you’re visiting Miami during hurricane season (June to the end of November). Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Miami Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
Below are my favorite companies to use when I travel around Miami. They are included here because they consistently turn up the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and, overall, are better than their competitors.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Momondo – This is my other favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here too.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. The big cities have tons of listings!
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around the United States, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you get a discount when you click the link!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Miami Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
- What I Pack For My Travels
- The Ultimate List For Female Travelers
- How to Choose and Buy the Right Backpack
Miami Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
Written in 1957, Jack Kerouac’s Beat Generation classic is a must-read travel novel. Kerouac’s character’s (who he modeled after himself) frustration, desire to see the world, and adventures resonate with all of us who need a little relief from modern life. The story follows Sal as he leaves New York City and heads west, riding the rails, making friends, and partying the night away. He finds thrills, adventure, love, sex, drugs, poverty, and excitement while moving from a weak character into someone whose life experience brings confidence. It’s a true American classic.
Tip of the Iceberg, by Mark Adams
In 1899, Edward H. Harriman (a rich railroad magnate) converted a steamship into a luxury cruise for some of America’s best scientists and writers and embarked on a summer voyage around Alaska. Now, author Mark Adams retraces that expedition, traveling over 3,000 miles along the coast of the state. Mark is one of my favorite writers, and this book is very reminiscent of Turn Right at Machu Picchu. Mark brings insight into the people, history, and culture of the state in a way he did with his other book.
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
Forgetting the hype of the book (and the subsequent movie), I really did like this book. Cheryl Strayed’s book is about her journey along the Pacific Crest Trail when she was 26. She sets off in hopes of finding herself and coming to grips with the death of her mother, break-up of her marriage, and drug use. She’s looking for a fresh start. Along the way, she encounters kindness, happy fellow hikers, and a deep sense of belonging. Filled with wonderful prose, I found this book deeply moving. It’s easy to see why the book became such a hit.
Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta, by Richard Grant
As a big fan of the state of Mississippi, I was keen to read this book. The state is an often-overlooked tourist destination with eccentric but wonderful people; beautiful parks, rivers, and swamps; stunning architecture; and a complex and rich history for history buffs like myself. In this book, English writer Richard Grant and his girlfriend move to rural Pluto, Mississippi, to live a better life, escape the big city, lower their cost of living, and try something new. They learn to hunt, garden, fend off wild animals, handle snakes, and befriend interesting characters along the way.
The Not-Quite States of America, by Doug Mack
The United States of America is more than just 50 states. There’s also the non-states of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. In this funny, detailed, fact-rich book, Doug Mack explores these territories largely forgotten by the rest of the country, which play a more important role in our country than we realize. I had the pleasure of listening to Doug talk about his book in NYC, and he’s a wealth of knowledge — just like his book! This one of those travel books that expands your mind about the place you don’t really know.
Blue Highways: A Journey into America, by William Least Heat-Moon
This is a deep dive into America’s unknown tiny towns scattered across the country map, like New Hope (Tennessee), Remote (Oregon), Why (Arizona), and Whynot (Mississippi). Yes, those are real town names! Heat-Moon’s book is considered a masterpiece in American travel writing and you’ll love his adventures and the incredible people he encounters as he reveals the “real” American experience.
Miami Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on United States travel and continue planning your trip:
The Best Neighborhoods in Los Angeles: Where to Stay During Your Visit
New York Itinerary: What to Do and See in 5 Days in NYC
The Great American Road Trip: A 4-Month Itinerary Around the USA
Salt Lake City Is Cooler Than You Think
Road-Tripping New England: My Suggested Itinerary
Highlights from My 5th U.S. Road Trip
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