Date of stay: Sep 2011
Where you stayed: Motel Bianco
Travelled with: Wife
Tour or pre planned: Pre-planned
I’d been to Miami before way back in 2007, but only spent several hours near the beach so didn’t get a chance to fully immerse myself into the city. This time, I got to spend a couple of days there so the feel and vibe of the city really started to sink its teeth into me. One thing I do have to warn though, this was not a very touristy stay.
Sure, there are plenty of touristy things to do in Miami (such as the safari & water park, boat & bus cruises and day trips out to the Keys) but unfortunately this blog won’t really contain that sort of stuff. I can however tell you about some good places to walk, chill out, go shopping, and give you a few recommendations on how to get around, where to eat etc.
We stayed at a place called Motel Bianco which was super cheap at only 60 bucks a night (accommodation is generally expensive in Miami, so this was a bargain). The room was clean, spacious, had air con and free Wi-Fi and included a breakfast of champions which consisted of bagels and donuts. The staff weren’t all that knowledgeable about how to get around, so it’s not really catered for tourists as such. It is a motel after all, so it’s just a place to lay your head and explore on your own. All in all, a recommended place to stay if you’re on a budget.
One thing you have to keep in mind is that Miami is a huge city, so it can take a long time to get around, especially if your hotel isn’t on South Beach and you plan to spend a lot of your time there (as we did). Any map you have in your hand won’t really be of much help, as the scale is too small and distances can be deceiving. Unless along the beach, don’t try and walk to get to where you want to go, or you’ll be walking for miles on end.
Unfortunately Miami doesn’t have good metro system, so you’ll probably have to rely on buses which are not that frequent, or taxis if you have deeper pockets. We were in a location that seemed quite central, but it sometimes took over an hour and a half to get to South Beach. Buses will cost you $2 each trip, but there are no tickets to speak of; you just slide your $1 notes into a machine. However, no change is given so make sure you have a decent wad of $1 notes with you.
One thing I do have say though, is the staff on the buses have to be the friendliest people on earth. They really went out of their way to help were always keen to converse with us.
In fact, with the exception of a few obligatory wierdos & douchebags you’ll come across, most people we met were genuinely very very friendly. It really is nice to know that chivalry isn’t completely dead.
The best places to see in Miami are (and the most vibrant) are Bayside and South Beach.
Bayside is in the downtown area, located along the wharf where many superyachts are moored. It’s a very trendy place and is filled with shops, restaurants and bars. It really gets going at night, and live music is usually played right by the water, with different themes each night.
We ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., which is a tribute to all things Forrest Gump. I had always wanted to go there, so we did, but left disappointed. I wouldn’t recommend it, as although it was tasty, it was basically just greasy pub food.
South Beach is located in the southern tip of Miami Beach, and is the biggest draw card. After all, the beach and night life is what Miami is famous for!
All the buildings lining Ocean Drive are built in an art deco style and light up at night with neon pinks and greens. This area is just bustling with activity, with dozens of restaurants, bars & nightclubs, supercars driving by every second, Latin-American music pumping from all directions, cigar-sellers on the street and more fake boobs and tattoos than you can shake a stick at.
Mix in relaxing in the sand and nice walks along the beach, Paella, tasty 20 buck cocktails and coronas and you have a pretty good combination for a good day out. If shopping is your thing, head one street over and you’ll be on Collins Ave, where many of the label clothing stores are located.
On Ocean Drive, I recommend heading to a place called 007 (On Ocean 7 Café) to grab a cocktail. They are some of the best.
CJ’s Crab Shack is a fantastic place to eat. Serving up a variety of tasty crab dishes.
Which leads me to mention another crab place, Joe’s Stone Crab. This place is legendary, and serves up the tastiest stone crab you’ll ever have. I highly highly recommend going. It’s located at no. 11 Washington Ave. Unfortunately for us they were closed for renovations when we were there, but I was lucky enough to try it on my first outing in Miami.
Lastly, Miami is very hot all year round but luckily all the shops and buses have good air con. Miami is also often prone to random thunderstorms in the late afternoons, so when you see the dark clouds start to form, duck into a café for half an hour until it clears. The thunderstorms here are some of the most wicked ones you’ll ever see. Listening/watching the thunder & lightning at their most violent truly is a sight to behold.
Any questions or comments about Miami? Leave one below.
Points to highlight:
Miami is very different to other American cities, as you feel like you are somewhere in Latin-America instead. This adds a richness to the culture that you won’t experience anywhere else in the U.S. It’s a great place to spend a few days to chillout during the day and party at night. You’ll be spending most of your time in Bayside and on South Beach, and for very good reason.
However, Miami is also very expensive and if you stay longer than a few days you may run out of things to do.
Would you recommend this destination: Yes
Would you recommend your accomodation: Yes
Overall rating: 3.5/5