The most important tip I can give you if you are planning to go to Miami: don’t go. There are countless more interesting and enjoyable places to be found; the trio Cancún/ Playa del Carmen/ Tulum on Mexico’s Caribbean coast offers practically the same, but a thousand times better. In this blog, I will tell you about my experiences. If you still decide to travel to Miami, you will certainly find useful information here.
How do you travel by public transport? What are nice places and restaurants to visit if you are traveling on a budget? And which beaches are definitely worth a visit? This blog focuses on Hollywood as a base but also covers spots in Miami and Miami Beach.
Miami is expensive
First of all: Miami is muy caro. A beer will cost you between 7 and 12 dollars and no, that is not only the case at the beach. Even in the supermarket, a beer will cost you $3.50 or more. In the same supermarket, a prepackaged sandwich already cost 6 dollars and it was really very little. Any meal in a restaurant will definitely cost you more than $15. That is not alarmingly high, but it is annoying if it simply cannot be lower. This is also quite a task outside the tourist zones.
Coffee at Starbucks will also cost you more than 3 dollars and a McDonalds or Burger King are considerably more expensive than elsewhere in the country; a Whopper will cost you $10. Another annoying thing: the prices are never communicated as they are. After all, you always pay extra taxes, which are only on the bill, and yes, you are expected to tip at least 18%.
The residents are unfriendly
I noticed it right away on the train to Hollywood, where I was staying: the people are distant, not cordial, and often not even nice. This does not only apply to people on the street, but also in shops or bus drivers. I have to admit that after a while I found it funny again. The street scene is also dominated by commercials for lawyers, who promise to settle fights in your favor. The chagrin could also easily turn into superficial friendliness. Smalltalk, in which the complaining predominated. But I struggled to really connect with the people of Miami. This is where the American lives in his worst kind: his own place is claimed here in an angry way. Social manners are secondary: Miami is me-me-me and the rest isn´t important.
The streets are poorly maintained
I am used to the Netherlands, where perfection in public spaces is the norm. Yet I could very easily settle in Latin America. There you will also find numerous holes in the road, cracks in the street, and a lot of garbage in the neighborhoods. It often has a certain charm, that imperfection. To be honest, I expected a bit more from the United States. Well, now Miami is for a very large part also Latin America, but still: Miami is a mess. Beauty is only reserved for those who pay for it, that much is clear. The difference between rich and poor is big here; homeless people and drug users are really huge here. It makes the general atmosphere on the street dangerous at times.
All right, let’s zoom in. If you’re going to Miami, don’t rely on public transportation. This is considerably less organized than in major cities in Latin America and no doubt in other parts of the US. Getting from A to B is a time-consuming process in Miami. The routes are completely illogical, transfers are not taken into account and the staff who work here are rude.
If you do go by public transport, let me explain.
To leave Miami International Airport, take the free train to Miami Airport Station. From here you can go in all directions; to South Beach, to Downtown, but also, for example, with the Tri-Rail to Hollywood. You pay $2.25 per trip, but you can also put a little more money on your card. I stayed in Hollywood and note: that is a different city than Miami and public transport hardly works together. The bus will also cost you $2.25. Most of the time, they accept just $2,- and let the 25 cents go.
Important advice: ask the bus driver for a ‘transfer’ if you want to switch buses. After all, without that ticket, you pay 2.25 again for the next bus. With ‘transfer’ you pay 60 cents. I found out after a few days, even though I did ask questions about the best way to move around here. You can also opt for a $ 5-day ticket. In the center, you also have the metro, which has excellent service. The same rates apply to this. In the center of Miami, there are also some free alternatives, besides the paid bus service. But really, I recommend renting a car.
Cheap hostel in Hollywood
So I was in Hollywood. Close to Hollywood Boulevard, close to Hollywood Beach. There you will find plenty of hostels, Airbnb’s etcetera. The best thing you can do is just compare and look at distances. Go to Trivago, Hotellook of whatever and no doubt, you will find a perfect spot.
Hollywood Boulevard has a number of nice restaurants. Areito Bar & Grill I think is from Puerto Rico. The fish with coco is exquisite and will cost you 17 dollars. There are regular performances here and also promotions with cocktails. The Greek Joint serves Greek and sure is tasty. The pita gyros here cost $18 and is definitely not the best version I’ve ever had. On the corner is Twin Peaks Hollywood. This is a kind of sports bar, with burgers. You are helped by girls in exciting suits, where their breasts are ‘subtly’ pressed together. Never boring to watch. Parallel to Hollywood Boulevard is Harrisson Street, where, for example, Oaxaka restaurant is located. Japanese and Mexican as fusion: tasty! However, the restaurant itself is somewhat lacking in atmosphere. Further on is The Tipsy Boar, which has noticeably more atmosphere and the burgers here are really tasty too.
You can have breakfast at Chocolada Bakery & Café, next to The Greek Joint. For a full breakfast with coffee, you pay 10 dollars. The service here is very friendly and pleasant, albeit shockingly slow. Another option is of course IHOP. Here I looked out my eyes; that place is anything but touristy, so you will find the locals of Hollywood here, which is not necessarily the richest neighborhood. Breakfast here is slightly more expensive, but also bigger. So dollar-wise it doesn’t matter that much.
Murals in Hollywood
If you walk down Hollywood Boulevard or Harrisson Street, you will see dozens of amazing murals. Definitely worth walking around here, because the quality is definitely worth it.
Hollywood Beach can be reached from Artswork at Young Circle* with bus number 4. The boulevard on the beach is beautiful, the restaurants lively and the environment simply attractive. I rented a bike at The Bike Shack for 15 dollars for two hours, because I wanted to visit the Anne Kolb Nature Center park. This nature reserve has real mangroves with beautifully landscaped paths right through them: Anne Kolb Nature Center is surrounded by the city. Don’t expect alligators here, but you will certainly find animals here that you can expect in a mangrove. The large tower in the middle gives you a nice view of the whole.
Back to Hollywood Beach and its nice restaurants. Popular here, for example, is Mamacitas Latin Bar & Grill, but you can actually go anywhere: this boulevard is excellent for a nice stroll and to feast your eyes on. Volleyball and games are played on the beach, the palm trees provide shade. A secret highlight was drinking a specialty beer in the shade of a palm tree, with Wifi from Mamacitas. You can get beers at Corner Store & Deli, next to The Bike Shack. The Voodoo Ranger IPA Juice Force with 9.5% alcohol from the New Belgium brewery is a truly fantastic beer.
*Artswork at Young Circle is a place where things are regularly organized. However, that has come to a standstill since the corona crisis. If you’re there, be sure to check it out.
From Hollywood, it is quite a hassle to travel to South Beach by public transport. First, you take bus 1 to Aventura Mall. Do not forget to ask the bus driver for the ‘transfer’. From here take bus 120 or bus S to South Beach / Downtown. You will be on the road for a while, take into account one and a half to two hours. I myself have not been here very long, the atmosphere here is not really my thing. I had a coffee at the Starbucks on the edge of Lummus Park and then went for a walk around. This incredibly expensive neighborhood does have a Ross Dress for Less store. Here you can buy designer clothes for rock bottom prices, which is always nice. There are more branches in Miami, be sure to check them out. You won’t get it cheaper anywhere.
Haulover Nude Beach
Haulover Nude Beach is the only nude beach in this region. It is located in Haulover Park, right next to Trump Towers II and III. The bus that takes you to South Beach also stops here. A little north of it is a large shopping center where you can get some food and drinks because this beach has no catering facilities.
The atmosphere here is very nice and is often busy. It is said that the northern part of the beach is mainly for gay men, but sex is strictly prohibited and is also supervised, so that is not very noticeable. After the turret for the lifeguard, you will see more couples, men and women. This beach is ‘clothing optional’, so certainly, not everyone is naked. Like everywhere in the world there are men hunting, but according to a girl I spoke there, it is worse in the city. She felt safer here. The nudist beach is impossible to miss and the sea is beautiful here. In the park, itself are toilets and also a parking lot.
Superblue, museum of beautiful images and sound
Superblue is located downtown and is a museum that promises you an incredible experience. Beautiful images in a large warehouse take you to a fantasy world. Superblue is located near the Metrorail stop Santa Clara, on a factory site. So don’t worry if you arrive here and the environment feels a bit uncomfortable. With taxes, the entrance ultimately amounts to about 44 dollars. In the first room sunflowers come to life, in the second it is raining and by trying to stop the rain, flowers grow here too. The combination of music with beautiful, colorful, and moving images is wonderful. An absolute must to visit. Each room plays with the ingredients in an original way.
Vizcaya, with its illustrious history
The Vizcaya Gardens overlook the Keys, so the views are beautiful. The entrance costs 25 dollars and you will have to get your ticket online, but you can also take a tour including transport. I have not done that; I went for a walk to the Alice Wainwright Park. You also have a beautiful view. Still, Viczaya is strongly recommended to visit and the price is not that alarmingly high.
Calle Ocho / Little Havana
Little Havana is a nice part of the city, with Calle Ocho as the central street. Miami is home to a huge number of Cubans who moved into this part of the city. Here you will find many Cuban restaurants. Be sure to try a Cuban coffee. Sweet, full, strong, and delicious. This place is quite complicated to visit by public transport and a good tour is highly recommended. You can also go to Brickell metro stop and take bus 8 from here. Coconut Grove can also be visited from Brickell, so that is an excellent combination.
I have only been in Miami for a week. Nothing crazy happened here, but the overall feeling is to skip this city. Everything Miami has, the Riviera Maya in Mexico also has, but much better. The prices and the people are friendlier there, the beaches more beautiful, the natural beauty more attractive and even the public transport better organized.