Miami is where everyone goes to play. Famous for cruises, South Beach, Cuban food, beautiful people (thank you plastic surgery!), 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 kind of hate Miami. It’s like all the worst of NYC and Los Angeles into one place. I’d never ever live here. But, that said, it’s a go go go city that can be really fun and exciting for a few days. You’ll get to have some fun in the sun, eat incredible food, and enjoy some fabulous nightlife.
(And there’s some great hostels in this city too.)
I find people love or hate Miami and I’m definitely not in the love category but if I was 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
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Top 5 Things to See and Do in Miami
1. People watch on South Beach
2. Visit the Ancient Spanish Monastery
3. See Coral Castle
4. Visit 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 the historic 50-acre Vizcaya 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 costs $22.
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.
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 cover to get into the clubs, and most drinks are around $10 each. Check out E11even (it’s open 24 hours), LIV Miami (the city’s most famous), or Basement (complete with an ice skating rink and bowling lanes).
4. Explore the Florida Keys
This archipelago stretches out along the south of Florida and offers stunning white-sand beaches lined with palm trees 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’ll need to arrange your own transportation to get there, though. The Keys are about two hours from Miami.
5. Stroll the Fruit and Spice Park
This park contains 500 species of fruit and spice plants and trees on 30 acres of land.The park is laid out beautifully, with lots of shaded paths, so spend some time just walking around and soaking up the nature. The park also hosts festivals so check a calendar for details when you’re in town. Park admission is $10.
6. Check out Coral Gables
Coral Gables, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in all of the United States, with 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, or the opulent Venetian Pool for a dip.
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. 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 for about two hours with the MDPL.
8. Visit HistoryMiami
Although the exterior of this history museum is pretty plain, HistoryMiami takes visitors through the city’s history right from the beginning when everything was a mosquito-filled swamp to the modern, bustling metropolis it is today. You’ll find exhibits here on everything – from history of football to a whole gallery dedicated to folklore. Admission is $10.
9. Explore Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
This 84-acre garden is home to tropical plants, flowers, and trees, including some pretty rare species like 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. It’s $25 to visit.
11. See the art in Wynwood
Wynwood is a former industrial neighborhood turned into a trendy spot for graffiti and street art, as well as shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, and galleries. Keep an eye out for the Wynwood Walls, which are a collection of 40 murals from some of the world’s best street artists.
12. Visit the Frost Science Museum
Newly upgraded in 2017, 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. Admission is $30.
13. Visit the Pérez Art Museum
The PAMM is one of the biggest modern art museums in the city, and its new building on the Biscayne Bayfront is a whopping 200,000-square-feet. There’s a lot to see here, including a rotating permanent collection (with everything from paintings to kinetic sculptures) that spans nearly 80 years. Don’t forget to check out the outdoor hanging sculpture garden—its elaborate design took two months to assemble. Admission is $16.
Miami Travel Costs
Hostel prices – During peak season, a bed in a four-six bed room will cost from about $30. For a room with eight beds or more, expect to pay around $25. During the off-season, a bed in a room with eight beds or more will cost from about $20 each night, while smaller rooms will cost about $25.
A basic private room with a shared bathroom for two costs from $110 per night during peak season. Prices start from about $70 in the off-season.
Budget hotel prices – Nightly rates for a budget two-star hotel room start at about $180 in peak season. In the off-season, budget rooms start from $135.
There are lots of Airbnb options in Miami. A shared room (like a bed in a dorm) averages about $27 per night, while a private room is about $74 per night. A full apartment averages about $172 per night.
Food – You’ll find a lot of Caribbean flavor in Miami, including street food vendors. In Little Havana, you’ll find delicious Cuban food for less than $10. You can get a huge sandwich for $7, or tacos or empanadas for $3 each. A small plate of jerk chicken goes for $8. You can get a slice of pizza for $3, and McMeal is about $8.
You can eat a mid-range restaurant for $12-20 per the main course, including vegetarian dishes and buddha bowls. Seafood and pasta dishes are between $15-25, and you’ll pay another $6 for a beer.
If you want to splurge, be prepared to spend. A tasting menu will cost you from $55; otherwise, things like pasta dishes in high-end restaurants will cost from $25. Steaks start at $45, while seafood starts at about $35 — a glass of red averages about $14.
If you cook your own food, expect to pay $50 per week for groceries that will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other essential foods.
Backpacking Miami Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Miami, expect to spend about $60 per day. This budget will cover a hostel dorm, using the free trolley, cheap local eats, some home cooked meals, and a few attractions.
A mid-range budget of about $185 will cover staying in a private hostel room, eating out for all of your meals, more paid attractions, and using public transportation. If you want to stay in a hotel, add about $50 per day to your budget.
On a luxury budget of about $380 or more per day, you can do what you want! You can get a four-star hotel downtown, or on the beach, any meal you want, drinks, and a few Uber rides.
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’ll spend more, some days you’ll 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 on or near South Beach. But, like any major cities, there’s always pockets of affordability if you know where to look. Here are some ways to save money in Miami:
- Look for package deals – Because Miami is such a tourist destination, you can often find packages for attractions and hotels. This is one of the easiest ways to save money, especially if you’re flexible on your travel dates. 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 sights around Miami, you should get the Go Miami Card. You can get unlimited free admission to over 25 major Miami attractions for one price. The cards are good for up to 14 days, and you can build your own pass. You’ll save 20% if you choose two or more attractions.
- Couchsurf – Couchsurfing started in the United States, and free accommodation offered can make up for the lack of hostels. You’ll find plenty of hosts throughout the city who will show you around their town and let you stay for free. I’ve used it plenty of times and have really enjoyed it as a way to meet people.
- Go on 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. Dr. Paul George’s Free Little Havana Walking Tour leaves daily from the Tower Theater at 7pm.
- Fly into Fort Lauderdale – Fort Lauderdale is just an hour north of Miami, and flights are often cheaper than to Miami. Spirit, JetBlue, and Southwest all fly to Fort Lauderdale.
- See some free live music – Although the Bayside Marketplace is a shopping center in downtown Miami, there are free live music events every day at the Marina Stage. There’s always something different each day too.
- 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. The shared/pool option (where you share a ride with other people) offers even better savings. You can save money off your first rides with the following codes: Lyft (MATTHEW999 to save $10) and Uber (jlx6v to save $15).
Where To Stay in Miami
There are lots of hostels in Miami. Here are my recommended places to stay 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 you get the point. Visitors are most likely to use the Biscayne, Brickell, Wynwood, and Coral Way trolleys.
Miami’s local bus system is called Metrobus, with each ride costing $2.25. You have to pay in exact change on board, or with an Easy Card, which you can purchase from Metrorail stations (as well as some shops and pharmacies). If you need to transfer, you’ll have to pay $2.25 each time you board a bus — unless you have the Easy Card.
There’s also a Metromover bus/monorail/train, which is useful for getting around Downtown Miami. Its 21-mile route will give you an excellent overview of the area, and trains run every 5-15 minutes for $2.25 per one way. You can use your Easy Card to pay or buy a ticket at any Metrorail station.
Bicycle – Miami’s bike-sharing program is called Citi Bike. The city is very bike-friendly, however, so I recommend only going this route if you’re an experienced cyclist. A 30-minute access pass is $4.50, while it’s $6.50 for an hour. A one-day pass is $24.
Taxis – Taxis are expensive here! Fares start at $2.95 for the first sixth of a mile, and then $0.85 for each additional sixth of a mile up to the first mile. It’s then $0.40 per sixth of a mile after that. A short 20-minute ride is likely to cost you $30.
Ride-Sharing – 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. The shared/pool option (where you share a ride with other people) offers even better savings. You can save money off your first rides with the following codes: Lyft (MATTHEW999 to save $10) and Uber (jlx6v to save $15).
When to Go to Miami
Weatherwise, Miami is hot year round. Temperatures almost never dip below 50°F (10°C). During the winter months (December to 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 more tourist congestion.
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, but there will be 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, keep an eye on forecasts and don’t forget your travel insurance.
How to Stay Safe in Miami
Miami is a safe place to backpack and travel. Violent attacks tend to be confined to certain areas, like Liberty City, Overtown, and Opa-locka where gang violence is 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.
As a tourist, you’re most likely only going to encounter petty crime. Pickpocketers are especially common on the South Beach promenade, so be mindful of your belongings at all times! Don’t bring your valuables to the beach, period. Thieves are known to take advantage of distracted visitors, and theft is common here.
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 will protect 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.
- Momondo – This is my favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- 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! (If you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay!)
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Hotwire – This is probably the hotel site I use most. I really enjoy its blind booking process. They essentially say “we have a super rate on a 3-star hotel in Miami Beach,” and you book it without knowing the hotel name. While that sounds scary, I’ve never ended up in a bad hotel and have saved a ton of money in the process. Highly recommended.
- Priceline – I like this website because it allows you to bid on hotels and save a lot more money than by booking directly. When used in conjunction with the bidding site Better Bidding, you can substantially lower the cost of your hotels — by as much as 60%.
- 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’ll get exclusive discounts when you click the link!
- STA Travel – A good company for those under 30 or for students, STA Travel offers discounted airfare as well as travel passes that help you save on attractions.
- 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
In this section, I’ll give you my suggestion for the best travel backpack and tips on what to pack.
The Best Backpack for Miami
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 more tips and tricks as well as suggested travel backpacks.
What to Pack for Miami
- 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
- 6 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 8 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 7 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
- Doctor-prescribed antibiotics
- 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:
Miami Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
Written in 1957, Jack Kerouac’s Beat Generation classic is a classic 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 his character, 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
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 belong. 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 really 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.
My Must Have Guides for Traveling to Miami
This book shows you how to easily collect and redeem travel points so you can get free airfare and accommodation.
Kristin Addis writes our solo female travel column and her detailed guide gives specific advice and tips for women travelers.
This book features interviews with dozens of teachers and detailed information on how to land your dream job and make money overseas.
My best-selling book will teach how to master the art of travel so that you’ll save money and have a more local, richer travel 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: