How to Visit South Beach Like a Local

South Beach is that extra special (or just EXTRA) part of Miami Beach that is an internationally sought out vacation destination. Known for a world-class party scene and Latin flavor, South Beach is truly like nowhere else. As a local, I’m constantly asked by friends, friends of friends, 3rd cousins of friends, and frenemies for recommendations. After years of giving advice, I figured I would finally write it down and share with the world all my tips to visit South Beach like a local.

Colorful art deco buildings on Ocean Drive South Beach
"Everyone is familiar with the South Beach from the movies. The glamour, the sex appeal, the cocaine, but that’s not the only side this neighborhood has. "My" South Beach is charming, slightly weird and actually peaceful." Click To Tweet

If you’re looking to have a wild weekend, it’s not even a challenge in South Beach. Close your eyes, spin around, choose a direction and walk about 5 minutes. You’ll find a party where Diplo is probably the DJ. If you want to visit South Beach like a local, keep reading. 

The Standard Hotel and Spa

This isn’t technically on South Beach, but close enough. The Standard Hotel, formerly the DiLido and still with the original art deco facade, is on the Venetian Causeway just minutes from the beach. It is the perfect place for a day of douchebag free relaxation. 

Pool looking out onto Biscayne Bay at the Standard Hotel, Miami Beach
The Standard Hotel

You can opt to just have a meal by the water but I suggest booking a spa appointment. Once you spend over $100, you get a free day pass to the rest of the facilities. Totally worth it because they charge more than that for a day pass. The pool is childfree but allows dogs  (admit it, that’s pretty cool) and has music piped in that you only hear underwater.  They have an ice-cold plunge pool next to a hot tub with a waterfall. There is an area where you can do a mud treatment then bake in the sun by the water. There is an outdoor ping-pong table and hammocks in the shade. 

South Point Park

Palm trees along a path at South Point Park, Miami, Beach.

South Point Park is at the southern tip of South Beach, as the name would imply. This was renovated within the past decade and it was one of the few times I thought, damn Miami you done good!!!  Stretching from east to west, from the ocean to the bay, this is a lovely place to walk, run, take your dog, take your children, rollerblade, ride a bike, and a dozen other things. There is an area close to the bay designated as a dog park area. In the middle, there is a fountain that children (and adults) can frolic in to cool off.  There is also a playground for children.

Watch the Cruise Ship Departures

Secret South Beach Locations

In South Point Park, you can do one of my favorite free activities, watch the cruise ships depart from government cut (the narrow channel of water that leads from the Port of Miami to the ocean). 

On Saturdays and Sundays around 4:00 pm, the cruise ships leave one at a time and you can bring a bottle of wine, a blanket, and plant yourself in South Point park anywhere along the water and watch the parade of floating hotels, full of happy people eager to wave at you. Sounds dorky but it’s fun, I promise. If you want to spend a bit of cash, you can get a table at nearby Smith and Wollensky and grab a bite or a drink while watching the ships go out to sea.

Lincoln Road

Outdoor Pedestrian Mall Miami Beach

Lincoln Road is an outdoor pedestrian mall full of shops and cafes. The people-watching here is really fun and I highly recommend scheduling in time for brunch or a long extended meal where you can sit outside and take in all the South Beach flavor. I have tons of recommendations for how to Eat and Drink your way around South Beach and many places are right here on Lincoln Road. Be warned, chances of consuming several mojitos and overeating are high!

Monty’s Sunset

Monty’s is technically a restaurant but it’s also a bar with a swimming pool on the bay and is just a nice chill place to hang out. Sometimes there is a DJ or a band. They have a raw bar and fresh seafood. They are known for their painkiller cocktails. You choose your level of pain (1, 2 or 3) and they will take care of you!

Monty's South Beach

The view from Monty’s is beautiful and one of the best places to see the sunset. 

Sunset at Monty's South Beach

From here is a long walkway along the water that will lead you to South Point Park and you can ogle the yachts in the harbor along the way. Just please, pay attention to the signs and be careful! We have our local dangers here. (hehe)

south beach

Espanola Way

Tips for South Beach

This small charming street has a Spanish vibe and with small boutiques and restaurants. It is located between 14th and 15th streets between Washington and Pennsylvania Avenues. Very easy to miss if you’re not looking. It is really cute with some tasty and moderately priced restaurants.

Tips for South Beach

Hosteria Romana is classic Italian, complete with kitschy red-checked tablecloths and handsome flirtatious Italian waiters calling at you on the street. Ladies trust me, you can’t resist. Try the homemade pasta with porcini mushrooms. To die for! Also delicious is A La Folie for French sandwiches and crepes, Tapas Y Tintos has authentic Spanish tapas.  You can also have Cuban, Mexican, Pizza, Seafood or Sushi. There are numerous options for a small street.

There are cute boutiques also like this one that doesn’t seem to have a name but I would name it “All white stuff and hats”.

20160315_120709-1

 

Stand-up Paddleboarding in Biscayne Bay

If you haven’t done this before, it is surprisingly relaxing not to mention, a great workout. There are many places to do this and you can often find Groupons for discounts. You can do this in the bay or the ocean. The bay is calmer and therefore less challenging. If you have decent balance skills you can do it. I suggest telling the operator you’ve done it before, otherwise, they may make you take a lesson. Ain’t nobody got time for that!!!

snapseed-05
Doggies can paddleboard too!

On Purdy Avenue on the bay side of the beach just north of Dade Blvd, there is a kayak/paddleboard rental place called Miami Beach PaddleBoard. Don’t stress about the time. Rent a board for one hour and if you go over the time, it’s not that much more. You have to leave your driver’s license in the office. There are lockers where you can keep a towel, your money, your weed, or change of clothing and shoes. Just kidding about that weed part…nobody uses drugs in South Beach.  You only need a bathing suit to paddleboard.

The whole bay is yours to paddle until your heart’s content. Or until your arms want to fall off. You can paddle through the bay, waving at yachts as you go past the Standard Hotel, where you may decide to stop for a drink. If you are doing well, you can paddle all the way to Monument Island. Us locals call this “Reggaeton Island” because there are many boats with loud reggaeton music and bikini-clad dancing Latinos.

 Flamingo Park

For you athletic types, this park has excellent tennis courts, a pool, squash courts, a basketball court, a soccer field, and a dog park. Enough said. It is centrally located with 3 entrances. The main entrance closest to the pool and tennis courts is on 11th St. Another entrance is on Meridian Ave at 13th street. The other is closest to the dog park and basketball court on Michigan St near between 12th and 13th.

20160315_115351-01

The Miami Beach Boardwalk

The boardwalk stretches from 23rd to 46th street. Prior to this, starting just north of Nikki Beach around 5th street is a paved ocean side walkway that eventually turns into a traditional wooden boardwalk and then around 30th street a paved walkway behind all the hotels.

Local Guide to South Beach

Unless you are staying at one of the fancy hotels along the boardwalk you may not ever see it. Note that there are no roller blades or bikes permitted north of 21st street and at one place they actually have a very annoying no dog rule which I resent greatly and break whenever possible. It is a nice walk along a more scenic part of this overbuilt beach. Plus you can see the “backyards” of all the fancy hotels with the cool pools and pool bars.

 New World Symphony
Tips for South Beach

Get some culture in your life and enjoy some beautiful music at the New World Symphony. At least just come by and gawk at the stunning architecture and gorgeous landscaping complete with interesting arty structures all around.

Locals Tips for South Beach

You can bring a blanket, a friend, a dog, a quiet child, some wine, some food, and picnic or simply lie under the stars and listen to the symphony from the state of the art outdoor speakers and watch on the giant screen as the symphony performs inside. This is one of the best free activities that Miami has to offer. The wall cast concerts are usually on Saturdays. Check the schedule at the NWS website.  On Wednesdays, they show an old movie.  They even have Saturday morning free yoga here in this beautiful space!

Read More: Cheap South Beach Restaurants

Take a Walk. Look at Stuff.

If you can wake up before sunset after a night out at LIV, you’ll find a morning stroll or bike ride on South Beach to be quite peaceful since very few people will be awake, aside from a few harmless local weirdos. Consider strolling across the Venetian Causeway. Wander down Collins Ave. If you can look past the half-naked bodies and yellow rental Lamborghinis, you will see the lush tropical flora and art-deco buildings.

South Beach Tips
This pretty building is actually a Banana Republic

 

South Beach Buildings
Just another pretty building I like looking at
If you can wake up before sunset after a night out at LIV, you'll find a morning stroll or bike ride on South Beach to be quite peaceful since very few people will be awake, aside from a few harmless local weirdos Click To Tweet

When you inevitably make your way to Ocean Drive for the zillions of happy hours that start at 11 AM, take time to appreciate the beauty around you.

View of Miami Beach from the dunes

Pin it!

Local Tips for South Beach
visit south beach like a local

About The Author

Cherene Saradar

Cherene is a travel expert with 30 years of experience in over 100 countries and 7 continents. She has traveled solo to over 50 countries. She is also a nurse anesthesiologist with over 20 years of healthcare experience. Her passions include wildlife travel and visiting wine regions of the world.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Sinjana | 23rd Nov 19

    Wow! What a beautiful place! I love how colorful the south beach is. Great tips to explore it like a local.

    • csaradar | 9th Jan 20

      I hope living there for so long is useful to someone! LOL

  2. Tips for Visiting Wynwood Art District in Miami - Wandering Redhead | 12th Nov 19

    […] If you’re looking for more to do in Miami check out the Little Havana neighborhood or go to South Beach! […]

  3. 10 Best Miami Late Night Eats - WanderingRedHead | 28th Nov 17

    […] Read More:  Ten Secret South Beach Locations […]

  4. Local's Guide to Miami - WanderingRedHead | 17th Sep 16

    […] Read More: Ten Secret South Beach Locations  […]

  5. Insider's Guide to Cheap South Beach Restaurants - WanderingRedHead | 14th Aug 16

    […] Read More: 10 Secret South Beach Locations […]

  6. randi | 22nd Mar 16

    Wonderful blog! I’m new to miami and unfortunately haven’t been to any of these places! Keep them coming wanderingredhead!!

    • csaradar | 27th Mar 16

      Absolutely!!

  7. Naj | 22nd Mar 16

    Lovely done. I’m a local and haven’t checked some of these places out yet. Thanks, will definitely start exploring more .

    • csaradar | 27th Mar 16

      Happy to help you find new places to explore!

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.