South Beach, near Miami, Florida, is one of the more unique destinations in the United States, which is why I chose to share these eight things you NEED to know before going to South Beach. In my last blog post I shared that I am going to focus on domestic locations instead of Paris, Madrid, or London. Specifically Cincinnati and Miami, so here we are! Each tip is based on my experience traveling to South Beach. During my short 4-nights stay, I compiled a list of things I discovered and when I returned I added a few things I wish someone told me before traveling to Miami.
Without further adieu, here’s what you need to know before going to South Beach / Miami, Florida.
There are Frequent, Random Thunderstorms and Showers
Miami is located on the southern tip of Florida. Like most southern states, it, too, falls victim to bouts of torrential rain and an impressive display of fireworks *cough* thunderstorms. Do not be confused if you glance at the weather app prior to your trip and see a random display of rain, clouds, sun, and thunderstorms in the same day.
It typically rains or storms anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, but then the sun pops up immediately after as if nothing ever happened! This is Miami weather – do not be alarmed.
Tip 1: Bring a small umbrella or thin, foldable poncho toy in your pocket or purse during your stay. If you are caught in what feels like a monsoon you’ll be adequately prepared.
Tip 2: Stay indoors during a thunderstorm, it will pass. One of the most dangerous things about Florida thunder is that it actually strikes people. When you see the sky lit up like the 4th of July or hear the large books of thunder, seek shelter immediately. If no shelter is available, jump inside a vehicle, move away from trees, and try to stay away from metal objects.
The Humidity in South Beach is Real
The humidity in Miami is OUT OF CONTROL. I vlogged during my vacation and saw first-hand the amount of moisture that clouded my camera lens the second I stepped outside. Honestly, I consulted my weather app and new it existed, but it’s a whole ‘nother thing to experience it. We were right next to the ocean so I’m really not sure why it was such a shock. Anyways, the Ocean Drive strip is easy to walk, but that simple two-way sidewalk trip means baking in the 80+ degree sun with 80-99% humidity. What I learned can be broken into a simple math equation: Heat + moisture = a wet, sticky, sweaty, smelly human being.
Tip: Bring extra underwear and a few more shirts than you normally would on vacation. Trust me, by the afternoon your clothes are drenched in sweat and if you’re like me, you’ll crawl to your hotel room and guzzle a bottle of water to replenish the lost fluid. Also consider the type of fabrics you bring. Light cotton clothing is easy to carry and breathes well in extreme humidity. Try to avoid jeans or heavy, tight-woven fabrics.
Know What to Expect at Restaurants in South Beach (Ocean Drive)
Restaurants in South Beach are kind of like unicorns. They are unique and exhibit rare, strange behaviors; but if you can figure out how they operate, you and your wallet can live in harmony with them. For starters, there is plenty of outdoor seating with umbrellas at almost every table. As we walked on the strip, we noticed the presence of large fans in most of the restaurants. These fans let us know whether the restaurant has air conditioning or not. If you don’t want to sit in the heat, check for these fans and make your decision accordingly.
I also noticed that service was incredibly slow and extremely pricey, but there were many happy hour specials during the day into the early evening. Outside of most of the restaurants are model-looking men and women who will attempt to use their good looks to entice your patronage. Speaking of looks, a huge eye opener came with the receipt of our first bill. Ocean Drive restaurant bills add an automatic “Service Charge” to all checks. This 18-25% service charge is a gratuity that is split among all staff at the restaurant. In addition to this service charge, I also noticed a space for a tip that goes to your specific server, usually around 10-20%. If we were not careful, we could’ve paid for the service charge and tip, which would’ve added an extra 28-40% to our already overpriced bill!
Tip 1: The service charge is automatically added and split among all staff, but tips go directly to your server. Choose whether you want to pay both or just one.
Tip 2: Walk the strip to search for the best happy hour deal. Most specials are on a sign right outside the restaurant, so we were able to make a decision without the embarrassment of walking in and out of an establishment.
It’s More than “Ok” to Dress up at Night
Ok, so there are no rules for what to wear in Miami, but in order to get inside of select, higher-end restaurants and nightclubs one must dress to impress. Dressing up is optional during the day, but at night everyone let’s their best and brightest (literally) shine (literally).
Tip: It’s ok go ALL OUT in terms of clothing. Ladies, that means high heels, makeup, hair, don’t hold back! Dressing up is not just for women, but for MEN TOO! Open chest shirts for muscular men, bright, neon colors, wild prints, fitted clothes, etc. all work well n Miami.
Public Transportation is Not Your Friend
I hate to break it to you, but don’t rely on public transportation in Miami. I’ll go into the best ways to get around South Beach on a budget in my next blog post. These tips might include some form of public transportation, but overall don’t. Just don’t.
Tip: Read my next blog post to find other methods of transportation. If you decide to drive, bring cash and understand overnight parking can start at $45/night.
Get Outside South Beach
South Beach is cool. The beach is surprisingly clean and the water is warm; but the heart of Miami isn’t South Beach. No, not at all! Miami offers a lot of cool art, architecture, and culture all just a short 5-10 minute ride away. Miami is larger than South Beach, so take the time to feel the pulse of the city.
Tip: Add a few extra days to explore Miami! Plus, food is a little bit cheaper just outside of South Beach.
South Beach Hotel Fees Can Cost You
Hotels along Ocean drive in South Beach are costly, but then they add a “Resort or Amenity Fee” on top of your daily rate + tax. Theses fees are around $20-$40+ per night and can include amenities such as: internet access, beach chairs/towels, daily beverage and light refreshments, private beach access, and more. Not only are the fees costly, but in some instances they are mandatory.
In addition, parking fees can cost around $45/day. Some hotels only offer valet parking available and other times one must pay in CASH. Street parking is available, but only up to an eight-hour maximum per day.
Tip: Read the fine print of your hotel charges BEFORE you book a room. Check to see IF this fee applies, HOW MUCH it costs, WHEN it will be charged to your account (at booking or upon arrival), and WHAT you will get. Also check out the hotel website to understand what amenities are available and what your rate includes BEFORE you book.
Knowing a Little Spanish Can Go a Long Way
The Miami, South Beach, Miami Beach area boasts a strong latin influence. So much so that it is nicknamed the “Capital of Latin America” and over 58.5% residents speak Spanish. You’ll constantly hear Spanish no matter where you go, so it helps to know a few basic words. It’s completely optional and not critical to being able to enjoy your vacation – it’s not necessary- but certainly helpful.
Tip: Consult Google translate to learn basic greetings (hello, goodbye, good morning/afternoon/evening, please, thank you, how are you?), numbers (1-10), and a few phrases (Where is ___?, A table for __ please). I wrote about a few unconventional ways to learn a foreign language, and those tips certainly apply to learning Spanish for your South Beach extravaganza.
Hopefully you are able to learn a few things from my South Beach experience and have a successful trip! Feel free to bookmark this post to help plan for your next trip or share the video below with a friend!
So tell me, what other tips do you have? Have you been to South Beach? Share in the comments below!
Antoinette | Frolic & Courage