Miami Favorites: Sunrise, Gators, Key Biscayne and more

I had never been to Miami so when I imagined the popular east coast city, images of palm trees, fruity cocktails and extravagance came to mind. While I did enjoy these things during my four-day stay there with my husband, I also discovered that it’s a fickle town—you have to look a little harder there to find the gems that give the city its color and character. Sure, I stopped by the iconic South Beach, but I enjoyed a lot of other activities on the mainland, too.

Here are my favorite things to do in Miami, in pictures:

See the sunset rise over the Atlantic.

Sunset over Key Biscayne

We took a red eye from Los Angeles and when we landed it just seemed like the natural thing to do, to head straight to the beach from the airport. We let the water touch our toes, saw super fit volleyball players warming up in the soft morning light, and passed numerous joggers before we sat down at one of the only cafes open yet for breakfast. They were just bringing out chairs and opening their windows when I requested a café con leche—Miami’s version of a café latte.

A day on Key Biscayne

A day on Key Biscayne, Florida

Key Biscayne is the closest and most convenient of the Florida Keys if you’re staying in the Miami area. For us, this was a peaceful retreat from traffic, tourists and city noise. The waves here are soft and the beaches are clean and long. We fell asleep under a palm tree after taking a long walk. You can rent bikes and boats here, too.

Enjoying the local fare

Enjoying Key Biscayne, Floridas local fare.

Lucky for me, an old friend in Miami was able to recommend several favorite local restaurants. Mandolin (pictured above) serves fresh Mediterranean grub—marinated octopus, juicy chicken kabobs, homemade hummus and more. Nearly all of the seating is outside and you feel as though you’re in an authentic Greek café. When the sun goes down, lanterns and vintage string lights take over. Mandolin is in the arts district, an area that is currently in transformation: locals come here to dine among trendy furniture stores and art galleries. It’s quiet and you don’t need to pay $20 for valet.

Everglades National Park

Everglades park in Key Biscayne, Florida

By far the favorite thing we did was spend the day at the Everglades National Park, about an hour’s drive from Miami. The diversity within the park was incredible – from tall trees to brush to high grasses and ponds—it was endless. Though flat, the park had countless boardwalk “hikes” (shown in the photo above), sometimes miles long. There you can walk freely throughout the everglades a few feet above water. Seeing alligators just a few feet from you as they go about their day is a thrill. We took a guided boat ride, too, and also spotted crocodiles, snakes, fish and birds and more.

CheapAir readers, have you been to Miami? What activities would you recommend?

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