Sunny Florida skies, buzzing nightlife, the rhythm of Cuban culture and celebrity drenched South Beach - this is Miami.
Miami has a hedonistic reputation. There are lots of nightclubs, blaring Latino beats and steamy weather with plenty of neon swimsuits. Look beyond all this though, and there is a cultural side - South Beach has some of the best Art Deco architecture in the world and there is a great local arts scene.
Miami is a young city. It is hard to believe that little more than 100 years ago, it was a citrus farming town surrounded by mosquito infested swampland. Today it is thriving and multi-cultural and is said to be the most Latin city in the world, north of Mexico. More than half of the 2 million population is foreign born and 70% plus speak a language other than English at home. Latin/Caribbean immigrants and exiles make up the largest part of the population. Locals speak Spanglish (a mixture of English and Spanish). The diverse population creates a city that feels vibrant and alive.
It seemed to us like there was constantly a new flavour to explore and a new accent to puzzle over in this city.
Miami has the cheerful energy and hungry Third World edge of the Caribbean and Latin America. The downside to this though, is that economic inequality is rampant and the gulf between the haves and have nots seems particularly vast.
Due to being sandwiched in by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Everglades to the west, the Miami metropolitan area is 110 miles north to south, but never more than 20 miles east to west.
True Miami is its people and its neighbourhoods. Our highlights were:
- Coral Gables - built almost entirely out of coral limestone features. It has the most wonderful Spanish style colonial homes, streets lined with lush vegetation and very sophisticated shopping areas. The Venetian Pool - an exotic swimming hole with stone bridges and waterfalls and the Biltmore Hotel are particular highlights.
- Key Biscayne - full of tourist attractions, marinas and beaches. You can rent boats here of visit the famous Miami Seaquarium.
- Coconut Grove - an old neighbourhood with lively shopping and a laid back vibe. It is a haven for artists and intellectuals.
- Little Havana - here you can enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Cuba. Salsa music plays, Spanish is widely spoken and it has a unique atmosphere.
- Downtown Miami - historical and modern blended together with lots of impressive skyscrapers.
- Miami Beach and South Beach - where we based ourselves, perfect place to stay, it is vibrant, full of celebrities, hip nightclubs, trendy shops, see and be seen restaurants and above all the beautiful tropical coloured buildings.
Miami is hot, hot, hot with scantily dressed beachgoers and nightclubs, but it is also great for families. You can show your children a bit of Cuba and Miami's Latin flair - our son loved it here. You can also visit and explore a subtropical forest on the city's doorstep - the Everglades.
Miami is lively with a vibe that screams fun. There is something for all ages. It is many destinations in one - an unparalleled multicultural experience, a fabulous Art Deco district, miles of beach, lively restaurants, a great party atmosphere and a wonderful climate. You can't fail to have a good time here - we absolutely loved it!