This 5-day vacay in South Beach, Miami, was one of my MBA graduation presents from my parents, who also joined me in what was a much-deserved break for them. Although I had been to South Beach before, back in 2009, they hadn’t. We all longed for hot weather and fine sand beneath our feet as opposed to the bipolar NYC weather. Read about it below in our Fun Vacay – Miami Beach, Insider Guide.
STAY Miami Beach
We stayed exactly in South Beach at Chesterfield, an art deco boutique hotel a minute away from Ocean Drive and the beach, a.k.a. where all the fun stuff happens. It has a 4* reputation on TripAdvisor, and had great offers on many sites, but the best one was at www.booking.com, and since we were late in planning the whole trip, we did not hesitate to book it. It was the same hotel I stayed in 2009 with my teammates for Thanksgiving Break, and I remembered it to be a very nice hotel with great design in an awesome location. Turns out my memory might not have been very accurate. That or their overall quality diminished. Although I nailed the location, the hotel was not what we expected. It is however reasonably priced comparing to others in the area.
Our flight was Saturday afternoon, so we arrived at the hotel around 7:30pm. The check-in process took around 15 minutes (no idea why, since it was prepaid), and they asked for $100 for incidentals, which will be returned once we check out, provided there will be no damages done. We were also upgraded to a suite, although they hesitated to tell us why. The valet proceeded to take our luggage (and us) to our new suite. Turns out the suite was located in the next building, which apparently was also part of the hotel, and the entrance to the suite was directly from the outside. It was all just very weird. And combining this with rude staff and outdated rooms, left us wanting more.
EAT Miami Beach
After leaving our bags at the hotel we went on a short walk on the moonlit beach and moved on to dinner. There is no shortage of restaurants to choose from on Ocean Drive for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and for that night we chose the Icon at the Waldorf Towers.
The food and drinks were delicious – we had the New York Strip steak with asparagus and mashed potatoes, seafood linguini pasta with tomato sauce and seafood grill, along with Budweiser beers and one of the most delicious mojitos I’ve ever had. We were seated immediately and the waiter was fast, attentive and with a good sense of humor to go along with all the Romanian curse words he’d mastered so far. I feel sorry for not taking any pictures, but my phone has died and I did not take the camera with me. Also, I had realized that I had forgotten the charger for it. Well, bummer.
We make a point in trying different places to eat wherever we go, so the next day we had lunch at the Breakwater Hotel. The service was once again great and the food was amazing, especially the seafood soup which was also huge. We realized too late that we should have stopped at that, and ordered a fillet mignon with mashed potatoes and vegetables, a burger with fries, and a New York Strip steak with fries. Point is, we didn’t need any more food that day.
You will not find a shortage of restaurants anywhere on Ocean Drive, although they can be a bit hard on the wallet. In addition to the restaurants mentioned above, we also ate at Il Bolognese at Winter Haven Hotel, which had the best king crab I’ve ever had, and Caffe Milano, where we had the best breakfast dishes, including spicy Mexican scrambled eggs with guac and baked beans. Yum!
FUN Miami Beach
This vacation was very relaxed, more the respite we all needed. My parents from work and I from school and work, and so most of the time was spent eating, swimming in the ocean and tanning. We did walk on Ocean Drive all the way to its south point and towards the north and saw some really amazing beaches, condo buildings and overall gorgeous views of Miami Beach.
If you walk all the way to the right, you’ll find tons of apartment buildings, and the street will end in a small pier on the left (great spot for fishing which made my dad jealous) and a port all the way to the right from where some cruise ships and cargo ships leave from. You can get really close up looks of the ships as they pass literally 30m away from you. The area is called South Pointe Park. Amazing views of sunsets and sunrises.
If you walk to the left you will find all manners of hotels and resorts, intertwined with apartment buildings. You can’t make it all the way to the end walking, just so you know. We gave up about 2 miles into it.
If you’re in the mood for some shopping, Lincoln Road Mall is about 20 minutes away by foot, and 5 minutes away by car. Taxis are easy to find. It’s a promenade with a range of chic retail shops, sidewalk cafes, bars & art galleries. Great for buying stuff for yourself and your peeps back home, getting a nice bite to eat and people watching. Or if you prefer something closer, Colling Ave towards South Pointe Park is also bustling with various shops.
EXTRA Miami Beach
When you go to South Beach, we suggest you make up your mind as to where you want to stay. On Ocean Drive, there is a small 500 m area with hotels and restaurants that are in a continuous party mood, but the rest of the street is more relaxed. If we were to do it all over again, we wouldn’t choose to stay at Chesterfield due to it being at the center of the party. Not that we’re not party people, but we’d rather choose a hotel out of that area, and come back when we’re sure we’re in the mood for that environment.
Another thing you should know is that there are a LOT of homeless people, at every corner, so be mentally prepared. Although it radically brings the area’s quality down, they’re totally harmless. Also, security in the area is very tight.
Overall South Beach, and Miami Beach, in general, is pretty expensive for the quality you get. So be ready to spend some serious money if you want to have fun.
And make sure you bring some sunscreen, the Miami sun is merciless.
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