Where to swim, sunbathe, and people watch in Miami.
There are a great many things to do in Miami: work on your tan, hit the best South Beach clubs, jump on a jetski, or even do a little deep-sea fishing. But Miami is best-known best for its beaches. There are many popular beaches in Miami, and it can sometimes be tough figuring out which Miami beaches are best for adults, best for families, or even best if you’re looking to do a bit of nude sunbathing. From South Beach up to Hollywood, and down to Coral Gables, here are the best Miami beaches, and tips on how to visit and what to expect.
South Beach South of Fifth (SoFi)
As close to a local’s beach as you’re going to find in South Beach, SoFi is an easily-accessible stretch of sand south of the mayhem and tourists you’ll find further north. The beach here has a European feel, as many of the part-time international residents who fill the towers nearby call this their home turf. It’s also a great place to watch cruise ships head out through Government Cut, and has a rock jetty perfect for short walks.
INSIDER TIPBring a picnic or a bottle of wine and head to South Pointe Park at the end of the beach for the sunset. It’s the best sunset view of the city, with the skyline on one side and the ocean on the other.
Not to confused with the famous Calle Ocho on the mainland – home to the best Cuban food in Miami, the beach at 8th Street is all about the party on the weekends. Rowdy tourists mix with locals under beach tents, as aspiring hip-hop and Latin DJs set up shop for all the beach to hear. Quiet it’s not, but if you’re looking for the biggest beach party in Miami, it’s here.
INSIDER TIPGrab a sweet, colorful, frozen blended drink from Wet Willie’s and take it over to the sand with you. It serves the dual purpose of quenching your thirst and fulfilling the vacation-mandated “fruity drink on the beach in Miami” picture your friends and followers demand.
Once upon a time, the legendary Palace Bar and its epic drag brunch served as an unmistakable welcome to the rainbow section of South Beach. It’s closed now, but this beach is still the most fabulous sand in South Florida. Not that all kinds aren’t welcomed here, but if you’re looking for the buffed, tanned, and waxed South Beach bodies of travel-brochure fame, you’ll find plenty of them hanging out here.
INSIDER TIPThough it’s hard to miss, look for the rainbow flags on the lifeguard stand to know where this beach starts.
Haulover Beach is, for the uninitiated, South Florida’s nude beach. Which you’ll know the minute you step through the bushes and are immediately greeted by a sea of genitalia and umbrellas. It can be a little jarring at first, but once you’re used to throngs of people in the buff, it’s actually quite relaxing. Just don’t go expecting supermodels: The crowd here trends towards European families and seniors, so be prepared.
INSIDER TIPFor some real entertainment, set up at the beach’s southern border and watch runners jog up from Bal Harbour. They have no idea what they’re about to step into and the looks on their faces might be the highlight of your day.
Key Biscayne likes to call itself Miami’s island paradise, as a trip over here feels like a complete escape from everything stressful about the city. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the wide, palm-filled beaches of Crandon Park, where views look out on endless Biscayne Bay, and the sand is powdery soft compared to the coarse sand in South Beach. The park also has plenty of paddleboard and kayak rentals to enjoy the gentle waters off the shore.
INSIDER TIPHead to the northern end of the park and the Bear Cut Nature Preserve. It’s a 3.5-mile hike through wetlands than run right along the water, and a beautiful look into natural Florida.
Bill Baggs State Park
The historic lighthouse at the end of Key Biscayne in Bill Baggs park stands along the most remote stretch of beach in Miami. Looking out at Biscayne Bay from the marshy, soft-sand beach, you’ll almost forget the condo towers a few miles away, and it’s a perfect place to watch both sunrise and sunset over the water.
INSIDER TIPGrab lunch at Boater’s Grill, one of Miami’s true hidden gems. It’s one of the best waterfront restaurants in the city, but you can still get a full meal here for under $20.
If you want to feel what Miami was like 30 years ago—minus the rampant street crime— head up around 71st street to North Beach. This quiet beach fronts a stretch of art deco buildings still unoccupied by tourist traps, nor have tourists invaded the sand which on most days is fairly empty. North Beach also boasts a bandshell with frequent weekend concerts and volleyball courts with nightly pickup games.
INSIDER TIPPart of why this beach is so empty is that it can be a pain to get to. If you’re coming from South Beach, take Alton Road instead of the more-famous Collins Ave. It’ll save you 15-20 minutes most days.
Surfside is the closest thing to a beach town you’ll find in Miami, a little enclave of retirees and transplants who frequent the delis, restaurants, and drugstores that line the main drag along Collins Ave. Even with the opening of the new Four Seasons—one of Miami’s best new hotels—Surfside has still maintained its charm. The beach is almost exclusively populated with locals, giving visitors the feeling of being in on a secret none of the other tourists are.
INSIDER TIPTime your beach visit around Friday Beach, a monthly beach picnic that takes place the first Friday of the month during summer.
Far from the postcard coastline of Miami Beach, Matheson Hammock park sits on the shore of mainland Miami, far south on Old Cutler Road near Coral Gables. Here you’ll drive under Banyan trees and through mangroves until arriving at a stretch of beach that feels like your own hidden paradise. It’s a small horseshoe of sand that can disappear at high tide, but hit it at the right time and it feels like a hidden Caribbean beach smack in the heart of South Florida.
INSIDER TIPThis might be the best spot in Miami for kiteboarding. So, if you’re into it, or ever thought of trying, Matheson Hammock is the place to go.
Sure, it sits just north of the county line in Broward, but the boardwalk at Hollywood is as close as you’ll find to a northeastern beach boardwalk in South Florida. Funky beachfront bars and soft serve ice cream stands border the fine white sand, as people who look like they stepped straight off of a “Florida Man” headline stroll and bike the boardwalk. It’s equal parts people watching and beach gazing, best done over a cold beer with a front row seat to the action.
INSIDER TIPOne of the best burgers in the world is just across A1A at Le Tub on the Intracoastal. Don’t leave Hollywood without trying it, just leave about two hours for the entire experience as you’ll have to wait for a table, and for the burger.