Are you walking around South Beach,? Or driving down the famous Ocean Drive? Welcome to Miami, the city of Florida which is synonymous worldwide with golden beach life. Like all major American cities, Miami is an endless mix of things to see and do, and a fascinating world to discover.
Its history has its roots in 1800, but it is in the last century that Miami has seen the architectural ascent that led it to become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Numerous investors have chosen to build on entertainment and accommodation facilities for tourists from all over the world on this Peninsula of Florida, and their choice proved a success: today Miami is the dream of many travellers.
Is that because of the tropical climate, which makes it enjoyable in every season? Because of the white sand of South Beach, one of the best known beaches of the United States and the world? Because of the bright signs on Ocean Drive, mecca of the local "stroll"? Because of the iconicArt Deco Historic District, which has fascinated tourists for a century with its colours and elegance? Or maybe because of the incredible artificial islands inhabited by stars and wealthy entrepreneurs, like Star Island Or Fisher Island? Or even because of the Latin atmosphere of the Little Havana neighbourhood, a real Little Cuba on American soil? Due to the quieter and surprising neighbourhoods of Coral Gables and Coconut Grove, the skyscrapers that soar in the sky of Downtown Miami, the mad and unique attractions like Venetian Pool? Miami is Miami precisely because it's a melting pot of different cultures, histories and traditions, which have merged together to create a unique city, shining under the sun and under the stars.
If you are curious to discover what the top attractions are in one of the cities that has contributed the most to create the myth of America as a country of dreams, you just have to keep reading: here is our list of the twelve things you absolutely have to do and see in Miami!
12 things to do and see in Miami
- South Beach
- Miami Beach
- Ocean Drive
- Little Havana
- Coral Gables
- Coconut Grove
- Star Island and Fisher Island
- Art Deco District
- Biscayne Bay
- Venetian Pool
- Aventura District
There's probably not a beach in the world that represents the idea of a "cool beach" better than South Beach in Miami. It's the socialite coastline par excellence, where film stars with large sunglasses to avoid being recognised walk amongst blonde girls and muscular lifeguards. South Beach is nearly 5 kilometres long and runs the entire side of Miami Beach island facing the Atlantic Ocean. This means that when you are lying on its sand you will see before you only the infinite beauty of the ocean, with its wonderful turquoise colour, which merges with the blue of the sky. Behind you, on the other hand, skyscrapers and palm trees soar towards the (few) clouds, giving South Beach the skyline that made it famous. And of course along the beach you'll see the iconic rescue turrets, coloured and all different from each other, from which the lifeguards peer over the horizon. The watchtowers, as they call these structures now known everywhere, each have their own history: some are historic, and have been watching the ocean for decades, others are newly built. There's even a stars-and-stripes one, at the height of 13th Street! They were largely designed by the architect William Lane, or were born out of art competitions. One thing is certain: seeing them makes us instantly think about the atmosphere of Miami.
Arriving in Miami on your Costa cruise, you'll be amazed at the variety of people in South Beach on the excursion that will take you to South Beach. SoBe, as locals call it, stretches from 1st Street to 23rd Street in Miami: In general, you will meet classy surfers and bathers at the top five Streets, while from 5th to 20th Street get ready for a mix of young people on holiday, elderly people enjoying retirement in Florida, sportsmen, blond guys or guys with dreadlocks , elegant ladies... Looking for VIPs? You'll probably find them beyond 20th Street, in the area where the beach becomes private, in front of the most chic hotels.
And to think that initially, in the last decades of the 1800s, South Beach was a simple coconut plantation! But its fate began to change in the early 1900s, when a portion of land was purchased by two Miami businessmen, the Lummus brothers, to build a village of houses overlooking the ocean. Today, South Beach attracts tourists from all over the world, who unquestionably place it amongst Miami's must-sees.
Let's start with a clarification: Miami Beach is not Miami. true, because the second one is located on the Florida mainland, while Miami Beach is an island, or rather a set of natural and artificial islands, which divide the Atlantic Ocean from Biscayne Bay, which also overlooks Miami. Miami Beach is connected to the mainland by several bridges.
Every year there are many tourists who choose Miami Beach as a destination for their holidays, thanks to the tropical climate, its sparkling social lifeand its wonderful beaches full of surfers on the Atlantic. The city has also become famous thanks to films such as "Scarface" and the television series "Miami Vice", which have made it an icon all over the world. Arriving here with your Costa cruise, you will feel instantly like you are on the set of an American film! South Beach and Ocean Drive are just two of Miami Beach's most popular attractions, which in the late 1980s became the home of numerous fashion professionals and large modelling agencies, which you can still see today in theArt Deco Historic District. Here you will also find the famous Villa Versace, the last home of the fashion designer Gianni Versace.
Miami Beach is mostly for enjoying some beach life, but those who want to take a break from sunbathing will find plenty of possibilities. For example, the pedestrian Lincoln Road is a shopping paradise, where walking in the sun you can find both the world-famous brands and some real exclusive USA brands, to show off on your return home. On the street there are also lots of bars and restaurants, where you can relax and contemplate your purchases or plan the next shopping "mission".
And for those who are looking for the big brands, the destination is the southern part of the famous Collins Avenue, a very pleasant street also for art lovers, who here will find the Bass Museum, and for those who want to take a look at the beautiful buildings of theArt Deco District (you can enter some of them, even if they are private, obviously asking permission to enter). In Espanola Way, on the other hand, you will find a touch of bohemian Europe: this was the home of local artists, and today its peach-coloured buildings host countless venues serving food from around the world, but also original shops and even outlets. And when the evening arrives, an appointment on Ocean Drive is inevitable, for a drink at one of its bars while the Miami Beach sky changes colour at sunset.
In your imagination, is Miami a continuous parade of guys on rollerblades and convertible cars? You'll definitely see them on Ocean Drive, Florida's most famous and lively street, between the stops of your Costa excursion to Miami Beach. Behind the southernmost stretch of South Beach, separated from the beach by a pedestrian promenade, verdant flower beds and the inevitable palm trees, Ocean Drive is a long walkway of exclusive shops, clubs and hotels facing the Atlantic Ocean.
Ocean Drive is an integral part of the Art Deco Historic District, a succession of Art Deco buildings from the early 20th century that represent the historic face of Miami Beach, now converted into accommodation and tourism facilities.
And of course Ocean Drive is famous for its bubbly nightlife: After sunset, the street lights up with signs of clubs and bars, which host raffish shows, alternative DJ sets and all kinds of fun. There are also those who like to walk along it simply for the pleasure of the view, but in principle it's really hard to resist the lure of its infinite possibilities, also because this stretch of road is alive at all hours.
Ocean Drive also overlooks Casa Casuarina, better known as Villa Versace: a 1930s Mediterranean Revival style building, with Spanish and Italian influences, that was purchased and restored by fashion designer Gianni Versace. Today the villa, also known as La Magione, is a luxury hotel, where guests can dive into the famous gold-clad outdoor pool, designed by the same designer in the 1990s. This is an example of the glitz you'll encounter walking on Ocean Drive, but don't worry, there are also much cheaper alternatives where you can stop for a drink with an ocean view: restaurants and bars line the streets offering every type of food, with price ranges for all pockets.
Downtown Miami is the economic and residential heart of the city. Overlooking Biscayne Bay, the neighbourhood sits on the Florida mainland, overlooking Miami Beach Island, and shares with the latter some of the natural and man-made islands found in the bay. "Downtown" is the centre, so it's easy to realise that here we are in the real old town of Miami, where some of the city's first inhabitants settled in the early 1800s. The area is divided into three districts, the Downtown Miami Commercial Historic District, the Downtown Miami Historic District, and the Lummus Park Historic District.
Arriving in the city with your Costa excursion, you will be immediately fascinated by the skyscrapers that make up the signature Downtown profile, and that mingle with Miami’schurches and historic buildings, built between the late 1800s and the first half of the 20th century. As in any major American city, downtown Miami is home to long boulevards with countless shops, from U.S. department stores to international brands: this is the neighbourhood to come to during the week, to day, for shopping and breathing in the atmosphere of a stars and stripes city. There is no shortage of parks, such as Bayfront Park overlooking the Bay of the same name, where locals relax for a break, in the shade of palm trees. Downtown is also home to the Miami Heat, the home of the legendary NBA championship team, for the pleasure of basketball fans.
Being in America but feeling like you are in Cuba: this is the feeling you'll experience going through Little Havana with your Costa excursion. This neighbourhood west of Downtown is populated almost exclusively by Hispanics, mostly Cubans but also from other parts of Latin America. Its name means "Little Havana", precisely because here lives one of the largest Latin communities in the world. The people of Cuba began to move here in the 1950s.
In Little Havana it's easy to be lured into a club by the smell of cuban coffee, strong and sweet at the same time, served in small glasses in numerous neighbourhood bars. Here you feel far from the American frenzy, between artisans and factories that produce the inevitable Cuban cigars and Latin rhythms that resonate along the streets. And in the Domino Park, every day people can be found playing dominoes, another Cuban institution, challenging each other with their tiles.
The main street in Little Havana is Calle Ocho (8th Street), which is home to historic monuments of the neighbourhood and a characteristic Walk of Fame, or rather Paseo de las Estrellas, dedicated to Latin American stars, a scaled-down copy of Hollywood's famous star walk. On Calle Ocho you can also find museums and art galleries, the monument dedicated to the exiles of Cuba, statues and busts of Cuban heroes and beautiful murals that portray both Latin and American artists and celebrities. Fans of Latin gastronomy can fulfil any wish of theirs they may have here, because there are many restaurants serving typical dishes. Some of them also host fun shows. Calle Ocho hosts the Calle Ocho Festival in March each year, a street party full of strong Latin character, with street vendors, food and incredible music.
Villas immersed in the greenery of their manicured gardens, zero skyscrapers and the feeling of being on the set of a film, too perfect to be real: here's what awaits you at Coral Gables, a city just west of Miami. It is not a simple neighbourhood, but a separate Florida municipality from Miami and Miami Beach, which you can see on your Costa excursion.
Coral Gables was born in 1920 from the idea of George Merrick, who he wanted to build his city of dreams. The buildings are mostly Mediterranean Revival in style, a mix of Spanish and Italian features far removed from the towering glass palaces of the USA. At the time of its construction, Merrick wanted to design the city so that every business could be reached on foot along Ponce de Leon Boulevard, and ordered that the appearance of streets and buildings was always impeccable. This last feature persists to this day, thanks to the collaboration of all the inhabitants of Coral Gables, who are committed to keeping every corner of the city perfectly tidy. The entrance of Coral Gables is signalled by several monumental doors, which immediately make you realise that you are entering a different area from the rest of Miami!
Of course, here too there's no shortage of restaurants and shops of all kinds. A fun fact? A particularly well-known glimpse of Coral Gables is Miracle Mile, the street that houses some of Miami's most luxurious shops: Here you can also find a very high concentration of bridal dress shops.
The elegant Coconut Grove district will make you dream: while crossing it during the Miami leg of your Costa excursion, it will be impossible not to wish, at least for one moment, to be one of the stars living in the villas of this neighbourhood south of Downtown Miami.
Coconut Grove, was first inhabited by some of the first people coming to the area. Initially Coconut Grove was an independent city, but it was annexed by Miami in 1925. As early as 1800, Coconut Grove became the home of artists and mavericks, a feature that it still maintains today. That's why the neighbourhood is considered the bohemian soul of Miami, which also results in a very high frequency of arts, fashion and music events.
Are you thinking about shopping? Of course, Coconut Grove also offers a lot of possibilities to shop. Characteristic of the place is the CocoWalk, a three-storey shopping mall with ocean views with a Mexican feel, with its fountains and terraces. In addition to many shops, there are also different restaurants and clubs, where you can try the food from all over the world.
A unique attraction in Coconut Grove is Villa Vizcaya, a multi-hectare property enclosing monumental gardens and a 34-room villa inspired by the Venetian Renaissance, overlooking a small marina that explicitly mentions Venice. Glitzy and surprising, it has been "the protagonist" of several blockbuster film.
Star Island and Fisher Island
Star Island and Fisher Island are two islands in Biscayne Bay, between Miami and Miami Beach. That's it? Absolutely not: first of all, they are artificial islands, that is, man-made. And secondly they are one of the most expensive places in the world to buy a home.
Star Island and Fisher Island were built in the early 1920s and are now the buen retiro (or even the main residence) of stars of film, TV, fashion and sports, as well as wealthy American and foreign entrepreneurs. Of course, there is no possibility of walking amongst its villas as here respect for the privacy of the inhabitants is sacred, but you can see them on your Costa boat excursion and peek at two of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in America.
Star Island is connected to the MacArthur Causeway, the elevated one that connects Miami to Miami Beach, but at its entrance the bodyguards will make you realise that the area is definitely off limits. While Fisher Island can only be reached by ferry, unless you have a helicopter: until 1906, the island was attached to South Beach, but was later separated from it by a navigable canal. Today Fisher Island is surrounded by the white sand of the Bahamas, and encloses in about a square kilometre condos and villas for millionaires, in addition to all kinds of exclusive fun. If you're looking for the wealthy face of Miami, Star Island and Fisher Island won't disappoint.
Art Deco District
The colourful houses of Miami Beach's Art Deco Historic District are one of the hallmarks of the city. This district is located in the south side of South Beach, and is made up of hundreds of buildings that create an unparalleled historical and architectural heritage in America. The palaces are inspired by the Art Deco art movement, which between 1920 and 1930 influenced European taste in furniture, decoration and the general aesthetic sense. In those years Miami saw its growth, and was impressed: Miami Beach builders thought the Art Deco buildings would entice tourists to come and return to Florida. Today the palaces in pastel and tropical shades, with porcelain and terracotta floors and the colourful neon signs, are one of the must-see things in Miami Beach.
The streets richest in Art Deco buildings are Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue, the main thoroughfares near South Beach. At the Art Deco Welcome Centre you can request all the information to arrange your own tour in the neighbourhood, but with your Costa excursion you will find that even simply crossing the streets of the Art Deco Historic District, it will be impossible not to come across one of its architectural wonders, which also include the green area by the ocean, Lummus Park.
Although Biscayne Bay is more than 50 kilometres long, its most famous stretch is definitely the one between Miami and Miami Beach. Its central and southern part, on the other hand, is home to the Biscayne National Park, born to preserve the ecosystem of the place, composed mostly by bodies of water overlooking dense mangrove forests.
Yachts and large boats sail in the Biscayne Bay basin, a short walk from the Atlantic Ocean, also thanks to important manmade works. Biscayne Bay, in fact, was modified during 1900 to allow the passage of larger ships and for the construction of several artificial islands, amongst which some are very famous. Examples include the Venetian Islands complex, but also Star Island, Palm Island and Hibiscus Island, exclusive islands inhabited by celebrities, to which cruises are often organised for fans of "VIP watching". Even on your Costa cruise you'll have the opportunity to admire the beauty of this bay, squeezed between the skyscrapers of Miami and Miami Beach.
Diving into the Venice lagoon is possible. Where? In Miami, of course, in the wonderful Venetian Pool, one of the destinations on your Costa excursion into the city. This incredible public outdoor pool located in the district of Coral Gables, where in 1924 the entrepreneur George Merrick, founder of Coral Gables, decided to turn a coral rock mine into an attraction. This is how the Venetian Pool project was born, in which buildings and decorations recall the style of Venice, and which was initially even travelled along by some gondolas.
Today, the Venetian Pool is a pool open to the public fed by an underground aquifer that fills it with emerald water. No smell of chlorine then, and around the pool there are lodges, porches, a scenic waterfall, palm trees, rock caves and the green of palm trees. Of course, there is also the beach, with fine sand to lie on in the sun. After all, we're in Miami!
Aventura is a city located about 20 kilometres north of Miami and that has had an overwhelming development since the 1970s. Its panorama is made up of high residential condos overlooking waterways, amidst immense parks and golf courses, all strictly a short walk from the Atlantic Ocean.
Aventura is a Florida destination particularly dear to shoppers: This suburb of Miami is home to the Aventura Mall, the second largest mall in the United States after the Mall of America in Minnesota. In over 200 square metres of area there are more than 300 stores and over 50 clubs and restaurants of all kinds, including of course the most famous American and world chains. It is a real city within a city, which attracts thousands of people since 1983.
Discover Miami with Costa Cruises
Miami is sun, beach, party, surf... but not only that! This city, Florida's most famous, is a real treasure trove of things to see and experience. If your winter cruise with Costa stops here, don't miss the opportunity to explore not only South Beach and Ocean Drive, but also other Miami neighbourhoods, which will amaze and fascinate you in a thousand different ways.