We were skeptical about traveling to Florida in the middle of the summer, but our friend was visiting the U.S. for the first time and we all wanted to meet somewhere fun. It was very humid in Orlando, though we definitely had fun at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios. Snorkeling and spending time at the beach in Miami was a great way to end our Florida trip.
Weekend Length: Medium (3 days)
- Drive down to Key Largo and snorkel at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
- Lunch at Hobo’s Cafe in Key Largo
- Drive to South Beach, Miami
- Dinner, drinks, and walking around on Ocean Drive
- Brunch at Havana 1957
- Drive and walk around Downtown Miami, including Bayside Marketplace
- Snacks at Donut Divas (now closed)
It was difficult looking for reasonably priced accommodations in Miami, especially in the South Beach area. Luckily, we found Freehand Miami. It’s a hostel-type accommodation just about a block away from the beach that has the usual shared bedrooms and bathrooms and a few private rooms with en-suite bathrooms. Since there were four of us, we were able to snag one of the private rooms with four beds, so we had a private room and a bathroom. Though the interiors are a bit dated, the facilities seemed clean and comfortable. It also has a swimming pool and a bar open to the general public in its backyard called the Broken Shaker. The drinks are great, with pitcher-sized drinks to share with a group, and the space has a very chill vibe, with outdoor sofas and tables spread throughout the adequately sized yard.
Other hotels in the area were expensive. The more affordable hotel accommodations close to South Beach that we found were located as far as Fort Lauderdale.
Since we had to drive from Orlando to Miami, we had to rent a car which we kept throughout the weekend. It was a great way to get around Miami, especially since we drove from South Beach to downtown Miami then to the airport on our last day. South Beach gets crowded especially in the weekends, so parking can be tough. Downtown Miami, however, is not as busy especially on Sundays. Public buses are available, too, though the routes would have limited our options.
Eating and drinking at popular restaurants usually make any trip expensive (those giant margaritas can cost around $40), and staying at hotels in or near the South Beach area can add a significant amount to the expenses. Since we also snorkeled in Key Largo, that added another $30 per person expense, plus gear rental fees if needed. Like most state parks, there was also a fee to get in.
Prioritizing activities, staying at places like Freehand Miami where accommodations are around $40 per night per person, and limiting/sharing drinks and food purchased at restaurants will definitely help keep expenses at bay.
- The Villa Casa Casuarina Ocean Drive, which Gianni Versace purchased in the ’90s and where Versace was killed, is right on the popular Ocean Drive and is now a restaurant, hotel, and event space.
- Book accommodations as far in advance as possible since they tend to fill-up quickly.