We love Florida, and EVERYBODY loves South Beach, from the 101 year old crinklies riding the free busses that go up and down Washington Avenue all day till way late to locals cradling huge red paw-paws in their arms home from the grocery stores to the mad crazed tourists of all svelte shapes and lumpy sizes, from all nations and planets, going up and down, up and down Ocean Drive, checking out the restaurants and models and being part of the wonderfully sultry, shallow, sparkly SCENE.
And a scene it is, too, with that striking neon art deco lettering glowing atop all the little hotels, and Cameron Diaz passing the plantains with friends at the local little Cuban restaurant, and salubrious breezes coming in off the Atlantic Ocean---its aqua today, imagine!---and the flapping palm leaves whispering in your shell-likes, reeeeelaaaaaax ..relaaaaaaaax ..
Miami Beach is a separate city from Miami, and it is a city. Thats great news for sophisticated diner-outers with city-bred, gourmet palates. Unlike most of Florida, (especially Orlando and most of Florida's West Coast, where the horrible tasting water ruins the flavours of meals), this town has excellent, kick-ass food.
The other great news is you dont need a car, in fact, a car is a hassle if you are just planning to stay here. Last time we parked a rental car in Miami Beach someone bashed a dent in the side of it, just for fun. Theres a free bus, the Electrowave (For info call 305 535 9160) which runs from 5th to 17th Streets and back, so if youve had a few you can get around safely. It goes from 8 am to 2 am Mondays through Wednesdays, and 8 am to, yes, 4am Thursdays through Saturdays, and 10 am to 2 am on Sundays and Holidays. Public busses are excellent, and will even connect you to the trains so you can take day trips to Vizcaya or Coconut Grove without the murderous traffic and demolition derby driving styles on Miami's highways. The Miami Metrobus folks will tell you helpfully just how to get anywhere you want to go and they even have humans picking up the phones, so do call them for info at 305 770 3131. (If you are looking for Nature, stars and transcendent sunsets, well have a Florida Keys report up here for you in a few weeks.)
Miami s South Beach (SOBE) scene may be every tourists Eurodream come true. Youve got casual, adequate, not quote charming little hotels, 16% service charge added to your restaurant cheque just to make sure sun-worshipping, badly-behaving Euros don't sneak out of tipping (yeah, many try to skunk the waiters and waitresses, all a part of the we love sun, sex, shopping, freedom, friendliness, fairness, but we dont really like the Americans until we go back to freezing Augsburg, or Maastricht, or drippy old Monaco, when well brag about the it boys we danced near at Chaos or Clevelander or Berlin Bar .
Catalina Hotel (and its sister next door) Maxine Hotel 1732 Collins Avenue 33139 Tel. 305 674 1160. Comes with pool, clean, but really basic rooms (like -whoops- no curtain on the bathroom windows, etc.) and is convenient to everything. The room should have seemed depressing, but with the clean coat of white paint and big round writin table in the corner room with all the windows, it wasnt. Not all rooms are as nice. Ask for Room 310 at the Maxine.
About that hotel DELANO on Collins Avenue Extremely worth a looksee, the Delano is arguably one of the lushest, weirdest, prettiest and most remarkable citadels of style and tude you can imagine .a little more than you can imagine. The only drawback: you will probably be mixing with the vapid lipo and cell-phone set.
Run Away From The Scene: Go higher up Miami Beach, outa the Art Deco District, past the corny ol Fountainbleu and at 69th Street and Collins youll find the unpretentious and wonderfully comfortable GOLDEN SANDS Beach Resort, 6901 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, 33141. In USA and CANADA 1-800-932-0333, Rest of the World 305-866-8734 (Fax 305 866-0187) Great beds, cool pool, right on the ocean, and near all bus stops, lotsa restaurants, and the price---and service--- is righteous.
Dining in South Beach: