Food, Travel

Islamorada – A day trip from Miami

I recently visited Miami with my friends in April and took a day trip to Islamorada and fell in love with it at first glance. Known for its towering palm trees, sandy beaches, pristine and clear water, laid-back vibe, and breathtaking sunsets, Islamorada is a complete paradise. Did you know? – Islamorada is one of the Florida Keys and is on the way to Key West.

Only a 90 mins drive from Miami, Islamorada is a great place to go for a day trip. Islamorada is known as the sport fishing capital of the world with beautiful local restaurants and quaint shops with a small town island vibe which I absolutely love. Even if fishing is not your thing it is equally appealing for divers, snorkelers and kayaking.

Fun Fact – The name Islamorada came from the early Spanish explorers in the area which means Purple Isle.

Things to do

While there are a lot of things to do in Islamorada our goal was to just enjoy the beaches, relax and sip in some cocktails with delicious food.

  1. Anne’s beach – This is one of the most popular beaches in Islamorada and for good reason. It has very clear blue waters making it picturesque. It has picnic spots to enjoy the stunning views and is a small beach with shallow waters. It does not have much of sandy areas so if you are in a large group like us you may not find enough space to enjoy the sandy areas and just relax. However, it has a great boardwalk and is one of the beaches in Islamorada where you can bring your pets.
  2. Sombrero Beach, Marathon – This beach is approximately 25 miles ahead of Anne’s beach but absolutely amazing if you are looking for a white sandy beach to just relax and soak in the sun this is great. If you enjoy swimming I would recommend heading to this one and a bonus its a great place to catch the sunset!! Also this beach has a great volleyball court and a park area for kids.

Where to Eat

  1. Morada Bay Beach Cafe– A cute cafe with waterfront dining overlooking the Florida Bay. A great place to get drinks and food with stunning views. We went here during Covid times and what I appreciated the most was that the tables were spread out making it very easy to maintain social distancing.
  2. Lorelai’s Restaurant and Cabana Bar – What can I say!! I absolutely loved the place. It has so many amazing food options to pick from even for vegetarians and everything was so fresh. A great place to grab delicious food, tasty drinks, waterfront views overlooking the Florida bay(beautiful sunsets), and live entertainment from local bands. Very well spaced table to maintain social distancing and have some privacy. Highly Recommend!!

Hope you enjoy reading this post. Check out the complete travel guide to Miami here. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions!

Food, Travel

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Miami

Renowned worldwide for its beautiful beaches, colorful street art, rich Cuban heritage, glamorous nightlife, diverse and vibrant food plates, interesting cultural mix, amazing music, and sunny weather – Miami needs no introduction. The vibe in Miami is amazing with beautiful palm tree-lined beaches and incredible sunrises and sunsets. Yes, I fell in love with Miami! It had me smiling from start to finish.

How to get to Miami

I traveled to Miami with my husband the first time and we took the flight from Boston to Fort Lauderdale, Fl and from Fort Lauderdale, you can either take the Brightline rail, uber to Miami or rent a car and drive to Miami. We took the flight to Fort Lauderdale as I was flying on the 4th of July weekend and direct flights to Miami had skyrocketing prices since we were booking last minute. On the other hand, Fort Lauderdale offered better rates and it takes approximately only 30 mins to reach Miami from there. There are also direct flights from Boston to Miami which you can opt for. The second trip I took to Miami was with friends and took a direct flight to Miami.

Where to stay in Miami

We absolutely loved our stay at the Four Seasons which has great views of both the city and the bay, a fun pool deck, hammocks where you can lay and sip your drinks while reading a book or simply relax, a great spa to pamper yourself, a fitness center for every fitness freak and all the other 5 star amenities you look for. My favorite in-room feature was the comfortable cushioned window seat that is perfect for curling up with a book or just relaxing to soak in the views. Bathrooms are large and the bed was super comfortable where I would just sink in at the end of the day. I highly recommend booking the Bay view rooms as the views are extremely peaceful.

Best Time to visit Miami

Florida is hot and sunny for for almost most of the year so there is not really a bad time to visit Miami. However, Spring – from March to May is one of the best times mainly because it is warm but not as humid as it would get during summer and also because it is not the hurricane season. If you are planning a trip in summer – make sure you check the weather as rains in summer is very common in Miami. I travelled to Miami in summer but was lucky to have skipped the rains completely. Summer is also one of the busiest times of the year to visit Miami purely because school break which enables families to take vacations. The winter – December to February is high season time for Miami as everyone wants to escape the dreaded cold and temperatures in Miami are usually in the 70’s making it a great time to visit.

Must-do things in Miami

1) Little Havana Rituals Tour – I cannot recommend this tour more. It was a fun way to learn about traditions and Cuban culture. Yoel makes this tour extremely personable and exciting experience. On his tour he shows the perfect way to make Cuban coffee, explore cigar and rum pairings (Trust me I am not a cigar person or even a smoker – It was my first time trying a cigar well actually second but my first time I could barely get to even lit a cigar and I had a great time) and explains the history and the significance of Little Havana as we explore. He is himself originally from Cuba and is extremely knowledgeable. If you are looking for an authentic Cuban experience in Miami – this is it!! He offers the tour both in English and Spanish and is very accommodating to fit your schedule. He also gives great suggestions to explore in Little Havana. Attaching the link for the tour here

2) Wynwood Walls – The Wynwood Walls was established in 2009 by the visionary Tony Goldman as an outdoor museum of international street art. It is a unique outdoor destination featuring huge, colorful street murals by artists from around the globe and is free. I am an absolute sucker for color and the Wynwood walls had me completely mesmerized. Before going to Miami I had seen some pictures on social media and I could not wait to go and see those walls myself. While the Wynwood walls are the most famous in that area, the street art extends further stretching for a few blocks and all the murals are an absolute treat for the eyes. While I explored Wynwood walls myself there are also tours which you may take to learn more about the walls and artists.

3) Vizcaya Museums and Gardens – While Miami has the reputation of partying, the Vizcaya Musem and Gardens will transport you to an entirely different place. It was the winter estate of millionaire James Deering and a great example of the American Opulence during the early 1900s. To say the estate is gorgeous, impressive, or even magnificent, would be an understatement. The gardens extend up to around 10 acres and are massive and are so beautiful that pictures do it no justice. The museum and gardens have hosted several weddings and special occasions, given the site’s architectural and natural beauty and also screened several movies. It took me approximately 3 hours to explore the magnificent museums and gardens.

4) Miami Design District – If you are looking for a good photography area then Miami design district should be on your list- From casual selfies to professional photoshoots. It has everything from shopping, architecture, restaurants, and even contemporary art.

5)Miami City Lights Night Paddle Boarding or Kayak Tour – My new year resolution this year was to try different things and experiences I have never done before. I booked this tour with Daniel for a Paddleboarding experience I had never done before and what an experience it was! There is no better way to see the lights and sights of Miami than from the water. The skyline looks so scenic from the water and Daniel makes this excursion extremely fun. If you are looking for a unique and unconventional adventure to see the city of Miami I highly recommend this tour more even if you do not know to swim. I myself do now know to swim but Daniel ensures to make you comfortable to enjoy this beautiful experience and provides you with all the safety gear required. Daniel also plays music and brings beer and wine which is complimentary and takes amazing pictures. Attaching the link for the tour here

6) Little Havana Food Tour – One of the things I enjoy to do is to explore a new place by taking a food tour. I think you can learn so much about the culture and history of the place and at the same time enjoy delicious food and drinks along the way at some of the local favorites places. I decided to take the Little Havana food tour with Miami Culinary Tours and cannot recommend it more. They also have another tour of the South Beach food and if you are taking the Little Havana Rituals tour I would advise you to take the South Beach food tour as there is an overlap between the two tours however the food experience is great. We covered 7 places on this tour. When we spoke to JJ who was our tour guide he suggested that the South Beach food tour is also amazing and offers a great experience. Something on my list to try the next time I visit Miami. The best thing about Miami Culinary Tours was that they can adjust the tour to suit everyone’s needs without compromising the experience. While others in the tour enjoyed the meat-based options our guide had tailored the tour as per my request as I am a vegetarian and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We covered around 7 places. Attaching the link for the tour here

7) South Beach – Needless to say you are in Miami so hit the beach. A great point to watch the sunset in Miami is at the South point pier point. I am an absolute beach person so enjoyed spending my time at the beach dipping in the salty seawater, just relaxing on the daybed sipping my Pina Coladas and gaping in the beauty of the mighty sea. Later in the evening, we walked on the ocean drive exploring the area, shops, and bars. The best way to explore Ocean drive is by walking.

Restaurant/Bars Recommendations

1) Barton G. The Restaurant Miami Beach – I simply wanted to try Barton G for the over the top experience that they have the reputation for. They completely awed me by all their inventive presentation and pushed my imagination. Watching people receive their food and drinks is a show in itself as the presentation on each of them is extremely unique. My favorite part of this experience was the fancy drinks – Sabrinatini and Buddhalicious and the extravagant dessert -Dolla Dolla Bills Y’All that I got. The desserts there go all the way up to $250.

2) Kyu – Located in the heart of Wynwood this wood-fired Asian fusion place offers a great array of flavors. Kyu is a believer in green and sustainable methods, The Kyu Team vows to plant trees, and source most of their foods locally. My favorites at Kyu were Roasted Cauliflower( their signature dish), Grilled summer corn, and Thai fried rice. The Pollinator and Koji and Oates were my favorite drinks.

3)Planta South Beach– Planta is such a cute little spot decorated with plants and great to get brunch/lunch. It is a vegan place and I cannot recommend it enough even if you are not vegan or vegetarian. The food is lip-smacking. I highly recommend getting the cauliflower tots, steamed dumplings and spicy tuna from the small plates. For the large plates, I recommend the Planta Burger with a side of truffle fries. I got the Pink Flamingo and Charcoal Bourbon sour cocktails and loved them both. I also got the Strawberry cheesecake with sorbet and charcoal flavoredsoft serve – Both were delicious.

4) The Bazaar by Jose Andres South Beach – James Beard-winning chef blends his Spanish heritage with the local Latin tradition of South Beach. This is a tapas-style place so calling for food for the table is a great option. They have a great and vast selection of wines. My favorites here were Kueh Pai Tai, Cana de Cabra, Creamy Coconut Rice, and Patata Bravas. For dessert, I enjoyed the deconstructed version of the key lime pie.

5) Bodega Miami Beach – Whether you have had a long day on the beach or looking to crave your late-night hunger after all the partying and need some fuel – these tacos are a must! And the best part – they are open until 5.00 am. They also have a speakeasy bar in the back with great music which is so fun. Highly recommend.

6) Sugar – This chic rooftop bar and garden is located on the 40th floor of the East Miami Hotel. It is a great place to take in the panoramic views of downtown Miami skyline surrounded by the water.

7) Ball and Chain – Located in the heart of Little Havana and known for its rich history this bar serves great mojitos and has great live music playing all day and a great place to shake a leg. The vibrancy of the Latin culture shines here. Cardi B, J Balvin and Bad Bunny have filmed the “I like it like that” music video right here. Highly recommend.

8) Cuban Coffee and sandwiches– Las Olas Cafe or Versailles Restaurant Cuban Cuisine are good places to try the Cuban coffee.

9) Bachour – The desserts here are a piece of art and are exquisitely arranged and have the ideal balance of sweetness, flavor, and texture. The desserts are themselves Instagram worthy without any filters. Highly recommend.

10) Mango’s Tropical Cafe South Beach – Mango’s is very tropical and colorful with a great South beach vibe. I went to Mangos’s for drinks. It is a fun and entertaining place with live music and different performances. They are most famous for their mojitos and also have a dance floor to dance to the beats.

11) Clevelander South Beach – We went to Clevelander’s at dusk to get drinks and a quick bite. The music was great- a variety of old, new and different genres. They have an outdoor bar and pool surrounded by palm trees on the ocean drive.

12) Esplonala Way – Definitely explore this small pedestrian street which was built to mimic the Spanish village and as a result has a very Europe meets Miami vibe. With twinkling fairy lights the streets are picturesque and there are several restaurants to choose from with great music. We strolled around the street and then decided to get Italian on the street which was amazing.

13) Call me Gaby – Looking for an Instagram worthy romantic, modern Italian gem with a charming outdoor patio? Check out this restaurant with a great ambience and delicious food. You will not be disappointed!! We loved the cheese platter, drinks, pizzas, and our favorite was the stuffed gnocchi which we ordered several portions of. This place has great vegetarian options.

For all the dining experiences I highly recommend making a reservation beforehand as sometimes it gets difficult to get a reservation.

Shopping Recommendations

  1. Lincoln Road Mall – An open air mall with lots of options to shop including clothing, jewelry and accessories, beauty and shoes. Also, there are many options to grab a bite while you shop.
  2. K-Armas – While I am traveling I like to shop at boutiques or brands that are not available where I live. This was a cute boutique store that I found in Little Havana and fell in love with everything in the store. They have great bikinis, swimming costumes, beach/summer bags, accessories and clothes. They also have another shop just next door.
  3. The Shops at Mary Brickell Village – There are many shops, cafes and restaurants at the Mary Brickell Village. ‘Atiqshop’ was yet another boutique store where I really liked the collection. They had some really trendy and stylish pieces and accessories. The owners are very helpful and really help you to find something you are looking for.
  4. Dolphin Mall, Bayside Marketplace and Aventura Mall – Some other good places to shop in Miami.

Day Trip

We also took a day trip to explore Islamorada which is one of the Florida Keys and on the way to Key West. Check out a detailed post on what we did in Islamorada and where to eat here.

If you have any questions please leave a comment and I will be happy to answer all your questions.