Miami Travel Guide

Miami Travel Guide

Known for its stunning Art Deco architecture, sunny beaches and impossibly fun vibe, it was an easy choice for us to make Miami our first trip of the year. After spending a long weekend with my husband and pup in the beachside haven and scouring the city from South Beach to Little Havana, I’m sharing my travel guide for Miami with all of you.

I hadn’t been to Miami in more than a decade and the lure of 80 degree weather in January was just too enticing to pass up on. Because of recent COVID outbreaks around the country, we were a bit hesitant to actually go on our trip, but we were able to get flights on Southwest for next to nothing and got a great deal on our hotel room.

When looking for a hotel in Miami, it’s important to know which part of town you want to be in. If you’re interested in South Beach, I’d recommend the Faena or the Miami Beach Edition. When we booked our original trip, we found a deal on the Betsy Hotel and jumped on it. Although the Betsy photographs well and has a wonderful staff, I would not recommend staying here. The building is dated and the crowd that hangs out around the hotel is rough to put it lightly. We were very uncomfortable the one night we did stay there because the room smelled, we could hear noise from the street outside all night and the room just did not feel clean. The Betsy claims to have beach access, but it is not done through the hotel, it is done through a third party and you have beach access with a lot of other people.

After one night at the Betsy, we quickly switched over to the Four Seasons Miami which is located in the heart of Brickell, the city’s financial center. Although we had to give up the beach, we were so thrilled with our move. The Four Seasons Miami offers impeccable service, a stunning pool, an outdoor area that worked so well for our dog and clean and comfortable rooms (although a bit dated.) If you’re looking for a Four Seasons property on the beach, I’d highly recommend the Four Seasons Surfside. Unfortunately, this gorgeous hotel was a bit out of our price range and further away from most of the things we wanted to do so we decided to stay at the Four Seasons Miami. Another bay-side gem is the Biltmore Coral Gables. When we would go to Miami when I was younger, I would always tell my parents that if I lived in Miami, I would live in Coral Gables and I stand by that today.

If you’re looking to party, South Beach and Miami Beach will be perfect for you. From buzzy clubs and restaurants to partying on the beach, you’ll be happiest here. Brickell also offers a pretty cool night life scene with great restaurants and hotspots like Komodo. Keep in mind that Miami is currently observing an 11 p.m. curfew, but clubs are still open.

If you’re looking for a more relaxed vibe, Bal Harbour/Surfside and Coral Gables/Coconut Grove will be the place for you. Bal Harbour and Surfside offer beach access, luxury shopping, fine dining and several celeb sightings while Coral Gables and Coconut Grove are a bit more laid back and not on the beach.

For fabulous shopping, museums and excellent dining, look no further than the Miami Design District. From public art installations to the famed Institute of Contemporary Art, you will leave this creative neighborhood feeling inspired and ready to take on the rest of Miami. If you’re looking for a bit of history or you have a cigar lover in your group, Little Havana should be on your list. Walking through this neighborhood just minutes from downtown, you feel as if you have been transported to 1965.

We LOVED the food scene in Miami, so much so that I actually ranked our meals from the trip and wrote a full review on them. We originally had reservations at Makoto, but had to cancel them because it would have taken us too long to get up there. If you’re staying in the Bal Harbour/Surfside area, definitely make reservations there one night.

Casa Tua, Mandolin and La Mar are not to be missed if you’re in Miami and if you’re looking for a classic Cuban sandwich while in town, look no further than Sanguich de Miami in the heart of Little Havana.

Houston Hobby Airport at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, January 24th.

COVID Travel Update

As most of you know, my husband and I have felt comfortable traveling to a few places during the pandemic. Everywhere we went, we felt safe because of small crowds, extra precautions people and places were observing and especially because all of our flights were not full. Well those days are over.

All four of the Southwest flights we were on for this trip were completely packed. Miami was packed. Although everyone wore face masks, I did not feel safe in many situations during this trip. Although I am very thankful we were able to go on this trip, had we known about the massive crowds we would encounter on the trip, we would have definitely reconsidered. I wish airlines would do their part and go back to keeping middle seats reserved for flights, it’s not responsible to have that many people in a confined space during a pandemic.

Miami Restaurant Rankings by Brit

Miami Restaurant Rankings by Brit

When we were planning our trip to Miami, I had high expectations for the weather and beaches, but wasn’t thinking much about the food. After living in Houston for six years, I became quite spoiled by the *highly* underrated food scene and am usually disappointed by the food in other cities when I travel now. But I was not disappointed by the Miami food scene at all, in fact, I was quite blown away.

To share my culinary adventures with all of you, I’m ranking the seven restaurants we ate at during our trip. We barely scratched the surface when it comes to Miami dining so this is in no way a ranking of all Miami restaurants, only the ones we ate at during our three-and-a-half-day stay.

  1. Casa Tua

Our best meal in Miami was at Casa Tua. The vibe was unlike anything we’ve ever experienced and the food was excellent. We ordered a fish carpaccio, octopus (the best dish we had on our entire trip), the Mushroom Fettuccine (which they are apparently known for), the Red Snapper and finished off our meal with the Italian Casa Tua Doughnuts.

The Red Snapper with the Mushroom Fettuccine

No matter where you are seated for dinner at Casa Tua, you will have the most enjoyable time. Each dining area is unique and oozes sophisticated European charm. COVID guidelines were well respected here and we will definitely be back.

2. Mandolin

A very close second for our dining experience in Miami is Mandolin. This mediterranean bistro is a true gem and should not be missed when visiting Miami. Set in the lush gardens behind Miami’s famed design district, the striking blues and whites that make up this restaurant make you feel like you’ve been transported to Greece.

For lunch, we ordered the Cheese Saganaki, the Ali Nazak, Greek Salad, the octopus and French Fries with Greek Yogurt. We ate every bite and wish we could have tried more, but we were so full. In addition to the lovely setting and insanely good food, the service was excellent and the restaurant felt clean and respectful of COVID guidelines.

3. La Mar

We also loved La Mar. This hip Peruvian restaurant is located in the Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key. The food was outstanding and we had the sweetest waiter. We ordered the Roll Anticuchero, the octopus, the Arroz con Mariscos and the whole fish which was de-boned, cut up and fried into small bites.

I will say that there were a couple of things that led to La Mar not being my top restaurant of the trip. First of all, I did not feel safe in regards to COVID. This place was packed and restaurant workers were constantly asking patrons to put their masks on, which was unnerving. I do think the restaurant could restrict the number of reservations they take or limit the number of people who are just standing around to alleviate this issue. Secondly, the restaurant terrace is overlooking the bay, which is lovely, but people were smoking on the pathway right beneath the tables which was awful. Third, because the restaurant sits at the base of the hotel, many people use the two entrances on the restaurant’s terrace to get into the hotel so that means random people are walking by your table all night.

4. Edge at The Four Seasons

We ate at the Edge at the Four Seasons twice during our stay. Once for breakfast and once for lunch and we really enjoyed both meals. I noticed the adherence to COVID guidelines the most here compared to any of the other restaurants we ate at. The tables were well spaced and very clean, patrons and workers were required to wear masks (when not at their table) and the food was great.

For breakfast we had coffees, the baker’s basket–a butter croissant, a chocolate croissant and a croissant filled with cream cheese and jam, and the Honey Nut Granola Parfait. For lunch one day we shared a burger and fries by the pool and it was amazing.

5. Sanguich de Miami

Of course we had to go to Little Havana when we were in Miami! After a little cigar shopping, we popped into Sanguich de Miami for Cuban Sandwiches. This sandwich shop is really a hidden gem in Little Havana. All of the sandwiches are made on fresh Cuban bread and are made with high-quality meats.

Cuban Sandwich

Sanguich de Miami was also really good about COVID guidelines and the restaurant felt very clean and safe. There is usually a line so if you’re looking to save time or avoid the crowds, you can order ahead online seamlessly.

6. Mignonette

Mignonette… I’m still replaying this experience in my head because I had high hopes for it, but I don’t find myself wanting to go back. The food we had was good, but there were a few things that threw the experience off for me.

Located in the up-and-coming Edgewater neighborhood, Mignonette is housed in what was once a gas station. They did a fabulous job transforming this place, but upon entering, I smelled something very muggy and musty and that’s not great when you’re about to eat seafood. We also sat at the front of the restaurant which has a large window so all of the oncoming headlights were a bit much for me. Another thing that detracted from the experience was that the waiter originally helping us left unexpectedly during dinner and we were not helped again for quite some time by another staff member. I also ordered sparkling water several times that never came. All of this is to say that our dinner at Mignonette was good, but I don’t think we will be back.

7. LT Steak & Seafood

LT Steak & Seafood, the main restaurant at the Betsy Hotel on South Beach was our least favorite of the trip. Since we stayed at the Betsy our first night in Miami, we had lunch there when we arrived–a burger and the Spicy Crispy Rock Shrimp roll– and then breakfast the next morning where we had oatmeal and the Betsy Breakfast. Although the service could not have been better, the food left quite a bit to be desired. With so many other options in the area, I regret having had two meals here.