I’ve been coming to this tropical stretch of paradise since my college clubbing days. We’ll save those stories for another post. On this trip I decided that I owed South Beach some deeper exploration so I made it my mission to see what locals do when they hang out on the beach.
South Beach technically begins at around 23rd street and ends at South Pointe Park. Within this 20-block radius I discovered amazing juice bars, chilled out eateries, some of Miami’s best beaches, and awesome ways to stay in shape from the sand to the surf. Here’s my shortlist of things to do in South Beach when you’re not hitting the nightlife scene.
Get Around by Citibike
I received perplexed looks from some local friends when I asked why we were taking an Uber to go nine blocks in South Beach. I was plainly told that locals don’t walk, but they do bike. Renting a Citibike is super easy no matter where you are in Miami and you can bike right along the beach, sometimes even on the beach if the sand is packed down enough. Miami Citibike rates start at $4 for 30 minutes up to $24 for a full-day pass.
Juice at Under the Mango Tree
Good vibes radiate from this tiny juice and smoothie shop on 6th Street. The owner, Kirsten, customizes your organic juice to your exact specifications and serves it up in an adorable mason jar. The place smells like palo santo and has a regular mix of locals coming through. Get the “Hulk” smoothie with added ginger and chia seeds.
Rent paddleboards on Biscanye Bay
This low-key paddle-board rental shop is nothing more than a garage one block off Biscayne Bay. Whether you are a beginner or experienced, you can easily stand on the extra-large inflatable boards. Cruise around the canals and enjoy the incredible view of the Miami skyline. If you’re lucky, manatees will swim by. Board rentals start at $30 an hour and you should call ahead to make sure conditions aren’t too windy on Biscayne Bay.
Bum it at 3rd-5th street beach
There are miles of amazing beaches to choose from in South Beach. Each mile has its own personality. The one that fits my current mood is the two-block stretch between third and fifth street, where Miami locals come for a beach day. It’s not pretentious at all. Just the basics: sun, sand, good friends and the warm Miami ocean at your feet.
Run with Raven
For the last forty-one years, Robert “Raven” Kraft has been running eight miles along South Beach. He starts his run every day at the 5th street lifeguard stand promptly at 4:30pm. Over the years, travelers from all over the world have come to run with Raven. He keeps a slower pace these days due to injuries so even if you aren’t a runner you can definitely keep up. I had all of my camera gear when I met up with him so I didn’t run that day, but even if you miss him one day, you know where to find him the next.
Do free sunset yoga
Every day at the third street lifeguard stand you can take donation-based yoga classes complements of 3rd Street Beach Yoga. I’ve tried both the 7am and the 5/6pm classes and they both have their perks. In the morning, the sun literally rises over your yoga mat setting the perfect mood to start your day. At sunset, your class takes you from magic hour to a starry sky and you can slip into savanasa to the sound of nothing more than the waves. I’ve also heard great things about Green Monkey yoga studio but didn’t have a chance to check it out on this trip.
Wander the Miami Beach Botanical Garden
Maybe this isn’t a locals hangout, but I had to include it in this round-up because it was so surprising to find this tropical oasis in the officey section of South Beach right next to the Miami Beach Convention Center. I would definitely come hang out here on my lunch break, if I worked in an office. The garden was opened in 1962 and has become a horticultural haven for South Beachers with sixty species of palms, orchids and a zen Japanese garden. Here you’ll encounter yogis hanging out among the lizards and cats. Entry is free!
Tacos at Taquiza
Head to 15th street and Collins Ave. for some of the best tacos in South Beach at Taquiza. Order at the counter and then pull up a seat under the palm trees strung with twinkle lights. The menu is limited but delicious. Start with the totopos hand-corn masa chips with guac, and follow it up with the al pastor, barbacoa and pollo tacos.
Stay at Circa 39
Circa 39 hotel is not technically in South Beach, it’s in mid-beach, but it’s a quick bike ride away on 39th Street. It’s owned by a German family who also owns the Palms Hotel & Spa, and they seem to have a knack for setting a mood that’s stylish yet welcoming. I stayed here for four nights and by the end, I was on a first-name basis with everyone from my bartender, Leo (a bartending magician, also known as the Cocktail Conjurer) to the manager Bryant. For happy hour your should stop by Circa 39’s WunderBar where you have to try my favorite Mezcal drink to date, the Agave Gardens. Bring it out to the cozy pool-side cabanas for the ultimate laid-back Miami evening.