The Miami you already know is famous for luxurious resorts, world-class cuisine and breathtaking beaches. It's a perfect place to relax and soak up sun, but it's also ideal for an outdoor enthusiast of any level. From kayaking in the Everglades to exploring an ancient Spanish monastery, Miami offers incredible experiences that quench your thirst for adventure. Here are the attractions that liven your Miami itinerary.
Navigate the National Parks
Everglades National Park is too close to pass by if you're a true adventurer. The Everglades are one of only 23 U.S. UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Covering more than 1.5-million-acres of wetlands, it's the largest subtropical wilderness area in the United States and the third largest national park. This unique landscape provides habitat for numerous rare or endangered species such as the manatee, American crocodile and the elusive Florida panther. If you'd like to see Florida's native wildlife up close, make sure a visit to Everglades National Park is on your radar. Insider tip: If you're not a swamp fan, then head to Flamingo, the southernmost point in mainland Florida and book a sunset airboat ride. You'll find yourself gliding through the River of Grass at 50 mph.
If you don't want to head deep into "The Glades" and prefer a taste of "The Keys", check out Eco Adventures. They offer a sea kayak and snorkel adventure at Key Biscayne in Crandon Park. On your 3.5-hour excursion, you'll kayak along the mangroves with a naturalist guide before snorkeling with tropical fish, spotted eagle rays and beautiful coral reefs. Get lost in the maze of mangroves that are inaccessible to boats and explore all these fascinating creatures from the safety of a ranger-guided canoe.
Get Wild with Water Sports
If alligator or shark spotting isn't your thing, then hop on a SUP and paddleboard your way through the many islands of Biscayne Bay. Put on some sun screen, then cruise the banks of Star Island, and instead of watching for gators, keep an eye out for celebrities like Shaquille O'Neal, Gloria Estefan, Will Smith and Julio Iglesias, who are part-time Miami residents.
You can't come to Miami without spending at least one day at the beach. It's just not allowed. The "Uptown Beachtown" neighborhood of Surfside is the perfect place to meet the locals. Join their themed communal beach picnics on the first Friday of the month throughout the summer. Try joining the legions of avid kite fliers, or learn to surf on the perfect beginner waves at Haulover Beach. Both areas combine to form a few miles of quintessential Miami soft sandy beaches, with tourist-free pristine views. Or, you can head to the "gay beach", which is located at 12th & Ocean Drive across from the Palace Bar. This secret shore is a local hotspot among LGBTQ Miamians, so you're bound to have a fabulous time.
Tour the Nifty Neighborhoods
Not every outdoor trip has to come with a gator. Miami's vibrant Latin culture stems from its proximity to Latin America, and you'll find a little bit of Cuba tucked away in Little Havana. Join a game of dominoes with the old timers in Domino Park, a central meeting ground for the community. Grab a deliciously addictive Frita Cubana (Cuban hamburger) and browse the shops along Calle Ocho where you can also find some of the best Cuban cigars outside of Cuba.
Art Basel has certainly put Miami on the map for art enthusiasts. The international art fair is held in Miami Beach at the Miami Beach Convention Center, and Design District is land side and focuses on retail and furniture stores. You'll be amazed to discover that obscure art covers nearly every inch of property. Get lost within the Wynwood Walls, an urban graffiti paradise. The neighborhood is a popular spot -- especially on weekends and during the Wynwood Art Walk, Second Saturdays.
From there, head up to the MiMo Historic District and stop into the Vagabond Motel for a poolside drink. This restored, 1950s futuristic spot has set off a flurry of restoration projects of mid-century gems along the 27 blocks of Biscayne Boulevard. Here you will find an endless supply of enchanting little restaurants and shops and a glimpse of an iconic 1958 Coppertone Girl standing tall at 7300 Biscayne Blvd.
Experience Miami's History
For architectural history buffs, Miami is a wonder. You'll instantly recognize the neon facades of Miami's mid-century art deco buildings on Deco Drive. But, there is so much more to experience, and you can see it all in a day!
Start off in south Miami and stroll through The Coral Castle, a curious epochal landmark that's far from your traditional castle, built out of massive two-ton blocks of limestone. Explore its eccentric landscape, and contemplate how it was constructed by one five-foot tall man weighing a mere 100 pounds. Stop off in Coconut Grove to practice your roleplaying as a prince or queen, and get lost in the native woodland landscapes of the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens -- the former villa and estate of businessman James Deering. While you're in the area, it might be tempting to take a peek around the corner at Madonna's former home on Brickell Avenue.
After lunch, head north to Opa-locka and marvel at the largest collection of Islamic, Moorish Revival architecture in the Western hemisphere, perched along streets rightfully named Sultan Avenue and Ali Baba Avenue. The remaining 20 buildings, including the former Opa-locka City Hall, were constructed in the 1920s by aviation tycoon Glenn Curtiss and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Coincidentally, feminist hero Amelia Earhart launched her historic and final trip around the world from an airport just south of Opa-locka.
Before you retire to your resort, go back in time and investigate the Cloisters of an Ancient Spanish Monastery. Dating back to the 12th century, it's the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere. Although construction of the monastery began in the year 1133 AD, it didn't make it to Florida for nearly 800 years.
In 1925, William Randolph Hearst purchased the structures, dismantled them stone by stone and shipped the entire monastery to the United States. Twenty-six years later, after sitting in a warehouse in Brooklyn, it was reassembled in Miami and is used as a church to this day. That's a lot of history to take in. And, if you find all this to be a bit too tiresome, take a break and cool off in the country's largest freshwater pool, the historic Venetian Pool, a 1920s-era Coral Gables icon.
As you can tell, Miami offers tons of activities for outdoor enthusiasts. If you're ready to plan your trip to Miami, visit MiamiAndBeaches.com to learn more about this spectacular vacation destination.