Destination: Miami Beach
One of my best friends and I recently had a chance to escape to Miami Beach for the weekend and it was fabulous! Neither of us had been there before, but I’m happy to say that we got several things right on this trip that have sometimes eluded us on previous vacations. Our goals are pretty straightforward when we travel – we’re looking for sun, relaxation, a nice hotel, good restaurants and a little bit of shopping and nightlife. Other than some rain on Sunday that dampened our mood for awhile, we had a great time and I have lots of recommendations to share with you in case a trip to Miami is in your future!
First up, we loved, loved, loved our hotel. On prior trips this has sometimes been an issue for us – either things looked very different when we were researching online than they did in person when we arrived, or the location turned out to be less than ideal. This year the stars aligned and I’m happy to say that The Palms Hotel and Spa did not disappoint! We were very happy with our room and the lobby, pool, and grounds were beautiful. As for location, if you’re like us and want to be somewhat close to the action, but not so close that your beauty sleep is interrupted at 3 am by people dancing in the streets, then this is the place for you. The Palms is about 1-2 miles from the South Beach nightlife depending on your destination – a short Uber or Lyft ride away, or totally walkable if you’re wearing the right shoes (which we were not.)
Several weddings were taking place at the hotel the weekend we were there. Look how pretty the outdoor set-up was! And check out the gorgeous landscaping! Reminds me of Hawaii!
We spent as much time as possible outside soaking in the Florida sunshine – and enjoying the Tiki Bar with poolside cocktail and food service. (You must order the sweet potato fries if you stay here! So good!)
Here’s one of the two resident parrots that hang out by the pool in their own little gazebo. On our last day there one of them finally said hello!
The Palms has a private gate leading right out to the beach and a boardwalk that stretches for 4 miles – perfect for a morning stroll or run (which we finally took advantage of on the last day. But at least that justifies the fact that I took up valuable real estate in my suitcase with those darn running shoes…(Click here for some of my packing tips and tricks.)
The hotel staff takes care of setting up comfy lounge chairs and umbrellas on the beach for hotel guests. And the Tiki Hut has servers that will bring you drinks on the beach, too! Win!
How cute are these Lifeguard Stands?
More beachside hotels… (but I think we found the best one!)
It’s hard to break away from all of the beach pictures (especially when it’s raining here at home today), but I need to tell you about the restaurants, entertainment, and nightlife that we found! On our first night in town we had our Lyft driver drop us off in the vicinity of Washington Ave and Espanola Way with the intention to just wander and see all of our dining options. We quickly discovered there’s definitely no shortage of restaurants to pick from around here – and lots of hosts and hostesses that stand in the streets trying to lure you in. We finally settled on a fun-looking Mexican restaurant called Oh!Mexico and chose a cute little table outdoors because 1) the air-conditioning was cranked inside and it was freezing and 2) the people-watching. We just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take it all in.
Of course, we both ordered margaritas…
and feasted on their delicious guacamole, prepared tableside. Yum!
We were so full after over-indulging in the guac that we decided to share an order of tacos. No picture of those, but we chose California-Style, which somehow included bacon. I’ve never had bacon on a taco before, but from now on I’m going to make it a priority. As a side note, every restaurant and bar in Miami automatically adds 18% gratuity to the bill. (Just something to watch out for so that you aren’t shocked by why your bill is so much higher than expected.)
After dinner we strolled around a bit more looking for a low-key place to hang-out before heading back to the hotel, but didn’t quite find what we were looking for. A place called Tequila Chicas looked like it might have potential with its cute string lights and outdoor seating, but the vibe there was really weird. We moved on pretty quickly and since we were tired from our early morning flights anyway, we decided to call it a night.
Day Two of our trip consisted of enjoying the hotel’s scrumptious breakfast buffet (with a made-to-order omelet station). I will mention that the one area that we weren’t completely happy with at The Palms was how long it took to be seated for breakfast – at a buffet no less. Every morning the staff looked somewhat thrown off by having to seat people and always seemed to be scurrying around as if they didn’t know where to put people (although we could see many open tables). Once we were finally seated it was all good, but I’m not sure why seating was such an issue three mornings in a row.
After breakfast we claimed our spot next to the pool. It started out as a cloudy morning, but eventually the sun broke through and we were rewarded with this gorgeous sky…
(check out the heart-shaped cloud – we felt like that was a good sign!)
We lounged for most of the day, splitting our time between the pool and the beach, until it was time to head back to our room and start getting ready for dinner. On all of our vacations we always try to have one fancy night where we get dressed up and book reservations for a nice dinner.
This time around we decided on a quaint little Italian restaurant called Pane and Vino. I can’t say enough good things about this place – best meal that I’ve had in a long time! One of their chefs prepares fresh handmade pasta in the window of the restaurant and then carries big trays of it back to the kitchen where it’s cooked. I ordered the Cappelletti Verdi Tartufati (handmade pasta stuffed with ricotta and mascarpone cheese and drizzled with a black truffle sauce) – it was as delicious and decadent as it sounds!
The restaurant is quite small, so I definitely suggest making reservations in advance of your trip!
Since we had zero luck with nightlife on Friday night, we asked our waiter to suggest a place for us to go after dinner. We told him we were looking for a fun atmosphere with music and dancing, but nothing too crazy. He immediately told us that we should check out Mango’s Tropical Cafe. We took his advice and it turned out to be a really fun night! The crowd was a nice mix of different ages and there was a good energy there.
Mango’s is famous for their live music and entertainment…
and they also offer Salsa lessons in the Mojito Room every night at 6:30 and 8:00. If we had known this ahead of time, we might have booked a lesson for ourselves because it looked like the people finishing up their class when we arrived around 10:00 were having a blast!
Day Three was rainy. Very, very rainy. We spent most of the morning in our hotel eating breakfast and then enjoying some pampering at the hotel spa (we both got deep tissue massages and loved them), but decided to brave the weather in the afternoon and headed out for a little shopping. We had our Lyft driver take us to Lincoln Road Mall – a mile long, pedestrian-only street with lots of stores, sidewalk cafes, and galleries. I loved the atmosphere here and this would have been one of my favorite parts of the trip, except for the dang rain. We spent so much time huddled under my umbrella darting from store to store that we couldn’t fully take in how cute everything was. At one point we were so cold from being wet and then spending time in overly air-conditioned stores that we actually popped into a Starbucks for a hot chocolate and a latte. We gave up soon after this and headed back to the hotel for naps #firstworldproblems
Miraculously, around 6pm the rain stopped, the sun came out for a bit, and it turned into a nice evening. We shook off the disappointment of the day and regrouped for a late dinner. We had yet to sample any of the local Cuban cuisine, so we decided on Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s restaurant, Larios on the Beach.
Our waitress told us that their mojitos are world-famous, so of course we had to see for ourselves.
The decor has a fun under-the-sea theme…
and we loved the food! I ordered the Triple C Cuban Wrap with grilled chicken and sweet plantains and it was the perfect combination of flavors. After we finished up dinner, it was close to midnight! We decided to walk as far back to our hotel as our high-heeled feet would allow and take in all of the late night craziness around us.
On Day Four we woke up early to perfect blue skies and lots of sunshine. We scurried out of bed and made it downstairs to breakfast as fast as possible so that we could squeeze in a little more beach time before saying having to say goodbye. Minus the rain on Sunday, we had an amazing time! We’re already thinking about next year’s trip – an all-inclusive resort in the Bahamas, perhaps? If you’ve been there and have any recommendations, please comment below!