From trying on designer outfits at Bloomingdale’s to attending a Broadway show at the Arsht Centre or pondering the exhibits at the Wolfsonian, Miami has no lack of fantastic shopping, culture and nightlife. Despite the amazing offers, though, no one goes to Miami for the malls or the art shows and you needn’t look far for a proof.
Open-air nightclubs and beach bars take entertainment under the stars, tourists whizz by on scooters more often than in cars, the beaches are packed with sun worshippers and holiday accommodations boast outdoor pools and lavish gardens.
Making the most of the sunshine, the warm ocean waters and the balmy tropical weather is a no-brainer, yet there is more to beachcombing or lounging by the pool.
Not that these do not have their merits. It’s just that there is so much more to see and do. With inexhaustible choices of outdoor activities, Miami manages to seduce almost anyone, from the youthful sports junkie to the mature traveller looking for relaxation. Adrenaline-pumping sports, encounters with the wild, or leisurely tours?
What would you pick?
1. Petting alligators at Jungle Island
To animal lovers, Jungle Island offers a zoo experience unlike any other. A range of different tours allows you to interact with wild animals just like with pets. You can hold an infant crocodile, pet cuddly monkeys or feed kangaroos. Bringing your little ones guarantees you a day filled with giggles and smiles.
There is an educational side to the visit, as well. Jungle Island is home to many endangered and rare species, so your kids will be learning a lot about protecting and caring for the planet.
2. Windsurfing on Hobie Beach
There are many water sports that can be practised in Miami and those with a love for adrenaline-pumping experiences will always find one to suit their lifestyle. Keen windsurfers have their own Miami paradise near Brickell.
Pros usually head to Hobie Beach (aka windsurfer beach), and enthusiastic beginners end up in nearby Biscayne Bay. With its speedy winds and shallow waters, the Bay makes the perfect place to learn the ropes of windsurfing. Hobie beach is also dog-friendly, and you will see a huge range of wonderful dogs on display all over the place.
3. Miami from the sky – parasailing and seaplane tours
Ever wanted to see Miami from the sky? Parasailing is one of the most thrilling ways to do that. A number of Miami Beach and South Beach boat companies offer parasailing experiences. Brace yourself for the adrenaline rush and tantalising views of the ocean as you soar as high as 250 meters (or 800 feet) above water level.
If you lack the courage to try parasailing, opt for a seaplane tour of Miami. In a couple of hours, you can see the entire city and even the region from bird’s eye view.
And there is the added fun of taking off and landing amidst splashing water.
Some local operators offer tours of nearby islands and exclusive dining experiences, which can be a great way to spice up a romantic holiday.
4. Kayaking in the natural parks
Miami’s numerous wildlife parks, tropical islands and coral reefs are best explored from the water.
Navigating the waterways of the Everglades together with the flamingos and alligators, rowing your way to the Oleta River Park and exploring the tropical reefs of Biscayne Bay National Park will reveal a whole new world of natural splendour that you simply cannot experience from the ground.
5. Scuba diving in the reefs
Everyone knows that Miami has gorgeous beaches, but lesser known is the fact that it also boasts one of the most beautiful underwater landscapes. One of the largest barrier reefs in the world lies under the ocean waters right along the Miami coastline.
The best way to explore this stunning marine world is to go scuba diving. You can do that at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, or if you are environmentally conscious you can explore one of a dozen artificial reefs throughout the Miami area.
6. Glass-bottom boat tours
A far lazier approach to seeing the reefs that do not require any scuba diving ability is to book a glass-bottom boat cruise. Boat tours departing from the visitor centres at Biscayne National Park and the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park will take you around the reefs and will allow you to admire the splendour of the underwater flora and fauna without even having to dip your toes in the water.
7. Fishing in and around Miami
There are many spots in Miami where anglers can enjoy their favourite pastime – from the numerous marinas and piers right in the urban heart of Downtown Miami, to wilder spots in the natural parks and Biscayne Bay. Chartering a deep sea fishing trip is yet another option preferred by keen fishers.
8. Swimming with dolphins
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to shake hands with a dolphin or to share a kiss? At one of the most popular, and oldest, marine parks in Miami you can do that and much more.
Enjoy marine encounters with dolphins and seals in the warm pools of the Seaquarium, or go on an underwater trek through the artificial coral reef and see for yourself what it means to walk on the seabed while tropical fish drift past you.
9. Watching manatees out in the wild
There are some animal encounters in Miami that can happen anywhere and anytime. Manatees, also known as sea cows, are cute marine animals that inhabit the ocean waters. They can be seen in places around Miami, from harbours and marinas to canals and rivers. Some of the best places for spotting them are the Intracoastal Waterway and Coral Gables.
10.Fruit and Spice Park
Extreme sports and animal encounter’s aside, some outdoor activities in Miami are all about nourishing the senses. A stroll through the expansive 37 acre grounds of Fruit and Spice Park takes you around the flora of the earth. Fruit trees and herbaceous plants from Australia, Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean, and naturally, native Florida species, have all found their spot in the park. There are more than one hundred species of mango alone!
Walking the Boardwalk
Not every outdoor activity in Miami requires physical exertion or spending money. A stroll down the four-mile Boardwalk is free and can be a very relaxing way to explore Miami Beach. To the east, the ocean greets you with its blue waters, and to the west lies Ocean Drive, lined with all the iconic Art Deco hotels and buildings, which are part of the historic architectural heritage of Miami.