Salsa, swamps, and stand-up paddleboarding: 10 ways to go beyond South Beach in Miami
Miami is known for its nightlife, but there's also plenty to do during the day. Soar with a jet pack, hang with the alligators, or go scuba diving in South Florida.
Most people associate Miami with South Beach glamour, but the city has so much more to explore. The Art Deco buildings and nightclubs of Ocean Drive are just one part of Miami's allure; the scent of hand-rolled cigars and Cuban coffee in Little Havana offers another side of the city's personality. Looking for adventure? You've come to the right place. Take a swampland safari or race like a NASCAR driver. Read on to discover how to squeeze the most magic out of Miami.
1. The rhythm is gonna get you
If you've never tried salsa or tango before, there's no better place than Miami to get your booty shakin'. The city even has its own special flavor of salsa, known as rueda or casino-style salsa, a sort of Cuban square dance performed in a circle. Check out Salsa Mia, a South Beach nightclub-dance studio, where you can learn salsa to the sounds of a live band. If you’re in mainland Miami, stop by Dancing through Life for energetic classes that will leave you ready to hit the clubs with all the right moves.
2. Get your om on in the ocean
Want a full-body workout that also delivers some awe-inspiring views? Rent a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and glide through Miami Beach’s crystal-clear waters. The sport is easy to learn, and plenty of lessons are available for first-timers. If you're up for an additional challenge, try SUP yoga: The paddleboard is your mat, and the ocean is your yoga studio. TKS Miami offers 90-minute and 2-hour SUP yoga classes that leave from Sunset Harbor Dock.
3. Embrace your need for speed
At the Homestead-Miami Speedway, strap into a real NASCAR race car and cross another item off your bucket list. NASCAR Racing Experience gives you three hours of hands-on thrills—and bragging rights for life. After some basic training from the crew chief, you'll put on your helmet and racing suit and hit the track. Rip through the turns like a pro, guided by the in-car communication system. Or, let a professional take the wheel while you grip the passenger seat.
4. Unravel The Mysteries of the Coral Castle
Located in nearby Homestead, Coral Castle isn't actually a castle. It's a sculpture garden carved out of more than 2.2 million pounds of coral. Coral Castle's eccentric creator, Edward Leedskalnin, worked for more than 20 years on this astounding feat of engineering. The Castle was designed to impress his 16-year-old fiancée, who jilted him just days before the wedding. (Spoiler alert: It didn't work.) Don't miss the nine-ton stone gate that you can move with just a touch of a finger, or take a load off in one of the big stone rocking chairs.
5. Walk on water with a jetpack
The future of transportation has finally arrived. Head over to the Watson Boat Ramp at Macarthur Causeway, where you can motor about like George Jetson in a one-of-a-kind jet pack experience with Relentless Watersports. After a short boat ride to your flying spot, you'll get a lesson from a pro, strap into your JetLev jet pack, and shoot into the air. During your flight time, you'll have a chance to try out some tricky maneuvers—just follow your instructor's tips through your in-helmet microphone.
6. Hit the swamps and the shops ... in the same day
The deep swampland of South Florida is calling your name, but you also want to see some high fashion. Experience both sides of this diverse state on a full-day airboat adventure with Florida Dolphin Tours. Starting in the famous Everglades, keep your eyes peeled for gators just below the surface as you zip through the swamp on a wild airboat ride. You'll have the opportunity to reach out and touch snakes, alligators, and other reptiles during an interactive show. After you’ve had your fill of gills and scales, peruse the pastel boutiques of Miami’s Bayside shopping district and South Beach.
7. Explore an underwater museum, a reef, and a thriving ecosystem.
Explore an underwater graveyard at Neptune Memorial Reef. Located slightly east of Key Biscayne, this man-made reef was built to promote the growth of coral and marine life while doubling as a environmentally-friendly burial site.
While this might sound morbid at first, the memorial-plus-reef combination makes for a unique snorkel and scuba diving experience. Swim past the stone lions guarding the entrance to peek at spotted eagle rays, rainbow parrot fish, green morays, and other marine life. While you’re down there, be sure to pay your respects at the memorial of Bert Kilbride, a shipwreck diver and former oldest living scuba diver in the Guinness Book of World Records.
8. Get the biggest Bansky for your buck
Home to the annual Art Basel show in December, Miami has become a major international art destination. Soak up the city's booming art scene year round in the Wynwood neighborhood. Like a sprawling art museum, the area has more than 70 galleries. But most people come for what’s outside those galleries—massive murals and street art, including work by Bansky, ROA, Clare Rojas, and Kenny Scharf. Roll through streets with Wynwood Mural Tours, where you’ll see some of the most influential pieces as well as hidden spots. Or visit WynwoodMap.com and plan your own route.
9. Drop In On the bike trails at Oleta River State Park
The city's largest urban park, Oleta River State Park is known for its awesome bike trails. Try out the 14 miles of off-road routes, where you can ride through the tall pines and lush mangrove trees. Pack a picnic lunch, and relax while you watch the birds feeding at wading pools. You'll never believe you're in the middle of the city. If biking isn't your thing, you can also rollerblade on the park's 3 miles of paved trails.
10. Indulge at the epicenter for Mojitos
No visit to Miami is complete without a mojito, the classic Cuban highball. Watching bartenders muddle mint and mix the cocktail may be fun, but do one better and see how the most essential ingredient—white rum—is made. At Miami Club Rum, the city's only rum distillery, everything from the local sugarcane to the decor uniquely embodies South Florida. In the distillery room, 1950s pinups decorate the walls and salsa plays 24 hours a day, “infusing the barrels with music as it ages.” Their process is so meticulous—aging 90 days and filtering 20 times—that they won the gold medal for World’s Best White Rum in the 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
If cerveza is more your thing, board the Miami Brew Bus, and choose between the Highway to Hops Tour and the Expressway to Brews Tour. Both tours take you to three different breweries, where you can see how the beer is made and sample the goods.