Miami’s South Beach is a great melting pot of Art Deco, Cuban spiciness and Gulf Stream aspirations. The tropical breezes cause the palm trees to sway nonchalantly, the loamy sand receives only ankle slapper waves and folks keep returning for more.
I recently paid a quick visit and liked what I found.
The shoulder to shoulder hotels that were once apartment buildings eventually gave way to gentrification during the Scarface era. I was amazed at the number of hotels on offer; surely South Beach contributes mightily to the total of 370,000 hotel rooms in Florida.
The Gulf Stream water’s warmth attracts punters far and wide to South Beach. The evening parade on the sidewalk is an eyeful, especially given the lack of prohibition against walking cocktails. Segways and seated scooters afford more rapid coverage of the terrain. Slowly trawling Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati are probably eventually successful. Cigars and hookahs add to the sensory overload.
Like many folks, I chose one of the wonderful art deco hotels at sunset for a mojito. Like a native, I sat in the middle of the restaurant so that the competing stereo systems at the adjoining hotels didn’t interfere with my sonic pleasure.
The various sample dishes arrayed at each venue compete in some sort of acrobatic Olympic competition. The shrimps gyrate and the lobster tails do back flips.
I had an excellent grilled salmon over sauteed spinach at the Deco Grill. I looked for a blueberry dessert to complete the super food grouping, but the Key lime pie was a justifiable substitute.
Another night I had a surprisingly tender and flavorful filet mignon at Park Central.
The beach is wide, with a great adjoining walkway. Runners and bicyclists share the walkway. I have long been a fan of municipal bike share programs, which are popping up across the globe. Decobike is the local version. The nomenclature has less to do with the bicycle’s actual design and more to do with the prevalent architecture. But the bikes are solid and the system is simple to use: locals sign up for flat rate unlimited monthly use, but we visitors sign up in 30 and 60 minute increments.
With my Spotify playlist tuned to an eclectic array of Cuban musicians, I spent several mornings watching the sun lift over the Atlantic as I cruised along the walkway. Occasionally I would peel off to the beach, where the hard packed sand near the dunes afforded decent traction.
Morning breakfast was at the Beacon Hotel, which offered up a classic fried egg and bacon sandwich that rejuvenated me for the day. The hotel room there was small, but clean, comfortable and well-cooled.
Although I am generally not a fan of Florida, I admit that South Beach has captured my affection.