Founded in 1896, Miami has long been home to a vibrant, colorful, and international people. Choosing where to stay in Miami is an important decision when planning your trip. We like to say that we have it all (or at least almost all) and we really do. From luxurious beachfront hotels to artsy bed and breakfasts you will be sure to have a great time in our city, however, first you need to ask yourself, “Where should I stay in Miami?” To answer this question think about the purpose of your trip. Are you coming to Miami for fun, for business, to study, or for a vacation? Next, look at your budget and decide if you are willing to travel everyday to and from the hotspots or whatever your destination may be, or would you rather live where you work/visit/play or study?
Follow our guide to learn about Miami from a local. Understand the pros and cons of each area and choose the best place to stay Miami.
First of all, you need to understand that South Beach is Miami Beach, and Miami Beach is South Beach…kind of. Miami Beach is split into three sections: South Beach, Mid Beach, and North Beach. Read on to discover where you should stay in Miami Beach.
South Beach runs from the southern tip of the island up to about 23rd Street. South Beach is the party spot, a must see destination, and what you see in all the movies and TV shows. Although you will definitely visit this section of Miami Beach, you may not want to stay here, as it is the most expensive neighborhood in Miami Beach. South Beach is home to the fabled Ocean Drive, boutique lined Collins Avenue , and Lincoln Road; a pedestrian street filled with shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, boutiques, and of course Language On English School.
You should definitely stay in South Beach if you plan on going out a lot at night as most of the big clubs, bars and events are here.
You should not stay here if you don’t like fun, or perhaps are a little quieter and usually enjoy a more relaxed evening on your balcony. Of course, if budget is not a problem, then you can find a host of serenely quiet luxury condos and hotels south of fifth street in an area known as South Pointe, or more recently, SoFi (south of fifth, get it?)
Pros: beach, walk, or bike everywhere, excitement, international crowds, beautiful people, friendly laid-back atmosphere, many hotels/hostels and apartments for rent
Cons: Maybe a little too fun for some, accommodation prices can be high (sometimes very high)
This is the middle section of the island, from about 23rd Street to 63rd Street. Locals often refer to this area as “Miami Beach”. The further north that you go from South Beach, the cheaper, quieter, and less crowded the beaches get. Heck, some may even say it’s nicer to stay on Mid Beach than South Beach, with me being one of them. Just a short Uber or taxi ride to South Beach, Mid Beach is ideal for those who want the best bang for their buck. If you can afford a short taxi ride after a night out or don’t mind taking the bus then this is the best place to stay in Miami.
Pros: Beach, only a short bus ride to South Beach, quiet, not as touristy as South Beach, friendly laid back atmosphere, many hotels and apartments for rent
Cons: Not as many hostel options as South Beach, not many restaurants, bars and cafes, etc
North Beach & Surfside
Keep going further north up the island, from 63rd Street on up, and you are in North Beach. I am going to include the city of Surfside in this as well as everything kinds of blends together. This area is even more laid back and quiet but with hosts of little shops, bars, and restaurants. Many internationals, particularly Argentinean, have bought homes in this area giving way to an international yet very comfortable flavor. If you are coming to Miami for a long time this is where you should stay. You have it all; beaches, quiet neighborhoods, varied shops and restaurants, and much more. The accommodation in North Beach varies but there is something for everybody and every budget. Bal Harbour is just above Surfside; a tiny neighborhood, but home to the ritzy shopping mall, aptly named “Bal Harbour Shops.”
Pros: beach, only short bus ride to South Beach, quiet, not as touristy as South Beach, friendly laid-back atmosphere, many hotels and apartments for rent, more restaurants, bars, cafes and grocery stores than Mid Beach.
Cons: Not as many hostel options as South Beach, very secluded (but this could also be a pro for some)
Sunny Isles & Aventura
If you keep traveling north on A1A or Collins Avenue from South Beach you will inevitably reach first Sunny Isles then Aventura. Both are nice communities with a nice blend of upscale and comfortably middle class. So, whether you are looking for an ocean front condo in the Trump Towers or a little studio garden apartment you will find it in this area. Sunny Isles has come to be known as “Little Russia” as many immigrants, tourists, and other Russian-speaking transplants have made this their home. If you choose to stay in Sunny Isles or Aventura, or just even visit for a day, check out Tatiana’s Restaurant for a “Miami-Russian” experience. Aventura is also home to the much-visited Aventura Mall and is close to my favorite spot in South Florida: Gulfstream Park Racetrack and Casino. There is no better way to spend a lazy winter South Florida afternoon than watching some of the finest horses in the world.
Pros: beaches in Sunny Isles, Aventura Mall, different kinds of restaurants, a lot of accommodation options, Gulfstream Park Racetrack and Casino, close to Fort Lauderdale
Cons: far from downtown Miami especially in traffic, not much nightlife
Downtown Miami & Brickell
Sandwiched between Biscayne Bay and the rest of Miami is the downtown area. Please note that although there is water, there are no beaches, so if you want to swim you will have to take a short trip across the causeway to Miami Beach, or head to Key Biscayne (another bridge).
To start, although Brickell is a separate “district” than Downtown Miami, they are slowly morphing into one. Visitors sometimes think that they are both the same and need to know that the accommodation options in both are very different. Connected to Brickell by a series of bridges, Downtown Miami is home to several luxury condos and hotels, the American Airlines Arena (home of the Miami Heat), and the waterfront shopping and entertainment complex Bayside. Unless you plan on shelling out for a nice apartment or hotel, this might not be the best place to stay in Miami as after it gets dark it gets a little “shady.” If you are looking for budget accommodation in this area, be cautious as you may not feel comfortable in certain areas of downtown at night.
If Miami is the gateway to the Americas, than Brickell is the gateway to opportunity. Brickell is the financial and business hub of Miami and perhaps even South America. Living or staying in Brickell is seen as a badge of honor by many and indeed most of the condo buildings are very nice being only a few years old. Mary Brickell Village, a pedestrian shopping and entertainment complex lies in the middle of Brickell and has a score of trendy restaurants where eager young professionals can sip on the latest craft beer or herb-infused cocktail and discuss the day’s ups and downs.
You should stay in Brickell if you like tall buildings, an urban hum, starched shirts, and fancy yourself as a young professional thirsty for networking opportunity.
Pros: professional atmosphere, plenty of restaurants and bars, a lot of accommodation options, Most condos have private pools, good public transport
Cons: no beach, a lot of traffic, might be a little expensive
Midtown, Wynwood & Design District
I will lump all three of these together as they are all in the same area and have much of the same characteristics. Perhaps the biggest thing that they share in common is that you can be on one street that looks really nice and then you take a turn and ask yourself “how did I end up here?” This area is really changing and is enjoying a growth and gentrification that is changing a once impoverished neighborhood, often compared to parts of Brooklyn in New York. There are many names for this area between locals and out-of-towners, but only those really “in the know” can actually decipher where the borders of these loosely defined areas lie. Wynwood, also known as the art district, is home to dozens of hipster bars and cafes and one can find upscale galleries in what look like abandoned buildings. While this is a great place to visit, especially for the uber-popular Artwalk, which happens on the second Saturday of every month, it doesn’t have the best accommodation options.
Midtown and the Design District offer more apartment and condo options and if you have a car, these areas are doubly fantastic! You will have access to highways to get you to other zones in Miami, plenty of large grocery stores and other shops, and a lot of nightlife in the form of bars, pubs, lounges, and restaurants.
While some people may look at you with astonishment for staying in Little Havana, if you have a car and don’t mind paying less for the same thing that you would get in Midtown or Downtown, than you will be laughing all the way to the bank. In spite of looking a little scruffy, Little Havana, or “8th Street” as it is know locally, has a lot of heart. Accommodation options are diverse as its inhabitants; from throwback Cuban-esque garden apartments where the crowing of a rooster might serve as your alarm clock to standard American-style hotels, eating a fresh mango and sipping a Cuban coffee while planning your day might be what you need to get in the Miami spirit.
Coconut Grove is one of the most charming and romantic places you can stay in Miami. It is also a historic area of Miami; one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city formed in 1925. Known affectionately as “the Grove” by locals, it’s a beautiful area to consider when in Miami. Coconut Grove is located just minutes away from Brickell, Coral Gables, Key Biscayne, South Miami, and the airport. Popular attractions in this area include the Vizcaya Museum, and Cocowalk, which offers dining, shopping and a movie theater. Coconut Grove is also home to the widely popular Coconut Grove Arts Festival that features hundreds of artists, live music, food and fun for everyone. If you decide to stay in the Grove, you have plenty of luxury hotels to choose from and plenty of amazing homes and condos if you are looking for a more permanent solution.
Pros: the lush natural landscape is breathtaking.
Cons: there aren’t too many ways to get to the Grove and traffic during rush hour can be horrendous. But if patience is your virtue, then the beauty and charm of the Grove might be worth it.
South Miami is not an immediate place people think of going when they are trying to figure out where to stay in Miami. South Miami, after all, is a bit far from South Beach and the attractions mostly associated with the Magic City. However, this should not be a reason to discount the area. South Miami is actually closer to Miami attractions that are off the beaten bath and worth exploring. There are several delicious restaurants and fun bars that offer lively entertainment such as Bougainvillea’s Old Florida Tavern and The Irish Times Pub & Eatery. If shopping is a priority, The Shops at Sunset and The Falls are just moments away. South Miami is very family friendly and has great residential neighborhoods and plenty of parks. There are also several highly rated hotels in the area.
Pros: There are plenty of new restaurants, shops and bars to experience.
Cons: It’s not South Beach in any way. If you are looking for that type of vibe, then South Miami is not for you. However, if you want to get another perspective of the city, then make your way to South Miami.
There are so many great things about Coral Gables. The city has officially been around since the 1920’s and is the keeper of many interesting historically important stories. One of the most iconic landmarks in the Gables is the Biltmore Hotel. Built early in the city’s founding, the Biltmore has hosted some of the most famous stars in Hollywood history, British Royalty and infamous gangsters like Al Capone. At one point in time, the pool was also the largest in the country. The Biltmore Hotel is still there till this day along with dozens of fantastic restaurants, museums, gardens, and shopping stores. The stunning Fairchild Botanical Gardens, the Venetian Pool, and the Lowe Art Museum are located in this area. If you love festivals and street parties, then you are also in luck because Coral Gables hosts some great events throughout the year.
Pros: Coral Gables is conveniently located near the airport, Downtown Miami, and Coconut Grove. It’s also not too far from South Beach.
Cons: Coral Gables is a bit of an expensive area, though it won’t cost a small fortune to be in this area, hotels tend to be on the pricier side.