A mixed bag of a trip with the discovery of some wonderful cultural gems along the way. It was my second time visiting Florida, my first to Miami and I was filled with all kinds of romantic expectations inspired by TV shows, films and movies. Read on for my personal highlights.
Where we stayed:
We stayed at the Solé Miami, A Noble House Resort on Sunny Isles Beach, which we booked via Voyage Privé. I was drawn to this hotel as pictures on the website showed large, spacious modern interiors and heavenly views of crystal blue oceans. In reality our king-size ocean view room had a partial ocean view but mostly overlooked the neighbouring hotel’s roof so a bit disappointing but hey-ho. Our room was very small and quite dusty, it also lacked a mirror apart from the one over the bathroom sink which wasn’t ideal when it came to getting ready. The pool area was nicely decorated though we didn’t use it but the beach was lovely.
Good beach access
A half hour drive from Ocean Drive where most of the magic happens
Inconsistent customer service
We signed up to a culinary tour of Little Havana long before the trip, my partner and I are massive foodies and I couldn’t wait to tuck into the Cuban cuisine. I find food tours are a great way to get a good, expert-guided look around the area and a chance to spot places you might like to return to.
The company we booked with were and we really enjoyed it.
I tried my first Cuban sandwich and fell hopelessly in love.
We sampled La Colada, sweet Cuban coffees, beef empañadas at the famed Le Pub which we later returned to for dinner. We had cups full of chilled sugar cane juice called, which was just what the doctor ordered on such a sweltering day
By the time we arrived at a local bakery for I was positively stuffed and couldn’t manage anymore but I’m reliably informed that the guava and cheese pastries they served there were heavenly.
There were some amazing cultural landmarks in Little Havana, to name just a few, The Ball and Chain is a fascinating venue that’s hosted live jazz for decades and decades, even Billie Holliday has performed there. We stopped by for some delicious mojitos and took in the sights and the mouth-watering smell of the outdoor barbecue. Though we didn’t get a chance on this trip, I would love to spend Saturday night here, taking in the music and the atmosphere.
Our trip wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the famed ‘Versailles’ the self-proclaimed (and usually agreed with) best Cuban restaurant in the world. The portions were absolutely enormous (one meal takes up two plates!) and we were served our starters and main dishes together which made it difficult to keep up with everything. However, the food was delicious, our waiter recommended the pork and I was so pleased with the choice, the rice and peas were so flavourful and the sweet plantains were heavenly. The restaurant has a bakery attached so if you go, be sure to sample the fresh empañadas. The place was full of locals and it’s not hard to understand why, the meals were hearty, generous and excellent value, between ten and fifteen dollars each.
The Wynwood Art District:
The art district is bustling, lively and colourful, a must-see for visiting Miami for the first time!
After the success of our Little Havana culinary tour we decided to take the same approach to the Wynwood Art District.
The tour didn’t disappoint, there were delicious steak crepes, Jamon Serrano Croquetas and beautiful artisan gelato. One of the stand out places for me was a Jamaican restaurant called Dukunoo. It was originally and artfully decorated in the spirit of its surroundings with wonderfully flavoursome Jamaican dishes. We sampled the Saltfish Flittaz, Crispy Ackee roll and Jerk corn, together with a tart, fruity rum cocktail whose name evades me.
The American Airlines Stadium:
Is there anything like an American sports game? The atmosphere, the music, the snacks- it was an experience I knew I wanted to have in Miami and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. Basketball isn’t a staple in British culture the way it is in the US and the closest I’ve got to watching a basketball game is what I’ve watched in films or tv shows. We watched the Miami Heat versus the New York Knicks and I surprised myself by thoroughly enjoying it. There was a great atmosphere at the game, with audience participation and dancers, I’d love to watch another match.
The Gianni Versace Mansion:
The Versace Mansion has long been a dream destination of mine and I’m so glad I can tick it off my list. It was smaller and more intimate than I imagined and we were shown straight to our table outside by the pool upon arrival. I gather advance bookings are given the poolside seats but I could be wrong. The lunch menu is a great choice because of the fabulous value, around $30, with some dishes incurring a supplementary charge, plus drinks and service charge. I had the tuna tartare, which was absolutely delicious, followed by the grilled Branzino and vanilla gelato for dessert, all washed down with a bottle (okay half a bottle) of white wine.
The atmosphere is really lovely and its a cultural landmark for the area so I would absolutely recommend paying a visit. The waiters were great but very swift, one course is served immediately after the other so it’s a quick meal rather than a long luxurious one.
Great for: Instagrammable views, a relaxed atmosphere, delicious food, a Miami landmark
Not ideal for: a tight budget (though the lunch menu is good value, prices quickly add up when you add service and drinks), a last minute bite (though the interior is gorgeous the pool-side views are what people come for, be sure to book in advance to get the best seat in the house).
I would also highly recommend a trip to The Dolphin Mall for excellent discounts on really good brands like Levi and Ralph Lauren. We had a great time there and came away with so many bargains.
As you can see the highlights of the trip were mostly gastronomic for me as is usually the case wherever I go. I’d definitely like to return to Miami one day as there’s so much more to see and do, I’d recommend it as a great place to visit!