An insider’s guide to South Beach

There’s plenty to love about South Beach: the powder white sand beaches, the glamorous international scene, the Art Deco architecture, the design district, the Versace mansion, the outdoor cafes, the great restaurants and nightclubs, the shopping. But for those who want nothing more than a relaxing weekend of sun, surf and sleep, here are a few down-to-earth suggestions from those who escape to the Florida sunshine as often as possible.

We’ll skip hotel recommends here: There are plenty of good deals in the heart of South Beach on last-minute websites and VRBO. We will, however, share our favorite places to eat and drink, starting with the unpretentious, authentic and delicious Puerto Sagua (700 Collins Ave.). Try the Sopa de Pescado, the Ropa Vieja or (my favorite) the Arroz con Pollo with sweet plantains, rice and beans, washed down with a beer or their homemade sangria.

For a more casual version of the famous Joe’s Stone Crab House (usually without the long lines), try Joe’s Take Away (11 Washington Ave.), an 80-seat dining experience with amazing food and a charming atmosphere. It’s the same stone crabs and key lime pie that’s offered at the fancier restaurant with some customized additions: amazing fried chicken, lobster roll, tuna ceviche and well-priced bottles of wine!

Do not leave South Beach without eating and/or drinking at Monty’s (300 Alton Road). Go for the fabulous fresh local seafood and raw bar but stay for the views of the harbor, live music and happy hours at their low-key waterfront bar. What to order at the bar? Try Monty’s signature Pain Removers, available in three different strengths and guaranteed to remove the pain.

A great steakhouse is a great steakhouse, but a truly amazing place for cocktails overlooking the ocean is the outdoor bar at Smith & Wollensky (1 Washington Avenue). It’s also perfect for an alfresco weekend brunch. And while you’re down there, check out the parks! Whether you prefer brisk jogging along beautiful oceanfront paths or simply sitting on a bench and gazing at the sea, visit Lummus Park (1130 Ocean Dr.), a magnificent 74-acre waterside playground, and the newer South Pointe Pier (1 Washington Ave), a 17-acre urban park that beckons you to relax and commune with nature.

Finally, speaking of relaxation and communing with nature, few places in the world beat 3rd Street Yoga—located on the beach at 3rd Street (meet up by the lifeguard hut). These multi-level, stress-free, tuition-free (payment is by donation) outdoor yoga classes take place 365 days a year on the beach at sunrise and sunset. (November–March: 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.; April–October: 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.) Until you’ve stretched out on the sand and experienced the sun rising over the ocean, until your body wakes up to the warmth of the sun and the smell of the salt and feel of soft sand between your toes, you haven’t really done South Beach. The instructors are terrific, somehow managing to teach to all levels of experience and to infuse a fair amount of spirituality into the stretching. These classes alone are reason enough to book a trip to Miami. Namaste!

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