Choose Miami for your next eco-destination getaway. If you’re going on vacation to get some fresh air, work up a sweat, connect with nature and disconnect with your laptop, iPad and everyday stresses, consider Miami. The sky is blue, the water is warm and the unique ecology is aplenty.
Leave behind your idea of Miami as a party paradise. Remember, before all that it was a true environmental paradise. Miami’s natural habitats have been stunningly preserved. There are two National Parks, one of which, Biscayne National Park is mostly underwater and the other, Everglades National Park, is as unique an ecosystem as they come; it’s the only subtropical wilderness in North America and the only place where alligators and crocodiles live together.
Get the best of both worlds and stay close to Miami’s main attractions, including world-famous South Beach. Take off during the day and dive into an underwater world of barracudas, parrotfish and angelfish. Bike across a bridge or hike across an island beach.
Read on for the ultimate three-day eco itinerary that will show you how to split up your time and see it all.
Day 1, The Everglades
The Everglades are nearly 1.5 million acres, so you won’t get to see it all. If you’re taking just a day to explore the Everglades, you’ll learn a lot about a habitat that you won’t see anywhere else. The Everglades is a lush landscape of green as far as the eye can see. Between the trees and the swamp are all sorts of animals and wildlife, including endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile and the Florida panther.
Take an airboat ride through the River of Grass when in the Everglades. Not only will you have an expert guide who knows the ins and outs, but you’ll have someone to identify exactly what that long-legged bird with the yellow bill is (a Great Blue Heron) or the pink one with the platypus-like bill (a Roseate Spoonbill). There are several companies that offer airboat rides and tours including Coopertown Airboat Rides, Miccosukee Indian Village and Air Boar Rides, Everglades Alligator Farm, Everglades Safari Park and more. Each company offers accompanying features, like jungle trails, restaurants serving typical Everglades dishes (frog legs and gator bites!), campgrounds and even gaming at the Miccosukee Resort.
Bike Shark Valley. While it’s not recommended in the hot summer months, unless you’re a trained cyclist or have some serious endurance, it’s a lovely winter activity for anyone interesting in biking for two leisurely hours. Shark Valley is a loop that starts at the north entrance to the park and runs for fifteen miles. Halfway through the loop you’ll find a beautiful elevated observatory tower.
Day 2, Biscayne National Park
When you think of a National Park you may imagine somewhere remote. Not so in Miami, where Biscayne National Park is just off of our busy Downtown.
Biscayne National Park is 95% underwater, that’s 172,000 acres of reefs, shipwrecks and wildlife to explore. Climb aboard a boat and snorkel, fish or camp on beautiful and centrally located Biscayne Bay. From January to April, there are canoe and kayak trips available through the park, and all year around there are private companies that will cater to your desired experience.
One entrance to the park is the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, located in Homestead, about an hour’s drive from South Beach. Head onto the water, and then head back to Homestead and explore nearby attractions that are popular with an environmentally-interested crowd, like the Fruit and Spice Park, local fruit and vegetable stands from nearby farms, and Schnebly Redlands Winery and Brewery.
Day 3, The Beaches
Spend your last day visiting Miami’s most famous attraction, the beaches.
Miami Beach is an island. Just over the MacArthur Causeway, off of Miami’s mainland, is a beach paradise. Miami Beach has been a popular resort city since the 1920s, and it’s no mystery why - the beaches are spectacular. It goes without saying that the weather in Miami is unparalleled. December is as lovely a month as any to go for a walk in a tank top and shorts and the water is Jacuzzi-temperature by August.
Go swimming. Book a boat charter. Sail. But don’t forget to spend some time on the sand.
Miami Beach’s popular DecoBike program makes it easy to rent a bike and see the island on your own schedule. There are more than 1,000 DecoBikes at stations at more than 85 convenient locations.
Book an appointment at the Standard Spa, the perfect antidote sore muscles from biking or stand-up paddleboarding. Speaking of paddleboarding, you can rent a board here and maneuver your way around the Venetian Isles. Enjoy one of the best sunset views in town from a seat on your paddleboard, legs dangling into the warm water as the sun sets in a palate of pinks, purples and oranges. Other options at the trendy Standard Spa include fitness classes, workshops, and a hydrotherapy spa playground.
If you have extra time, consider exploring Crandon Park on Key Biscayne, going out on a sailboat or even taking a sailing lesson in Coconut Grove. Take a drive to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in South Coral Gables.
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