By: Kara Franker
From moonrises over the ocean to sunsets on the Everglades, Greater Miami's romantic settings unfold in the heat of a tropical moment. If you aren't in the mood for love before the following experiences, you will be afterwards.
There's a reason long walks on the beach are a romantic cliché. Soft breezes, breaking surf, even the call of seagulls, create a sense of peace and well-being. Can romance be far behind? Lining the coast from Homestead to Sunny Isles, beaches in Greater Miami are loved for their white sands and gentle waves that don't drown out intimate conversations. Bring a picnic and make a day of it at places like Crandon Park on Key Biscayne, or take an impromptu après-dinner beach stroll by crossing Ocean Drive on South Beach. The beaches, and romance, are waiting.
With parks and green spaces all over Greater Miami, it's easy to escape—hand-in-hand—into South Florida's lush tropical landscape. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, for one, offers nearly three miles of pathways that meander past rare tropical plants including palms, cycads, fruit trees, vines and brilliant flowers. Nature hikes and butterfly walks are offered at the Deering Estate at Cutler, or the romance of the Renaissance may inspire passion on a stroll through 10 acres of formal gardens at Vizcaya, a bayfront mansion filled with decorative treasures from Old Europe. Moonlight tours of Vizcaya, are especially romantic.
With cuisine from every corner of the globe, restaurants in Greater Miami literally bring you the world on a plate. But when romance is on the menu, an intimate atmosphere and unobtrusive service can help you concentrate on each other. Set within a Mediterranean-style beach house that opens onto an outdoor garden terrace, Casa Tua on South Beach offers an exquisite setting matched only by its celebrated menu of innovative Italian creations. In Coral Gables, intimate evenings are a specialty of Palme d'Or at the historic Biltmore Hotel, while incredible dining is paired with unparalleled views of the downtown Miami skyline at Azul, located in the dazzling Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Brickell Key.
The Magic City is even more magical when viewed from above, and there's no better place to take in a 360-degree panorama of Miami than at one of many rooftop lounges. At Area 31 at The Epic Hotel & Residences, you can enjoy dinner or cocktails al fresco on the 16th floor pool terrace with breathtaking views of Biscayne Bay, the Miami River and downtown high rises.
Up in the Air
Of course, the higher you go, the better the view, and you'll see for miles on a hot-air balloon adventure from Miami Balloon Rides, whose state-of-the-art fleet sails over the Everglades, Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Flights depart at sunrise and include a post-ride picnic celebration with champagne. Private rides for two can be arranged, and Miami Balloon even has a “Will You Marry Me” banner available for in-flight proposals.
The Gentle Cycle
You may not get a bicycle-built-for-two, but there are plenty of places in Greater Miami where you can rent bikes and coast along some of the most scenic pathways in the city. On the county's northern end, Aventura has some great waterfront bikeways, and City Bikes can hook you up with equipment. On Key Biscayne, which boasts 12 miles of paved bike trails, try Mangrove Cycles for rentals; while the Miami Beach Bicycle Center or Citi Bike on South Beach will have you cruising the trails of Lummus Park and South Pointe Park in no time.
Mark your calendar for the first Friday of each month, when the Miami Science Museum opens its rooftop observatory for earth-bound mortals to gaze through two powerful Meade telescopes at the planets in our solar system as well as deep-space objects such as galaxies, nebulas and double stars. It's a reminder that the universe, like love, is eternal.
Into the Wild
If you're looking for the ultimate in seclusion, try South Florida's own “River of Grass,” Everglades National Park, where it will just be the two of you and thousands of birds, not to mention alligators. Boat and tram tours, narrated by trained naturalists, take you into the heart of the park, or you can opt for solo canoe and kayak excursions. Stay for a spectacular sunset over this subtropical wilderness.
Labor of Love
Coral Castle near Homestead was constructed between 1923 and 1951 by Latvian immigrant Ed Leedskalnin, who weighed all of 100 pounds, but was still able to move and sculpt 1,100 tons of coral rock. What was he building? A coral “garden” of massive structures, including half-ton chairs, perfectly balanced to rock gently back and forth. Why? Because his fiancée had broken their engagement back in Latvia, so a broken-hearted Ed came to America. The only unanswered question is, how? The intensely private man worked mostly at night and if he sensed someone watching, he'd stop till they went away. Maybe you and your beloved will discover Ed's secret when you visit this monument to lost love.
The Love Boat
Seriously, is there anything more romantic than a moonlit seat on the deck of a ship? Surrounded by water, Greater Miami is a natural destination for cruises of all kinds, and you can sail into the sunset (or sunrise) with one of many cruise lines that call at the PortMiami. Some offer romantic extras, such as private balconies and champagne on arrival, while for many couples, the emotional rush of pulling away from the dock and seeing the Miami skyline slide by is thrill enough. If your nautical adventure will be closer to home, Miami marinas are the launch point for a variety of sightseeing and dinner cruises. Many depart from Bayside Marketplace, which is itself a romantic locale, thanks to a waterfront setting, plentiful restaurants and bars, and open-air walkways.