Quick. What comes to mind when I say “Miami”?
Sunshine? Sandy beaches? Breezy white linen and guayabera hats?
When I think of Miami, I think of home. I think of welcoming smiles and the silvery smell of cigar smoke on a humid summer night. While Miami has a well-earned reputation as the party capital of the US, over the past twenty years it has matured into something much more interesting. A cutting-edge art scene, world-class food and a museum culture has replaced drunken debauchery as the main tourist attraction.
The one drawback is that Miami can be expensive. Like, empty-your-savings-account expensive. It is not unheard of to pay $14 for a bottle of Bud Light or $28 for a cheeseburger at a beach-side tourist trap. With many of us still struggling to find steady work during the time of COVID, now is not the time to go into credit card debt for a watered-down mojito.
As a local, I want to let you in on a secret: Miami can be done on the cheap. It’s not easy, but let me show you how you can plan the perfect Miami day on less than $25.
If you want to get the real taste of Miami, skip the tourist traps of South Beach and start your day off at Suite Habana Cafe in Wynwood - a Cuban cafe with a modern twist.
Not your typical tourist spot, you’ll quickly fall in love with the Cuban-chic design, the unbelievably friendly wait staff and their commitment to earth-friendly products (no plastic straws and enviro-friendly corn fiber cups).
For the full Miami breakfast experience, order a Cafecito ($2.50) which translates to “little coffee”. Don’t be fooled by the name though, as the Cubans drink their coffee thick, dark and sweet (very sweet!). It’s sure to give you the jolt you need to start your day off right.
If you are hungry, go ahead and treat yourself to a guava pastelito ($3.00) - a flaky Cuban pastry filled with guava and cheese. Don’t worry - you’ll walk off the calories with the day I have planned.
Guava Pastry: $3.00
Now that your blood is flowing and your belly is full, it’s time to take a short stroll over to the Wynwood Walls.
Wynwood, just a short 5-minute drive over the bridge from South Beach, is the graffiti-covered Miami arts district full of colorful art galleries, Instagrammable street art and some of the best restaurants in Miami.
You’ll want to spend a few hours at the mind-altering Wynwood Walls - a walkable outdoor art museum featuring more than 40 murals from internationally-celebrated street artists. The Walls are the perfect reflection of Miami’s personality - vibrant and edgy with a hint of sophistication and danger. The best part of the Wynwood Walls is that they are absolutely free to visit.
Although there are no official statistics, Wynwood Walls are one of the most Instagrammed places in the world - with Ron English’s “Hulk Boy” a top spot for those looking to strike a pose from the Gram’.
Wynwood Walls Art Walk: FREE
Total for the Day: $5.50
A 10-minute drive from Wynwood, Versailles is not just a Cuban restaurant - it’s the Cuban restaurant in Miami. If you ever wanted to be served rice and beans by a tuxedo-clad waiter - this is your chance. Don’t worry, the vibe is as Miami-relaxed with both locals and tourists chatting alongside each other when not wolfing down the deliciously authentic Cuban food.
You can go for the staple Cuban Sandwich, but I recommend going for the Medianoche (or Midnight Sandwich) with sweet ham, roast pork, swiss cheese, mustard and pickles on a sweet Cuban roll ($6.50). The difference between the Cuban and the Medianoche sandwiches is that the Medianoche is made on soft, sweet egg dough - lending it a sweeter finish compared to it’s more famous cousin.
Total for the Day: $12.00
Just a 7-minute drive from Versailles you will find yourself in the heart of Little Havana - Miami’s historic Cuban neighborhood known for its vibrant culture, domino parks and hand-rolled cigars.
Take a stroll up and down the colorful streets and step inside funky art studios alongside fresh juice bars, Cuban cafes and antique stores. If you want to immerse yourself in the culture, take a seat at Maximo Gomez Park - a brightly tiled concrete square where 55+ come to play dominoes and dish out the neighborhood gossip.
There’s so many things you can do while in Little Havana but the one thing you must do is stop at one of the many cigar shops and watch the cigar rollers expertly work at their craft.
My favorite spot is El Titan De Bronze, located at 1071 SW 8th Street. This historic shop has been rollin’ strong for over 25 years and widely-recognized for their high-quality stogies. The cigars are a very good deal for the quality but you can often find a case in the front of the house with the “imperfect” cigars (my words, not theirs) that don’t meet standards to be shipped.
My advice? Grab one of the imperfects for around $2-3 and light it up while you soak in the sites, smells and sounds of one of the most charming neighborhoods in America.
Total for the Day: $15.00
What would a trip to Miami be without a stop at the beach? South Beach is the famous spot to soak in the rays, but big crowds and ridiculously expensive parking can overheat your budget in a hurry.
Instead, head down to Key Biscayne and visit the gorgeous Crandon Park Beach. A three-mile, lagoon-style beach, Crandon Park has walking and biking trails, beach volleyball nets and barbecue grills available for the ideal beach day.
Parking will set you back $5.00 in the adjacent lot, but it’s well worth the ocean-side real estate you will have on this tropical Miami beach.
Total for the Day: $20.00
The perfect way to finish your day? Take in a breathtaking sunset at South Pointe Park - the southernmost tip of South Beach.
Before you settle in on the grassy promenade next to the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll need something to eat. My recommendation is to grab a delicious slice of margherita pizza from Pizza Rustica ($4.95) at 863 Washington Ave. and take it with you on the mile-walk down to South Pointe Park.
South Pointe Park is a little slice of South Beach heaven with panoramic views of South Beach's coastline, PortMiami's massive cruise ships and the glittering skyscrapers of downtown Miami across Biscayne Bay.
Grab a seat on a patch of soft grass, or if you are feeling dangerous, dangle your legs off the rocks jutting out from the Atlantic ocean and absorb the breathtaking mix of purples and pinks that make up the perfect Miami sunset.
Slice of Pizza: $4.95
Grand Total for Your Miami Fun Day: $24.95!
There you go! For just a nickel under $25 you can get a near-perfect day in Miami starting with a Cuban coffee and ending with a magnificent Miami sunset. All you have to do now is bone up on your Spanish!
Adios, mis amigos!
About the Author
Stewart Gold is a father, ninja-like outdoorsman and the Chief Editor of BeginRV. He can replace brake fluid with one hand while changing his son's diaper with the other.
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