Miami in wintertime is a beautiful thing- especially when your family, friends, and coworkers back in the Northeast are shoveling out from a snowstorm. My husband and I were invited to a wedding in Miami, and we decided to arrive a day early for a little R & R. We spent our time eating great food, drinking great drinks, looking at the beautiful ocean, listening to Cuban music, and biking through the gorgeous 80-degree air.
We are faithful Hilton customers, and the Hilton Bentley in South Beach did not disappoint us. We got there from the airport in a Mercedes thanks to a complimentary Hertz upgrade. It almost made us fit in with all the Aston Martins and Lamborghinis that were rolling around South Beach at midnight… almost. Our flight had been delayed so we arrived very late, but the Hilton front desk staff was very welcoming and our room was ready and waiting for us. We got a suite on the 8th floor with a killer view and a huge balcony, complete with lounge chairs. Rather than go to the pool, we spent a lot of time on our balcony, reading, relaxing, and taking in the ocean waves, sea salt air, and beach view.
From the Hilton it was just a short walk to Ocean Drive, the iconic Art Deco street where we spent most of our first day. We rode all the way to one end of it on bikes that we rented from the CitiBike system. When we observed tons of bikers riding past the beach while taking in the early morning view, we thought we would have to find some kind of bike rental shop. But the CitiBikes found us first. We used a similar system in Boston called the Hubway (which you can read about here) and CitiBike is very similar. It was the perfect way to get around Ocean Drive and the pretty little park between the street and the beach.
Lunch on Ocean Drive was at Havana 1957, a Cuban restaurant with five locations throughout Florida. The sangria was sweet and refreshing, the food was tasty, and the atmosphere was lovely. We sat outside on the patio overlooking the bustling street, and the warm weather felt so welcome! After lunch we hopped back on bikes and rode pretty much the entire length of the park, past Ocean Drive, past all the hotels, to a little park with a walk-out pier and beautiful water views.
Venturing to Little Havana for dinner didn’t go exactly as we had expected. We thought we would find a vibrant strip of restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops… and what we came upon was a dark street lined with mostly closed stores. There were a few clubs opened, but since we were hungry we bypassed them in favor of the only opened restaurant we could find, a place called Old’s Havana Cuban Bar and Cocina. This ended up working out wonderfully- an authentic and delicious Cuba Libre (or three…), two bowls of deliciously spicy soup, a plate of tasty croquettes, and best of all, live music, made up a nice evening in Miami.
We stopped at a convenience store before going back to the hotel to grab some snacks and found ourselves with an interesting problem. None of the employees spoke English! When traveling in Europe I had been prepared for this, but in Florida it took me by surprise. A bit of Spanglish did the trick and everyone had a good laugh. It was an authentic ending to a beautiful Miami day.