Perched on the MacArthur Causeway leading to Miami Beach, Jungle Island is a zoological park with a private beach, waterfalls, and tropical vegetation home to exotic birds and other jungle animals. Children and parents alike can enjoy numerous educational animal shows and exhibits as well as VIP tours offered at the park! While it’s currently closed, it will reopen in spring 2018.
Jungle Island, 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, Miami, FL, USA, +1 305 400 7000
The 30-acre Monkey Jungle is a sanctuary for primates from baboons to gorillas. Visitors can gain up-close encounters with friendly species such as the squirrel monkeys while also watching keepers feed them. The unique experience here is that monkeys roam the grounds freely through the trees imported from the Amazon rainforest. Here, it’s the humans that walk through a caged-in path to take a peek at these wild animals.
Monkey Jungle, 14805 SW 216th St, Miami, FL, USA, +1 305 235 1611
The unique drive-through safari gives visitors a chance to watch free-roaming animals from the comfort of their car seat. The “cageless zoo” covers over 600 acres of land and is home to animals such as zebras, wildebeest, monkeys, kudus, and lions—though the latter are kept in cages for obvious safety reasons. However, be prepared for a little pecking on your windshields from a few curious wild ostriches! Once the safari driving portion of the visit is completed, you can head to camel-riding stations, feed giraffes, and watch the beautiful pink flamingos in their watering hole.
With Bayfront views and miles of mangrove forest, Matheson is the place to go manatee-watching. Rent a kayak at the local watersport rental stand and head toward the mangroves if you can stand the rotten egg smell emanating from the tangled plants. The unique webbing roots of these plants are home to shellfish, which you can spot cluttered all about, as well as tree-climbing crabs, and all along them, you’ll be able to spot the gentle sea cows slowly meandering beneath the greenish water.
Matheson Hammock Park, 9610 Old Cutler Rd, Coral Gables, FL, USA, +1 305 665 5475
Nestled in the scenic Key Biscayne, the Nature Center at Crandon Park Beach is a not-for-profit facility that conserves local natural resources and provides environmental education. It’s also a sanctuary for birds such as herons, ospreys, and hawks, as well as other migratory birds in the area.
Butterfly lovers shouldn’t miss exploring the butterfly conservatory at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. With over 3,000 species from helicoids to owl butterflies, guests will have the chance to explore the beautiful kaleidoscope of colors fluttering through the gardens. There are two daily butterfly releases where everyone can experience an up-close look at the pretty critters. The conservatory also houses a metamorphosis lab where guests can watch the process of nurturing butterfly chrysalis through a glass wall.