The beach is only 10–15 minutes away by car from the Miami International Airport, and it’s the main place to head to if you want to tick the main Miami attraction off of your list. Take a stroll down South Pointe Park for a scenic 360-degree view of the ocean. The park extends to the tail end of the beach, complete with a long boardwalk to take in the Miami vista. A quick dip in the turquoise waters and a walk along the white sandy shore is a relaxing way to beat jet lag. You can also buy a coconut from a local peddler to sip on some natural coconut milk.
If you want to do something else, you can also take a stroll around the outdoor shopping center right off Collins Avenue for a lunch break and some shopping. You can get a taste of Cuban cuisine at Havana 1957 with a plate of black beans, plantains, and fricase de pollo. The 1950s-styled Cuban restaurant is a dining experience not to miss. The mall, dotted with plenty of other restaurants and bars, is also home to popular stores such as Victoria’s Secret, Apple, and Forever 21. Between dining and (major) shopping, this should fill about three hours of your time.
Hop on any tour to get a complete look at the city; these can take up to four hours depending on how much ground you’d like to cover. Tour buses such as Big Bus Tour or Miami Double Decker drive through Miami Beach, Downtown, Brickell, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, and Little Havana. For an experience that’s a bit different, opt for Duck Tours. The boat on wheels offers a journey through specific landmarks on the road, and then it splashes into Biscayne Bay for a water tour of the mansions of celebrities on Star Island.
You can also take in the Miami scenery at Bayside Marketplace, the downtown outdoor shopping center with a waterfront view of Biscayne Bay and plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment to indulge in for a few hours. Easily accessible from the free Metromover public transportation (station Bayfront Park), the mall sits in between Bayfront Park and the AmericanAirlines Arena. The open-air mall exudes an eclectic, tropical Miami vibe with live Caribbean music, bars with specialty drinks, such as piña coladas, and a line of party boats and tour boats docked at the pier.
Another ideal option if you have several hours and happen to be in town on the second Saturday of the month is to visit the Wynwood Art Walk. The free public event is an evening block party with food trucks, music, people-watching and plenty of graffiti art to see in the neighborhood of Wynwood. However, the graffiti walls here are always on display for that perfect Instagram shot, so feel free to do some sightseeing for a couple of hours and then relax with a coffee break at the famous Panther Coffee.
How long is the layover? If you have seven hours, that is more than enough time to venture through the Everglades National Park and take an airboat tour. The vast swamplands and marsh prairies extend throughout South Florida, with plenty of wildlife to see, including alligators, crocodiles, birds, and manatees. Just lather yourself in plenty of bug repellent beforehand, as there is a plague of mosquitoes, especially in the hot, humid summer months.
You’ll have enough time to unwind and sink into the balmy, hot and heavy heat of Miami with a drink at the Clevelander South Beach Hotel & Bar. Right in the midst of the chaotic Ocean Drive, with front-row views of the beach, the Clevelander promises a rowdy night out on the town with booming music, Art Deco architecture, and foreign singles looking for a good time. Call it a tourist trap, but this one’s a rite of passage.