How to do it: I went with South Beach Party Tours and it was pretty good as these things go. I tried to find the company online but got a weird website. You’re best booking when you get there.
I became a big fan of the city sightseeing bus a few years ago (after injuring my knee). As well as providing a great hop-on, hop-off service, you get to know the history and facts about what you’re seeing.
14. Hit the beach
This might seem controversial advice given that Miami is sprawling and getting to and from places like Wynwood Walls and Coconut Grove can be a PITA (pain in the ass) via public transport but parking is expensive in Miami, particularly if you’re staying in South Beach – factor in a minimum of per day. South Beach is very walkable. My advice: use the city sightseeing bus or Uber/Lyft for exploring downtown and save your car hire for when you’re exploring further afield (like the Florida Keys and the Everglades).
Yes, I have eaten my way down Washington. Don’t judge me. I did it all for research, alright?!
- the further north you head, the thinner the crowds become;
- see if your accommodation includes access to a free beach lounger (some of them do); and
- lie directly on the sand if you want to avoid lounger fees (around $10 per day).
14. Walk the South Beach Boardwalk
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Is there anything more Miami than hitting the South Beach Boardwalk? It runs from 5th to 46th Street and you’ll be joined by runners, craft stalls, dog walkers, bikers, beach bums, surfers, skate-boarders and roller-bladers.
16. Take in the views from South Pointe Pier
How to do it:
You’d have to be walking around with your eyes closed to not see the happy hour options in Miami South Beach.
17. Get great views of the city from Miami Beach Marina
18. Take a free walking tour of south beach
Tips for booking your sightseeing bus:
While probably not a budget bunch, I’m recommending the brunch at Nikki Beach because you get an all-round great experience of beach club plus an unlimited buffet of high-quality food. Add day tunes and sunshine and your Sunday is set.
19. Go on a self-guided walk of the Art Deco District
How to do it:
How to do it:
- Take a stroll along Ocean Drive and see the Art Deco Buildings at night.
- Feeling a bit macabre? Check out where Giovanni Versace was shot, which is now a luxury hotel – The Villa Casa Casuarina.
- Check your city sightseeing bus ticket – you might have a night bus tour included.
20. Get the multi-day sightseeing bus pass for a free boat tour
- book a multi-day bus pass and you’ll usually get a boat tour thrown in.
- if you don’t need the multi-day bus ticket, there is also the option to purchase a half-day bus tour with the boat tour included.
- if you book the tour separately, research the companies. I didn’t (on my second visit) and ended up on a booze cruise which would have been ideal if that’s what I wanted. Instead, the noise and music was too loud to hear the commentary.
- take a boat near sunset and you’ll get great pictures of Miami downtown at night (as well as sunset pictures over the water).
- Head into Wynwood Walls to see the galleries and outdoor art – the Kobra exhibition and the cat on the airplane are my faves.
- Be aware that there are opening times so plan your day. Details here.
- Wander the surrounding streets – there’s more art than just within Wynwood Walls so look up, look down and look behind.
- There are only a couple of spots where you can grift off the free wifi to order an Uber/Lyft back (if you’re not using the sightseeing bus). Wander, you will find them.
- For the real hardcore street art connoisseurs, you can also book a guided tour of the Wynwood Art District to learn more about the art with a knowledgeable local guide.
23. Look for open air art on Lincoln Road Mall
- I’m not ashamed to say that I regularly raid a hotel breakfast for lunch – bread plus cold cuts and cheese = a very good lunch. Add fruit and a breakfast pastry and you have a full meal together with an afternoon snack.
- If you’re staying in a hostel or guesthouse or Airbnb, choose a place that has a kitchen so you can make your own breakfast.
- Not got a kitchen or hotel breakfast? Walgreens, CVS and grocery stores have fresh fruit, yoghurt and pastries that can stand in for a cheap breakfast. Failing that, Starbucks (as much as I don’t like it) can offer a pretty cheap breakfast.
33. Lunch at Miami’s French bakeries
With many of the City Sightseeing Bus tours, if you book a multi-day bus ticket you usually get the ‘Millionaire Row’ boat cruise thrown in for free. This boat tour takes you around Biscayne Bay and past the luxurious homes of Miami’s wealthiest residents on Millionaire’s Row and Star Island.
Got a gelato recommendation for me? Let me know in the comments and I’ll go and do a taste test.
- My favourite (and apparently everyone else’s) is Rosetta Bakery. There are often queues out the door of the branch near Lincoln Road Mall. Either go mid-morning or mid-afternoon or check out their sister branch (quite a bit) further down Collins.
- Bonus: everything is 50% off early evening. The sandwiches do keep overnight if there isn’t too much tomato on them.
34. Brunch at Nikki beach on Sundays
Oh boy, the food scene in Miami hurts me. As a grazer (I eat very small amounts about 28 times a day), I struggle to find small meals to satisfy my annoying eating style (American portions, anyone?). Not only that, Miami hurts my pocket. Sit down for three meals, add tax and tip and taxes on top of tips and your budget can get blown pretty quickly.
It doesn’t merit more than a quick wander, IMO, but if you want to do some people watching, having a quick wander down Española way. It’s just up the road from Lincoln Road Mall, so it’s easy to tack on when you’re there. Beware: this is an eating street so if you are prone to getting hungry, take a slice of pizza from nearby Groovy’s pizza with you.
35. Split a plate at the 11th Street Diner
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Downsides: it’s in north beach, a 30 minute walk to South Beach (or 5 mins by free Trolley). Don’t buy anything here – tea and coffee is a cup and a beer will fleece you . I’ve no idea who they’re catering to, but it ain’t budget travellers.
36. Grab cheap pizza at Lincoln Road Mall
With subsequent trips likely, I’ll keep this post updated as I try new budget Miami tips.
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37. Skip the spendy ice-creams
How to do it: I like this website – free tours on foot – for recommended tours. Note: although free walking tours don’t have a fee, it’s good travel karma to tip your guide.
The first thing to know about Miami is that the party scene is very diverse. Want glam nightclubs, you’ve got it. Prefer the craft beer scene, no problem. There for the LGTBQI nightlife, Miami’s got you covered.
Ocean drive is iconic but do you really need/want to sleep in one of the hotels there? Apart from the fact that Ocean drive is an expensive place to stay, the hotels fall into that category called ’boutique’. A category that, for me, screams old buildings with inconsistent quality. And then there is the noise factor. Revving sports cars (why do people feel the need to do this?) and party bars. You might want to visit a few nightclubs in Miami but do you really want to sleep in one?
38. (Forgive me but I’m recommending) Starbucks on Ocean Drive
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39. Hit the grocery stores for fresh salads and sandwiches
Ok, ok, I get it. If you’re trying to do a cheap weekend break or there’s an epic DJ you absolutely must see on a Saturday, then this tip won’t work for you. For everyone else, skip the weekend like your wallet depends on it. More specifically, skip Friday and Saturday nights. Miami is rammed, hotels book up quickly, accommodation prices spike, tours are oversubscribed and the beach is a bun-fight for space. Spare yourself the drama.
40. Dine on Washington Avenue
Rock Hostel – this was on my list of places to try during this trip but Last-Minute-Larry here didn’t get her arse into gear in time to book it. I’ve walked past and it looks good as a South Beach hostel option.
- Cream Gourmet Espresso Bar for soups and sandwiches;
- Taco Rico, just off Washington for, errr…. tacos;
- Moshi Moshi – not just because it’s cheap but also because the sushi here is exceptional;
- Al Basha Grill for amazing Middle Eastern food;
- Pane & Vino for the best, fresh pasta in Miami (IMO);
- Juice & Java for an immune boost of goodness;
- Burger-Fi for dirty burgers (though I believe Cheeseburger Baby is better);
- Poseidon Greek Boutique Seafood – I had an amazing Greek salad here. I’m sure the other food is good too;
Most recently I stayed at The Julia Boutique hotel which was a lot closer to South Pointe pier and had a much swankier interior than San Juan if you don’t mind a 5-minute walk to get closer to the South Beach action. It’s also another of the best places to stay in Miami if you’re looking for cheap hotels in Miami.
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Cheap hotels in Miami on a budget
How to do it: Stroll along Ocean Drive, compare prices and start your party early. Otherwise, you can find a list of happy hour offers in Miami here.
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Better: just go and grab a frozen bar in one of the freezers in CVS or Walgreens. You’ll spend half the price for about the same quality.
I do like to sit down for a hot meal at dinner time but I don’t need the same at lunch time. Which is how I came to discover that many of the grocery stores have a chiller counter that includes great-priced fresh salads, sandwiches and sushi. I’m talking greens and tomatoes and inch long shrimps, kind of salads. Get one and dine al-fresco at the beach.
One of the greatest gifts of Miami’s food scene is the French bakeries. The sandwiches are big enough for two (people or meals) and consist of fresh bread with good quality meats, cheeses and vegetables. All for around . Great for taking on the go.
Downsides: the hostel is looking a little tired. But, Generator have recently bought the chain of hostels and, though the brand name will stay the same, a refresh is imminent. Same deal as Generator – the on-site menu/bar is not cheap.
Sure, the 11th Street Diner is touristy but it also serves up huge portions at a great price in a retro-style train car. The staff are fantastic (I off-menu order almost every time and they don’t blink). It’s also open 24 hours for those post-party munchies. I find the portion sizes huge so it’s very easy to split a plate. Still hungry, just add a few sides (or a slice of pie for dessert).
Best for: hotel quality beds and service at a budget price. This hostel is a newbie in Miami and still has the sparkly clean feel. There is a beautiful pool with loungers out the back. Also, the location makes it better for non-party animals.
How to do it: You can find a list of Miami South beach hotels here.
Bonus: the price includes three meals a day. Yes, you read that right.
Another alternative for cheap pizza by the slice is Groovy’s just further up the road towards Ocean Drive.
For me, the combo of ambling down Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue, coupled with the city sightseeing bus, offers enough Art Deco sightseeing in Miami. If you do want more (and more in-depth info), from the same company as above, check out their free self-guided walk of Miami’s famous Art Deco District. There’s even an audio download.
I love a gelato. (Fun fact: did you know I run wine tours in Italy’s Prosecco region? Thanks to this, I’m becoming a gelato aficionado). The problem is, I have yet to find any really good gelato, or ice-cream, in Miami. And it’s not due to lack of trying.
How to do it: Don’t forget tax and tips go on top of every drink price. Order in rounds to save on tips (solo beer – tip, 2 beers – tip).
I’ve long been of the opinion that I don’t need a guide to take me on a night out…unless it makes it cheaper. And Miami is a city where it can make it cheaper. With negotiated discounts and the chance to see several bars and clubs in one night, if you’re going to have a big night out in Miami, but want to do it cheaply, this is a good way to do it. A bus and free shots are usually thrown in.
You can’t put a price on the ocean and the beach in Miami is both sprawling and absolutely free. This should definitely be at the top of your free things to do in Miami list. To access it, just take one of the many side streets from Ocean drive onto the sand.
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How to do it: You can find out more about what to see on the Boardwalk here.
Can’t be arsed to take the bus but equally don’t want to throw down on a spendy cab fare? Take Uber or Lyft. Both will allow you to ride share (share the car with other passengers) to reduce the fare.
Best for – access to a kitchen while you’re in Miami. A few blocks closer to South Beach than Generator (but still a 25 min walk), Freehand is a solid choice.
Final cheap food tip for Miami: I couldn’t really find a place for this so I’m popping it here. I had an amazing, very fancy dining experience at Meat Market on Lincoln Road Mall. Usually the prices are prohibitive if you’re trying to do Miami on a budget but they do a great fixed-price set lunch. I had two course, including a delicious piece of salmon for just (including the taxes and tip).
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Want more? Here are some of my popular posts if you’re planning a trip to the USA
In fact, Miami is so expensive for this solo traveller that I mostly stay hostels in Miami and this is the best way to do Miami on a budget. I get that communal sleeping is not for everyone but most hostels also offer private rooms. The upside of having visited Miami many times is that I’ve stayed in most of the hostels at some point. Below is a run down of the various hostels and what I like about each one.
Miami International Beach Hostel
And if you’re planning a trip down through the Keys, here’s my post for 21 Best Things To Do In The Florida Keys.
Me? I’m a dive bar kind of girl. Which dovetails very nicely into the cheap party scene in Miami. But don’t worry, I’ve got a few non-dive bar tips for you, too. Some of these tips might seem a bit more generic (because it’s hard to cover so many party types in one post). If you want to explore the different nightlife options in Miami, you can get a lot more information here.
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If you’re thinking of taking a trip to Colombia, you can check out my posts about my trip here.
How to do it: You can check out the map here.
Water, south beach as a backdrop and lots of boats, keep travelling after south pointe and you’ll end up at Miami Beach Marina. It’s definitely worth a stroll if you’re down that way.
Push on all the way to the most southern part of the Miami boardwalk and you’ll hit South Pointe Pier. With a park on one side and a pier out over the glorious ocean on the other, we’re talking views a-plenty.
How to do it: You can book tickets for the hop on hop of City Sightseeing bus here.
Finding cheap hotels in South Beach Miami is a bit like searching for a pink and lemon stripy unicorn riding a moped through a field of sunflowers.
Now we’re talking my language. Problem is, I may have been doing some afternoon drinking before I went exploring the dive bar scene in Miami so I kind of can’t fully recall the name of the bar (at one point I wasn’t sure I could recall my own name).
Blog posts to help you plan your trip
I loathe the Miami resort fee. What is it? It’s a fee you pay when you stay in most hotels in Miami. What’s it for? My answer: f*ck knows. The hotel industry answer: beach towels, beach loungers, bath, blah, bulls!t, we just want to make more money. But anyway, before this descents into total rant, many of the hotels offer either free drinks or happy hour drinks to guests as part of their resort fee.
How to do it: You can find out more here. No need to book.