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Going to the Beach Like a Local

Get local tips for planning your perfect beach day
April 06, 2012 By Gus in Miami: Travel News  | 10 Comments

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As spring settles in and the temperature starts to rise, our minds begin to daydream about going to the beach. One great thing about Miami is, we have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and it’s not just me who thinks so. In 2012, the travel website, TripAdvisor, ranked Miami Beach “2nd Best Beach Destination in the United States”. However, going to the beach in Miami is a little different than other places. Allow me to answer some frequently asked questions to help make your vacation planning easier.

13 Questions and Answers About Going To The Beach

1. What is the best time to visit?
The best time to visit Miami is June and July, when the wintertime crowds have gone home and the summer storms have yet to arrive. If your motivation to visit is going to the beach, April and May are beautiful months to visit, but you’ll need to begin your hotel search early if you want to save money. Spring is when most of the big festivals take place.

2. Is the water warm enough to swim all year?
This is a subjective question. I grew up in Southern California and the coldest water temps in Miami are still warmer than the hottest days on the West Coast. I’m comfortable getting in the water all year, but I wear a light wetsuit top in the winter. Generally, I’ve found visitors from cold climates are comfortable to swim all year round. Locals and visitors from warmer climate countries don’t go in the water until late April. If you own a wetsuit top, bring it in the winter and spring.

3. What is the best time of day to go?
The best time to go to the beach is between 10am and 12pm. The later you go, the more crowded it gets and the harder it is to park your car. If you visit in the summer and fall, keep in mind, afternoon rain storms are fairly common in the late afternoon. The secret to maximizing your vacation time is to go to the beach early, and leave the afternoon free to relax and explore the neighborhood. For me, 2 hours is plenty of time to spend at the beach. Any longer and you run the risk of burning out and spoiling the night. If you’re staying nearby, I do suggest, however, going back to the beach around 6pm for a swim to refresh your senses.

4. What beach should I go to?
This depends on where you are staying. If you are in Miami Beach, just walk east to the beach and look for a good spot on the sand. The least crowded area is between 3rd and 4th Street. The area between 13th and 15th Street is another less crowded section of the beach, and a good spot to lay out.

Haulover: At 10800 Collins Avenue is the only clothing-optional beach in the area. This is also a good beach in Miami for surfing as it gets bigger waves during hurricane season. Another plus, the sand here is fine-grain white, unusual for Miami, which has coarser grain sand.

Key Biscayne: Crandon Park and Bill Baggs Recreation Area have beautiful beaches. The picnic areas are popular with local families on the weekends, but the beaches themselves feel less crowded than Miami Beach.

5. Where should I park my car?
Parking in Miami Beach can be difficult, depending on the time of day and the day of the week. It is easiest to find parking on weekdays, with free parking available on the residential streets, west of Washington Avenue. On the weekends, your best option is to find a parking lot, or a parking meter near the beach. 4th Street is a good area to find metered parking, and a good street to access the beach. Parking Map

Haulover Beach and Key Biscayne have plenty of parking.

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6. What should I bring to the beach?
Most likely, you’ll be walking 5 or 6 blocks to get to the beach. Therefore, packing lightly is recommend. Bring a beach bag that is easy to carry. What to bring is up to you. Don’t forget a towel, sunglasses, water, good sunscreen, something to read, and a change of clothes. It can also be fun to bring a large bed sheet with you to lay on in the sand.

7. What should I wear?
Your clothes should be lightweight and functional. Wear comfortable shoes for walking in the sand. Bring a change of clothes. As far as a bathing suit fashion goes, it’s your decision what to wear.

8. Is topless sunbathing permitted?
In South Beach, it’s fairly common to see women sunbathing topless. Nude sunbathing is allowed on the north end of Haulover Beach.

9. Are beach chairs available for rent?
Beach chairs and umbrellas are available for rent in Miami Beach. Chairs rent for between $10 and $20 a day, depending on the section of beach you choose to visit.

10. Is there a snack bar?
There are concession stands on the beach and restaurants and markets nearby. You can also find people walking on the sand selling cold water. Technically, it is illegal to drink alcohol on the beach. However, it does happen discreetly.

11. What activities are available?
Miami Beach has a family friendly atmosphere. Some of the things that make this beach special include: Full time Lifeguards, Art Deco Welcome Center, parks, boardwalk, playgrounds, showers, bathrooms, volleyball courts, handicap access, beach chair rental, and concession stands. It is safe to swim all year. There is no real snorkeling, but there is a small rock reef about 50 yards off 5th Street, before the buoys. If you have a mask and fins, and are a good swimmer, it can be a fun snorkel spot. Parasailing and jet ski rentals are available near the Loews Hotel. The beach is also a great place to play catch, or paddle tennis.

12. Is there anything dangerous about swimming in the ocean?
Shark attacks rarely happen in Miami. The most notable sea-creature to watch out for is jellyfish (Portuguese Man-of-War). Most jellyfish stings are painful for an hour, then the pain subsides. Under some conditions a sting can be more serious and may require medical attention. See Treating Jellyfish Stings.

13. What are the other beachgoers like?
You may have heard, Miami is a cultural melting pot. Well, so is the beach. No doubt, you are going to see the gamut of every type of person imaginable, which can make going to the beach fun. But it also means you may encounter the loud cell phone talker, the music blarer, or the squealing child. If so, just try your best to tune them out. It’s best to be tolerant of others in these situations.

Another thing that makes our beach special, there is no “locals only” vibe that you can experience on beaches in California and Hawaii. In Miami, everyone is welcome at the beach.

I hope these answers are helpful and you have a wonderful time!

If something is missing, or you have a question, please post a comment below.

Photos by Scott Alexander

Related Categories: Miami: Travel News,

Gus Moore heads up Miami Beach 411 as site administrator. You can reach him at 1-305-754-2206.

See more articles by Gus.

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10 Comments on

"Going to the Beach Like a Local"

Susan Newburn says:

We stay in Miami downtown and take a taxi to South Beach. Then you don’t have to find a parking spot!

Posted on 04/06/2012 at 2:57 PM

Susan Newburn says:

And, wear a cover-up! It will make you feel less self conscious around the ‘beautiful people’...

Posted on 04/06/2012 at 2:59 PM

Blackford Oakes says:

Wasn’t the ” locals only” a surfer’s issue back home ?

What area of Miami Beach has more wave activity ?

Posted on 04/06/2012 at 5:55 PM

Gus says:

Well, I guess you could say the “locals only” threat on the West Coast was more of an issue with the non-surfers versus the locals. It’s nice we don’t have those issues in Miami.

In Miami Beach, you can find the best waves in-front of Nikki Beach and 1st Street. Haulover also gets surf. Both spots need strong winds, or a hurricane offshore to generate a swell.

Here’s a few surf photos of South Beach going off:

Hurricane Frances, 2004 - http://www.miamibeach411.com/photo-gallery/surf/004.html

Winter Swell, 2010 - http://www.miamibeach411.com/news/surfers-brave-south-beach-chill

Posted on 04/06/2012 at 6:41 PM

Doug says:

Nice article, Gus! I was wondering, do any of the beaches in North County close at night? I remember most of the ones around San Diego were 24-7.  Miami is a little different compared to the west coast in that department, since you’re not supposed to be on the beach between 12 and 5 am in South Beach.  The police used to turn a blind eye to it, but no more.  Especially if you’re not there with a girlfriend.

Posted on 04/07/2012 at 12:24 PM

Gus says:

Thanks, Doug. This was a fun article to write. In North County, the larger beach parking lots close at sundown, but I think you can walk on the beach all night.

Posted on 04/07/2012 at 12:57 PM

Priscila says:

I always enjoy reading this article an I’m also slightly bias of the photos hehe. But I must also add that the SoBe beach locals are more stylized. For example women often wear jewelry like big earrings and bangles to the beach, and mascara, and very very cool sunglasses. So if any tourist wants to be cool on the beach these are musts smile

Posted on 08/18/2013 at 10:51 AM

Scott says:

Every word of what Priscila said.  I’m also partial since I took the photos.  But if you hit the beach, definitely do it in style.  You know, if that’s your thing.  smile

Posted on 08/18/2013 at 11:03 AM

Gus says:

Hey Priscila, great to hear from you. Last Sunday Michelle and I were at the beach and she got to use that creative beach tip for females that you wrote about on your blog.

Thanks for always keeping it real and sharing your beautiful face at the top if this post with us!.

And thanks to Scott for taking both of the awesome beach pics!

Posted on 08/18/2013 at 11:12 AM

Gibson says:

This is an awesome write up. Please continue writing the cool stuff about Miami.

Posted on 07/28/2014 at 7:33 AM

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