04/08/2014 12:40 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Miami City Guide

From the bronzed bodies in bikinis on South Beach (or SoBe to those in the know) to the beautiful people letting loose in the clubs, Miami's all about looking and feeling gorgeous.

Luckily it's also the perfect place for a celeb-style VIP detox, shaping up at the city's spas and with some yoga on the beach - before retoxing with a few mojitos in the sun and dancing until dawn. Well, if it's good enough for Eva Longoria, it's good enough for us!

Namechecked in Gossip Girl as the ultimate spa retreat for stylish New Yorkers, Canyon Ranch has been pampering Park Avenue Princesses for years – and the newest Miami sister spa is no less chic. Best of all, unlike the other award-winning Canyon Ranch hotels, the Florida one serves organic alcohol in the bar – try the pineapple and vanilla Perfect 10 martini.

Keep your eyes open for celebs too, everyone from Gerard Butler to Eva Longoria have checked in. And it's not hard to see why. Many of the huge rooms look out onto the Atlantic, or there's four pools if you don't fancy hitting the beach.

You can have a complete life overhaul, with coaching, acupuncture or even a medical check-up, and the nutritional info for the restaurant's ultra-indulgent food is displayed on the menu, so a delicious three course meal comes in at under 750 calories.

Plus there's a whopping 70,000 square feet of spa. As well as treatments, such as ashiatsu massage and the signature Transformation facial, spend an afternoon lounging in Aquavana, a series of heat and cold experiences, including sauna, steam room, herbal laconium, Jacuzzi, foot spa, thermal loungers, igloo and sensory showers – the Caribbean Storm setting even has parrot noises and lightning flashes to entertain you.

Suites at Canyon Ranch Miami Beach start from £325 per night, including access to Aquavana, fitness classes, plus beach and surf activities. Book a two-night stay between Sunday and Thursday before April 30, 2011, to get a $250 hotel allowance and breakfast for two.


There are no muffin tops in Miami, ladies. But if you'd rather have teeth pulled than go to the gym, you can shape up on holiday with classes in Canyon Ranch Miami Beach's fitness centre. Even couch potatoes will enjoy kickstarting the day with a beach boot camp, before diving straight into the ocean (or collapsing onto a lounger) afterwards. If you're still feeling energetic, South Beach is around an hour's stroll along the boardwalk.

Or try your hand at some climbing on the rock wall, with an instructor to talk you through the basics – and stop you from falling. You'll tone your triceps and get a huge sense of achievement when you tap the top of the wall.

There's also Zumba classes, where you can dance up a sweat to the Latin music, and if you're really serious about transforming yourself, there's lectures on everything from detoxing your diet to learning about acupressure.


Set on the ocean and Biscayne Bay, you're never far from the water in Miami. But instead of sticking to the beach, you can see a completely different side to the city from a kayak on the Oleta River. Meandering peacefully through mangrove thickets, it's like stepping back in time – except when you occasionally paddle into view of the skyscrapers.

Vultures circle overhead, you'll see birds galore, including storks, ospreys, ibises and herons, as well as fish leaping through the water – and if you're lucky (or unlucky!) an alligator or two, and even manatees. Plus it'll tone your arms up nicely, of course.

The Oleta River Blue Marlin tour, with Blue Moon Outdoor Center, costs around £37.50 for two to three hours. You can also rent kayaks direct from around £11 for a single kayak and £16 for a tandem for 90 minutes – finish up at the Blue Marlin Fish House for their smoked fish dip or a lobster burger in the sunshine.

A guided 'Paddling the Oleta' tour with Dragonfly Expeditions costs around £55 per person.


If you haven't made it to Cuba, the next best thing is a wander around Little Havana – as close as you can get to the island's capital without ever leaving Miami. Jump in a cab to Calle Ocho and take a wander along the street, checking out the Walk of Fame including a star for Gloria Estefan (remember her?) as well as salsa clubs and santeria shops – think Cuban voodoo.

Don't miss Domino Park, as Maximo Gomez Park is known, at SW 15th Ave. There's no chance you'll get to join in one of the fast-paced games of dominoes, as this is one for the cigar-smoking local men only, but it's worth a watch.

And while there's fantastic local food and drink galore year-round, for a real Latin street festival, head there in March when more than a million people turn up to party during the Calle Ocho Festival.


It's not just the people who look good in Miami – even the buildings are gorgeous. The city is packed with stunning Art Deco buildings, especially along Ocean Drive, and has the highest concentration in the world, around 800 of their 1,200 listed buildings.

So sign up for one of the 90 minute walking tours to discover their secrets, including why Miami's devastating 1926 hurricane led to the city adopting Art Deco, the reasons so many of the old hotels have murals of the Everglades inside, and even the clever design of the buildings' 'eyebrows' – those shady ledges above the windows. You'll also stop off by the grand Mediterranean-style villa where Versace lived before he was shot on his doorstep – today, an exclusive members' club.

Guided walks take place on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 10.30am, and Thursdays at 6.30pm, for around £12.50, or you can hire an iPod and map for around £9.50 to do the walk yourself, available on weekdays from 9:30 am to 5pm.


The melting pot of Miami food takes in everything from Cuban sandwiches to great seafood – so you'll be glad you booked in for that beach workout.

Start off in Sustain where the seasonal menu stays as local and organic as possible, the restaurant itself is designed using recycled and reclaimed materials, and even the paint is eco-friendly. The food is based on American comfort classics with a twist – go for fried chicken and mac'n'cheese if you're feeling indulgent, or one of the fish dishes for something lighter. Main courses start from around £10.

For seafood, Chef Allen's is a Miami landmark, with some incredible fish dishes – daily deliveries determine what's on the menu, but you can expect yellowtail snapper, seabass, pompano, wahoo, conch and shrimp, all with a fusion twist like a pistachio crust, Chimichurri sauce or plantains. Main courses start from around £15.


And don't miss Sushi Samba on Lincoln Road. A fantastic fusion of Japanese and Latin American food, it's an unexpected combination that works, from quirky sushi to spicy ceviches and Moqueca Mista, a Brazilian seafood stew. Grab a Berry Smash if you're not drinking or if you're in a group, order a cocktail tree to try a few different mini versions. Prices start from around £3, while larger plates are around £17.50.


If you're looking to drink and dance the night away, you're spoiled for choice. From around 5.30pm, the clubs on Ocean Drive are pumping out the music and you can show off your best moves until the early hours.

Head to Mango's for dancing on the bar – the staff, rather than you – ultra-honed bodies, skimpy outfits and a great atmosphere. There's a door charge of around £6.50, then our insider tip is to head upstairs for the best drinks and a great view. It's slightly more expensive than the ground floor, at around £7 for a rum and coke, but you'll get better quality. Then show off your sexiest salsa moves – even if you turn up on your own, you won't be short of dancing partners.

Or head to nightlife hotspot Coconut Grove, towards the southern end of Miami, for live music at the new Burgundy Room, drinks among the film sets at Backlot Bar, attached to a cinema, or Lulu's where Monday is Caipirinha night and Wednesdays are all about martinis.


It wouldn't be America without some malls the size of a small town – if you're looking to test your bank manager's patience, you're in the right place. For the big chains and department stores, head north to Aventura Mall with 2.8 million square feet and more than 280 stores, or take a wander along Lincoln Road, which has stores like Steve Madden and Anthropologie along with Banana Republic and J Crew.

Then vintage fans should make a beeline for Washington Ave, just off Lincoln, for a string of retro treasure-troves including Recycled Blues, Reggae Wear and Beatnix.

Lastly, don't go without picking up a few Art Deco mementoes from the shop next to the Art Deco Welcome Center on Ocean Drive. There's original jewellery and adverts for your walls, or modern reproductions as well as souvenir T-shirts and quirky homeware.


Sometimes one spa just isn't enough... So for some pampering with a side of serious Miami bling, head to the Acqualina Resort . The Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Bentleys parked outside give you some idea of the hotel's guests, but you can get a taste of the high life without having to marry a Russian oligarch!

Book a treatment in the Espa spa, and you get entry to the facilities, including the spa pool and ocean-view hot tub – prices start from around £35. Chill out in the crystal steam room or sauna, with a bowl of ice to cool you down in between, then kick back with some lavender cookies in the relaxation lounge. There's everything from reiki to reflexology, as well as a blissful hot stone massage on offer.

Afterwards, retox again into the Aaria Lounge with a cocktail – the pineapple and blueberry mojito is one of their signatures – and some fresh sushi.