Florida, North America, USA

Florida Keys and Miami: The Highlights

February 4, 2018

People constantly ask me how I decide what my next trip will be. To be honest with you, there is no rhyme and reason to it. I just go with my gut feelings (supplemented with whatever flight sale happens around that time). This trip idea, for example, was inspired from several blog posts as well as a WestJet flight sale last summer. I knew it’s never a bad idea to plan a trip post-holiday, especially in the dead of winter. So, that’s exactly what we did. We were in the Sunshine State for 1 whole week and here’s how things went down.

The Summary 

Number of days: 7

Number of travelers: 5

The itinerary: YYZ-MIA – Florida Keys – MIA – YYZ

Where we stayed: Oceans Edge Resort in Key West, Drift Hotel in Key Largo, and AirBnB in Miami.

Best Happy Hour: Piña colada from the Pilot’s House and Marina. So good!

Meal highlight: Out of EVERYTHING we’ve eaten, it has to be the Açai bowl* from Under the Mango Tree. I am determined to make more of these at home.

How cute is this place?

*You know you’re getting old when…

Coffee highlight: Panther Coffee.

Dreamy interior.

The Good

Biking in Key West. During my research, I found out the best way to explore Key West is by bike, so we rented bikes (and a trike for Jess) and spent the entire day cycling around. WeCycle dropped off our bikes ate our hotel and picked them up the next day, making the whole process so simple. We had so much fun despite our sore bottoms and windswept hairs.

Morning mass at the Basilica of Mary Star of the Sea. We stopped by the Basilica the evening prior and met the lovely Sr. Elizabeth who proceeded to invite us to their morning mass the next day. The catch? It’s at 7:30 AM. I mean, who wakes up that early on their vacation? Apparently I do! We made our way to the Church and had a beautiful start to the day. The bonus? We got croissants, coffee, and cold-pressed juices for breakfast afterwards.

Surprised Peruvian lunch in Miami. We were stopped at a red light in the midst of scouting fishing locations when we noticed a Peruvian restaurant on the side of the road. After a few minutes of banter and thinking out loud, we pulled over and stepped into the restaurant. The result of the serendipity? Cheap, huge portions, and delicious Peruvian fares, like anticuchos, arroz con mariscos, arroz con pollo, chicha morada and maracuya. Plus a wave of nostalgia for me. 

Sunrise run in Miami Beach. The first time I ran around our AirBnB in Miami, I came back to an apartment surrounded by FOUR(!!) police cruisers (see more below). So, before we flew home, I begged William to drive me to Miami Beach so I can have a peaceful morning run by the beach. We also inadvertently caught one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve seen in a while.

The Not-So-Good 

Weather in Key West. It was SO SO COLD, you guys. I mean, I know we came from Toronto, where temperature was below zero, so ANYTHING would have been better, but I was expecting low-to-mid 20s with balmy, warm sea breeze. I was ready to be hot and humid. I brought shorts and t-shirts and definitely did NOT bring sweaters and/or jackets. I ended up being so, so cold for the first half of the trip. And we ended up cancelling our snorkeling tour at John F. Pennekamp State Park. Boo gusty winds and cold temperatures!

Snappers Key Largo. In an edition of disappointing meals, Snappers ranked way up there. We went during Happy Hour and expected something alongside Alonzo’s Happy Hour: sit wherever and you’ll be able to take advantage of the discounts (on drinks AND meals) until the end of the hour. Not the case. We were told that Happy Hour is only valid if you are sitting at the bar (there was no more seats) and our food came on black plastic plates (yes, those party ones) put together messily. I mean, $12 nachos on a black plastic plate? We definitely felt ripped off. I debated on whether or not I should even post this as the website says they are recovering from Irma, and I don’t even mind about the black plastic plates, but I think it’s important to deliver a proper amount of food for what was charged.

Our AirBnB in Miami. After looking at so many different options, I decided to go ahead with our AirBnB in downtown Miami. Looking at the map, it seems to be centrally located in downtown Miami and close to all the places we wanted to visit – Wynwood, Little Havana, and Miami Beach. Plus, it was one of the better-valued ones I found – modern space, full kitchen, and reasonably priced. I only found out after I came back from my morning run that the area the apartment is in is probably not the safest. I mean, there were FOUR (!!) police cruisers around an apartment building with all the policemen walking about. I was legitimately scared and thought there was going to be a shoot-out or something (I have a very active imagination). We were fine, obviously, but maybe next time I should have looked into this more closely.

I’ve started to notice a change in my travel style. Although I still plan my itineraries obsessively, I am now (slightly) more laid back with the day-to-day activities. During this trip, for example, we had days where we didn’t leave the hotel until close to 11 AM and we had days where I have absolutely nothing planned. While it drove me crazy at the time (why are we wasting our time!?), I am now looking back with a better understanding of what relaxation means (HA!).  There is something exciting about having an entire day left to chance… Who knows, maybe I’ll try one of those all-inclusive resort one of these days.

Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage on Key West and Miami (aka all the food, coffee and our budget!)

Until next time,

Pauline

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