Isn’t all of Florida a “beach town?” We may be surrounded by water, but there are definitely a few cities worth visiting that are unlike any others in the state. Head up or down the coast from Miami and plan to plant your toes in the sand (with a cold drink in your hand, of course). Jellyfish may or may not be prevalent, so you might want to bring an emergency kit. Other than that, pack a picnic, an umbrella, and all the sunblock and you’re all set for a memorable vacation in the Sunshine State.
All of the Florida Keys is a good choice, but if you’re opting to stay close to the mainland, head to Key Largo for a quick and unconventional Miami getaway. A perennial warm weather escape, the Florida Keys blends equal parts adventure and relaxation. Here, you’ll find that the best beaches are attached to hotels and guests are privy to exclusive access.
But you don't always have to book a room to enjoy the same amenities as hotel guests—in some instances, day passes are possible. Key Largo’s Baker’s Cay Resort spans 13 acres of lush tropical groves and is home to the island’s most secluded white sand beaches: Coconut Beach and Hammock Beach. Grab a Cay Club day pass for just $50 (if you are a local, the cost is cut in half). This grants you access to the hotel's swimming pools and beach areas, umbrellas, hammocks, lounge chairs, and other onsite activities. One major perk: Children under 12 years of age can hang for free with an adult who's 21 or older.
South Beach’s South of Fifth Neighborhood
Located in the exclusive South of Fifth (SoFi) neighborhood in Miami Beach, the Marriott Stanton South Beach is one of the few hotels with direct beach access in the area. Perfect for couples, solo travelers, friends, or the whole family, guests can rent a private beach cabaña and dine at one of the two restaurants on-property.
Stay busy and fit with sunrise yoga on the beach, açaí bowls and green juices, and champagne happy hours. The cool thing about the SoFi neighborhood is that it has a really great and authentic vibe even though it’s in touristy South Beach. Don’t be surprised if you run into regulars at the local coffee shop or if the barista learns your name after a visit or two. When you’ve gotten in all the relaxation you can handle, head to a lounge or club on South Beach in your flashiest nightlife attire. Locals waste no expense when it comes to looking their absolute best, and the more glitter and sequins, the merrier.
If it's a relaxing getaway you're after, look no further than Miami's older, quieter sister. With over seven miles of sparkling, sunny beaches, Fort Lauderdale offers up plenty of coastal shops, hotels, waterfront cafés, and places to listen to live music. Plan a boat outing here or try windsurfing, snorkeling, or scuba diving for the first time. If a pickup beach volleyball game or rollerblading on the Promenade is more your speed, there's that, too. Atlantic Ocean views are pretty incredible here, so you’ll probably want to spend as much time as possible outside.
If you plan to stay around North Beach, the Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach is a good choice. Here, you can enjoy customized cruisers and gourmet picnic baskets for an afternoon on the beach, indulge in five-star beach service, and enjoy incomparable views at the top of the 20,000-square-foot SkyDeck.
One of the best-ranked beaches in the nation, Clearwater Beach is known for its soft, white sand, calm waters, and outdoor activities. From jet skiing and paddleboarding to boat tours with dolphin sightings, you'll find a wealth of things to do here.
Book a room at the Sandpearl Resort, a hotel that’s partnered with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Just a five minute shuttle ride away from the hotel, this rescue and rehabilitation center boasts sea life safari boat tours and a dolphin trainer shadow experience. Opal Sands Resort, on the other hand, promises panoramic views thanks to its floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies. The hotel offers guests complimentary bikes so you can head out to Pier 60 during a daily sunset celebration that includes arts, crafts, street performers, and musicians.
A fantasy town in the Panhandle, this is a convenient spot to visit if you’re coming from Georgia or Alabama. It’s quite the road trip from Miami, but you can always stop at other beach towns along the way. The all-white Mediterranean-style houses are a sight for sore eyes and almost too picturesque to be real. Book a rental home with a courtyard and pool and plan to veg out for the week. Most restaurants and shops are within walking or biking distance, and the community even has a state-of-the-art fitness center and spa.
While staying in Alys Beach, take a little drive to other seaside towns in the area, such as Destin and Panama City. There's also Seaside, a pastel-colored wonderland with white picket fences, made famous in "The Truman Show."