MIAMI is intoxicatingly beautiful, with palm trees swaying in the breeze and South Beach’s famous Art Deco buildings glowing in the warm sunlight. Even so, it’s the people – not the climate, the landscape or the cash – that make it so noteworthy. Two-thirds of the two-million-plus population are Hispanic, the majority of them Cuban, and Spanish is spoken here almost as often as English.
Miami has a range of districts that mirror its variegated cultural, economic and social divisions. Separated from the mainland by Biscayne Bay – and actually, a separate city – the most popular is Miami Beach, which is defined largely by the bacchanalian pursuits along South Beach. In addition to an enticing stretch of sand, this is home to much of the city’s Art Deco architecture.
Back on the mainland, the towers of downtown herald Miami’s proud status as the headquarters of many US corporations’ Latin American operations. To the north, the art galleries and showrooms of Wynwood and the Design District are gradually starting to attract more visitors. Meanwhile, southwest of downtown, there’s nowhere better for a Cuban lunch than Little Havana, which spreads out along 8th Street (also known as Calle Ocho). Immediately south, the spacious boulevards and ornate public buildings of Coral Gables are as impressive now as they were in the 1920s, when the district set new standards in town planning. Lastly, sun-worshippers should make time for Key Biscayne, a smart, secluded island community with some beautiful beaches, an easy five miles off the mainland. The Key had a “coloured-only” beach in the pre-civil rights era, and it is still significant in terms of local African American history.