14 underrated things to do in Miami Beach that most tourists miss, from salsa classes to a nightclub with a bowling alley

  • Miami Beach is a popular tourist destination for its warm weather and white sand beaches.

  • The city has hidden gems for spring breakers as well as vacationers looking to relax.

  • Here are 13 underrated places to see and things to do, from museums to salsa classes.

For some, Miami Beach evokes an image of luxurious hotels, gorgeous white sand beaches, and bikini-clad beachgoers.

Miami Beach Florida beach white sand ocean
Beachgoers in Miami Beach.Shutterstock/Alexander Demyanenko

Many vacationers in Miami Beach enjoy a weekend lounging in the sun, drinking cocktails, and clubbing like a cast member of "Jersey Shore." But alongside hip nightclubs and expensive hotels, the coastal city has underrated gems that are worth exploring.

On a trip down to Miami Beach to escape the cold New York weather several years ago, I discovered unique places in the city that don't get as much press as the places like The Clevelander bar or LIV nightclub, but I think they're just as fun to experience.

Here are 13 underrated things I recommend doing on your next trip to in Miami Beach.

Stay at a smaller boutique hotel like The Plymouth.

plymouth hotel miami
The Plymouth has a great pool and a retro feel.Plymouth Hotel Miami/Yelp

Miami Beach has so many hotels that it can be tough to settle on just one. Large properties like the Eden Roc HotelFontaine Bleu, and the Miami Beach EDITION are impressive, with beachfront locations that can feel magical. I've stayed at the 1 Hotel South Beach, which I thought was an incredible experience and worth the money.

But to save and stay somewhere more unique, I recommend choosing one of the city's smaller boutique hotels. My favorite is The Plymouth, which has a retro vibe that I find adorable. There's a pool area with comfortable chairs, rooms with balconies, and friendly staff.

Go museum hopping at the Bass Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum of Florida, and the World Erotic Art Museum.

The Bass in miami
The Bass Museum of Art.The Bass/Yelp

Museums might not be the first thing that comes to mind when tourists think of Miami Beach, but the small city has a healthy number of them to keep art fans entertained.

For want a dose of culture on your trip, head to places like The Jewish Museum, the Wolfsonian, and the World Erotic Art Museum which is the only museum in the United States devoted solely to erotic art. The Bass Museum of Art is a popular, more expansion option as well.

Not only are these museums interesting to learn about history and culture, but I also think they're a great way to escape from the humidity and sun for a few hours.

Get to know Miami's organic food scene at restaurants like Planta and Soul Tavern.

malibu farm miami
Malibu Farm at the Nobu Hotel.Malibu Farm/Yelp

Miami Beach has plenty of wonderful Cuban food and expensive cocktails, but I don't think the city's vegetarian and plant-based restaurant scene gets the attention it should.

There are many healthy options in Miami Beach. I like to go to Lilikoi Organic Living for fresh Hawaiian poke, smoothies, and juices, and Habitat at the 1 Hotel for farm-fresh Mexican cuisine.

Vegan and vegetarians should check out Planta, a plant-based restaurant that has amazing brunch; as well as Soul Tavern, a beautiful vegan gastropub and elixir bar that has so many unique menu options. Honestly, I had some of the best vegetarian foods ever in Miami Beach.

Escape the bustle with a trip to the Miami Botanical Gardens.

Miami Beach Botanical Garden
Inside the Miami Botanical Gardens.Miami Beach Botanical Garden/Yelp

For an escape from the crowds, I recommend visiting the Miami Botanical Gardens. It's a 3-acre property, and I enjoyed walking around the different garden areas, like the palm garden and water garden.

I thought the different tropical plants were beautiful, and I found a shady spot to relax for a bit. I particularly loved the Japanese garden, which had two ponds connected by a bridge.

Shake off your comfort zone with a salsa class.

mango's tropical cafe
Mango's Tropical Cafe offers salsa classes.Mango's Tropical Cafe/Yelp

I had to break out of my comfort zone to take a salsa class in Miami Beach, but it was worth it.

I took the class at Mango's Tropical Cafe with my mom. I can be shy and at times felt ridiculous trying the dances, but in the end I thought it was an awesome experience. The instructor taught us how to do some basic salsa and bachata moves.

The class also came with a free mojito and appetizer, and afterwards we had access to the club for the entire night, which I thought was awesome. It was a great time, and something I recommend everyone try.

Visit the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach, a monument designed by Holocaust survivors.

holocaust memorial miami beach
The Holocaust Memorial.Phillip Pessar/Flickr

The Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach was created by a committee of local residents who were Holocaust survivors, according to the memorial's website.

Commissioned in 1984, the memorial opened in 1990 with a ceremony that included a speech from Elie Wiesel, the famed author, Nobel Prize winner, and Holocaust survivor.

Visitors can take a self-guided tour, which the memorial website says typically takes between one and two hours.

Order French sandwiches at a local shop that opened in 1988.

la sandwicherie
La Sandwicherie is a walk-up spot.La Sandwicherie/Yelp

La Sandwicherie, a French sandwich shop with several locations throughout Miami Beach and Miami, was recommended to me by a friend. I was skeptical because I don't like sandwiches very much, but I was pleasantly surprised after trying them here.

It's a casual, walk-up spot with a variety of breads and croissants, as well as unique sandwich creations, like one topped with papaya and mango. I liked going here to skip a pricey lunch, and instead grab a sandwich and enjoy it on the beach.

Take a walking tour of Miami Beach's art deco galleries.

art deco tours
Learn about Miami's art history with a tour of the Art Deco History District.Art Deco Tours/Yelp

Miami Beach is known for its Art Deco Historic District, which has old buildings in an art-deco style that is protected by the city and not allowed to be altered by new building owners.

Even if you're not a fan of the style, I think it's still worth doing an Art Deco Tour, as it's interesting and full of fun history about Miami Beach. There's a standard walking tour option, and a cocktail tour option, where you drink as you go.

I took the walking tour, which involved being guided through several art deco hotels and buildings in the area. I liked this tour specifically because it was with a small group.

Wander the Ancient Spanish Monastery in North Beach.

ancient spanish monastery
The Ancient Spanish Monastery in North Beach.Brett Levin/Flickr

Located in North Beach, the Ancient Spanish Monastery is an especially wonderful hidden gem, in my opinion. North Beach is further away from the busiest parts of Miami Beach, but I think it's worth the trip.

I found it interesting to learn that the monastery's stone bricks were originally part of a monastery built in Segovia, Spain, around 1141 AD, according to the monastery website. The buildings in Spain were purchased by William Randolph Hearst in 1925, shipped to the US, and reassembled in 1953, after Hearst's death.

The monastery has a large, old church with beautiful gardens and architecture. When I visited, I thought it was peaceful, unique, and full of history.

Have a night out with bowling and indoor ice-skating at Basement.

basement miami
There's bowling, dancing, and a mini ice rink.Basement/Yelp

For a night out while avoiding expensive clubs or packed bars, go to Basement. It's an unusual nightclub that's part bowling alley, ice-skating rink, and dance floor, and I think is a lot of fun.

I recommend booking a lane online in advance if you want to bowl.

Fill up on fresh sushi at Blue Ribbon.

blue ribbon south beach
Blue Ribbon is located at The Plymouth.Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill South Beach/Yelp

When I was in Miami, I asked a local for suggestions about restaurants. He suggested Blue Ribbon, a Japanese restaurant that is located at The Plymouth hotel, and called it an "underrated gem of a place in Miami Beach."

Blue Ribbon serves sushi and other menu options like fried rice and grilled meats. I thought it was a cozy restaurant that felt welcoming and comfortable. Every night I stayed at The Plymouth, I noticed the restaurant's dining room was packed.

Relax with a spa day at Lapis Spa in the Fontainebleau hotel.

lapis spa miami
Lapis Spa offers a luxurious experience.Lapis Spa/Yelp

It's easy to relax by the beach or the pool in Miami Beach, but for a more indulgent wellness experience, I recommend planning a spa day at one of the many spas in the area.

I went to Lapis Spa, located at the Fontainebleau, which I thought was beautiful and luxurious. I spent a bit more and got a fantastic massage, which I suggest doing, and also particularly enjoyed the spa's rain room and eucalyptus steam room. For me, it was a nice way to get out of the sun and recharge.

Splurge on an over-the-top dining experience at Barton G.

barton g sushi sno cones
Barton G. is unique and over-the-top.Barton G. The Restaurant/Yelp

If you're willing to spend on a memorable dinner, make reservations at Barton G. The restaurant is over-the-top, but I think it's a cool evening.

Every dish is brought out as a 3D experience, as the restaurant calls it. I found this meant the dishes were made into exuberant displays with props, like the popcorn shrimp appetizer brought out in a mini, old-fashioned popcorn maker, and the jerk chicken brought out in a cage with a video screen of a dancing chicken.

I ordered the chocolate ganache, which came with a giant fake $100 bill, carried by a man in a mask who melted a gold brick shell with a blowtorch to reveal the chocolate dessert. Many of the cocktails were made with liquid nitrogen, so they were smoking when they came up to the table, which I thought added to the fun atmosphere.

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