Getting outdoors in Miami: What to do and where to stay

A pier on one of Miami's northern beaches
A pier on one of Miami's northern beaches

When Miami comes to mind, we often think of beach lounging by day and bar-hopping along Sunset Strip by night. But this sun-obsessed city has a lot more outdoor activities to offer than that. Whether you intend to stay right by the water or are ready to travel a little inland for some relief from the crowds, Miami has plenty of alternative daytime ventures to offer — and the best part is, with Miami’s bikini-friendly weather, you can partake in these activities all year long (except maybe hurricane season, unless you’re the uber-adventurous type!). So check out our favorite activities below and the hotels that are convenient to each.

Impromptu volleyball games spring up along the beach

Impromptu volleyball games spring up along the beach

Do: Play beach volleyball

Beach volleyball is a popular pastime in Miami and there are plenty of permanent and makeshift courts set up in the sand right along the ocean. Some of the best are on the beaches on Haulover Park and they’re open for pick-up games daily from sunrise to sunset. Be forewarned, however, that you may not want to take the kids — aside from beach volleyball, this park is also popular for its clothing-optional policy.

Stay: Churchill Suites Crowne Miami Beach

More condo than hotel — most rooms host permanent residents — the Crowne is a fifteen minute drive from Haulover Park and features huge suites with fully stocked kitchens, washers and dryers, and pull-out sofas. For families or small groups, it’s a great option. But it’s a strictly D.I.Y. experience — don’t expect any service or organized fun.

View of Biscayne Bay

View of Biscayne Bay

Do: Scubadive

For excellent scubadiving near Miami, head to Biscayne Underwater National Park, a lagoon with a vibrant reef life about 10 miles off shore. Divers and snorkelers must either bring their own boat or join one of the many diving and snorkeling tours. Keep your eyes peeled for the sea turtles that inhabit the waters, or check out one of the six shipwrecks.

Stay: Mayfair Hotel & Spa

Bamboo, waterfalls and embedded ivy make the Mayfair feel like an ancient jungle civilization in the heart of Coco Walk. Featuring the Jurlique Spa and huge rooms with private spa tubs, the Mayfair targets couples who can overlook a few stains and a small insect population in the open-air courtyard.

Golf course at Marriott Doral Golf Resort and Spa

Golf course at Marriott Doral Golf Resort and Spa

Do: Hit the links

Miami offers numerous renowned public golf courses. If you’re looking to play on a budget, head to the Palmetto Golf Course, where you can book a tee time for less than $17. If you’re willing to spend significantly more for one of the best-known courses in Miami, tee off at the Marriott Doral Golf Resort and Spa. Winner of numerous honors, including being named one of the 75 Best Golf Resorts in North America by Golf Digest, the Doral features five world-class courses, including the Blue Monster (named for the huge lake in the middle of it), Greg Norman’s Great White, and Raymond Floyd’s gold course. It also plays host to a Jim McLean golf school.

Stay: Marriott Doral Golf Resort and Spa

There is something for everyone at the Marriott Doral: for the guys, world-class golf; for the ladies, a full-service spa; for the kiddies, a 125-foot waterslide. And it’s all graced with warm, friendly service in a scenic resort setting. Just know that you’re isolated on-site, you’re nowhere near the beach, and everything costs extra — often quite a bit extra.

The marina at the Marriott Biscayne Bay

The marina at the Marriott Biscayne Bay

Do: Go deep-sea fishing

Fishing is permitted along the shore of many of Miami’s beaches, but you’ll find the best catches, like sawfish and marlin, out in the open sea. Take a half or full day deep-sea fishing trip with a company like Mark the Shark, located at Marriott Miami Biscayne Bay’s marina.

Stay: Marriott Miami Biscayne Bay

Completely renovated in December 2008, this towering, 601-room Downtown Marriott caters mostly to business travelers. The pool, brand-new fitness center, business center, and free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel make it a great pick. Though more stylish, the Epic and Intercontinental hotels both have similar amenities, and often cost considerably more.

Grounds at the Marriott Miami Airport

Grounds at the Marriott Miami Airport

Do: Watch a jai alai match

Jai Alai, a game that came over to Miami from Cuba in the late 1800s, is a sport that combines elements of squash, baseball, and lacrosse — basically, you’ve got to see it to understand it. Pros play daily at the Miami Jai Alai Frontons (or Courts) and general admission is just a buck per person.

Stay: Marriott Miami Airport

To be just minutes from jai alai action, catch a ride on the hotel’s free shuttle from the airport and stay in one of the Marriott’s 363 guest rooms that are clean and comfortable. Nice touches — in-room air purifiers/humidifiers and hypoallergenic upgrades, a large pool and fitness center, a quality restaurant, sports bar, and a Starbucks — make it a cut above, but breakfast and Wi-Fi both cost extra. If you prefer something that feels a little more “Miami,” stay at the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables.