Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Bike Along the Shores of South Beach in Miami


During the planning phase of my trip to Miami, which happened in October, I read several blog posts and articles about how to get around Miami Beach most effectively. Walking along the boardwalk, taking shuttle buses to and from your hotel to the various beaches, grabbing an Uber - there are many different ways to access the different hot spots in Miami Beach. One that I knew my husband and I would want to try was to rent a bike and cruise along the streets and boardwalk, taking in the sights while getting some healthy exercise.

However, none of the articles or blog posts I read really explained what that entailed. So I will break it down in detail so that if any of my wonderful readers want to try to do the same, they will know what to expect.

Joey and I with our sweet Citi Bike rentals at Lummis Park on Miami Beach 

There are a few different companies that offer bicycle rentals on Miami Beach. You can choose from "Bike and Roll", "Miami Beach Bicycle Center", "Citi Bike Miami" and many more (I think there are about 10 companies). You can be picky and decide to rent from one specific company, or more likely, you can find the closest bike stand station and just rent from there. We were quite lucky, as there was a "Citi Bike Miami" rental station located just across the road from our hotel, the Fontainebleau.

The stands are all automated, like a pay-at-the-pump gas station. Bicycles are locked into computerized stands, and once you pay at the ticket station, you enter a code to unlock the bicycle of your choice. This is a very popular activity, and more than once we saw stations that had no bicycles available. My advice is to get there early, or be prepared to walk a few blocks away in search of another station that does possess bikes for you.

Biking along the Miami Beach Boardwalk

Prices vary. We paid $10.00 per bicycle for a two-hour rental, assuming that as out of shape as we were, two hours would be more than enough physical activity for us! You can pay to rent for as little as thirty minutes, all the way to a full day, which costs about $24.00 per bike. You must use a credit card due to the automated system, and also for bicycle insurance purposes. If you don't return the bike by the allotted time, you buy the bike. Simple.

My husband and I, being unfamiliar with Miami Beach streets and pathways, started to bike towards the Art Deco district on one of the main roads, Collins Ave. This street is filled with boutiques, hotels, restaurants, shops, and much more, and the sidewalk is filled with pedestrians, parking meters, palm trees, fire hydrants, and other obstacles. As a pedestrian strolling down this street, it would probably be quite lovely. As a person who hasn't navigated a bicycle in probably three years, this street was like pedaling through a minefield. I nearly took out several innocent bystanders, a few trees, and a dog. There was a lot of inappropriate vocabulary, some blame tossed my husband's way, and a scraped ankle.

Collins Ave was a little tricky to bike along!

Renting these bikes, I thought at that moment, was a huge mistake. I wished we had just opted to walk.

Eventually my husband and I made it to Lummus Park at nearly the opposite end of Miami Beach from where we had begun. We checked out some the cool Art Deco buildings (I may have thought they were more interesting than my husband did), and enjoyed the eclectic sights and sounds of this busy area.

Some of the Art Deco buildings were really interesting!

We witnessed some sort of dance-off occurring on the front patio of a restaurant, where burly men in sparkly bikinis were shaking their stuff better than Beyonce herself. We watched a bit of a beach volleyball tournament, where each player seemed more than well-prepared for the Olympics. Eventually it was time to turn around and head back before our two-hour window expired.

Joey on his bike rental at Lummis Park

It was at this time, while meandering casually along a beach-front sidewalk, that we discovered the Miami Beach Boardwalk. It is a smooth swath of wide pavement reserved for cyclists, rollerbladers, and pedestrians. Yes, that sounds a lot like a sidewalk, and yes, there were people, palm trees, and other such obstacles, but the boardwalk was much wider and easier to navigate than an ordinary sidewalk. I enjoyed it so much more than biking down Collins Ave.

The smoother Miami Beach Boardwalk was much more fun to bike along.

Rushing along that boardwalk on the bikes, with the salty cool wind from the ocean caressing my face, hearing the waves crashing, I felt so exhilarated yet so relaxed. The sky and ocean were a sparkling blue, and the beach a uniform creamy beige, off-set by the rainbow-hued lifeguard huts and the points of vibrant color that were the hotel umbrellas dotted into the sand. I loved it all. I think if I lived on Miami Beach, I'd be in incredible shape because I would bike that path at least twice a day.

I loved how colourful the lifeguard stations were on Miami Beach!

About halfway back to our hotel, we came across a man pushing a giant metal shopping cart heaped with green coconuts. He had a set of sharp knives in a bucket perched atop his wares, and a bag full of colorful striped straws hanging off the edge of the cart. I was thirsty from the biking, and convinced my husband to stop and have a drink of fresh coconut water with me.

Drinking from coconuts on Miami Beach

The man cut off the top of the coconut and cut a hole into the core. He plopped a straw inside and handed it to me. The coconut water was warm, sweet, and sticky, but very refreshing after our long bike ride. I wouldn't say it quenched my thirst quite like a tall, cold glass of water would have, but it was tasty, and hey, I was drinking out of a coconut!

The funky beach patrol headquarters on Miami Beach near Lummis Park

Finally we made it back to the bike rental station outside of our hotel. We slid the bicycles back into the locks with just a couple of minutes to go. Perfect timing! Then it was off to soak in the hotel pool, a much-deserved way to cool off after our excellent morning.

So, my recommendations on biking Miami Beach include the following:

1. The two-hour bike rental was perfect for us to get from one end of the beach to the other. However, we did not stop for a drink at a beach-side bar or grab lunch or anything like that, so if you want to really take in the scenery at Lummus Park or the surrounding area, I suggest renting your bike for a little longer.

2. Find the boardwalk as soon as you can! Don't stress about ramming your bike into a palm tree or pedestrian on Collins Ave! Just hit the boardwalk right away.

3. Wear a swimsuit or bring one with you. At times it got really hot and sweaty biking in the burning sun, and what I would have given for a quick dip in the ocean! There are places to store the bikes at the entrances to most beach access paths, so take advantage!

4. Enjoy the ride! I loved the feeling of the cool ocean breeze in my hair, combined with the mid-morning sun on my face, while I whizzed along the boardwalk. What a way to see the sights!

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