I wasn’t sure if I would like Miami. In my mind, it was an overpriced tourist destination where people go to spend too much money on bottles at the club and really expensive, really short skirts. But Miami is actually quite sustainable!
When I decided to take a last-minute weekend trip with my girlfriends, I managed to find myself some delicious, health-conscious and locally-sourced food, plus so much culture that I couldn’t even do it all!
So I’ll definitely be back. After all, I want to see it again before it ends up underwater. When you visit, make sure to use this as the definitive guide to sustainable Miami.
(See my other Sustainable City Guides!)
South Beach has gotten really out of control. It’s overpriced to the point of being a rip off ($18 vodka sodas??) and insanely crowded. But, you might want to see it just to see it, and there are a couple places to grab a healthy bite or stay, which I’ve listed below.
I recommend you stay in the Mid Beach area, where things quiet down a bit and the beaches get a little less crowded. It’s chill and gorgeous up here.
Wynwood is like Miami’s Brooklyn, with cool bars and clubs, amazing street art, and a young, knowing vibe. Put away your heels and put on your short shorts.
The Design District skipped the whole middle ground of gentrification and went straight to luxury fashion and art epicenter and. It gets pretty quiet at night.
I was told I wouldn’t find much to my taste in Downtown Miami, so I didn’t personally get to check it out, but you can find at least a couple cool spots, listed below.
The Palms* was recommended to me as an upscale, retro hotel situated in a fantastic location in Mid Beach. Renovated from an old hotel, it has a tropical plantation vibe, with palm fans, an enclosed pool and garden area, and fantastic views of the water. One of few hotels in Miami that have Florida’s Green Lodging certification, plus the Silver level Green designation on Trip Advisor, they take a detailed approach to being as sustainable as possible.
They engage in a quarterly beach cleanup with employees, guests, and community members. The furniture is made with 65% sustainable materials. Thirty percent of the toilets are dual flush, and they don’t have any bathtubs – which tend to waste water. They provide recycling in hotel rooms (which is all too rare!), use keys whose magnetic strips don’t give out so they don’t have to trash them like normal keys, keep the thermostat set to 75, have light sensors in the common areas so that the lights aren’t on 24/7, and give their old towels and linens to homeless shelters. They use a launderer that recycles water, and have staff uniforms made of natural materials of wool and linen.
Best of all, they have a no-straw policy on the beach, and a policy by the pool that they’ll only give you a straw if you ask for one!
While we were there, we took a tour of the kitchen garden outback with the head chef of Essensia, The Palm’s respected farm-to-table restaurant. The garden is almost year round, though the best season for growing is in the winter. It’s by no means big enough to provide all the produce for the kitchen (that would require an acre at least!) but the chefs have fun with the odds and ends, using cuban oregano in the soup, herbs in the flatbread or market fish, or the nasturtiums for garnishes. We sampled carrot top pesto on a cherry tomato-feta hor d’oeuvre. So cute!
This beautiful new hotel is part of a group of hotels across the U.S. that are at the vanguard of sustainability. Park your electric car at one of the car charging stations, walk past a wall of lush plants at the sandalwood-scented lobby, grab a pressed juice or organic/gluten-free snack at the lobby cafe, sleep in a organic hemp-blend Keetsa bed, take out a Tesla if your destination is too far to reach by renting a Citibike, kayak through a mangrove, try out paddleboard yoga, get a cocktail or organic wine at the rooftop bar, and eat a meal at Beachcraft, Tom Colicchio’s restaurant which features locally caught fish and antibiotic-free meats accompanied by produce-centric entrées and sides.
A Florida Green Lodging and CO2 Neutral hotel, Miami-Dade Certified Sustainable Business, and member of Clean the World (which recycles barely used hotel toiletries) this hotel implements things like high efficiency shower heads and sink faucets, zero VOC paint, energy efficient lighting, and guest room recycling.
Sustainability initiatives stretch across the Morgan Group, which owns this luxury hotel, also a Florida Green Lodging member. They are part of Clean the World, provide complimentary use of hotel bicycles for guests, use motion sensor lights in back of house areas, closets and car parks as appropriate, choose sustainable and responsible ingredients for their restaurants and bars – including featuring locally sourced ingredients and not offering over-fished species, feature local organic minibar items and green/sustainable merchandise, use low or no VOC paint in all back of house areas, and Low VOC paint in many front of house areas, and have low flow fixtures.
(Between South and Mid Beach)
This luxury hotel has low-flow bathroom fixtures, employs an eco-friendly dry cleaning service for guests and employees, and uses water-efficient laundry machines. When suites are unoccupied, the digital climate control automatically adjusts the temperature, the lights in meeting rooms are turned off when not in use, sensors manage the outdoor lighting, and they have non-cooled mini bars to save energy. Their floor-to-ceiling windows are high-efficiency (as well as soundproof) to promote the use of natural light and maintain room temperature. Glassware and plates are provided to rooms, instead of disposable dishes and coffee mugs, and the Front Porch Cafe recycles kitchen grease. All the suites are non-smoking, and they use eco-friendly cleaning products. Finally, all Z SPA treatments use organic and eco-friendly product lines.
No need to rent a car. Miami has Citibike. I took one out for $4, 25-minute ride from the Vizcaya gardens up to the Perez Art Museum. Just download the app, insert your credit card, and go. If you’re exhausted, dressed in a mini skirt, or too far from your destination, just call an Uber to take you, which is a more eco-friendly option than renting a car just for your use the whole weekend, especially if you choose the Uber Pool option, which let’s you share a ride with a stranger to your destination and save money. Bonus: It being Miami, you might find yourself in a Lexus, like I did.
I missed 1 Hotel’s sustainable sushi pop-up (if there is such a thing). But we had a fantastic dinner at Beachcraft of seasonal, organic, and deceptively healthy entrées and sides. The waiters there are uniformly cute in their linen aprons, if you care about that sort of thing. (I do.)
A famous restaurant helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz, this bistro serves locally sourced food whenever possible. It has an indoor seating area, but also a pleasant, walled garden tucked in behind the luxury fashion stores surrounding it.
This farm-to-table restaurant in the Palms Hotel scores extra points for the gorgeous garden view afforded by sitting on the veranda, with the sound of waterfalls in the background, palm fans lazily spinning overhead. As discussed above, the chef creatively uses produce and herbs from the hotel’s garden. It really shines for brunch!
This Mediterranean restaurant sources from its organic garden and local farms for its healthy fare.
This relaxed restaurant serves locally-sourced comfort food: tacos, sandwiches, soups, pot pie, health food bowls, plus a solid brunch on the weekends.
Grab a quick, healthy bite at this cafe, which calls itself a farm-to-counter establishment. Whatever you need, it’s got it: local, seasonal, organic, vegan, paleo, grass-fed, gluten-free.
This cute little cafe does a great brunch, and will tempt you with its “ridiculous” desserts, as someone told me. If you can’t find the time to stop there before you leave, just seek it out inside the Miami airport as a parting gift to yourself.
Pop in here for delicious juices.
For the healthiest, cleanest, most nourishing vegan bites, head to this sustainable and cozy cafe.
1. Check out Wynwood, especially Wynwood Walls, a famous street art destination. Take lots of Instagram photos with your friends.
2. While you’re in the neighborhood, hit up a class or workshop at the Bodhi Tree House, and go home with some organic cosmetics or pretty home decor.
3. Visit the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens to refresh yourself, learn about the Gilded Age, and see what natural Miami looked liked before the developers bulldozed all of it and planted some palm trees, including the rescued live oaks that grace the huge garden. Give yourself at least four hours, but if you have time, you could happily spend a whole day here!
4. Spend a day at The Standard Hotel pool surrounded by worldly travelers, covered in detoxifying mud, stimulating your system with a dip in the arctic plunge, and listening to house music underwater, because yes, there are underwater speakers. It costs $75 on weekdays, and $125 on weekends.
5. Visit the Perez Art Museum Miami. It’s on the smaller side, but well-appointed with beautiful and thought-provoking modern art. You can do it in two hours, but then stay and have a bite on the architecturally stunning terrace, and stop by the understated gift shop, which is full of delightful objects, some by small sustainable brands you’ll recognize.
6. Pamper yourself at the Emena Spa in the Design District, which uses Eminence Organic Skin Care products.
7. If you’re feeling flush and must partake in the shopping, hit up Stella McCartney in bal Harbour.
8. Listen to live 20’s music amongst the gorgeous decor at the Faena Hotel in Mid Beach.
9. Then walk a few blocks to The Edition‘s lounge, ice skating rink, and bowling alley.
*As my group was on a budget, The Palms was nice enough to make our stay possible with a discount.