For Tranquillity: Matheson Hammock Park Beach (tel. 305/665-5475) in South Miami features an enclosed man-made lagoon that is flushed naturally by the tidal action of the adjacent Biscayne Bay. The serene beach is surrounded by the bay's warm, calm waters and a backdrop of tropical hardwood forest.
The beach at Bahia Honda State Park (tel. 305/872-2353) in Bahia Honda Key is one of the nicest and most peaceful in Florida, located amid 635 acres of nature trails and even a portion of Henry Flagler's railroad.
- For Watersports: Hobie Beach (tel. 305/361-2833), located on the south side of Key Biscayne's Rickenbacker Causeway, is one of the most popular beaches for watersport enthusiasts, featuring jet ski, sailboat, windsurfing, and sailboard rentals; shade, if necessary, from the Australian pine; and a sublime view of the picturesque downtown Miami skyline.
For People-Watching: Lummus Park Beach (tel. 305/673-7714) is world renowned, not necessarily for its pristine sands, but for its more common name of South Beach. Here, seeing, being seen, and, at times, the obscene, go hand in hand with the sunscreen and beach towels.
Not nearly as scenic, but still heavily populated, Fort Lauderdale Beach (tel. 954/468-1597) is the site of many a bacchanalian Spring Break, Frankie and Annette, and now, an eclectic -- albeit calmer -- mix of young, buff beach bums.
- For Nature Lovers: MacArthur Beach (tel. 561/624-6950; www.macarthurbeach.org), in West Palm Beach, is considered by many nature enthusiasts to be the most beautiful nature park in South Florida, with a nice stretch of beach set against a lush and diverse background of foliage, plus a state-of-the-art nature center and renowned sea turtle awareness program.
- For Nude Sunbathing: For that all-over tan, the place to be is the north end of Haulover Beach (tel. 305/944-3040), nestled between the Intracoastal Waterway and the ocean. A gay, nude beach is also there, as is an area for nude volleyball.
For Seclusion: The producers of Survivor could feasibly shoot their show on the ultra-secluded, picturesque, and deserted Virginia Key (tel. 305/361-2749), on Key Biscayne, where people go purposely not to be found.
John U. Lloyd Beach State Park (tel. 954/923-6711) in Dania Beach is unfettered by high-rise condos, T-shirt shops, and hotels, and remains intact with an untouched shoreline surrounded by a canopy of Australian pine to ensure that your seclusion is, indeed, highly guarded.
- For Gay Beachgoers: South Beach's 12th Street Beach (tel. 305/673-7714) is the beach of choice for gay residents and travelers who come to show off just how much time they've spent in the gym, and, of course, catch up on the latest gossip and upcoming must-attend parties and events. Oftentimes, this beach is the venue for some of the liveliest parties South Beach has ever seen.
- For Kids: Miami's Crandon Park Beach (tel. 305/361-5421) is extremely popular for families with kids because of the shallow water created by a neighboring sandbar. Convenient parking, picnic areas, a winding boardwalk, eco-adventure tours, and a multiethnic mix of families grilling, dancing, and relaxing are the benchmarks of this beach.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.