South Florida's beaches have been more photographed -- we think -- than Paris Hilton. In addition to the sand and sparkling waters of the Atlantic, the beaches have various personalities, from laid back and remote to year-round MTV Spring Break. It may be fun to get a taste of all of these, if not for an hour or two at a time.
Day 1: Arrive in Islamorada
Check into the Cheeca Lodge and Spa and take in the panoramic ocean views. Park yourself on a chair and enjoy one of the Florida Keys' best -- and only -- private beaches. Waste no time making a dinner reservation for an outside table on the upstairs verandah at Pierre's, where you must, must, try the Florida Keys Hogfish Meuniere. After dinner, park yourself on the beach at the Morada Bay Café and listen to some live music while sipping a piña colada.
Day 2: Bahia Honda State Park
Just an hour south of Islamorada is one of South Florida's most resplendent beaches. Spend the day on the 524-acre park and lose yourself in the mangroves, beach dunes, and tropical hammocks. Not in the mood to spend all day in the park? Go be one with nature and check out the National Key Deer Refuge where you'll catch a glimpse of the most famous residents of the Lower Keys, or go snorkeling at the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary where you'll see over 150 varieties of coral and the most magnificent tropical fish found outside an animated Disney flick. Head back to Cheeca and have dinner at the Atlantic's Edge for serious seafood and locally grown, organic produce, or the Green Turtle Inn, where authentic, gourmet Florida Keys cooking comes with a serious sense of humor.
Day 3: To Key Biscayne
Take the scenic, sleepy, and often slow-moving Overseas Highway north to Key Biscayne, make a fish-dip stop at rustic Alabama Jack's, and check into the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne. On this, the southernmost barrier island on the Atlantic coast, you will be able to beach hop until the sun goes down. For the party people, Crandon Park Beach is the place to be, with 2 miles of beach and lots of salsa emanating from various sunbathers' boom boxes. Grab some much-needed peace and quiet at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park where you will forget you're in Miami, thanks to the miles of nature trails and completely unfettered beach. Do lunch at the park's charming Lighthouse Café before heading over to Virginia Key and Jimbo's, the place where Flipper was filmed and old Florida cracker-style houses serve as a backdrop to a beachfront bacchanal.
Days 4 & 5: South Beach/Miami Beach
Going to "the beach" takes on a totally different meaning when you're on South Beach. Not only does it mean sunbathing on Lummus Park Beach, also known as South Beach, for a cornucopia of half-naked beautiful people, but also enjoying the surrounding sights, sounds, and tastes of the area's bars, restaurants, shops, hotels, and Art Deco relics. There's a plethora of places to stay, whether you're on a budget or are willing to splurge; and best of all, the beach is free and a great place to crash and watch the sun set after spending the night out in the clubs!
Days 6 & 7: Swanky & Annette -- also known as Fort Lauderdale Beach
Your dad may have spent Spring Break here with his frat buddies when the Beatles were just a random group of country bumpkins from Liverpool, but if he saw it now, he'd be completely surprised. Sure, the beach is beautiful, clean -- no dogs allowed except on a special pet beach nearby -- and visible from A1A, but the surrounding area -- the infamous Fort Lauderdale Strip -- has matured into a sophisticated cafe society with outdoor eateries, bars, and more. If you must enter a beer-drinking contest, however, we're sure you'll find one nearby. Don't miss a cruise through the Venice of America, a scenic, informative and convenient way to make your way from one end of the strip to another.
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.