Visiting Miami on a budget isn’t the easiest thing ever, but it is definitely possible if you know where to look!
Miami’s undeniable allure lies in its white-sand beaches, vibrant nightlife, diverse cuisine, and burgeoning art scene. Not to mention the fact that it’s pretty much beach weather all year round – so there’s no need to pack a winter jacket.
This young city combines a cosmopolitan lifestyle with a natural beauty that’s truly unique to this part of the U.S.A. But, can you visit Miami on a budget?
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Miami on a Budget
Backpacking Miami can seem like a daunting prospect, as the city is usually NOT associated with budget travel. However, behind the lights and glamour of Miami there is a fantastic contemporary artistic and cultural scene that you can definitely experience on a backpacker budget.
We’ve put together a list of some of the attractions and activities you simply can’t miss when visiting Miami on a budget, to help you make the most of this fascinating destination without breaking the bank.
Money Saving Tips for Miami
Don’t Eat in South Beach
One of the best ways of keeping your travel budget tight while visiting Miami to to find cheap and delicious food. Which usually means you won’t be eating beachside, unless you pack your own picnic.
Avoid the high-priced waterfront fare in South Beach and instead visit neighborhoods like Little Havana to get your fill of delicious and affordable eats. Cooking for yourself, and preparing lunchtime sandwiches, is also highly recommended when visiting Miami on a backpacking budget.
Citi Bike Miami
If you are planning on staying in Miami for more than a couple of days you should consider signing up for a Citi Bike membership. A 30 day Citi Bike membership costs $35 USD and can go a loooong way in saving you money on transportation costs.
Coupled with the environmental impacts of choosing bikes over cars, and with the unique way you will get to experience Miami using pedal power, this is pretty much a win-win.
Check out our article on budget travel for more general tips on how to save money while traveling.
Things to Do in Miami on a Budget
Now that we covered some of the basics budgeting stuff, lets explore cheap or free things to do in Miami.
Marvel at the Incredible Wynwood Walls
One of the best things to do when exploring Miami on a budget is to marvel at the weird and wonderful street art in the Wynwood design district.
Once an industrial hub filled with auto shops and warehouses, Wynwood has been transformed into a youthful and vibrant district filled with modern galleries, trendy bars, breweries, and top-notch restaurants. The incredible atmosphere in Wynwood is amplified by the colorful murals of geometric shapes, political messages, and imaginative portraits. Street artists travel from all over the world to make their artistic contribution in Wynwood, and the result is breathtaking art at every turn.
The Wynwood Walls are a must-see if you’re backpacking Miami, and make for some unbeatable photo opportunities. Strolling around Wynwood is completely free, so it’s a must-do activity if you’re visiting Miami on a budget.
Hit the Beach in Miami!
Florida is known as the “sunshine state”, so it goes without saying that a trip to Miami wouldn’t be complete without some quality beach time. Luckily, Miami has miles and miles of sandy coastline to offer.
The most popular beach is South Beach, which is paralleled by Ocean Drive, with its neon lights, designer stores, and 5-star eateries. The glistening white sand of South Beach is super inviting, but its close proximity to the main sites, restaurants, and shops means that it’s always super crowded – especially during the hot summer months. So pack your towel, swimming gear, sun block, and head down to South Beach early to secure your spot for the rest of the day.
South Beach is a great place to get a taste of what life in Miami is like. You’ll be right in the middle of all the action, so if you get bored of tanning or find yourself turning into a lobster, there are plenty of places to get some shade and take a break from the sand. Stop off for a bite to eat at one of the fantastic restaurants along Ocean Drive, which serve up American and international cuisine, as well as unbeatable fresh seafood.
Don’t let South Beach be all and end all of your Miami beach-hopping adventure, because the city has plenty more to offer! 21st-45th Street Beach is a great spot that lies just a short way north away from the chaos of Ocean Beach. Ocean Beach offers a stunning coastline, bright sands, and a fantastic boardwalk for jogging or strolling along if you get bored of the beach.
Tour the Art Deco Historic District
Miami’s South Beach neighborhood can’t be missed when you’re backpacking Miami, but there’s more to it than waves, nightlife, and shopping. It’s also home to the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world!
When you’re walking around the South Beach neighborhood, be sure to take notice of the buildings around you because they’re pretty unique! You’ll find the Art Deco Historic buildings along Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, and Washington Avenue.
Art Deco is a style that originated in the 1920s and 1930s as a reaction to Art Nouveau. It’s characterized by a geometric style, intricate detailing, and bright colors, which are evidenced by the collection of Art Deco buildings that you’ll find in the South Beach area of Miami. The buildings have been featured in many Hollywood movies, such as Scarface and The Birdcage.
Some Art Deco hot spots include the popular party destination the Clevelander Hotel; Villa Casa Casaurina where Italian designer Gianni Versace lived and died; and one of the tallest buildings in Miami, the Delano South Beach, which attracts a host of A-list celebrities.
Experience Miami’s Nightlife
Miami is known for attracting an A-list crowd, so going out might seem out of the question for many backpackers in Miami. However, it is possible to experience Miami’s fantastic nightlife without it costing you an arm and a leg!
Although many clubs in Miami charge extortionate entrance fees and put people off with their red velvet ropes, there are plenty that don’t! In South Beach, check out Mondrian’s Sunset Lounge, where you’ll find a range of delicious cocktails for $5 from 5pm, and it has stunning panoramic views of the city. More affordable spots to find great nightlife in Miami include Delano’s FDR Lounge, which doesn’t have an entrance fee, and Jazid where you’ll find live Jazz music every night for free!
If you want to venture out of South Beach, then check out the vibrant nightlife in the Wynwood district. The youthful crowd here means that it’s much more affordable than the glitz and glamour of South Beach, and there are plenty of trendy bars and clubs offering live music and drink deals.
Little Havana is another spot in Miami where you’ll find incredible nightlife. Check out the Viernes Culturales, where you’ll find live music, dancing, and plenty of food in Miami’s own Cuban capital.
Take a Yoga Class at Bayfront Park
Bayfront Park can be found in the heart of downtown Miami. This 32-acre public park overlooks Biscayne Bay, and is the perfect space to relax, enjoy the outdoors, and soak up some rejuvenating vitamin D from the sun.
Every day the park hosts free or donation based outdoor yoga classes so you can reconnect with nature and find some peace in this lively city. What better way to do yoga than to the sound and view of the calming ocean waves?
Check out the park’s website for a schedule of the yoga classes, as well as other goings on at Bayfront Park.
Spot Some Alligators at Everglades National Park
A nature-lovers paradise, Everglades is a must-see for backpackers in Miami. If you’re able to rent a car, then you can explore much more of the park than you could on foot. The Park is approximately 1.5 hours from downtown Miami, and entrance for a vehicle is $25, and individual entry is $15. Don’t let the entrance fees put you off, this is a truly unmissable attraction if you’re visiting Miami on a budget.
Everglades National Park is the third largest national park in the US, after Yellowstone and Death Valley. It’s listed as a world heritage site, and it’s an International Biosphere reserve. This enormous wetland is home to a variety of animal species including birds, turtles, manatees, and of course, tons of alligators!
There are plenty of activities to enjoy once you’re inside the park, such as boat rides, bike trails, and walking paths. Shark Valley has a 65-foot observation deck that visitors can climb to get a mesmerizing birds-eye view of the Everglades. A visit to Everglades National Park is a fantastic way to get away from the lights and crowds of Miami, and to learn about the wonderful ecosystem that Florida is home to.
A great place to start is at the visitor center, where you can visit exhibits to learn a bit more about the park, and get information on walking trails and where to find what. Make sure you bring sunscreen and insect repellent to keep away those pesky mosquitoes!
Explore Little Havana
Located just West of downtown Miami, Little Havana is a cultural gem that you can’t miss when backpacking Miami. The atmosphere of Little Havana will transport you straight to the Cuban capital, as you are immersed in the history, culture, and cuisine brought to Miami by Cuban settlers.
Little Havana is home to the best Cuban food in Miami, so be sure to take a food tour of the neighborhood. We recommend starting on Calle Ocho, where you won’t be able to resist the delicious smells of Ropa Vieja and other delicious dishes wafting from the cafes and restaurants lining the street. Calle Ocho is also famous for its Cuban recreation of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Along the footpath, you’ll be able to spot stars dedicated to famous Cuban celebrities. There are plenty of authentic Cuban bars where you can stop for a drink or two, as well as galleries, shops, and street art to browse and admire.
Little Havana is a great point of exploration for backpackers in Miami. Get a taste of the culture that makes up a huge part of Miami’s identity, without breaking the bank, by spending a few hours (or a few more) wandering around Little Havana.
Visit a Museum in Miami
Miami is filled with museums and galleries exhibiting the city’s fascinating history, culture, and artistic scene. Museums are a great way to spend a rainy afternoon (although Miami doesn’t see many of those), and admission usually isn’t too expensive. Most museums have days of the month when they offer free admission to visitors, so you might be lucky if the timing is right!
Miami is one of America’s most artistic cities, and there are always exhibitions from all over the world available to see. Museums exhibit work from all styles of art, showcasing a myriad of both local and international artists.
The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a national landmark and showcases historic treasures such as antique art and furniture.
If modern art is more your style then you can’t miss the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAAM) on the Biscayne Bayfront.
History buffs should be sure to check out the Haitian Heritage Museum which explores the history, art, music, and literature of the Caribbean nation. Its location in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood makes it all the more interesting.
History Miami is another fascinating space that showcases the city’s transformation from mosquito-ridden swampland to the modern and vibrant city that it is today.
Catch Some Live Music at Bayside Marketplace
Bayside Marketplace is a two story, open-air shopping center in the heart of downtown Miami. Okay, if you’re backpacking Miami on a budget then a shopping center probably isn’t what you were hoping to find on this list – but bear with us.
Every day you can find free live music events at the Marina Stage. Bringing together Miami’s diverse cultural background, you’ll find performances ranging from Brazilian rock, to pop, to Latin, to funk. The stunning backdrop of Biscayne Bay makes it a great place to spend a relaxing evening listening to some tunes as you watch the sky turn all shades of orange and red as the sun sets over another busy day in Miami.
Take a Coastal Walk to the Cape Florida Lighthouse
Once you’ve had enough sunbathing and swimming on South Beach, take a relaxing walk along the Biscayne Bay waterfront until you reach Cape Florida Lighthouse. This iconic landmark was built in 1825, and used to guide sailors to safety off the Florida reef.
The walk to the lighthouse isn’t challenging, and you’ll have beautiful sea-front views all the way. There’s a small entry charge to go inside the lighthouse, but it’s worth it to immerse yourself in a piece of Florida’s history. There’s a cafe inside too, so you can cool off with a refreshing drink before beginning the walk back.
If you are visiting from October to May take advantage of free movie screenings at SoundScape Park! For a list of movies check out their site, here.
Best Hostel in Miami – Generator Hostel Miami
- Location: 3120 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach
- Independent Reviews: Hostelworld
If you’re backpacking or visiting Miami on a budget there is no better to way to save a few bucks than by staying in a hostel! Hostels are great places to meet locals and fellow travelers from all over the world, and Generator Miami is no exception.
Generator Miami is the first Generator hostel to open in the United States, and we hope it is the first of many! America really needs to step its hostel game up (especially in New York) and the Generator chain is bringing years of hostel experience across the Atlantic from Europe.
The Generator Miami is located in the heart of the South Beach, you’re just 100 yards from sandy shores and clear blue waters, making it the ideal accommodation for beach bums and water babies.
Generator offers private rooms and spacious dorm rooms for very affordable rates for backpackers in Miami. We know that dorm rooms can be a bit of a daunting prospect for some travelers; you never know if you’re going to be cramped in a tiny space with little to no security or comfort. At Generator you don’t have to worry about this – the rooms are super spacious and airy, and the beds are definitely comfortable!
Some of Generator’s fabulous facilities include an outdoor terrace with a pool, security lockers in every room, games room, free bicycle rentals, and they even offer a free (if modest) light breakfast. All of that combines to make Generator one of the very best hostels in Miami, and with beds starting from around $35 one of the most affordable places to stay in the entire city.
And there you have it folks. As you can see visiting Miami on a budget as a backpacker or budget traveler is certainly doable. We hope we’ve given you guys a bit of inspiration to visit one of America’s coolest cities. As always, happy travels and we’ll see you guys on the road!
Disclaimers – We have included a few handy little affiliate links in case any of our readers want to book accommodations. We receive a small commission for any sales made, without any additional cost to you, our dear reader. Thank you to Hostelworld for sponsoring this article. As always, all opinions expressed are our own.