Honeymoon in Florida
After a wonderful 3 years of dating the best woman in the world, I finally married her. As a honeymoon destination, we have chosen Florida! Finally, we both could realize our common dream and together with my wife we went on a 12-day honeymoon trip to the USA. If you are interested in how it went, or you look for some tips on traveling overseas — straight to widely loved Florida (the sunniest state of the United States!) — read the story below. If you dream about a vacation there, I have an entry for you regarding the organization of such a trip! There will be practical advice, tips and trivia — in general, everything you need to know before your vacation in Florida. The main point of our trip — Miami, known as the Cruise Capital of the World. We got there directly from Warsaw, Poland, by LOT Airlines.
General information and interesting facts
Florida has over 170,000 km2 and has a population of over 21 million, making it the third most densely populated state in the United States. This population has increased by somewhat less than 18 million people over the past 70 years! Apparently, around 1,000 people are moving to Florida every day 😉
The state has over 2,170 km of coastline and is surrounded by the waters of the Gulf of Mexico on the west and the Atlantic Ocean on the east. No matter where you will be, you will be is always less than 96 km from the coast. Florida is located in the lowland (the highest peak is only about 100 meters above sea level), in the equatorial and tropical climate. The capital of the state is Tallahassee (surprisingly, even for me!), but the largest city is of course — Miami. In addition, Florida is the only place on the planet where crocodiles and alligators coexist in one environment.
Weather. when is the best time to plan holidays on Florida?
The warm climate and the sun are undoubtedly what attracts so many tourists to Florida, the most. Especially during the winter, when Europe is cold and gloomy, many people decide to spend their holidays in Florida. Winter in ‘Sunshine State’ is, however, a completely different story.
The high tourist season here lasts from mid-December to mid-April, but in my opinion, the best time for visiting Florida starts at the beginning of autumn. Daytime temperatures rarely fall below 22 degrees Celsius (especially in the south of the state), and the humidity is much lower than in the summer. So you can fully enjoy the charms of Florida and the time spent outdoors. Warm, but not excessively hot temperatures, will be especially important for tourists who want an active vacation with sightseeing.
Summer in Florida is very hot and humid. The daily temperatures reach up to 35 degrees Celsius, which combined with almost 100% humidity makes the perceptible temperatures even higher. The rainy season lasts from May to October, but the most intense rainfall is in July and August.
Transport in sunshine state
If you plan sightseeing and moving from place to place during your Florida tour, I strongly recommend renting a car. Car hire in Florida is not expensive. A small car can be rented for just over $ 100 per week, and a comfortable SUV for around $ 150. The best, in my opinion, is to book the selected car online and collect it at the airport immediately after landing, and then return it at the airport just before departure. I usually book a car through carngo.com — a great service with a variety of cars at reasonable prices. Do not be surprised if in this case though, the search engine will not show any car with a manual transmission. As you may have heard already, the automatic transmission is most popular in the US and practically 100% of cars have it.
What’s important — renting a car without a credit card is very difficult. Some rental companies may allow you to accept a debit card if certain conditions are met, but it is generally easier to do many things in the US with a credit card with you. As for fuel prices, despite recent price increases, it is still much cheaper than in Poland. At the moment, the price is on average around $ 0.7 per liter of gasoline. So a road trip all over Florida will not ruin your budget.
What is worth seeing and what to experience during Florida holidays?
Florida is associated mainly with sandy beaches, turquoise ocean, and palm trees, but relaxing on the beach is just one option for spending your vacation. Florida is larger than many European countries and has a lot to offer: from modern Miami city side to parks with exotic fauna and flora, such as — the famous Everglades National Park.
Water sports enthusiasts will love diving among coral reefs (I recommend snorkeling for beginners) or go crazy on water scooters (jets). Everyone who loves rollercoastering and the world of movies and fairy tales will experience unforgettable moments in one of the many amusement parks. Lovers of wildlife will be delighted to see exotic animals and plants in one of the many nature reserves and parks. Also, gastro-tourism fans will not be disappointed in vacationing here. Caribbean influences in local cuisine will delight many a palate, and the most popular Florida dessert, i.e. Key Lime Pie, will appeal to every gourmet.
When it comes to places worth visiting in Florida… well this is a topic for definitely more than just one paragraph. I think that the main holiday resort — Miami with its’ famous beach (Miami Beach) is a must-see for tourists going to Florida. From there, it’s only a step away from the picturesque Key West, the southernmost point of the United States. Florida’s largest national park — Everglades, is also near Miami. A little higher on the map, there are Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
On the Gulf of Mexico side, I recommend visiting Tampa, along with nearby Clearwater and St. Petersburg. A little lower, charming Sarasota and Naples. Heading east from Tampa you will reach the largest entertainment area — the city of Orlando. In the very north of the state, awaiting you, are Jacksonville and nearby St. Augustine, which is the oldest town in Florida. On the other side the charming Destin, which is a very popular destination for wedding parties. For me, one of the most beautiful places in the ‘Sunshine State’.
We started our journey from Warsaw, aboard the brand new Boeing 787 — Dreamliner. The aircraft standing on the tarmac looked very majestic and ready-to-fly. We paid around 500$ for the flight (per person). The flight lasted a little more than 11 hours, without major surprises. Finally, we landed at Miami International Airport. We spent over two hours in the queue waiting to talk to the customs officer. During this time we felt a slight concern. Strange stories described on the internet, by people who had problems entering the US, began to circulate in our heads and effectively caused an undesirable feeling of stress. However, it turned out that customs clearance only consisted of checking passports and wishing us a pleasant stay in the USA.
Florida, the honeymoon of our dreams
During a flight, we had enough time for a proper nap, as well as for changing clothes. As from cold Warsaw, at this time of year, we soon found ourselves in tropical, hot Florida. Already at the airport, we met a very nice couple from Warsaw who, as it turned out, booked a hotel near us. It turned out really great because we had the perfect company for travel. We set preliminary plans and set off to pick up the car from the rental company.
We were initially looking for the cheapest way of transport. Rental costs for 12 days ranged from 350-400 $. However, we later found that we would be looking for a promotional offer for cars from the convertible group. They included, among others Ford Mustang, BMW 4, Mercedes E Class. We rented a convertible, to feel like ‘cool people’, from all of the movies and TV series from the ’90s, that we could watch with admiration in our childhood. It turned out that for only an additional 50-100 $, a brand new Ford Mustang Convertible (4.6 V8 — 304 HP) was waiting for us on the airport parking. The cost of renting a Ford Mustang with full insurance was 450 $ in total (not including fuel). Now, this is real America!
Miami Beach, Florida. A legendary town in which life flows in a completely different rhythm. The hot sun, blue sky and the sounds of fun coming from everywhere put us in a great mood. This is where world-famous DJs record their music videos and celebrities buy the most expensive and beautiful houses and apartments right on the ocean side (the entire islands as well), to shelter here from the winter weather.
The prices of hotels and motels in Miami Beach pleasantly surprised us. It turned out that in the heart of Ocean Drive, we paid less than the hotel in NYC, last year. In the price range of 60-100 $, everyone can find something for themselves. In search of accommodation in Florida, I mainly used websites like cheaptickets.com or travelzoo.com. Our choice was the ‘President’ hotel (just the name sounded very promising) — at a price of $ 81 (including breakfast).
The hotel had an interesting pool. As it turned out later, most Miami hotels have pools of similar size. ‘Great’ marketing trick — in the description of the hotel on the website, it was proudly promoting ‘pool’ as an extra convenience, and when you arrive on the spot, it turns out that you have a ‘large bathtub’, dug into the ground. No further comments.
Miami Beach, nightlife
Ocean Drive is named after the heart of Miami South Beach. This is a real Mecca for tourists. Parties, dancing revelers and beach games, it all last here until the morning. Beer and exotic drinks are pouring down streams and yet we felt very safe on the streets. Clean everywhere; nice, pleasant and smiling faces of strangers greeted us with cordial ‘hi’, on almost every corner. Remember, when choosing a hotel, you should familiarize yourself with the district in which it is located. If you prefer quiet evening walks, South Miami Beach is definitely not the place for you.
And now a few insights about bars and restaurants in Miami.
Florida — Bars and Restaurants.
A standard dinner in the city center costs about $ 15-20. This price is at least what is shown on the menu, but in the end, it turns out that it is completely different — count a local tax (about 7%) plus tip, and your bill looks a bit different than you presumed. This should be paid special attention to. In the US some bars and restaurants automatically include in the final bill about 15-18% of the value of the order, so before paying the fee carefully read the information that appears on the invoice.
A positive thing about restaurants is the so-called ‘Happy hours’, during which you could have breakfast or lunch at a very affordable price. For example, going to an early dinner (around 6 pm), you could easily eat a fairly large portion for $ 10-12.
What would a stay in the States be without trying the famous hamburgers! During our stay, we checked several bars offering this national American dish. It was only during our stay in Key West, that we got to know the taste of the best hamburgers in the USA. Not only did they taste great, but the price was really low too — $ 5.99. The selection of ingredients and additions was huge, all included in the basic price! The network that serves such snacks is called Five Guys.
When it comes to food and drink, it is worth mentioning liquor stores in the USA. I have never seen so many different drinks in my life! Vodka flavored with bubble gum, sweet marshmallows, cookies, tropical fruits, etc. As a lover of Bourbon and Whiskey — being in the homeland of Jack Daniels, I had to try at least a few corn-based drinks. I particularly liked Evan Williams. I would highly recommend it to every person, who is fond of whiskey!
Departure to Key West
Being in the south of Florida, it is impossible to miss the famous island archipelago with the vibrant name of Florida Keys. Among them, at the very end, is the famous Key West — an island described in US guidebooks as the most entertaining, tolerant and tropical place in the entire United States. Access to this picturesque islet leads through fantastic seven-mile bridges suspended several dozen meters above the ocean surface. The views of the blue azure water are breathtaking.
We had over 170 miles from Miami Beach to Key West, which meant over a 4-hour drive. However, we decided to go on tour. We folded the roof in our Ford and drove along the highway lined with palm trees straight to the island.
I read many positive and negative reviews about Key West. However, I decided that I would make my own opinion about this place. I can definitely say now that staying on Key West and driving through the Florida Keys should be included in the ‘must-see’ category. You can read more about Key West here
Key West has the southernmost point of the United States (the so-called Southernmost Point). From here, it’s only 90 miles to the coast of Cuba. On clear-sky days, you can see the delicate outlines of the Fidel Castros’ Island on the horizon.
On your way to Key West, you must visit the Bahia Honda State Park. Entering the park costs you only $ 10, but it’s worth spending this money to experience the charms of one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida. Bluewater, a nice beach (with a high number of algae) and sandy shallows stretching several dozens of meters deep into the ocean where you can swim for hours with an air-tank, admiring colorful, tropical fish.
Return to Miami Beach
We stayed on Key Island until sunset. We returned to Miami Beach late at night, where we again went to explore the city as well as the surrounding attractions. We went to the Miami Seaquarium where we watched wonderful dolphin and killer whale shows. Admission prices are $ 45 normal, and $ 32 reduced. On our way back to the hotel, we passed close to the famous Casa Casuarina. A villa, in which Gianni Versace himself lived and designed. The property at Ocean Drive was sold for a round sum of 41.5 million dollars. Apparently, David Beckham was supposed to be one of those interested in buying.
And last but not least, the essence of Miami Beach, Florida — one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
New York has its Central Park surrounded by skyscrapers, Paris — Champs Elysees with the Eiffel Tower, and Miami — turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean, white beaches with aromas of coconut suntan oil, intense green palm trees and silvery skyscrapers on the horizon. However, Miami Beach is not only a beach and entertainment life, but it is also a paradise for architecture lovers. The eccentric and pastel buildings of hotels and apartment buildings in the historical Art Deco district, located just above the ocean, give this city many colors. What is Art Deco? These are richly decorated buildings with wide window sills and canopies, decorated with paintings, reliefs and neon lights. They are both multi-story houses reminiscent of temples from South America, and… liner ships. Beautiful cars, both modern and old-timers, add extra magic to this place.
Lifeguard booths located on the beaches of Florida have become one of my favorite photographic objects. They are very similar to those found in California. We mainly associated them with the Baywatch series, which was shot … on the beaches of South Carolina. Anyway, it didn’t stop me to feel like David Hasselhoff for a while.
All good things must come to an end though. Especially in a place like this, surrounded by views previously seen only on a TV screen and absorbing the unusual energy circulating in the air. Time to come down to earth and get back home. I will miss Miami, I will miss Florida, I will miss ‘our’ Mustang. This time we spent here, was really special, and not only because it was our Honeymoon. I appreciate all these days, when I could feel like a ‘King of the World’, I guess if I would live like this on a daily basis, it wouldn’t be so special to me anymore.