If you're up for a true SoBe evening, take your chances getting in to one of South Beach's hot, hot, hot clubs along Washington Avenue (go early for the best shot at getting in without standing in line). But for a more leisurely finish to your first day, have a nightcap at the stunning Biltmore Hotel (1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables, 305-445-1926, biltmorehotel.com), which was modeled after the Moorish Giralda tower in Seville, Spain. And, if you're in Miami on Sunday, the Biltmore offers what's arguably the area's finest brunch.


Your second day in Miami is the perfect day to spend exploring Miami's Little Havana, which is bisected by Eighth Street, better known by locals by its Spanish name, Calle Ocho. Your first stop should be Little Havana's epicenter, Maximo Gomez Park, where the old-timers come to play dominoes. The neighborhood is also full of mom-and-pop shops, where you can pick up expertly rolled cigars. Indulge in authentic Cuban fare at the renowned Versailles (if you miss it, there's a location at the airport for a quick Cuban sandwich before you head out). On the last Friday of each month, you can take part in a street party called Viernes Culturales. On other nights, Hoy Como Ayer (2212 Southwest Eighth Street, 305-541-2631, www.hoycomoayer.net) is the place to be on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday nights. Sip rum drinks with the locals and dance to the best Cuban music you've ever heard.

After exploring Little Havana, retreat from the crowds and noise by going to Books & Books (265 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables, 305-442-4408, www.booksandbooks.com), a bibliophile's oasis that takes top billing as the best bookstore in the Miami area. And the 10-acre Pelican Island Nature Preserve (1275 Northeast 79th Street, 305-754-9330) is a great place to get outdoors without getting too far out of town. The island park, 400 yards offshore in Biscayne Bay, is accessible via water taxi. Got a buck or two and a bunch of friends or coworkers? Reserve the park for your own private party and make use of the picnic tables, barbecue grills, trails, and sand volleyball court. (Actual price is $150 for up to 50 people and $225 for more than 50 folks. Price does not include the $2-a-head cost for boat rentals to get to the island.)