Miami! Mid Beach vs South Beach (+ Where to Stay in Miami BESIDES Miami Beach)

I went on my first trip to the Miami area this summer (I’ve already been back again since!) and of course, the most difficult part was figuring out where to stay. Luckily for you, I’ve done all the research (not to mention some old fashioned boots on the ground reconnaissance) so you can find the perfect place to stay in Miami Beach. 

First of all, I have to make a HUGE distinction here. There’s Miami (the city on the mainland), and then Miami Beach (a separate city on a barrier island just off the coast of Miami). Most people just use the term “Miami” for both, but they’re VERY different. 

I actually really love the city of Miami. It’s super international, very eclectic, has a ton of world class attractions, has great places to stay, eat, and shop, and it’s a great winter getaway since the weather is absolutely perfect. 

Miami Beach is a barrier island off the coast of Miami and it’s (not surprisingly) where the beach is. Packed with resorts, hotels, restaurants, clubs, etc., it’s definitely a tourist’s paradise. But it’s VERY different from the rest of Florida. 

Here’s the deal…I think whether or not you like Miami Beach probably has a lot to do with your mindset going in. Miami Beach is a lively area with great hotels, top notch restaurants (like it’s seriously a world class foodie destination), hopping clubs, and non stop action. 

It also has a 10 mile stretch of golden sand, but I wouldn’t call it a relaxing getaway. It’s kind of like Vegas, but there’s also a beach. Miami Beach has kind of a frantic energy that makes it feel more “exciting” than chill. 

And yeah, Miami Beach is a beach town, but it’s really more like a beach city. It doesn’t feel like a city compared to downtown Miami, but it’s BIG. It’s not particularly quaint. Also, while the beach is big, long, and very accessible, depending on what other beaches you’ve visited you might not be super impressed. In Florida, it’s hard to beat the beaches on the Gulf Coast or the Panhandle and I think the beaches on the Atlantic coast fall pretty short. 

That being said, Miami Beach is home to some truly great hotels and probably the best food (and party) scene in Florida. So it certainly has its appeal. 

Even though it’s one continuous island, different stretches of the island kind of feel like different neighborhoods or at least have very different vibes. 

You know about South Beach of course: the hub of the Miami Beach party scene. Where everybody wants to be. The ONLY place to stay if you’re going to Miami. Or is it?

Just north of South Beach, Mid Beach has started attracting the crowds with its larger and more luxurious resorts and slightly more laid back vibe. 

So which is the best area to stay?

Mid Beach vs South Beach

Here’s a quick “table of contents” for what’s in this post:

  • Mid Beach vs South Beach
    • South Beach Breakdown & Hotel Recommendations
    • Mid Beach Breakdown & Hotel Recommendations
    • North Beach
  • South Beach vs Miami Beach
  • Where to Stay in Miami BESIDES Miami Beach

South Beach

Let’s start with South Beach. Easily the most famous area in Miami, South Beach is what most people think of when they think of Miami. Party scene 24/7, super interesting outfits (or lack thereof), art deco architecture, Miami Vice. South Beach is definitely something you have to see if you’re coming to Miami.

I would actually break South Beach down further into three different sections:


South of 5th (Sofi) is a place I would consider staying. It’s super close to the party scene, but it’s crazy what a difference just a block or two makes. It feels much more local south of 5th and towards the south end there’s actually quite a few modern luxury towers. Also, the beach at Southpointe Park is the absolute prettiest I saw in the whole Miami Beach area. 

If you want to stay in this little pocket of Miami Beach, I would recommend…

The Savoy Hotel: If you’re after some old world vibes, The Savoy Hotel will not disappoint. With a history spanning back almost a century, this glamorous beachfront hotel has great historic Art Deco architecture and I’m pretty much ready to move into the lobby. Check pricing and read reviews here.

5th-15th (The Heart of South Beach)

5th -15th is the area of South Beach that I personally would avoid at all costs.  This is classic South Beach. Ocean Drive Avenue is lined with historic Art Deco hotels and they’re surprisingly ground zero for the Miami Beach party scene. I’m talking about parties that roll until 5AM every night that may or may not involve illegal substances. You don’t stay in this area to sleep or relax. Go during the day to see the architecture and the beach scene. 

But if you do want to stay in this area, I would recommend…

The Goodtime Hotel: Pop by Pharrel William’s The Goodtime Hotel on Miami South Beach for…well, a good time! Characterized by eclectic design elements, contrasting themes and enough insta-worthy spots to make you giddy, this luxurious hotel isn’t where you go to relax…it’s where you go to party! I’m not really a partier, but this place looks so dreamy that I just might be tempted to check it out. On a weeknight. In the offseason. ; ) Check pricing and read reviews here.

15th to 23rd (Still South Beach but More Upscale)

15th to 23rd is still considered South Beach but it’s where you’ll start finding more resorts. Things start calming down as you go further north but hey, this is still Miami Beach ; ) All four of these picks are solid places to stay in Miami if you want to have the Miami experience but still stay somewhere “nice” that’s not a party hotel. 

1 Hotel South Beach: 1 Hotel South Beach operates on the belief that travel needs to be sustainable and its design surely reflects that. LEED certified, with dozens of green elements like living green walls and the grotto garden in the lobby make this a must-visit for the eco-conscious traveler. Napa-style furnishings like paned walk-in showers and rustic copper fixtures make this as much a luxurious stay, as it is a sustainable one. Check pricing and read reviews here.

Loews Miami Beach Hotel: Loews Miami Beach Hotel is a family-friendly beachfront resort offering fun for every age group. Private beach access, a kids’ club with daily activities, the extremely popular Exhale Spa, and stylish rooms with the latest tech like iHome docks – what’s not to love? Check pricing and read reviews here.

Ritz-Carlton South Beach: Stay at Ritz Carlton South Beach to experience Miami glamour at its finest. This newly renovated 5-star hotel features amenities including a full-service spa, an elevated pool that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, and on-site dining with Mediterranean and Latin American cuisine. Check pricing and read reviews here.

The Setai: Influenced by Art Deco and Asian elements, the tranquility The Setai offers its guests is unrivalled. Sleek, modern and capable of evoking a feeling of deep calm, this luxury hotel features a zen-inspired lobby, Asian artifacts, temperature controlled infinity pools, and state-of-the-art DUXIANA beds for the best sleep you’ll ever have. Check pricing and read reviews here.

Mid Beach

The raging party scene that you’ll find in South Beach shifts once you head north towards Mid Beach. This isn’t completely accurate but the best way I can describe it is…South Beach is the college party scene and Mid Beach is where the millennials have moved in to party in a more high dollar way. Think more lavish resorts, Michelin star dining, high end clubs, etc.

Mid Beach is roughly 23rd to 44th (just past the Fontainebleau at Indian Beach Park). The resorts in this stretch have a little more room and the beach is definitely less crowded as you move up this way. 

Miami Beach EDITION

On my first trip to Miami, I stayed at the Miami Beach EDITION. 

I knew I wanted to stay in Miami Beach (avoiding South Beach) and being able to use Marriott Bonvoy points was a huge perk. 

The Miami Beach EDITION sits at 30th street so it’s pretty far from the wild crazy part of South Beach but it still feels like it’s in the middle of Miami Beach and pretty walkable. 

This hotel makes a great first impression. The vibe is very light, airy, and modern. It has a luxe but comfortable feel (it doesn’t feel snooty or sterile). Walking in the lobby very much feels like a breath of fresh air. 

The rooms are clean and modern and have one of the best lounge chairs I’ve seen anywhere. Like seriously, where do I buy one?

Chair and umbrella setup is included on the beach and that’s a huge perk since a lot of resorts charge extra fees. There’s also a little snack shack out on the beach as well. 

The pool area is pretty gorgeous. It was relatively quiet when I stayed there (off season in June) and usually had plenty of chairs (the pool attendants were good about monitoring which chairs were taken and which were available). I never saw a rule anywhere but it seemed like kids mostly stayed in the pool to the south (not sure if the pool attendants monitor that or if it just naturally happens). 

We had dinner one night at the Matador Room. Definitely ask to sit outside because it is one of the dreamiest spaces around. It’s tapas style which honestly always kind of throws me off (I like to own my entree haha), but it’s a really decent hotel restaurant. 

We had breakfast at The Market most mornings. It’s open for breakfast and until 6PM and it’s mostly a sit down restaurant. But we found out on the second day (when we saw people lined up at the counter) that you could order drinks, pastries, etc. to go. They don’t really tell you but it’s a good option if you’re in a hurry or just want something quick. Also…insider tip: coffee is free at the takeaway counter in The Market until 9AM. 

What I Loved about the Miami Beach EDITION

Location, location, location: You’ll get all of the perks of Miami Beach (restaurants, clubs, shopping, the whole SCENE) without sacrificing your luxury and space. 

It has a great vibe. Trendy but lowkey and with a nice mix of people staying there (young people, couples, families). It’s not a 22 year old party hotel, but it’s not overly swimming with kids or older folks. 

It’s part of the Marriott Bonvoy family so you can use points to book your stay. 

You can book the Miami Beach EDITION here.

***Want to save major $$$ on a fancy beach resort? My favorite travel hack is cashing in points to score free nights at some of the island’s most high end resorts. My go to hotel brand is Marriott so I use this Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card to rack up points for a lot of my trips to Florida. If you pay for your monthly expenses on the card and are responsible about paying it off every month, the points add up really fast. Plus, if you sign up through my link, you’ll get THREE bonus free nights to use. In Florida, use your points at some of my favorite Marriott properties like the Swan Reserve at Walt Disney World, the Vinoy in St. Pete, the EDITION Miami Beach, the JW Marriott Marco Island, and the soon to open St. Regis Longboat Key. 

Other Mid Beach Hotels

Faena Hotel: Situated right on the beach, Faena Hotel features unique decor, an emphasis on art and eccentric design, live music, an energetic ambiance and great food. “Extravagance” is the word that comes to mind when visiting this luxury hotel for the first time. The gold accents present throughout, coupled with its top-notch customer service will have you feeling like royalty. Check pricing and read reviews here.

The Confidante: Retro, colorful, and fabulous. This place has a bit of a party vibe but it’s not in the middle of the South Beach party scene so it’s a bit more refined. It’s an Instagramer’s paradise and so chic. Check pricing and read reviews here.

The Fontainebleau: Famous as one of the original mob run hotels and a hangout spot of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, The Fontainebleau is still an icon on Miami Beach. The hotel itself has everything you could want from a beachfront hotel: a huge pool tucked into the gardens, a luxurious spa with steam baths, a salon, and even LIV, the club that is a nightlife hotspot among locals and tourists alike. The on-site signature restaurants are also worth checking out, especially the famous Michelin-starred restaurant Hakkasan, serving Cantonese cuisine. Check pricing and read reviews here.

North Beach

If the difference between South Beach and Mid Beach is dramatic, the difference between Mid Beach and North Beach is even more dramatic. North Beach feels largely residential and while the beach is still lined with condos and a few hotels, the restaurants and other development starts feeling a lot more scarce. While I don’t mind a quiet and laid back vibe, for me North Beach has a weird more residential vibe but not the kind I really like. I don’t think I would stay in this area. 

And that’s the end of the road as far as “Miami Beach” is concerned. The island keeps going north through Surfside and Bal Harbor and then Sunny Isles Beach (across the bridge) before you start to get into the Fort Lauderdale area. But South Beach, Mid Beach, and North Beach are the areas that are considered “Miami Beach.”

South Beach vs Miami Beach?

I’ve seen this question a few times, so let me clear this up for you…

They’re kind of the same thing. Kind of. Here’s a little rundown for you…

As I mentioned above, Miami Beach is a 10 mile long barrier island just off the coast of Miami. The whole island (except for the very top bit where Surfside and Bal Harbor are located) is called Miami Beach. South Beach is a section of Miami Beach (the most famous section) at the – you guessed it – south end of the island. 

So there you have it…South Beach is a neighborhood of Miami Beach. So if you’re staying in South Beach, you’re also staying in Miami Beach. 

South Beach is obviously world famous and is basically synonymous with Miami itself so it’s where most people think they want to stay, but there are actually a LOT more options for staying on the beach in the Miami area besides South Beach. 

Side Note: If you’re looking for a rental car for your trip, I LOVE Discount USA Car Rental. They’re seriously the only company I ever use. I started using their sister company (Discount Hawaii Car Rental) on my Hawaii trips almost 10 years ago and now I use their main site for all of my other trips. They’ll give you the very best prices, you don’t have to reserve with a credit card or pay until you show up, you can cancel and re-book anytime if you find a better rate, and they usually have a special that adds additional drivers for no fee. It’s a no brainer. Click here to check rates for your trip.

Where to Stay in Miami BESIDES Miami Beach

If you’ve read through everything about Miami Beach (South Beach & Mid Beach) and you’re still not really sure if either one is for you…here are some places to check out in the Miami area instead: 


I LOVE Brickell and downtown Miami. Brickell is a booming neighborhood right on the water’s edge in the middle of downtown Miami that’s becoming the fastest growing part of the city. Tall, glitzy, modern skyscrapers mingle with not only every modern convenience you’d want within walking distance, but also some of the city’s best attractions. Throw in a pretty decent FREE public transportation system that runs through downtown and the financial district and it’s a great homebase for exploring the city. 

It’s not that the neighborhood itself is so fabulous that it warrants a vacation, but it has every convenience and amenity you could want on vacation (including some truly fabulous hotels) and it’s location right in the middle of the city makes it the perfect place to stay if you’ve come to see “Miami”  (and not just lay around the beach). 

In my opinion, Miami is not the best place for a relaxing getaway (I’m not a South Beach “person” and overall find the beaches on the Atlantic to be sorely lacking compared to the Gulf side), but it’s a GREAT city to visit. 

A lot of big cities are just cities…you feel like you could be anywhere. But Miami is pretty unique. Someone I know said they like to go to Miami because it’s cheaper than going to Europe, and while I probably wouldn’t have thought of the comparison myself…it is an incredibly international city. It’s not unusual to hear more Spanish being spoken than English (by both residents and international visitors).

It’s got to be one of the biggest “foodie” cities in the country and the number of world class restaurants is a little overwhelming. Throw in a large number of luxury and historic hotels, epic people watching, the unique ecosystem of south Florida, glorious weather and a large metropolitan city packed with attractions and it’s easy to see why so many people flock to Miami. Oh, and it happens to be on the beach. 

That’s kind of how I think about Miami…it’s a fabulous city…and it happens to be on the beach. I think if you go in with that attitude, you’ll really love it but if you’re looking for a Caribbean-esque getaway with a cheaper/quicker flight then you’re probably going to be disappointed. 

Four Seasons Miami (Brickell): I love the Four Seasons and while this one isn’t on the beach, it’s close to the water in downtown Miami. Perfect if you’re coming to the city for an event or even on a layover heading for the Caribbean. Check pricing and read reviews here.

Key Biscayne

Key Biscayne is a small island south of Miami Beach (only about 15 minutes from the airport) but it feels a WORLD away. The island is very upscale and family friendly. The island is bounded by two state parks and the “village” in the center is fairly compact and walkable. 

The north end of the island is Crandon State Park which is home to one of the best beaches in the Miami area and the Crandon Park Tennis Center (where they used to play the Miami Open) and golf course. The southern end of the island is Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. It has excellent biking trails and The Cape Florida Lighthouse is really something to see.

Overall, Key Biscayne is very bike friendly with dedicated bike lanes as well as wide sidewalks. They also have Freebee service (a complimentary electric car service that you can manage via the Freebee app). I love Key Biscayne because of the tennis situation. It’s not a very big island, but it has EXCELLENT tennis facilities. The Cliff Drysdale Tennis Academy operates out of the Ritz Carlton but it’s open to anyone and the Crandon Park Tennis Center has great programs as well. 

Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne: I just got back from a stay here and I really loved it. It’s a full service beach resort, and it’s got everything you’d ever want in a vacation. Great island vibes, luxury, and a laid back atmosphere. The onsite tennis academy is a real perk for me. Check rates and read reviews here.


Sitting at the northern end of the barrier island that’s home to Miami Beach, Surfside is only 5 or so miles north of South Beach, but it couldn’t feel farther away. It’s a pretty quiet little community and it’s very family friendly. I think the beach along this stretch is probably the nicest in Miami (sand and water wise). It’s definitely an area where you can come for a relaxing beach vacation. There are some wonderful resorts in the area, and you’re still not far away from South Beach if you want to zip down for dinner. 

Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club (Surfside): While I didn’t overwhelmingly love Miami Beach, I would hands down come back to Surfside JUST to stay at this Four Seasons. I don’t know exactly what the style of this place is, but I want a house just like it. Sophisticated and luxurious but still so inviting and laid back, you could easily spend a few days here lounging around the pool and beach. Check pricing and read reviews here.

Grand Beach Hotel Surfside: The Grand Beach Hotel Surfside is an elegant property with amenities for days. A rooftop pool, beachside pools, hot tubs, a lobby bar, a gelato bar, tennis courts and even a nearby water slide – this place has it all. The rooms are chic but subtle.

Bal Harbour

If Surfside is upscale, Bal Harbor is downright ritzy. Like, where the 1% of the 1% go. Like Crazy Rich Asians rich. I walked around some of the resorts and ogled as well as checked out the Shops at Bal Harbor. If you’re anything like me and you like beachy style, head into the St Regis and check out their little boutique. They had quite a few great beach brands and it’s a great little shop. 

St Regis Bal Harbour (Bal Harbour): Head to St. Regis Bal Harbor if you’re looking for a getaway filled with pampering and overindulgence. This family-friendly resort offers all its guests balconies with ocean views, two pool areas, an elegant spa, a kids’ club, a kids room service menu, and a signature on-site restaurant serving Greek food. If you want to go the whole nine yards, book yourself a suite and receive butler service as well as a Nespresso machine added to your room! Check rates and read reviews here.

Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbor (Bal Harbor): Just a short way off from the upscale shopping at Bal Harbour shops, yet hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the city, is the serene Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour. With an Exhale spa, an award-winning fitness Center and only two elegant rooms per floor equipped with stand alone tubs and terraces, you’ll really get to experience what 5-star luxury is all about! Check rates and read reviews here.

Sunny Isles Beach & Adventura

Across the bridge from the island that’s home to Miami Beach, Surfside, and Bal Harbor, this next long island leads into Fort Lauderdale. Actually, if you’re staying up here you’re probably better off flying into Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) instead of Miami International (MIA). I haven’t been up to this area yet, but there are a couple of places in the area I seriously have my eye on.

Acqualina Resort (Sunny Isles Beach): Situated about 12 miles outside the excitement of Miami Beach, Acqualina Resort offers its guests giant ocean-view rooms, three pools, a Beach Club Pool where everyone loves to laze about, and signature restaurants serving up delicious food from different cuisines. This self-contained oasis is a breath of fresh air to those looking for some blissful alone-time. Check pricing and read reviews here.

JW Marriott Turnberry Resort & Spa (Adventura): JW Marriott Turnberry Resort & Spa is the perfect getaway destination for families. The room rates at this unique resort include admission to the on-site Tidal Cove Waterpark. Yup, you heard that right – waterpark! That’s not all, the luxurious property also offers up two golf courses, four restaurants and a spa. It really is a holiday island unto itself – sans the beach. Keep in mind that since the resort’s facilities are open to the public, it can get a little crowded sometimes, especially near the entrance areas. Check rates and read reviews here.

On Another Note: If you’re looking for a condo or vacation rental for your trip, I always book with Vrbo. They’ve got the largest selection of rentals you’ll find anywhere and you can easily filter to find exactly what you’re looking for. Need a specific number of bedrooms and bathrooms? Narrowed it down to a certain location? Want flexible cancellation terms? Need to stay under a fixed budget? Click here to search for Florida vacation rentals for your trip.

Coral Gables

This is probably going to be the next area that I stay in Miami. It’s very historic and well preserved and I gather it feels more like “Old Florida” than other parts of Miami.

The Biltmore (Coral Gables): Built in the 1920s, this hotel is a National Historic Landmark and an ideal place to stay if you want to enjoy the Miami sunshine without the chaos of South Beach. It has a golf course, tennis center, and fabulous spa and it’s pretty close to the famous Venetian Pool. Check pricing and read reviews here.

Hotel Colonnade: Sophisticated and a little bit trendy, this posh place is the perfect spot to stay if you want to feel like you’re staying in a cute neighborhood and less like a big city. It’s also part of Marriott Bonvoy so you can use your points. Book directly with the Colonnade here.

Coconut Grove

Everybody I talk to in Miami says you have to go to the “Grove.” It’s Miami’s oldest neighborhood and it seems to be where everybody wants to hang out. There don’t seem to be a ton of hotels so maybe it’s only a place to go to visit (it’s more of a local neighborhood), but definitely check out the options. 

Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove: You can’t go wrong with a Ritz-Carlton and this one located on the water in Miami’s oldest neighborhood is a cool (but not too trendy) place to stay. Book directly with Ritz Carlton here.

Want to Read More Posts about Florida? I’ve got plenty!

Check out these destinations: Miami (Things to Do Besides Party & Where to Stay) // Key Biscayne // Sanibel & Captiva // Longboat Key & Anna Maria Island // Marco Island // 30a // St Augustine // Amelia Island // St Pete Beach // St Petersburg // Fort Myers // Dunedin // Crystal River & Weeki Wachee Springs // Honeymoon Island & Caladesi Island State Parks // Tarpon Springs // Matlacha & Pine Island // Apalachicola

Trying to narrow it down? Siesta Key vs Anna Maria Island // St Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach // Sanibel vs Marco Island // Destin vs Panama City Beach // Destin vs 30a // Key Biscayne vs South Beach // Seaside vs Rosemary Beach 

Best Beaches in Florida with Seashells

Best Florida Tennis Resorts

P.S. If you want to follow along on my travel adventures in real time, you can follow me on Instagram (@caitylincoln). My post captions are full of travel tips and I have a ton of story highlights and videos with great info. And share my account with your travel loving friends! Your support really helps me keep this blog running!