Miami on a Shoestring Budget

Miami On A Shoestring Budget

Photo Credit: Miami Beach photo by SPARK courtesy of Visit Florida

By Tyler Francischine

February 16, 2023

There’s no need to break the bank with these free and affordable activities, restaurants, and hotels across The Magic City.

Miami may be known as an international destination for luxury travel, but it’s not a difficult task to fill your days in The Magic City with affordable and fun activities that highlight the city’s rich cultural diversity, replete natural beauty, growing food scene, and renowned reputation as a hub for the arts. Check out this list of locals-approved places to see and things to do across Miami, including reasonably priced, quality food to eat and affordable, unique hotels to rest your head at night.

What to See and Do

Go for a Dip in the Sunshine State’s Warmest Waters

You’ll only need fare to feed the parking meter in order to experience the natural beauty that keeps tourists returning to Miami in droves—its beaches. With some of the warmest waters on Florida’s Atlantic coast, Miami’s beaches offer a wide variety of experiences ranging from unspoiled tranquility to raucous parties. North Shore Open Space Park, also known as North Beach Oceanside Park, sits on Miami’s northernmost boundary. Bordered by a green space to the west with no high-rise condos in the immediate vicinity, this spot is perfect for beachgoers wanting a little peace and quiet as they sunbathe and swim. For those looking to complement their beach experience with some excitement, head straight to South Beach, where nearby establishments like Mango’s Tropical Café and The Clevelander—as well as tourists from around the globe who arrive equipped with their own bass-fueled speakers—blast their favorite rhythms, bringing the party straight to the Atlantic Ocean. 

Visit the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami

Miami On A Shoestring Budget
Photo Credit: Institute of Contemporary Art photo courtesy of Institute of Contemporary Art Miami

Over the last several years, Miami has transformed into a global destination for the arts, especially contemporary, visual art. Though admission to Art Basel, Miami Beach’s annual, international celebration of visual art, isn’t affordable for everyone, tickets to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA Miami) are free—every day of the week. Located in the buzzing Miami Design District, the ICA Miami boasts a permanent collection of works by emerging and local artists, many from Latin America, as well as artworks created by masters of the form, like Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, and Yves Klein. In addition to a busy schedule of rotating exhibitions, the museum also hosts free live performances and film screenings, including its First Friday series, which welcomes all local community members to gather in the name of interesting, timely art each first Friday of the month.

Cruise Down the Beachwalk on Miami Beach

Miami On A Shoestring Budget
Photo Credit: Miami Beach Beachwalk photo courtesy of the city of Miami Beach

No visit to Miami is complete without checking out the iconic Beachwalk–seven miles of free-of-charge, oceanfront promenade perfect for walking, jogging, cycling, skateboarding, or roller skating. If you’re in need of a pair of wheels, there are plenty of affordable CitiBike rental kiosks available along the path, which extends from North Shore Open Space Park at 87th Street down to South Pointe Park at 1st Street. Art lovers may be happily surprised to find a fair amount of public art on display along the Beachwalk—check out a massive, gold-dipped sculpture of a wooly mammoth on the Faena Hotel Miami Beach’s pool deck near 32nd Street, and keep heading north to marvel at a colorful collection of sea turtle sculptures near 65th Street.

Get Up Close and Personal With Florida’s Unique Flora and Fauna in the Everglades

Miami On A Shoestring Budget
Photo Credit: Everglades photo by 500PX courtesy of Visit Florida

Vibrant nightlife and a bustling cityscape may come to mind first when planning a trip to The Magic City, but it’s worth remembering that the Everglades National Park is only an hour’s drive away from downtown Miami. (It’s also worth noting that an hourlong drive is standard fare in a city recently named one of the worst in the world for traffic congestion.) Trade in the hubbub of the city for quiet, peaceful encounters with American alligators lazing in the sun and West Indian manatees chewing on seagrass at Everglades National Park. Admission is $30 per vehicle, and you can re-enter at any Everglades park entrance at no additional charge for the next seven days. Check out the Shark Valley Visitor Center, which boasts 15 miles of trails upon which you can bike or ride along on a two-hour tram tour guided by a local naturalist.

Where to Eat

Coral House

Miami On A Shoestring Budget
Photo Credit: Coral House photo courtesy of Coral House Facebook page

Passing under the vine-dripped archway that marks the entry to Coral House feels just like coming home. After a long day of seeing Miami’s sights, settle in and get ready to taste handmade pastas and inventive pizzas in the cozy dining room of this former private residence, or opt for dining al fresco on the Coral House’s spacious front patio. Though their menu offers affordable pricing year-round, the Coral House’s $10 pizza and pasta deals on select Mondays and Tuesdays spotlight rich offerings like gnocchi pesto Genovese; seafood spaghetti made with calamari, squid, shrimp, mussels, and clams; and the boscaiola pizza, topped with sausage, mushrooms, roasted potatoes, mozzarella, parmesan, and truffle oil.

Lung Yai Thai Tapas

Miami On A Shoestring Budget
Photo Credit: Lung Yai Thai Tapas photo courtesy of Lung Yai Thai Tapas Facebook page

Sandwiched among the many Cuban cafés and restaurants that dot Calle Ocho—the main thoroughfare of Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood—lies an affordable Thai street food restaurant that recently received a Michelin star for its expertly crafted cuisine. Lung Yai Thai Tapas is the brainchild of Bangkok-born chef and owner Veenuthri Trisransi, who serves up both classic and inventive takes on Thai dishes like khao soi, golden curry-soaked egg noodles topped with onion, crispy noodles, and your favorite protein; and nam prik ong, ground pork and crispy pork rinds doused in a house curry. This tiny restaurant does not take reservations, so be prepared to wait for a table if you arrive at dinnertime on a weekend—locals assure the wait is more than worth it, and the small yet mighty kitchen team prepares dishes at warp speed.

Where to Stay

Life House, Little Havana

Miami On A Shoestring Budget
Photo Credit: Life House, Little Havana courtesy of Life House, Little Havana

Whether it’s quiet tranquility or an upbeat, social atmosphere you seek during your Miami trip, you’ll find what you’re looking for at this affordable boutique hotel situated near the heart of Miami’s culturally rich Little Havana neighborhood. Built in the 1920s, Life House Little Havana is a Mission Revival-style mansion that has been transformed into 33 guest rooms, a library and coworking area, a courtyard and garden, and Terras, a rooftop bar and restaurant serving up elevated takes on traditional Latin American, South American, and Caribbean street food. With many rooms available for less than $200 nightly depending on the time of year you book, you can check your financial woes at the door—indulge in some peaceful rooftop sunbathing at high noon or dance the night away to local DJs playing Latin favorites after the sun goes down.

Century Hotel Miami Beach

Miami On A Shoestring Budget
Photo Credit: The Century Hotel courtesy of The Century Hotel

This may come as a surprise to many visitors to The Magic City, but it’s more than possible to book an affordable hotel stay right in the heart of Miami Beach’s famed Art Deco District. Look no further than the Century Hotel Miami Beach, located on Ocean Drive just a couple minutes’ walk from the shores of South Beach. With many rooms available for less than $200 a night depending on the season, the Century Hotel offers guests an affordable means of experiencing Miami’s Art Deco history, as its interiors reflect the geometric motifs made popular a century ago. Don’t forget to make use of the hotel’s complimentary beach chairs and umbrellas, as well as its beach cruisers, to experience all of the oceanfront, Art Deco magic that South Beach has to offer.

READ MORE: The Best Places in Miami to Get Mofongo


  • Tyler Francischine

    Tyler Francischine is a journalist who writes about travel, arts, culture and community. She's passionate about social justice, the Atlantic Ocean and live music.

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