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Popular Florida Family Resorts

St-Martin Map

   Exploring Florida

Something for everyone from Mom & Dad to the teenagers & smaller kids
Family-time is Fun-time!:
Destinations & Interests
  Florida is a vacationers paradise. Where else can you find so many beaches, great weather and theme parks packed into one place. In at least one way it makes little difference when you visit: warm sunshine and blue skies are almost always a fact of life. Florida does, however, split into two climatic zones: subtropical in the south and warm temperate in the north. Orlando and points south have very mild winters (October to April), with warm temperatures and low humidity.
  Florida is surprisingly compact, and easy to get around by car: crossing between the east and west coasts takes a couple of hours, and one of the longest trips - between the western extremity of the Panhandle and Miami - can be done in a day.

   Encompassing a broad and fertile expanse between the east and west coasts, most of central Florida was farming country when vacation-mania first struck the beachside strips. From the 1970s on, this picture of tranquility was shattered: no section of the state has been affected more dramatically by modern tourism, and the most visited part of Florida can also be one of the ugliest. A clutter of freeway interchanges, motels and billboards arches around the small city of Orlando , where a tourist-dollar chase of Gold Rush magnitude was sparked by Walt Disney World , the biggest and cleverest theme-park complex ever created. The rest of central Florida is quiet by comparison, and, north of Orlando particularly, rural towns like Ocala typify the state before the arrival of the highways and of vacations spun around "attractions."

   ORLANDO , a quiet farming town in 1970, now has more visitors than any other place in the state. The reason, of course, is Walt Disney World , which, along with Universal Studios Escape, Sea World and a host of themed attractions, pulls more than 25 million people a year to a previously featureless plot of scrubland. Few people head to Orlando proper, choosing instead one of the countless motels along Hwy-192 , fifteen miles south, or International Drive , five miles southwest. Despite enormous expansion over the last decade, the town itself remains free of the commercialism that surrounds it.

   Getting There
   The international airport is nine miles south of downtown Orlando; collect brochures and discount coupons at the official information booth (daily 7am-11pm). Shuttle buses (24hr; best prices offered by Mears or Transtar) run to any hotel in the Orlando area for around $15, while a taxi to downtown, International Drive or the motels on Hwy-192 costs around $30. Buses and trains arrive downtown at the Greyhound terminal, 555 N John Young Parkway, and the Amtrak station, 1400 Sligh Blvd.
   Pick up discount coupons and promotional offers at the efficient Visitor Information Center , 8723 International Drive (daily 8am-7pm; tel 407/363-5872 or 1-800/643-9492, ).

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   You have to be very determined to get to the theme parks without a car, but it can be done. Local Lynx buses (tel 407/841-8240, ) converge on the downtown Orlando terminal between Central and Pine streets; route #50 heads to Walt Disney World, but it's a somewhat patchy service and takes about an hour. The pricier Mears Transportation Service runs private shuttle buses (tel 407/423-5566) between the main accommodation areas, the airport and Walt Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios ($10-12 round-trip) - phone at least a day ahead to be picked up, or check at your hotel or hostel. Taxis are the best way to get around at night - try Yellow Cab Co. (tel 407/699-9999). Along International Drive, between Sea World Orlando and Universal Studios, the I-Ride trolley service (tel 407/354-5656) operates every few minutes daily from 7am to midnight, costing 75? one way. The immense convention center , several blocks in length, stretches along International Drive amid the attractions.

   Food and Drink
   Downtown and its environs hold the pick of the locals' eating haunts; most visitors, however, head for International Drive's inexpensive all-day buffets and gourmet restaurants. There's a strict embargo on taking food into any of the theme parks, where the best restaurants are in Epcot's World Showcase - head for Japan, Morocco or Mexico.
   Florida honeymoon Bahama Breeze 8849 International Drive tel 407/248-2499. Decent Caribbean food in an upbeat atmosphere.
The Globe 25 Wall St Plaza tel 407/422-1669. This is a perfect place for inexpensive Nouveau American snacks and light meals, such as pan-seared salmon salad and veggie burgers. Open 24 hours.
Le Coq au Vin 4800 S Orange Ave tel 407/851-6980. French restaurant with surprisingly low prices for top-notch food.
Magic Mining Company 7763 W Hwy-192 tel 407/396-1950. Colorful steak and seafood mountain-themed joint.
Ming Court 9188 International Drive tel 407/351-9988. An exceptional Chinese restaurant, serving delicious potstickers, dim sum and fragrant noodles, is not as costly as you might expect.
Numero Uno 2499 S Orange Ave tel 407/841-3840. Inexpensive, downtown Cuban restaurant.
Race Rock Supercharged Restaurant 8986 International Drive tel 407 248-9876. A race-car-themed restaurant with auto memorabilia on walls serves such eclectic American choices as burgers, milkshakes and malts at super-reasonable prices.
TuTu Tango 8625 International Drive tel 407/248-2222. This lively restaurant is done out like an artist's studio. Painters and sculptors work as you eat superb pan-Asian, New World and Mediterranean food, including seared tuna sashimi or black bean soup.
White Wolf Cafe 1829 N Orange Ave tel 407/895-5590. The down-to-earth cafe/antique store is known for creative sandwiches and generous salads.

Top Florida Restaurants:

  • Victoria & Albert's, Orlando
  • Pierres, Islamorada, Florida Keys
  • Mezzanotte, Coconut Grove
  • Casa Tina, Dunedin
  • Red Lantern, Coconut Grove
  • Palm, Bal Harbour
  • Ortanique on the Mile, Coral Gables
  • Gelateria Parmalat, Miami Beach
  • Cafe Chardonnay, Palm Beach Gardens
  • El Toro Taco, Homestead
  •   Though you'll probably be so exhausted from a long day at the parks that boozing and boogying with thousands of others will be the last thing on your mind, the Orlando area is just bursting with themed nightspots of every persuasion, from medieval banquets to piano bars and country and western clubs. It's all relentless good, clean fun, sanitized to the hilt.
      From around 9pm, each Walt Disney World park holds some kind of closing-time bash, usually involving fireworks and fountains. There's also Pleasure Island , exit 26B off I-4 (in the Disney Village Marketplace), a remake of an abandoned island, whose pseudo-warehouses are the setting for shops, themed bars and nightclubs (daily 10am-7pm; after 7pm $21 gains access to all bars and clubs). The most enjoyable are the Comedy Warehouse and the Adventurers' Club , loosely based on a 1930s gentlemen's club. Take ID and a fat wallet.
      In a similar vein, in downtown Orlando at 129 W Church St, the restored Victorian buildings of Church Street Station enclose a mall-like cluster of restaurants, bars, clubs and shows with a vaguely Old South theme (daily 11am-2am; after 6pm $19 gains access to all bars and clubs).

      Exploring Orlando
       Discovery Cove , the second of Sea World's theme parks, is a much more exclusive venture, limiting visitors to those with reservations (and who can afford the high admission prices that start at $109; tel 1-877/4DISCOVERY, ). This will entitle you to swim and play with dolphins, snorkel up to sharks and barracudas behind a clear partition and feed tropical birds in a resort-like setting.
      Of the three Disney-owned waterparks, Blizzard Beach , on World Drive north of the All-Star Resorts , is the most creative, based on the fantasy that a hapless entrepreneur has opened a ski resort in Florida and the entire thing has started to melt. Star of the show is Summit Plummet , which shoots you down a 120ft vertical drop at more than fifty miles per hour. Gentler rides include toboggan-style slalom courses and covered raft rides. As well as the slides, Typhoon Lagoon , at Lake Buena Vista (one-day pass, one-park $28.57/$22.79), features geysers and a rainforest, a huge surfing pool and a shark reef, where you can snorkel among tropical fish. River Country is older, smaller and quieter (one-day pass $16.91/$13.25)
      Wet 'n' Wild , 6200 International Drive (hours vary, tel 1-800/992-9453, ; $29.95/$23.95, parking $4), defends itself admirably in the face of the Disney competition, with a range of excellent slides including the challenging seven-story Bomb Bay and the almost vertical Der Stuka. Lines are shorter, too.
      Sea World , at Sea Harbor Drive, near the intersection of I-4 and the Bee Line Expressway, the cream of Florida's sizable crop of marine parks, should not be missed; allocate a day to see it all (daily 9am-7pm or later; longer hours in summer; $50.83, ages 3-9 $41.29; tel 1-800/327-2424, ). The big event is the Shamu Adventure show - beginning with a pre-show film attempting to justify the twenty minutes of tricks then performed by killer whales. The Wild Arctic complex, complete with artificial snow and ice, shows off beluga whales, walruses and a couple of claustrophobic-looking polar bears; the experience is topped off by a thrilling simulated helicopter flight through an Arctic blizzard. The park's first thrill ride, Journey to Atlantis , is part fantasy, part waterslide, part roller coaster, and has a sixty-foot drop. You will get drenched - by the ride and by other tourists who pay for the privilege of spraying you. With substantially less razzmatazz, plenty of smaller tanks and displays explain more than you need to know about the undersea world. Among the highlights, the Penguin Encounter attempts to re-create Antarctica with scores of waddling birds scampering over an iceberg; the occupants of the Dolphin Pool assert their advanced intellect by flapping their fins and soaking passersby; and Terrors of the Deep includes a walk through a glass-sided tunnel, offering the closest eye-contact you're ever likely to have with a shark and live to tell the tale.

    Popular Florida Destinations

      For some years, it seemed that US TV and film production would move away from California to Florida, which, with its lower taxes and cheaper labor, was more amenable, and the opening of Universal Studios Escape in 1990 appeared to confirm that trend. So far, for various reasons, Florida has not proved to be a fully realistic alternative, but that hasn't stopped the Universal enclave here, now known as Universal Studios (park opens daily at 9am, closing times vary; one-day pass $48.76, children 3-9 $39.22, under-3s free; two-day pass $84.75/$68.85; parking $7; tel 1-800/837-2273, ) from becoming a major player in the Orlando theme park arena. While Disney still holds court, Universal has drawn much attention, adding the hi-tech, special effects-laden Islands of Adventure and CityWalk , an earthier lure for nightlife dollars than Downtown Disney. Universal is also aspiring to full-fledged resort status with the Portofino Bay Hotel and plans for other accommodation. For access to all areas, park in the garage half a mile north of exits 29 and 30B off I-94.
      As significant as air conditioning in making the state what it is today, WALT DISNEY WORLD turned a wedge of Florida cow fields into one of the world's most lucrative vacation venues. The immense and astutely planned empire also pushed the state's media profile through the roof: from being a down-at-the-heel mixture of cheap motels, retirement homes and tacky alligator zoos, Florida suddenly became a showcase of modern international tourism.
       Walt Disney World is the pacesetter among theme parks: it goes way beyond Disneyland, which opened in Anaheim, California, in 1955 - delivering escapism at its most technologically advanced and psychologically brilliant across an area twice the size of Manhattan. Its four main theme parks are quite separate entities and, ideally, you should allow a full day for each. The Magic Kingdom is the Disney park of popular imagination, where Mickey mingles with the crowds - very much the park for kids, though at its high-tech best capable of thrilling even the most jaded of adults. Known for its giant, golfball-like geosphere, EPCOT Center is Disney's celebration of science and technology; this sprawling area involves a lot of walking, and may bore young children. Disney-MGM Studios suits almost everyone: its special effects are enjoyable even if you've never seen the movies they're based on. The newest of the four, Disney's Animal Kingdom , brings all manner of African and Asian wildlife to the theme park setting, perhaps the lone entry that can be explored fairly quickly.

       Florida's east coast , facing the Atlantic Ocean, runs for more than three hundred miles north from the northern fringe of Miami. The palm-dotted beaches and warm ocean waves bring to reality the sun-soaked playground of popular imagination. However, the first fifty or so miles lie deep within the sway of Miami, with one city offering little to distinguish it from the next. Despite its outdated party-town reputation, Fort Lauderdale these days is a sophisticated yachting center. Boca Raton and Palm Beach to the north are even more exclusive, their Mediterranean-Revival mansions inhabited almost exclusively by multimillionaires. North of here, the coast is still substantially unspoiled, although the Space Coast , centering on the Kennedy Space Center , and Daytona Beach both go all out to draw the crowds. The one genuinely characterful town in the entire stretch is St Augustine , still recognizable as the spot where Spanish settlers established North America's earliest foreign colony.
      By car, the scenic route along the coast is Hwy-A1A , which sticks to the ocean side of the Intracoastal Waterway , formed when the rivers dividing the mainland from the barrier islands were joined and deepened during World War II.
      Boca Raton
      Daytona Beach
      Fort Lauderdale
      Palm Beach
      Space Coast
      St Augustine

       Fiction, films and folklore have given the FLORIDA KEYS - a hundred-mile chain of islands that runs to within ninety miles of Cuba - an image of glamorous intrigue they don't really deserve. Instead, this is an outdoor-lover's paradise, where fishing, snorkeling and diving dominate. Terrific untainted natural areas include the Florida Reef , a great band of living coral just a few miles off the coast. But for many, the various keys are only stops on the way to fascinating Key West . Once the richest town in the US, and the final dot of North America before a thousand miles of ocean, Key West has lush, Caribbean-style streets with plenty of congenial bars in which to waste away the hours, watching the famous spectacular sunsets .
      Wherever you are on the Keys, you'll experience distinctive cuisine , served for the most part in funky little shacks where the food is fresh and the atmosphere laid-back. Conch, a rich meaty mollusc, is a specialty, served in chowders and fritters. And as for the Key Lime Pie, the delicate, creamy concoction of limes and condensed milk bears little resemblance here to the lurid green imposters served in the rest of the country.
      Traveling through the Keys could hardly be easier. There's just one route all the way through to Key West: the Overseas Highway (US-1 ). The road is punctuated by mile markers (MM) - starting with MM127 just south of Miami and finishing with MM0 in Key West.
      Key Largo
      Key West
      Lower Keys
      Middle Keys

    Top Florida Attractions:
  • Walt Disney World, Orlando
  • Discovery Cove, Orlando
  • Universal Studios Orlando, Orlando
  • South Beach, Miami Beach
  • SeaWorld Adventure Park, Orlando
  • Epcot Center, Orlando
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom, Orlando
  • Busch Gardens, Tampa
  • Magic Kingdom, Orlando
  • Captain Tony's Saloon, Key West, Florida Keys
  •   Far and away the most exciting city in Florida, MIAMI is a stunning and often intoxicatingly beautiful place. Awash with sunlight-intensified natural colors, there are moments - when the neon-flashed South Beach skyline glows in the warm night and the palm trees sway in the breeze - when a better-looking city is hard to imagine. Even so, people, not climate or landscape, are what make Miami unique. Half of the two million population is Hispanic, the vast majority Cubans. Spanish is the predominant language almost everywhere - in many places it's the only language you'll hear, and you'll be expected to speak at least a few words - and news from Havana, Caracas or Managua frequently gets more attention than the latest word from Washington, DC.
      Just a century ago Miami was a swampy outpost of mosquito-tormented settlers. The arrival of the railroad in 1896 gave the city its first fixed land-link with the rest of the continent, and cleared the way for the Twenties property boom. In the Fifties, Miami Beach became a celebrity-filled resort area, just as thousands of Cubans fleeing the regime of Fidel Castro began arriving in mainland Miami. The Sixties and Seventies brought decline, and Miami's reputation in the Eighties as the vice capital of the USA was at least partly deserved. As the cop show Miami Vice so glamorously underlined, drug smuggling was endemic; as well, in 1980 the city had the highest murder rate in America. Since then, though, much has changed for two very different reasons. First, the gentrification of South Beach helped make tourism the lifeblood of the local economy again in the early Nineties. Second, the city's determined wooing of Latin America brought rapid investment, both domestic and international: many US corporations run their South American operations from Miami and certain neighborhoods, such as Key Biscayne, are now home to thriving communities of expat Peruvians, Colombians and Venezuelans.

      The City

    Find Top Florida hotels by destination:
      Many of Miami's districts are officially cities in their own right, and each has a background and character very much its own. Most people head straight to Miami Beach , specifically the South Beach strip, where many of the city's famed Art Deco buildings have been restored to their former stunning splendor, all pastels, neon and wavy lines. Though touted as the chic gathering place for the city's fashionable faces, it's not as exclusive as you might expect, especially on weekend afternoons when families and out-of-towners join the washboard stomachs and bulging pecs. Make time, too, for Key Biscayne , a smart, secluded island community with some beautiful beaches, five miles off the mainland but easily reached by a causeway.
    On the mainland, downtown has a few good museums but little else of interest to visitors. Little Havana , to the west, is the best spot to head for a Cuban lunch, while immediately south the spacious boulevards of Coral Gables are as impressive now as they were in the 1920s, when the district set new standards in town planning. Independently minded but equally wealthy Coconut Grove is also worth a look, thanks to its walkable center and a couple of Miami's most popular attractions.
       Miami International Airport (tel 305/876-7000) is six miles west of the city. A cab from the airport should cost around $24, or you can take one of the 24-hour SuperShuttle minivans, which will deliver you to any address in Miami for $9-15 (tel 305/871-2000, ). From the airport, take the #7 Metrobus to downtown, a trip of 30 minutes or so ($1.25, exact fare required; every 40min Mon-Fri 5.30am-8.30pm, Sat & Sun 7am-7pm), or the 'J' Metrobus ($1.25 plus a 25? surcharge to South Beach; every 30min daily 5.30am-11.30pm) to Miami Beach farther on. If you arrive late at night, the Airport Owl shuttle runs in a loop through South Beach, downtown and back to the airport ($1.25; once hourly, 11.50pm-5.50am). Greyhound's Miami West station is a short cab ride from the airport, while the other major terminal is downtown at 100 W 6th St (tel 305/374-6180 or 1-800/231-2222, ). The Amtrak station, 8303 NW 37th Ave, is seven miles northwest. To get downtown or to Coconut Grove or Coral Gables from here, take Metrobus #L to the Metrorail, eight blocks away.
      A good place for information and maps is the Greater Miami Convention and Visitor Bureau , 1920 Meridian Ave (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat & Sun 10am-4pm; tel 305/672-1270, ). In South Beach, at the Art Deco Welcome Center, 1001 Ocean Drive (Mon-Fri 10am-5pm; tel 305/672-2014, ), the Miami Beach Art Deco Preservation League has details on walking tours and events, and a great line in retro gifts.
      Driving is the most practical way to get around Miami. Though the safety warnings handed to visitors as they pick up their rental cars can make unnerving reading, the much publicized tourist-targeted car-jackings of the early 1990s are now no more of an issue here than in any major city. Watch out for road signs marked with an orange sun on a blue background; they identify the most useful routes to the main attractions. Tourist police patrol in cars with the same logo.
      With a lot of time and patience, it is possible to make your way around Miami on public transportation run by Metro-Dade Transit (tel 305/770-3131 or for route information). Metrorail trains (5am-midnight) run, slowly, along a single line between the northern suburbs and South Miami; useful stops are Government Center (for downtown), Coconut Grove, and Douglas Road or University (for Coral Gables). Single-journey fares are $1.25. Downtown Miami is also ringed by the Metromover (5.30am-midnight; flat fare 25?), a monorail that doesn't cover much ground but gives a great bird's-eye view. Metrobuses cover the entire city, but services dwindle at night; the flat-rate single-journey fare is $1.25, with a 25? surcharge for transfers. Route maps and timetables for all Metro-Dade Transit services can be had at Government Center Station, and at the Metrorail station at NW First Avenue & First Street.

      Taxis, cycling and tours
    Taxis are abundant; try Central Cab (tel 305/532-5555) or Metro Taxi (tel 305/888-8888). Otherwise, get the free Miami on Two Wheels leaflet from the CVB and rent a bike from one of the many outlets, such as the Miami Beach Cycle Center, 601 5th St (Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, Sat & Sun 10am-5pm; tel 305/531-4161). For an informed stroll, take one of Dr Paul George's Walking Tours from the Historical Museum of South Florida (no tours July & Aug; $37; tel 305/375-1621, ). Or, try the various excellent Art Deco walking tours of South Beach (Thurs at 6.30pm & Sat at 10.30am; $10), which begin at the Miami Design Preservation League Welcome Center on Ocean Drive. The latter also offers a self-guided audio walking tour of the district (daily 10am-4pm; 1hr-1hr 15min; $5).

      Cuban food is what Miami does best, and it's not limited to the traditional haunts in Little Havana - the hearty, comfort food, notably rice and beans, fried plantains and shredded pork sandwiches, is found in every neighborhood. It is, however, complemented by sushi bars, American home-style diners, Haitian restaurants, Italian eateries and Indian venues, among a handful of other ethnic cuisines. Coral Gables stakes its claim in upmarket cafes and ethnic Italian and Greek restaurants, while Coconut Grove features American, Spanish, New Floridian - a mix of Caribbean spiciness and fruity Florida sauces - and even British. Seafood is equally abundant; succulent grouper, yellowfin tuna and wahoo, a local delicacy, are among five hundred species of fish thriving offshore. Stone crab claws , served from October to May, are another regional specialty. A tropical climate provides Florida with a juicy assortment of standard orange and grapefruit citrus, as well as the exotic flavors of the lychee, mango, papaya, tamarind and star fruits - many of which are used in sauces and batidos (light milkshakes). You'll also want to drink Cuban coffee: choose between cafe cubano , strong, sweet and frothy, drunk like a shot with a glass of water; cafe con leche , with steamed milk, and particularly good at breakfast with pan cubano (thin, buttered toast); or cafe cortadito , a smaller version of the con leche.
      Ayestaran 706 SW 27th Ave, Little Havana tel 305/649-4982. The sprawling Cuban restaurant offers hearty daily specials and superb cafe con leche that you can mix to your liking.
      Bambu 1661 Meridian Ave, Miami Beach tel 305/531-4800. Celebrity eateries are big business in Miami, and this one is co-owned by the actress Cameron Diaz. But the draw at this place is the food - great Asian fusion sushi and the occasional celebrity sighting make it a good place to splash out.
      Big Fish Mayaimi 55 SW Miami Ave, downtown tel 305/373-1770. A lively spot on the Miami River, it has great fish dishes and a splendid view. The menu includes home-cooked fish sandwiches and fresh seafood chowder.
      Big Pink 157 Collins Ave, South Beach tel 305/531-0888. Big portions of comfort food - mashed potatoes, ribs, macaroni and cheese, and classic "TV dinners" at 1950s prices - are served up.
      David's Cafe 1058 Collins Ave, South Beach tel 305/534-8736. Cuban restaurant with two locations on the beach (the other is at 16th & Meridian Ave), where suited Cuban businessmen doing deals sit alongside cholo teenagers. The food is authentic and there's eat-in and take-out at both restaurants.
      Fishbone Grille 650 S Miami Ave, downtown tel 305/530-1915. The busy, friendly restaurant serves excellent seafood with creative starters like shrimp potato fritters and smoked fish mousse.
      Gino's 731 Washington Ave, Miami Beach tel 305/673-2837. Open 24 hours a day, it serves true New York-style pizza to shift workers and clubbers alike. It's famous, too, for a dedication to staying open, even in the face of hurricanes.
      Greenstreet Cafe 3468 Main Highway, Coconut Grove tel 305/444-0244. Its terrific breakfasts make this cafe a real scene at weekends. It has a large number of outdoor tables for watching the world go by.
      Joe's Stone Crabs 227 Biscayne St, South Beach tel 305/673-0365. A legendary restaurant, it is always packed for its superb stone crabs - if you're impatient, do as the locals do and head to the takeout window. Crabcakes, fresh fish and crispy fried chicken are also good. Open mid-Oct to mid-May.
      Larios on the Beach 820 Ocean Drive, South Beach tel 305/532-9577. It is better known for being owned by singer Gloria Estefan rather than for its sophisticated - and surprisingly affordable - "Nuevo Cubano" food served in a Latin nightclub atmosphere.
      Monty's 2560 S Bayshore Drive, Coconut Grove tel 305/854-7997. Skip the pricey indoor restaurant and head for Monty's Raw Bar on the waterfront. Sit in the tiki huts eating fresh fish and sipping well-priced drinks.
      News Cafe 800 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach tel 305/538-6397. The established, fashionable sidewalk cafe has front-row seating for the South Beach promenade - although the food's unremarkable. Open 24hr at weekends.
      Puerto Sagua 700 Collins Ave, South Beach tel 305/673-1115. The Cuban diner serves great, rich black bean soup and other filling meals.
      La Sandwicherie 229 W 14th St, South Beach tel 305/532-8934. Don't be put off by the silly name. This place serves serious sandwiches starting at around $6 from its open-air lunch counter; each giant French loaf doorstop could make two meals, and it's open until 5am.
      Tap Tap 819 5th St, South Beach tel 305/672-2898. Haitian food is at its tastiest and most attractive in one of the best-looking restaurants in Miami Beach, hung with local art.
      Versailles 3555 SW 8th St, Little Havana tel 305/444-0240. At this legend in Little Havana, very little English is spoken. Local families, Cuban businessmen and backpackers congregate here for the wonderfully inexpensive Cuban dishes, served by one of the friendliest staffs in Miami.
      Yambo 1643 SW 1st St, Little Havana tel 305/642-6616. Try the good, inexpensive Nicaraguan food at an undiscovered gem. Step out of the USA and into Central America without leaving Miami.
      Yuca 501 Lincoln Rd, South Beach tel 305/532-9822. Discover Nuevo Cubano cooking at its best - and most expensive. Expect to pay at least $50 a head. Latin music at weekends.
      Drinking, Nightlife And Entertainment
      Best Of
      Explore Miami
      Hotels in Miami

       Rubbing hard against Alabama in the west and Georgia in the north, the long, narrow Panhandle has much more in common with the states of the Deep South than with the rest of Florida, and city sophisticates have countless jokes lampooning the folksy lifestyles of the people here. Hard to credit, then, that just a century ago, the Panhandle was Florida. At the western edge, Pensacola was a busy port when Miami was still a swamp. Fertile soils lured wealthy plantation owners south and helped establish Tallahassee as a high-society gathering place and administrative center - a role which, as the state capital, it retains. But the decline of cotton, the chopping down of too many trees, and the coming of the East Coast railroad eventually left the Panhandle high and dry. Much of the inland region still seems neglected, and the Apalachicola Forest is perhaps the best place in Florida to disappear into the wilderness. The coastal Panhandle , on the other hand, is enjoying better times and, despite rows of hotels, much is still untainted, with miles of blindingly white sands.
      Apalachicola National Forest
      Panama City Beach
      Wakulla Springs State Park

      In three hundred miles from the state's southern tip to the border of the Panhandle, Florida's west coast embraces all the extremes. Buzzing, youthful towns rise behind placid fishing hamlets; mobbed holiday strips are just minutes from desolate swamplands. Surprises are plentiful, though the coast's one constant is proximity to the Gulf of Mexico - and sunset views rivaled only by those of the Florida Keys.
      The largest city, Tampa , has more to offer than its corporate towers initially suggest - not least the exemplary nightlife scene at Cuban Ybor City and the Busch Gardens theme park. For the mass of visitors, though, the Tampa Bay area begins and ends with the St Petersburg beaches , whose miles of sea and sand are undiluted vacation territory. South of Tampa, a string of barrier-island beaches runs the length of the Gulf, and the mainland towns that provide access to them - such as Sarasota and Fort Myers - have enough to warrant a stop. Inland, the wilderness of the Everglades National Park is explorable on simple walking trails, by canoeing, or by spending the night at backcountry campgrounds with only the gators for company
      Fort Myers
      St Petersburg

      If you are in desperate need of a great vacation, then come and visit Florida. Florida has it all, great weather, beautiful beaches and super fun family and honeymoon resorts. It is our favourite place in the world, there is so much to see and do and it is for all ages.

    id .


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