No trip to South Florida is complete without a journey to Everglades National Park. Miami’s beaches are great, but a mind-blowing experience with raw nature is well worth time away from the sand and surf. Just one hour from South Beach and Downtown Miami, the easiest and best access point of the Everglades, Shark Valley, provides an extraordinary opportunity to come face to face with wild, gargantuan alligators and interact with charismatic, wading birds and frivolous otters. It is possible to walk, bike or take a tram through the nine-mile nature loop (or just complete a small portion of it). Thanks to the concentration of water near the park entrance, the first mile of the trail is a photographer’s dream, revealing living images from the pages of National Geographic magazine. Warning: This is nature, not Disney. You will find yourself sometimes a few feet from feral 10-foot gators. So if the kids are unruly, leave them back at the hotel!
Unfortunately, there is no public transportation to and from the Everglades. If you have a rental car, you are only 44 miles away from Shark Valley, coming from the Gansevoort South or most hotels in the vicinity. Entry is paid per vehicle ($10) not per person. Shark Valley Visitor Center – 36000 Southwest 8th Street, Miami
For those without cars or looking for an alternative experience, The Mandarin Oriental Miami offers full day trips from the hotel. Mandarin’s trip combines altruism with tourism. A day trip includes a visit to Everglades National Park along with an afternoon of volunteering in the park through tree planting, recycling projects and weeding out exotic plants.
- Paul Rubio