You're a generous person with a heart for gift-giving, but you're a lousy shopper without an ounce of creativity. Every Mother's Day you do five laps around the mall looking for the perfect gift, only to end up empty-handed, bitter, and with sore feet. Wearily you lick the envelope on yet another cheap greeting card and drop it in the mailbox -- without a package -- and wonder how you will ever break this cycle of gift-giving failure. Fear not, for there is a solution that will turn you into the hero of all holidays: Cookies by Design. Stop by any of three locations in Miami-Dade to check out their patented "Cookie Bouquet" gift concept: Freshly baked, oversize sugar cookies are playfully hand-decorated with vibrant colors and arranged in baskets to create a treat as lovely to look at as it is sweetly satisfying. Acknowledge any holiday, recognize any achievement, or express any emotion through a variety of theme baskets. They also have a line of Disney characters that any child would go nuts over. Finally it's not even necessary to leave home to do your good deed. Orders can be placed online or by phone.
All the usual potions and talismans and statuettes and candles and flowers any good santero needs are here in the heart of Allapattah. On the exterior green walls of this building are painted colorful renditions of some of Latin America's more popular Catholic saints, such as Caridad del Cobre and Niño de Antocha. If you and your Santería santo have a certain problem or situation requiring a particular herb or tincture or perfume, just tell the knowledgeable people who work here. They know what you need. They also stock a nice selection of melodiously crowing and cackling roosters and hens, just in case you're looking for a back yard pet.
Guayaberas may now be ubiquitous, as familiar a sight in South Beach as in Little Havana, as popular with club-hopping twentysomethings as with potbellied old men. But there is still only one mago de la guayabera (guayabera magician): Ramon Puig, owner of La Casa de las Guayaberas, the famed Miami emporium. The Cuban-born Puig has been making guayaberas for more than 60 years. His client list has included Cuban President Carlos Prio as well as U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Bill Clinton. The man has stories, and he'll gladly share them with anyone who wanders into his shop. But the guayaberas -- gorgeous creations in a variety of fabrics and colors -- are a different matter. Those he'll charge you for.

If this dive shop is good enough for Flipper, most likely it will be good enough for you. The pros at Miami Seaquarium drive across the Rickenbacker Causeway regularly to get their tanks filled and equipment repaired by the guys at Bubbles. As a shop, they offer the latest gear from SeaQuest, Mares, and other top brands. As a dive school, the instructors offer open-water dive certification -- a two-week course for $249 that includes at least four open-water dives. They also offer advanced courses and a first-aid course. The Bubbles crew even acts as travel agent, organizing dive trips to several hot spots, including Belize and Colombia. But if you don't want to go that far, they offer Saturday reef dives and Sunday wreck dives as well as spooky night dives on Wednesdays.
Frankly the only tears we see flowing in here are ones of joy. No consumer in his or her right mind would even think of shedding one in sadness, given the plethora of goods you can peruse for your young one, ranging from cute little one-size outfits (with matching hats) for newborns to faux fur coats for your big, grown-up four-year-old. Think little boys can't appreciate what Crybaby has to offer? We've got two words for you: train accessories. And just in case Mom's feeling a little low, there are plenty of self-pampering opportunities as well. The store keeps a separate section for women who might appear mature -- i.e., baby on hip -- but who like to dress in hip junior fashions and who may occasionally venture outdoors without diaper bag and toddler in tow. Naturally the place is also great for buying that perfect shower gift.
In this current age of paranoia, which dates back at least ten years and which was heightened tremendously by September 11, well-heeled folks (Colombians and Venezuelans who can't shake the creepy feeling they're vulnerable and need extra zones of protection) are turning more and more to James Bond-style specialty shops to make themselves feel safer. How about a pair of wireless video-surveillance sunglasses to record every suspicious thing you see? Or how about a camera pen you can manipulate as you chat or that you use from across the street to record the presence of someone who might be up to something dire? Or a Predator G-3 Night Vision System you can wear in a rig like a goggled hardhat and that lets you see in pitch dark? Most of this stuff costs from $2000 to $4000, but some custom deals, like a car-bomb-prevention device that operates from the trunk of your vehicle, could be considerably more pricey. It is, however, guaranteed by Counterspy founder Benjamin Jamil, who makes Miami's other spy stores look like gadgeterias.

This is a carefree, open-air oasis with buckets of cut flowers and bins of produce at your fingertips as you stroll along the sociable Calle Ocho sidewalk. Coco frio is said to be the specialty here, and there's something naturally wonderful about grabbing a freshly slashed coconut and sucking down the sweet juice. The rest of the juices and batidos are just as fresh, tasty, and invigorating. Highly recommended: mamey and mango batidos.
It's only a year old but already the Dolphin Mall has its devoted fanatics. One of the appeals is variety: more than 200 stores running the gamut from low-end to high, from Burlington Coat Factory to Bebe. There are also outlets (Off 5th, Bombay), offbeat gift stores (Exotic Treasures), and standard mall fare (Old Navy). The outdoor area invites you to lounge in the sun with a smoothie in hand. The indoor-minded can play Skee-Ball at Dave & Buster's, sip a café mocha at Borders, or watch would-be rock gods strum guitars at Mars. Clearly this mall wants you to sit down and stay awhile -- then get back up and shop till you drop.
Given the pedigree of the husband-and-wife owners -- 34-year-old Jeffrey Wolfe was formerly general manager of Norman's restaurant, and 29-year-old Christie was marketing manager for Augustan Wine Imports -- we had a suspicion this place would stock some pretty eclectic bottles gleaned from family-run wineries like Napa's Livingston Moffett Winery and Sonoma Valley's Frank Johnson Vineyards. We also kind of thought, since they'd originally wanted to open a café/wine bar along with the retail store, that the Wolfes would be holding tastings, featuring rebels like David Ramey of Ramey Vineyards in Carneros. But who would have imagined the place would be so darn cute, the wine stored in "lockers" rather than formal racks, or that the shop's décor would be more suitable to filming an MTV video than catering to stuffy enophiles? Who would have guessed that many of the tastings, at ten dollars per ticket, include a take-home wine glass courtesy of Spiegelau? And who would've believed that the Wolfes would take a bite out of the cost of collecting wines by pricing many of the niche bottles under $30 and providing a computer kiosk with a CD burner so you can save info about the wines you're enjoying? Well, we did, of course. And now you will too.

The pleasure of shopping at the Shores Publix begins outside, in the ample parking lot, where an empty space can usually be found with relatively little effort (if the lot is full, just take the ramp to the rooftop parking deck; an elevator will bring you to ground level). Before you go in, though, stand back and admire the architecture: the decorative tropical shutters, the arched doorways, the covered walkway illuminated by large, industrial-style lanterns. Once inside, you'll discover what the exterior only hints at: This isn't so much a supermarket as it is a village shopping district, one with its own bakery; apothecary; flower shop; produce, meat, and fish markets; and wine shop. The floral center has bouquets, plants, and even garden sculptures for sale. The bakery section, likewise, is large enough to be considered its own separate shop, filling that end of the store with the divine smell of freshly baked goods. And everywhere there is activity. At the seafood market a sushi chef busily works at his station. Produce clerks constantly replenish the supply of fresh fruits and vegetables. Can't find something among the luxuriously wide aisles? There's always someone you can ask. And if you can't find something, you really should ask because chances are they carry it. The strength of this shoppers' paradise is selection, from its wide assortment of ethnic foods (including an extensive array of West Indian goodies) to health foods to its glorious wine section: three aisles and two entire walls of fermented grape juice, from $4 to $50 per bottle. No wonder Upper Eastside regulars commonly refer to this place as Mecca.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®