Over the years we've recommended nearly all the viable hiking trails accessible from the park's southern entrance. The Long Pine Key trail network and especially its unnamed but gorgeous offshoot just beyond Pine Glades Lake (details from the main visitors' center). The five-mile round-trip Rowdy Bend trail just north of Flamingo (don't bother with the nearby but monotonous Snake Bight trail). The Christian Point trail (four miles round trip) also near Flamingo. The Coastal Prairie trail (thirteen miles round trip) that begins at the western end of the Flamingo camping area and features an array of landscapes. Each trail has its charms and challenges, depending on the season and time of day. But here's something new. The park recently reopened its Mahogany Hammock trail, which wanders through one of the most lovely hardwood hammocks you'll ever see. But the boardwalk loop is only a half-mile long. So we suggest you park your car at the Mahogany Hammock turnoff from the park's main road and walk from there. Your passage will carry you into the vast sawgrass savannah, whose subtle wonders are impossible to appreciate from a car. Traffic on your asphalt trail will run from very light (weekdays) to moderate (weekends). Your reward at the end is the new boardwalk loop and the inviting coolness of the hammock. A round trip hike from the main road and through the loop is just under five miles.

Manatee-watching may not be as consistently rewarding as birding. Often the only sign of the massive creatures are the concentric circles of water swelling upward from their underwater path. But if you keep an eye on the canal leading from Black Point Marina to Biscayne Bay, you'll see a snout poking above the water to snuffle in some of that fragrant Mt. Trashmore air before going back under. Occasionally a manatee's entire bulk will be visible, a sight worth whatever wait it takes.

The Biltmore's world-renowned, crescent-shaped pool is a record-holder. At 700,000 crystalline gallons, it ranks as the largest hotel pool in the continental United States. It is frequently used as a backdrop for movies, fashion spreads, and video shoots. The old grandstand bleachers, once used for popular aquatic shows, have been replaced with private cabanas and lush landscaping of palms, bougainvillea, and hibiscus. Its diving platform has been converted into a waterfall, tucked under the awesome sight of the hotel's Spanish tower. The 23,000-square-foot pool continues to delight hotel guests and sneak-in visitors who enjoy swimming in a man-made space with the feel of the sea.

Round women, short women, sleek and tall women. Women with foreign accents. Iowa girls with sensitive skin, glistening pink through a coat of sunscreen and barely believing they're lying on hot sand while their friends at home shiver under layers of scarves and sweaters. Brazilian goddesses all brown and slick with oil, their hair in braids or free in the wind, chatting in Portuguese and barely noticing the soccer guys in Speedos who pass by them smiling. Hard-body health-club chicks, silicone mamas, young mothers basking on blankets in the warm glow of winter in Miami. As if conspiring with the sunlight and the wind and sea, these women overwhelm the senses. A gathering of womanhood on the beach, like the heroines in a Fellini film, at ease with their bodies and their strength, liberating their breasts from the yoke of society, defying age and gravity. They inspire any first-timer to join them topless in the sun at the edge of the Atlantic.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®