For all its chic international appeal, the poolside bar scene at the Delano remains refreshingly accessible. No velvet ropes, no beefy bouncers, no clipboard-wielding door divas. As a nonguest, you should be polite and use some stealth: stroll nonchalantly through the sumptuous lobby into the carefully manicured rear area. Meander past the rows of private bungalows to the back bar, then plunk yourself on a stool providing a perfect view of South Beach's lotus eaters in full glory. The music's not too loud (lounging without migraines: what a concept), and the drinks, while hardly a bargain (this is South Beach), are lower-priced than the jewelry and designer swimsuits you'll spy on guests lazily drifting about the pool's brightly dappled water. After a few cocktails you may find yourself transfixed by the pool itself: Its "virtual edges" are now de rigueur for fine hotels around the nation. And should you spot a hot celeb tanning on a deck chair, keep your camera tucked away. The security staff is cool, and quick to toss paparazzi staking out Hollywood dreams. In all ways, discretion is the better part of having a blast, or just getting blasted, at the Delano.

La Piaggia
This Mediterranean-style bar and outdoor restaurant with a view of Fisher Island sits elegantly on a sandy bank at South Pointe, beneath the towering Murano Grande at Portofino, and bills itself "the South of France at the South of Fifth." (While some think South Beach ends at Fifth Street, those with taste know that's where the good stuff begins.) This posh hangout features amenities for oh-so-fabulous, R&R-seeking VIPeople: cabanas, massage tables (with masseur), a saltwater pool, and plenty of gorgeous models practicing catwalk struts. It's a private club -- you have to be a resident of the Murano or pay for a pricey membership -- but nonmembers can gain access with nothing more than a VIP demeanor and the name of a member they claim to be meeting. With an elite crowd that's heavy on nightlife- and fashion-industry honchos, you can expect a fair share of tall European lovelies shaking what they got. Many men who pass through La Piaggia are celebrities with a lust for ladies, among them R. Kelly, Tommy Lee, and none other than former President Bill "Mr. Hillary" Clinton. That's because they are well aware that this place is ground zero for hot models.

This Mediterranean-style bar and outdoor restaurant with a view of Fisher Island sits elegantly on a sandy bank at South Pointe, beneath the towering Murano Grande at Portofino, and bills itself "the South of France at the South of Fifth." (While some think South Beach ends at Fifth Street, those with taste know that's where the good stuff begins.) This posh hangout features amenities for oh-so-fabulous, R&R-seeking VIPeople: cabanas, massage tables (with masseur), a saltwater pool, and plenty of gorgeous models practicing catwalk struts. It's a private club -- you have to be a resident of the Murano or pay for a pricey membership -- but nonmembers can gain access with nothing more than a VIP demeanor and the name of a member they claim to be meeting. With an elite crowd that's heavy on nightlife- and fashion-industry honchos, you can expect a fair share of tall European lovelies shaking what they got. Many men who pass through La Piaggia are celebrities with a lust for ladies, among them R. Kelly, Tommy Lee, and none other than former President Bill "Mr. Hillary" Clinton. That's because they are well aware that this place is ground zero for hot models.

All the mixers at Automatic Slim's deserve an award, so the nod goes to senior server (she's been there longest, she doesn't just serve elderly people) Mara Degenhardt. The Washington Avenue bar that claims to be the place "where the beautiful come to get ugly" was the first to play up the Coyote Ugly mien by allowing the gorgeous female bartenders to prop themselves up on the bar, perform a hot number to the sounds of Eighties pop metal, and pour free shots to rowdy patrons. Mara gets top billing not just for seniority: the stunning six-foot-tall, Amazonian blonde won Gillette's Best Legs in America contest last year, and she whips up a mean margarita. She's also the self-appointed "mother" of the staff. The bartender babes at Slim's definitely need one: All are wild and love to party along with the crowd, but if you go too far -- say, reach across the bar and grab one of their parts -- Mara will flat kick your ass.

All the mixers at Automatic Slim's deserve an award, so the nod goes to senior server (she's been there longest, she doesn't just serve elderly people) Mara Degenhardt. The Washington Avenue bar that claims to be the place "where the beautiful come to get ugly" was the first to play up the Coyote Ugly mien by allowing the gorgeous female bartenders to prop themselves up on the bar, perform a hot number to the sounds of Eighties pop metal, and pour free shots to rowdy patrons. Mara gets top billing not just for seniority: the stunning six-foot-tall, Amazonian blonde won Gillette's Best Legs in America contest last year, and she whips up a mean margarita. She's also the self-appointed "mother" of the staff. The bartender babes at Slim's definitely need one: All are wild and love to party along with the crowd, but if you go too far -- say, reach across the bar and grab one of their parts -- Mara will flat kick your ass.

Churchill's Pub
Alexander Oliva
The cool new dueling jukeboxes (one local tracks, the other national; they switch back and forth when both are being played). New edifice. Tile flooring. Redesigned patio and outside bar. The improvements made during the past couple of years are fine, but to change the essence of the only club that could be considered the pinnacle of rock staging for boozing, partying audiences would be sacrilege. "The Church" would remain real-rock heaven if they painted the place pink, poured mud on the floors, and sold only two types of brew instead of four dozen. Sound system, music, roof and walls, business licenses -- and that ephemeral "essence" -- along with the management skills of Dave Daniels and his main man Mike Toms are enough. Churchill's is so much more.

The cool new dueling jukeboxes (one local tracks, the other national; they switch back and forth when both are being played). New edifice. Tile flooring. Redesigned patio and outside bar. The improvements made during the past couple of years are fine, but to change the essence of the only club that could be considered the pinnacle of rock staging for boozing, partying audiences would be sacrilege. "The Church" would remain real-rock heaven if they painted the place pink, poured mud on the floors, and sold only two types of brew instead of four dozen. Sound system, music, roof and walls, business licenses -- and that ephemeral "essence" -- along with the management skills of Dave Daniels and his main man Mike Toms are enough. Churchill's is so much more.

Mitchell Kaplan, a lifelong Miami-Dade County resident, founded Books & Books in 1982. Kaplan's personality, love of writers, and belief in the written word have inflamed and driven the Miami Book Fair International, a festival that is to publishing as Art Basel is to art. Books & Books, with outlets in Coral Gables and in Miami Beach, offers, well, books and books, but also periodicals for the shorter-attention-spanned. Writers -- up-and-coming and established, poets and novelists, left- and right-wingers -- stop by the store to give readings, and Miami's book lovers, nurtured by Kaplan, come out to meet them. Kaplan, a gentle, kind, and thoughtfully spoken man, would be surprised that so many people are grateful to him. But we are, and we should be.

Best local landmark
The Roney Plaza Hotel

I'm from Miami Beach originally. I grew up down here, so my best local landmark is one that doesn't exist anymore: the Roney Plaza Hotel. It lives now only in postcards. It was built around the same time as the Freedom Tower. It's the hallmark of my growing up. This was a magnificent hotel. It had a saltwater pool and freshwater pool, a casino, and a boardwalk. Imagine the Biltmore right there on the beach, and that's it. Unfortunately it was torn down in the Seventies. It would have been the crown jewel of Miami Beach. The fact that it doesn't stand anymore is an important point from a preservationist point of view.

Best sanctuary from the fast track
Sailing

When things get a little hectic it's great to be out on Biscayne Bay on a sailboat.

Best month
November

The month that I always point toward as being the pinnacle of the year is November, because that's when the Miami Book Fair International takes place.

Best not-so-cheap thrill
Stone crabs, preferably the jumbos at Joe's.

Best cheap thrill
It's not a classic cheap thrill, but I'm thinking of what is now called the Gardens of Pinecrest. It's the old Parrot Jungle. This is a space that is lush and beautiful and it still hasn't been completely discovered.

Best reason to live in Miami
The best reason to live in Miami -- and the best time to live in Miami -- is right now, because we have a remarkable, burgeoning literary community. Not only do we have some of the most talented writers on Earth here, not only do we have some of the most talented writers around, but we have incredibly generous writers as well. Generous with each other as well as generous with their talents and their readers.

Mitchell Kaplan, a lifelong Miami-Dade County resident, founded Books & Books in 1982. Kaplan's personality, love of writers, and belief in the written word have inflamed and driven the Miami Book Fair International, a festival that is to publishing as Art Basel is to art. Books & Books, with outlets in Coral Gables and in Miami Beach, offers, well, books and books, but also periodicals for the shorter-attention-spanned. Writers -- up-and-coming and established, poets and novelists, left- and right-wingers -- stop by the store to give readings, and Miami's book lovers, nurtured by Kaplan, come out to meet them. Kaplan, a gentle, kind, and thoughtfully spoken man, would be surprised that so many people are grateful to him. But we are, and we should be.

Best local landmark
The Roney Plaza Hotel

I'm from Miami Beach originally. I grew up down here, so my best local landmark is one that doesn't exist anymore: the Roney Plaza Hotel. It lives now only in postcards. It was built around the same time as the Freedom Tower. It's the hallmark of my growing up. This was a magnificent hotel. It had a saltwater pool and freshwater pool, a casino, and a boardwalk. Imagine the Biltmore right there on the beach, and that's it. Unfortunately it was torn down in the Seventies. It would have been the crown jewel of Miami Beach. The fact that it doesn't stand anymore is an important point from a preservationist point of view.

Best sanctuary from the fast track
Sailing

When things get a little hectic it's great to be out on Biscayne Bay on a sailboat.

Best month
November

The month that I always point toward as being the pinnacle of the year is November, because that's when the Miami Book Fair International takes place.

Best not-so-cheap thrill
Stone crabs, preferably the jumbos at Joe's.

Best cheap thrill
It's not a classic cheap thrill, but I'm thinking of what is now called the Gardens of Pinecrest. It's the old Parrot Jungle. This is a space that is lush and beautiful and it still hasn't been completely discovered.

Best reason to live in Miami
The best reason to live in Miami -- and the best time to live in Miami -- is right now, because we have a remarkable, burgeoning literary community. Not only do we have some of the most talented writers on Earth here, not only do we have some of the most talented writers around, but we have incredibly generous writers as well. Generous with each other as well as generous with their talents and their readers.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®