There is plenty of feng shui and good mojo going on in this delightfully aromatic shop to keep your Buddha buddies happy. The shop has all the incense, candles, and beautiful statuary you need to create your own sacred meditation altar in your home. Friendly Bagua staff members are quick to tell you more about the one-of-a-kind handmade bags and clothing they carry (which are earthy without being too hippielike), and they will be happy to help you find the perfect book or CD for your friends who really need to relax. You will also find unique gifts for new moms and babies, like irresistibly soft teddy bears and floppy dogs that are filled with soothing lavender and can be heated in the microwave to provide a comforting warm friend in the crib ($15 to $28). Then there's the fizzy and bubbling elixirs to add to the bath (starting at $5). What we really love are the parties held every Friday night from 8:00 to midnight. With music, dancing, tarot readings, and free wine and snacks, this little shop is sending its good vibrations throughout the Buena Vista East neighborhood.
Rik Rak Salon, Boutique & Bar
This fashion and beauty barge opened in 1989 with a handful of stylists and a couple of manicurists. The little shop grew into a bustling full-service salon, spa, and boutique that has never lost its charm. (Rick and his wife Raquel are the charming couple at the helm.) Rick knows hair, he knows what look is right for you, and he isn't afraid to tell you. He has Edward Scissorhands-like speed and precision, as well as the talent of a master chemist with the colors. "Reds can be tricky," we've heard him say, as he explains that the copper red, rather than the Merlot hue, is a better choice for one lightly freckled client. "But not everyone can pull off a red; you need to have the right skin tone." Rick spends quality time with you and makes you feel special when you are in his chair -- he is there to take care of you. "Would you like some wine?" he is always quick to ask. "We have a nice Pinot Grigio ... or do you want a snack?" And he makes sure you're happy and tells you you're gorgeous before you leave. If only we could get all men to treat us this well.
Look around your bathroom. There's something about the Softsoap dispenser, the Ivory in the shower, and the Barbasol shaving cream that's simply depressing. Concern about smelling good, after all, demarcated humanity's rise to civilization. The art of perfume has been considered a delicate and careful process since man was practically rolling around in horse manure. But judging from a typical cosmetics shelf, we have succeeded only in emanating a faint odor of baby powder. The Boys can help. They specialize in European lines like L'Artisan, Diptyque, Lothantique, Hierbas de Ibiza, and D'Orsay. They carry one scent, in a squat terra cotta jar, that has been manufactured by the same Italian monks for centuries. They also offer free, gorgeous gift-wrapping. Perusing their shop, a cool refuge on Miracle Mile, is to be surrounded by delicate bottles and floral labels. The packaging of a set of Portuguese soaps makes your heart melt -- some cultures understand that beauty should extend to even the most quotidian objects. Eau de toilette, perfume, soaps, cosmetics, grooming products, room sprays, candles ... whether you prefer lilacs or lilies, sweetness or spice, you will leave here smiling.
My Skin Institute
The Skin Institute has been doing facials for fifteen years, and it offers some fourteen different versions, each tailored to specific skincare problems. While some treatments sound more like something you would want to order at a bar rather than slather on your cheeks (The champagne caviar facial? The tequila facial?), each concoction is developed for maximum effect. "They work too," assures director Sheila Treadway. "They're not just gimmicky." All the facials, including serious ones to treat clinical acne or sunspots, are priced from $60 to $80. "We try to assess what kind of skincare problems someone has beforehand, and we want the patient to decide based on that, not because one is cheaper than another." The Skin Institute takes a holistic approach as well -- suggesting changes in lifestyle to bring crazy skin under control. Best of all, there is no hint of snooty spa attitude: They've even been known to offer discounts to teenagers with bad acne.
The budget-minded fashionista wears her clothes until they have holes. She invests in sensible yet sexy apparel and stays abreast of trends not by purchasing a new outfit every weekend but through careful buys of low-budget accessories. The right baubles and bangles can speak volumes, and at the right jewelry store they cost less than $10. Adriana Bijoux is located in the middle of a wholesale fashion strip mall. The store is not much to look at from the outside, but its wares are available at both retail and wholesale prices. The salesgirls are sweet and helpful, and the jewelry is fashionable, colorful, and varied. Bracelets, earrings, and necklaces retail from $5 to $20, and the store also carries a decent selection of low-slung, big-buckle belts and snappy handbags. For even better bargains, bring a group of girlfriends and buy in bulk.
Franz Kafka was so sickly and miserable that he whiled away half his life in sanatoriums and wrote volumes about man's alienation in a grotesque, unintelligible, and hostile world. A visit to his funky South Beach namesake (open 7:30 a.m. to midnight) might have improved his humor. After all, its gracious staff and low-key atmosphere are enough to put even the most anxiety-ridden existentialist at ease. The pleasant vibe is thanks, in part, to the benevolent Deamici family, which owns and operates the business. Some member of the clan is usually around to lend customers a hand or, if needed, a sympathetic ear. Kafka Café also offers fast Internet access for just $4 per hour -- far cheaper than its South Beach competitors. And it has dozens of magazines you won't find elsewhere. Looking for the latest issue of Action Pursuit Games, the paintball enthusiasts' rag? Kafka has it, along with Feminist News Journal, Fly Tyer, and Concrete Wave. It also sells French, Italian, Arabic, and Spanish newspapers and cheaper-than-cheap used books. Hardcovers run just $3, softbacks a paltry buck. There's no discernible order to the shelving; The Ann Landers Encyclopedia sits cheek and jowl with Ice Hockey Made Simple and A Nietzsche Reader. So be prepared to do some trolling. But your effort will almost certainly be rewarded. And once you're done hunting, you can kick back on a sofa, enjoy some treats (think Nutella crpes, fruit smoothies, crisp salads, and espresso drinks). Or, better yet, take in some deliciously quirky art, like the armless, chartreuse-and-indigo mannequin that dangles from the ceiling.
Someday soon Internet access will be as free and universal as television or radio today. For Miami Beach that future is now. Following a national trend of city-provided wireless service, the Beach will install its much-anticipated network over the next few months. The service will be free to anyone with a wireless-ready computer system, and is expected to cover almost every neighborhood within city limits. Free wi-fi makes economic sense as a draw to visitors, and it is welcome competition for residents; however, its true value may be revealed only after the next hurricane. Following Wilma, disconnected residents searched all over town for a place to blog about the storm.
Ideally a tea shop should be like the beverage itself: inviting, soothing, and worth leisurely enjoyment in balmy afternoon hours. Tasty enough to share with your girlfriends, sweet enough to share with your mother. Théine captures that vibe to a tee, so to speak. Tucked away on a quiet Coral Gables street, the welcoming nook serves up delectable gourmet lunch and a truly noteworthy three-course tea service. Replete with dainty biscuits, cakes, scones, sandwiches, and tarts made by down-to-earth tea maven and store owner Kyra White, the extravaganza is well worth $25. When the soft-spoken waiter presents you with a handsomely bound menu of teas and tisanes, you'll feel like English royalty. Jasmine Pearl, Margaret's Hope, Mexican Chai, and Indian Darjeeling -- the perfectly steeped brew needs no taint of sugar or stain of cream, as the proprietress would recommend. But because she's an excellent hostess, bowls of adorable sugar cubes and a crystal decanter of milk sit daintily on each table.
If you prefer Fendi handbags but will accept the more budget-friendly "Fendi-inspired" variety, Mr. Pocketbook has your purse. Its flagship store in Miami's scrappy Fashion District (2850 NW Fifth Ave.) is a windowless cement block, but inside is a world of evening bags, wallets, totes, coin purses, satchels, and luggage. A sleek sequined shoulder bag retails for as little as $12 -- cheaper if you're buying wholesale -- and even the most flamboyant of shoppers will find a purse to her liking. Feathers? Buttons? Neon colors? Mr. Pocketbook has it all.
Drive down Miracle Mile and you'll begin to notice a subtle pattern. There's David's Bridal (39 Miracle Mile), Bridal City (326 Miracle Mile), and Coral Gables Bridal (141 Miracle Mile). There's Chic Parisien (118 Miracle Mile) -- specializing in, yes, bridal. Miracle Mile really should be renamed the Get Hitched Three-Quarter; all told, there are close to ten shops specializing in wares for the big day -- or days, if you're a multiple mater. (Plus the jewelry stories specializing in engagement rings.) So if you're about to tie the knot for the first, second, or fourth time and you need to bedeck bridesmaids or find a frock for a flower girl, there is no better place in Miami-Dade, or possibly the planet, than the Gables. And best yet, when all of your sartorial needs are met, you can take care of the icing on the cake, literally. Head to the Wedding Cake Gallery, conveniently located at 30 Miracle Mile.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®