Bal Harbour Beach

A beach is a beach is a beach, but don't tell that to half the people who frequent some of Miami's more popular shoreline. There's the beach meant for showing off your latest gym/elective surgery achievements in the tiniest spandex. There's the beach for families with six kids all in water wings. There's the beach for teenagers in Kendall to drive to while armed with digital cameras for Facebook pics and radios blasting La Kalle. Whichever it is, everyone seems overly excited to be at the beach, like it's some sort of exclusive event and not a mound of waterside sand.

For us, though, a beach is nothing more than a place to sleep off a hangover and avoid vampire skin. After weeks spent in a cubicle, and most weekends sleeping well past noon, we set the alarm extra-early once a month to make sure our skin tone doesn't become translucent. It's practically a civic duty to keep up a base tan in this town, but we're not one for proper man-scaping and we tend to get annoyed by impromptu beach jam sessions or volleyball games. So we cruise the northern parts of Collins Avenue until we come upon a cheap parking spot. More often than not, that's in Bal Harbour (metered parking behind the strip mall at 95th Street and Harding Avenue). Most time here, for us anyway, is spent passed out, and there's nothing that really gets in the way of that. It's just a beach and that's all.

Have you ever spun a nine-ton coral rock gate with one finger? Do it on weed. Super-genius Ed Leedskalnin drilled a perfect eight-foot hole through an 18,000-pound block he moved by himself from Florida City to Homestead; then he centered and balanced it on an iron shaft and truck bearing just so you can spin it in circles. He built the castle as an undying tribute to the 16-year-old girl who dumped him the day before their wedding, and it's there for your enjoyment. Professional burnouts everywhere compare it to Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt. Ed worked day and night by himself for 28 years constructing it all using the powers of weight and leverage. He was five feet tall, weighed 100 pounds, and claimed he knew the secrets used to build the ancient pyramids and that you could learn them too. Button pushers, beware — items marked "Do Not Touch" are magnetically booby-trapped. You'll feel it later. Coral Castle is a world-famous mystery destination. See it yourself for $9.75, and group discounts are available. Bring your own weed.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel

Everything about going to the Mandarin Oriental feels exotic and otherworldly. It begins when you drive over the Brickell Key Bridge. Lapping waves, expensive cars, uniformed valets, and security guards are everywhere you look — it ain't hard to tell you're visiting an oasis of luxury, mere minutes from the teeming center of the city. The majesty of this five-star spa feels like escape enough. But thanks to the Kundalini Journey, a truly unique spa experience that harnesses the power of aromatherapy and advanced massage techniques with gemstone therapy, you can travel without moving.

You're guided past a row of opulent massage rooms — each overlooking the aqua bay and glittering buildings of Brickell. "Are you ready?" your massage therapist asks as she reveals the special place where your journey shall begin. Cool and dark, save for a glowing blue light that shines from under the massage bed, the space draws you into a new world. Soon you're asked to visualize a happy place and enter the portal in your mind. During the Kundalini Journey, your mind and spirit go traveling far, far away while your body is pressed, prodded, and pampered into a state of complete muscle- and mind-draining bliss. At the end, you emerge refreshed, rejuvenated, and thanks to the healing power of crystals, emboldened with a new outlook on life. A two-hour "journey" costs $340. Believe us, it's worth it.

The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami

It's tough to choose 'cause they're so damn... ritzy. But if pressed, we'd have to admit the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne is our favorite of the hotel chain's South Florida locations. That's in no small part because of the spa, which is as plush and visually pleasing as one might imagine the Ritz-Carlton's largest South Florida hotel spa to be. But for the best not-so-cheap thrill, the enclosed sumptuous treatment suites, impressive changing areas, and steam rooms are simply not enough. An indulgence that's truly magnificent calls for an even more expansive backdrop: the Atlantic Ocean.

The couple's oceanfront massage is a guaranteed aphrodisiac and an experience you won't soon forget. You and your sweet thang are led hand-in-hand to a hidden gazebo — behind the hotel's charming Cantina Beach restaurant and far from the enormous conference rooms — nestled in a private green space overlooking the water. Two professional masseuses instruct you to disrobe and lie facedown while they minister to your bodies' every grievance. The crashing waves and salty breezes remind you how lucky you are to call Miami home. You emerge from the experience elated, a little light-headed, and primed for an evening of relaxation and romance. The cost for this experience: $370. Or you can have an in-room couples' rubdown for $330, but what fun is that?

Club Euforia

Once the clock sails past midnight, the downtown crowd couldn't care less about what other party sets (i.e., stodgy SoBe and boring Brickell) would deem PC. And once it's after 4 a.m., everyone is so wasted that Barack Obama could walk into the club and no one would flinch. Well, maybe they'd ask him why he doesn't make cocaine legal and then go back to their partying. Everything about 90 Degree just begs for a healthy dose of late-night tomfoolery. It's a beautiful space, and everyone secretly desires to muck up something that's so sophisticated. Every Friday from 2:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. (well, technically early Saturday morning, but hey, it's called Insomnia Fridays), you can party alongside other drunken insomniacs who are definitely not making it to Saturday church service. Or are they? If you leave the club at 7 and hit Denny's by 7:15, you can totally be functioning and worshipping your Lawd by 8:30. How sweet it is.

Charcoal Studio

Poplife, Gen Art, and even the New Times have hosted parties here. Why? With retro knickknacks, an AstroTurf patio floor, and an indoor swimming pool and hot tub, it feels more like partying at your friend's awesome warehouse-style loft than an actual production studio, which might be because the owner once called the place home. Still, this spot in the Wynwood Arts District is perfect for that possibly illegal rave, off-kilter art exhibition, or industrial-chic list-only party you are looking to have.

University of Miami Intensive Language Institute

At a Cuban café, you attempt to order a steamed-milk espresso and you get a meat-filled pastry instead. When an irate driver on I-95 suggests you fellate your cousin, you smile bewilderedly and give a thumbs-up. And at work, the Colombian fellow in the next cubicle always seems to pull twice as many clients as you do. Oye, hombre, this is Miami, where if you don't have at least a working grasp of Spanish, you're a second-class citizen. But there's hope yet for a lead-tongued gringo like you. At the University of Miami's Intensive Language Institute, a handsome facility tucked into a corner of the Coral Gables campus, you can redeem yourself of your high school Spanish-class truancy. The schedule is designed with professionals in mind, meeting two evenings a week or every Saturday. If you feel like bludgeoning yourself with knowledge, the intensive course is eight hours a day for one marathon week. The classes top out around six or seven students, and the veteran professors are attentive and patient. The best part: It's pass/fail, so if you can persuade your boss to pay — an eight-week biweekly course costs $625 — you can miss a class or two without fear of turning in a C-minus with your expense report.

You might know this feisty, self-deprecating broad from '60s rock cover band Guerilla Balls, featuring Miami Beach's legendary boy-in-dress Shelley Novak. Or — more likely — you don't. But if the finest queen should be judged by the campiest one-liners, funniest/frizziest blond wig, and loudest guitar ballads, Connecticut-bred Joanna Mills should be crowned accordingly. Joanna, AKA Joe Clough, seems to think lip-synching and air guitar in the world of drag performance is passé. So she started showing her skills from time to time at gay clubs on the Beach such as Laundry Bar and Score. She's always had the reputation as Novak's sidekick, but she deserves a little recognition herself. She can rock.

Cafe Bustelo

Ordering a café Cubano in a coffee shop owned by and named after Café Bustelo is something akin to panning for gold at Fort Knox: You really can't get much closer to the source. As a matter of fact, Bustelo, America's best-selling Cuban coffee brand, roasts its beans across town from the café, which is nestled off the lobby of SoBe's swanky Gansevoort Hotel. The modestly sized, 20-seat room is warm and modern; one of the walls is adorned from floor-to-ceiling with Bustelo's iconic red-and-yellow coffee cans. And from the espresso machine behind a marble bar pours a prototypical café Cubano: smooth, sweet, and capped by a delicately foamy espumita (single, $1.79; double, $2.39). You can sit and sip from 7 in the morning to 10 at night every day.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®