Picture your perfect beach. The one you imagine when you close your eyes and go to your calm place. Where the sky is clear, the vibe is chill, and you can hear the gentle crash of the waves against the shore. It's the type of serene perfection brought to mind by postcards, beer ads, and Jimmy Buffett lyrics.
Then there are the realities of actually going to the beach in Miami. According to a 2011 TripAdvisor survey of regular travelers, the Magic City's sand was home to the worst-behaved beachgoers in the entire United States. It's a place where your idea of Corona Light commercial perfection is shattered by some tourist couple violently yelling at each other two towels down.
And, you know, it's fine. It's really fine. It's still beautiful, and the people watching alone brings its own charms. We can live with it. But if we're being really frank, here are some minor beach etiquette tips we wish more people would follow.
Turn off your damn music: No one has ever packed up the car with a cooler and beach chairs, slathered on sunscreen, and trudged to the beach while thinking, You know, I really hope I hear someone else blaring music today!
In fact, if you look around, most people don't take their own boomboxes to the beach, and there's a reason. They don't wanna be that guy. So when you pull out your Bluetooth speaker and hit play on your carefully curated Spotify "Pool Party House" mix, no one is thinking, Oh, wow, what a good idea! Wish I had brought mine! Everyone thinks, Ugh, we're dealing with one of those dudes.
So if you absolutely must take your tunes to the beach, remember that keeping it at a low volume is really great. Headphones are even better.
Leave at least five feet between you and the next closest group: There are times and places on the beach when it's so crowded it will feel like you're setting your towel in the middle of a Where's Waldo book. That's unavoidable. Yet there are other times when you're lucky enough to scout out a particular stretch of sand that's sparsely populated. It feels almost like a luxury to find a spot where you don't have to hear your next closest beach neighbor's every breath.
Don't be that awkward, flirtatious guy who can't take a hint: Flirting with people on the beach used to be an entire genre of teen movies in the '50s and '60s. It's a tradition, and if you're smooth, you can pull it off. Yet we've seen too many would-be Romeos who stalk some poor girls sitting on towels and stand there for what seems like an eternity trying to strike up conversation despite the obvious hints they're getting nowhere. At its worst, it can cross over to straight-up harassment.
Don't cross the line into exhibitionism: Yes, it's great that Miami Beach is the exception to so many standard American rules of beach dress code and instead takes a more European and South American view of things. That is, until someone takes advantage of our relatively lax attitude toward topless sunbathing and Brazilian mankinis and decides to get their public freak on. Listen, we once saw a man strip down to a homemade thong that was fashioned out of a scrap of fabric, twine, and Scotch tape. Or at least that's what it looked like at an accidental glance. We tried not to look too long. There's a fine line between being comfortable in your own skin and flaunting it to the point where everyone else is uncomfortable. If you have to cross it, well, literally cross the line to the nude beach in Haulover.
On the flip side, don't gawk: The beach is a vulnerable place. We're all stripped down to little synthetic scraps of fabric roughly the size of our underwear. It's kind of weird, but you gotta do what you gotta do to get that tan. In general, no one goes to the beach to feel like they're either being eye-fucked or overly scrutinized.
Save your personal drama for home: As mentioned earlier, the beach is what people imagine when they want to avoid their own drama. No one wants other people's drama intruding on that escapist fantasy. Still, we've heard more fights and heated private conversations on the beach than on a daytime talk show. We didn't come here to play Dr. Phil. Yet we've heard all about Jenny's issues with her ex-girlfriend, listened to Tom and Sarah's argument over whether they can afford an expensive restaurant for Tom's birthday, and seen Marco's control issues firsthand. We know it's healthy to bring emotional things out into the sunshine, but not in front of hundreds of unwitting people.
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Pick up your trash: People were aghast at the amount of garbage left on the beach after Floatopia last month, but the sad reality is that people leave trash on the beach all the time. Which is weird, because there's a trash can every ten feet on Miami Beach. Don't be lazy. Take it to the can.
Quit smoking: Yes, the ocean breeze is a great natural ventilation system, but it's not that great. If you have to add a side of lung cancer risk to your main course of skin cancer risk, then fine, whatever, just take a walk toward the dune and put the butt in a trash can on the way back.
Don't feed the seagulls: You're not Alfred Hitchcock. Throwing a scrap of food to a seagull will undoubtedly cause a scene straight out of The Birds. Don't do it.
Read the vibe and respect it: Anyone who has taken a long walk along Miami Beach has noticed the vibe can change every few blocks. Some stretches of sand look like a permanent spring break party. Walk a little farther north and you'll find more quiet areas. If you notice a stretch of sand where everyone seems to be leisurely reading a book, don't be the guy who blasts your boombox and tries to start a party. Found a place with lots of kids? Don't get wasted and graphically make out with that tourist girl you just met. On the other hand, don't unleash your unruly kids on a stretch of sand that looks like it's been claimed by the local chapter of AARP. Take a stroll and try to find your spot before settling down.