Miami Ecotourism Attractions and Activities

    By Jodi Mailander Farrell

    Ecologically and culturally diverse, Miami extends a friendly ¡Bienvenidos! for responsible, green-minded visitors.

    From eco-friendly hotels and low-impact activities to give-back voluntourism opportunities that help the community, the greater Miami area offers many chances to support conservation efforts, observe wildlife and leave little or no trace of your time here.

    Here are some brilliant ways to be mindful and kind while helping the Magic City retain its natural magic.

     

    ECO-FRIENDLY ATTRACTIONS

     

    Fairchild Garden

    Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, an 83-acre oasis with collections of rare tropical palms, cycads and flowering trees, plays an important role in the conservation of South Florida’s endangered plants through seed banking and reintroduction of rare plants. The garden is open daily, showcasing its bizarre, beautiful plants, petite waterfalls, edible garden and butterfly conservatory. The eco-friendly bookstore features fair trade products and books on tropical gardening and cuisine.

     

    Pelican Harbor Seabird Station, releasing pelican into freedom with onlookers

    Pelican Harbor Seabird Station, a rehab center for injured seabirds, offers tours and a sunset birding cruise.

    - Pelican Harbor Seabird Station

     

     

    Seabird Station

     

    Pelican Harbor Seabird Station cares for more than 1,000 injured brown pelicans and seabirds, raptors, songbirds and reptiles every year, most victims of fishing tackle. There are self-guided and custom tours, along with a two-hour sunset birding cruise.

     

    Shark Valley


    A 50-minute drive from downtown Miami, the Shark Valley Visitor Center walking and bike trail in Everglades National Park is an amazing, 150-mile loop through alligators, wading birds and Florida’s famed River of Grass, the largest subtropical wetland in North America. Rent a bike there or take the two-hour tram tour by a park-trained naturalist.

     

    Deering Estate leads guided kayak tours in mangrove forest

    Deering Estate leads guided kayak tours of Biscayne Bay and the historic property’s restricted natural areas.

    - Deering Estate

     

    Deering Estate


    The 1920s home of American businessman and philanthropist Charles Deering, the Deering Estate is best known as a backdrop for the 1980s TV series “Miami Vice” and the starting line for “The Amazing Race All-Stars” in 2007, but it also is the site of the largest virgin coastal tropical hardwood hammock in the continental United States. Along with a sustainability film series and lectures, there are Biscayne Bay cruises, tours of the property’s restricted natural areas and guided butterfly walks.

     

    Biscayne National Park


    Within sight of downtown Miami, the underwater Biscayne National Park is 172,971 acres of shallow bay waters, coral limestone, shoreline mangroves and one of the largest coral reefs in the world. The Biscayne National Park Institute provides eco-adventures that include snorkeling shipwrecks and coral reefs, cruising to islands, and paddling lagoons. The visitor center also rents paddle craft for self-guided tours.

     

    Zoo Miami


    With more than 40 endangered species among its 3,000 animals living in open-air spaces, the 750-acre Zoo Miami is involved in wildlife and environmental conservation initiatives around the world. Staff vets help track flamingos, Florida panthers, rare bonneted bats and other threatened species while also nursing sick or injured animals. Its “Zoo Doo” program recycles manure from elephants and rhinos with landscape debris to sell as high-quality natural fertilizer to the public.

     

    South Florida Breadbasket


    South of the city, the Redland-Homestead area is Miami’s rich agritourism region, where visitors can spend an entire day picking tomatoes or strawberries at Knauss Berry Farm, slurping mamey or mango shakes at Robert is Here produce stand, sampling tropical wine at Schnebly Winery and learning about exotic fruit at Fruit and Spice Park.

     

    ECOLOGICAL ACTIVITIES

     

    Bike Tours


    Bike tours of some of Miami’s most famous neighborhoods are low-impact ways to get to know the city. HistoryMiami museum, Bike and Roll Miami, and Wynwood Mural Tours are among the many operators that offer guides through Wynwood Art District, the Design District, Coconut Grove and Coral Gables, among other gems.

     

    Oleta River State Park

     

    Oleta River State Park, Florida’s largest urban park, has over 10 miles of intermediate mountain bike trails and seven miles of trails and paths for beginners. The park’s saltwater lagoon is a popular swimming hole. An on-site outdoor center rents kayaks, paddleboards and canoes while also providing paddleboard yoga sessions, intro to paddleboarding classes and mangrove paddle tours.

     

    Rent to Explore


    The Virginia Key Outdoor Center rents kayaks, paddleboards and bikes from the mangrove-formed island of Virginia Key, with its crystal-clear waters and stunning views of the downtown Miami skyline.

    For families, quad bikes that seat four plus two small children can be rented to paddle around nearby Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center at the north end of Crandon Park, also on Key Biscayne, is a conservation-minded nonprofit that hosts family seagrass outings, nature photography exhibits and sea turtle release parties.

     

    Miami EcoAdventures


    Miami EcoAdventures, run by the county parks system, offers kayak and canoe tours, catch-and-release fishing lessons and snorkeling adventures.

     

    Directory of Fishing Guides


    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provides a searchable directory of outfitters and fishing guides who follow environmentally ethical best practices.

     

    Citizen Scientists


    The Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami offers “Citizen Science” opportunities twice a year to accompany scientists on shark tagging expeditions out of the school’s Key Biscayne research center. It also hosts a year-round Sea Secrets lecture series by international scientists and explorers.

     

    FOOD AND DINING

     

    Farm to Table

     

    Farm-to-table restaurants in Miami benefit from South Florida’s plentiful agriculture, but some go above and beyond to offer ethical, sustainable dining. A rooftop garden, compost program and up-cycled décor set apart the Coconut Grove beer-and-burger joint Lokal, the first 100% clean, renewably powered restaurant in Miami. 

     

    KYU


    At KYU, a popular wood-fired Asian barbecue spot in Wynwood, an in-house Orca composter turns food waste into water and diners can choose from a menu option to “Buy 50 Trees for $5,” with the restaurant matching donations.

     

    DIRT, Certified


    Whether you’re paleo, vegan or just a healthy eater, DIRT is a quick-stop café with locations in Miami Beach and downtown Miami’s Brickell neighborhood. Its vegetable-forward menu of sandwiches and salads identifies farmers and purveyors, and it’s one of the few restaurants in Florida to be certified by the U.S. Healthful Food Council’s Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) program

     

    Arsht Center Farmers Market


    Every Monday at 6:30 p.m., Floribbean star chef Allen Susser provides a five-course, plant-based dinner inspired by fresh, local produce in the middle of the Arsht Center Farmers Market in downtown Miami. The Taste of Redland Dinner/Brunch Series is a new initiative offering a winter-time meal series on local farms featuring celebrity chefs; look for updates about scheduled dinners here.

     

    Coconut Grove Farmers Market


    The Coconut Grove Organic Farmers Market, held every Saturday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., is a fun place to stop for raw-food lunch and snacks. Coconut Grove is also home to vShops, a small vegan food hall anchored by Choices Café, as well as a bakery, pizzeria, smoothie counter and “ice dream” parlor. Nearby, The Last Carrot has been serving fresh juices and veggie fare since the 1970s.

     

    Michael’s Genuine


    For fine dining, James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz is credited with reviving the fresh, local ingredient craze with his pioneering Design District restaurant, Michael’s Genuine, where the menu changes daily with fresh seafood and wood oven-roasted vegetables, among other specialties.

     

    Area 31


    Area 31 on the 16th floor of the Epic Hotel in downtown Miami offers sustainable yellow tail, swordfish and other seafood caught by community fishermen in Fishing Area 31, an international zone designated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as a sustainable fishery.

     

    ECO-FRIENDLY TRANSPORTATION

     

    Underline to Come


    Still in its planning stages, The Underline is a 10-mile linear park in the spirit of The High Line in New York City and Atlanta’s BeltLine that will connect downtown Miami to its southern suburbs.

     

    Citi Bike Miami, bikers under cool structure

    Citi Bike Miami’s bike sharing program provides 2,000 bikes throughout Miami and Miami Beach.

    - Citi Bike Miami

     

    Citi Bike Miami


    Meanwhile, Citi Bike Miami bike sharing and rental program provides access to nearly 2,000 bikes at 160 locations throughout Miami and Miami Beach, including South Beach’s Art Deco District and the Wynwood Art District.

     

    Biking Event


    On the last Friday of each month, Miami Critical Mass is a bicycling event that gathers hundreds of cyclists together to explore Miami neighborhoods en masse.

     

    Scooters


    About 300 dockless electric scooters are now being tested throughout downtown Miami and Coconut Grove, with Bird, Bolt, Jump, Lime, Lyft and Spin providing scooter-sharing services for a quick, fun transportation alternative.

     

    Metrorail


    Miami has a 25-mile elevated rail system called the Metrorail that connects Miami International Airport with downtown Miami and  stretch south to South Miami. Tickets can be purchased at stations or on an EASY Pay smart phone application. Within downtown Miami, the Metromover is a free public transportation service that loops through the city and connects to Metrorail and an extensive Metrobus system.

     

    Trolleys


    The cities of Miami, Miami Beach and Coral Gables run free trolley services between popular areas, with Metrorail and Metromover connections.

     

    Cars and Trains


    Both Lyft and Uber operate throughout Miami-Dade County. To travel throughout South Florida, Brightline is a new, high-speed train that provides service between West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, with future plans to connect to Orlando. Its Brightline Virgin MiamiCentral Station in downtown Miami has its own food hall and is close to Perez Art Museum Miami, the Frost Science Museum and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, as well as the main hub for the Metrorail and Metromover.

     

    More tips


    For other tips getting to and from Miami International Airport or using Miami MetroBus and public transportation, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau offers an online guide here.

     

    ECO-FRIENDLY LODGING

     

    1 Hotel


    Electric car charging stations, shower timers, organic bedding, reclaimed wood walls and antibiotic-free meat at the on-site Tom Colicchio restaurant make the LEED Silver-Certified 1 Hotel in South Beach a favorite among eco-minded travelers.

     

    Hotel Beaux Arts


    Also at the luxury end, Hotel Beaux Arts inside the JW Marriott Marquis in downtown Miami is part of the Florida Green Lodging Program, recognized for its water recycling system, energy-saving room thermostats and liquid food composter that converts banquet food into nutrient-rich grey water.

     

    Palms Hotel


    The Palms Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach organizes three-hour beach cleanups every three months and keeps a no-straw policy on the beach.

     

    Hampton Inn


    The affordable 221-room Hampton Inn Miami Brickell is a LEED Silver-Certified property with electric vehicle charging stations, low-flow showers, a cistern for harvesting rainwater and xeriscaping.

     

    Oleta River State Park


    Off-the-grid overnight stays are available in one of Oleta River State Park’s rustic cabins, which are equipped with a double bed and bunk bed. There is an outdoor grill and fire area, as well as picnic tables and a shared bathroom with showers.

     

    VOLUNTOURISM

     

    Baynanza


    The annual Baynanza celebrates Biscayne Bay as one of South Florida’s most important ecological systems, with a 24-hour cleanup as part of the activities every April. VolunteerCleanUp, founded by a local couple, is a platform that connects volunteers to teams and events cleaning up Miami’s shorelines every weekend. The Biscayne Nature Center on Key Biscayne also hosts monthly beach clean-up and restoration days.

     

    HandsOn Miami

     

    HandsOn Miami is a local nonprofit that connects would-be helpers with organizations that need them for planting gardens, painting buildings, tutoring children and more. Lotus House, a refuge for homeless women and children, offers opportunities to sponsor a meal, volunteer with kids or help with yoga and fitness classes.

    Places to Remember

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