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Beyond the Sea: Port Mini-Breaks
Families | Couples | Seniors
Miami: Couples

Take a moonrise over the ocean or a sunset over the bay, add South Florida's balmy subtropical climate and scenery, fuse it with a passion for fun and the island pulse and Latin rhythms of its world-class nightlife, and you'll see that this is ground zero for couples. Whatever you choose to do from our list of suggestions, be sure to make time to soak up some rays on the beach or at your hotel's pool.

Home Away From Home:

If you're of a mind to splurge big time, the place to stay in SoBe (South Beach) is The Delano, an ultra-chic Art Deco treasure. There's great food at the Blue Door restaurant and a swimming pool right on the beach, so you can people-watch while sunbathing. At the same time, the passers-by will be ogling you.

For a slightly more affordable visit without missing out on the great South Beach ambience, book a room at Park Central.

Day One: SoBe It!
Explore South Beach at your leisure. Stroll around the boutiques and trendy hangouts on Ocean Drive or Collins Avenue until lunchtime, and make your way to the News Cafe early enough to grab a sidewalk table -- it's the best spot in South Beach for noshing and people-watching. Order one of their great salads or omelets, along with a couple of Mimosas.

If the mood strikes you, and you would like an in-depth tete-a-tete with South Beach's Art Deco roots, go to the Art Deco Welcome Center, and join one of their 90-minute guided walking tours.

Continue your stroll to the Lincoln Road Mall, a great place to shop together for everything from designer duds to perfumes and bath products. Then have a cappuccino at an alfresco, umbrella-shaded table before working your way back about seven blocks to B.E.D., a restaurant that's both romantic and a little gimmicky. Though its name stands for Beverage, Entertainment, Dining, the initial implication is correct: Instead of being seated at a table, couples dine while ensconced in king-sized beds. It's all a bit quirky but pretty innocent; stick around after dinner for the top-notch nightclub entertainment.

If you don't hang out at B.E.D., put on your dancing shoes, and stroll around SoBe. Unless you've got wax in your ears, you won't have any problems finding the club scene. For those who want to go A-list celebrity-watching, crobar is for you. For more sedate couples who are looking for a night of jazz or blues, visit Lincoln Road's best-kept secret, Van Dyke Cafe.

Day Two: Romantic Old Miami -- Coral Gables and Coconut Grove
In the 1920's, visionary George Merrick planned a new city, a unified architectural vision combining Spanish and Italian styles. Drive to what remains of that dream: the city of Coral Gables and its centerpiece, Venetian Pool, 820,000 gallons and arguably the most beautiful public swimming pool in the world. If a public swimming pool sounds less than romantic, picture its duplication of 19th-century Venice, its bridges and buildings, surrounded by lush landscaping, waterfalls and coral grottos. It's a unique place for a swim, a stroll around the meticulously landscaped grounds or sunbathing on the white-sand beach.

Nearby Coconut Grove is a favorite residential neighborhood for upscale Miamians. It has a great mix of old and new, traditional and trendy, all set in leafy, tropical landscaping. For another look at the lifestyle of South Florida's golden era, drive to the northern tip of the Grove, on the shores of Biscayne Bay, to visit Vizcaya, Florida's grandest residence. Built in 1916 as a winter home by industrialist James Deering, this 34-room replica of an Italian Renaissance estate is one of South Florida's most popular attractions, drawing more than 200,000 visitors annually. Walk through the opulent interior, replete with all the original furnishings, and finish up with a stroll through the formal gardens.

Spend your late afternoon and evening at CocoWalk. Though it calls itself a mall (and it does have its share of big stores, souvenir stands and boutiques), the real action is on the second floor, where you can expect to find a wide range of choices for dinner, as well as live music.

Day Three: The Keys to Romance
From having visited Key West on cruises, you may think that that's essentially all the Keys have to offer, but there's plenty worth seeing and doing, starting with the incredibly scenic drive itself along the Overseas Highway (U.S. 1), which bisects the islands for 110 miles from the Florida mainland to Key West. The Overseas Highway is aptly named; some of the 43 bridges that link the islands are quite long -- one stretches seven miles -- and at times it seems you are driving out to sea, with little but the highway and aquamarine waters in your field of vision. It will take you between 3.5 and four hours to make the drive from Miami, excluding stops along the way. Time your departure so that you'll be able to explore Key West prior to sunset.

A note on navigating the Keys: Except for Key West, nearly every point of interest in the Keys is located on U.S. 1, and is identified by two references. How far down the highway it sits is designated by "Mile Markers," little, rectangular signs on the sides and medians of the highway that carry a number equal to the mileage from downtown Key West (Mile Marker 0). You will enter U.S. 1 at about Mile Marker 128, and the numbers will decrease as you head to Key West. The other designation is which side of the highway a particular address is located. The Keys form the border between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico (Florida Bay). As you head south, the Atlantic is on your left and the Gulf (or Bay) on your right. Addresses are designated either "O" for (Oceanside) or "B" (for Bayside), depending on which side of the highway they are located. So, MM 86-O means Mile Marker 86, Oceanside.

If you get an early enough start, you may want to stop just before entering the Keys to visit one of the country's quirkiest roadside attractions, an over-the-top romantic tribute to unrequited love. After being rebuffed by his fiancee in Latvia, heartbroken Ed Leedskalnin emigrated to Florida and, over 28 years, single-handedly carved a monument to his lost love out of 1,100 tons of coral rock, now called Coral Castle. The acres of coral and rock sculpture, the soaring minarets and balustrades, the furniture, the 25-foot telescope that always points to the North Star -- they all stand as a mute testament to the power of obsession and undying love. It makes a fitting brief roadside stop for romantic couples.

Where you stop for lunch will depend on how early a start you get. If you are halfway down the Keys, stop at Morada Bay in Islamorada, a bayside restaurant set on an expansive wooden verandah with a gorgeous view of the bay and mangrove islands beyond the broad, palm-fringed, white-sand beach. Enjoy fragrant sea breezes and piped-in (but unobtrusive) island music while you dine casually on salads and local seafood.

If you want some romantic beach time on your way to Key West, stop at Bahia Honda State Park (MM 37). You can explore nature trails, book a snorkeling or dive trip out to Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, kayak, swim or snorkel. The park boasts the finest natural-sand beach in the Keys.

As you enter Key West, continue past the northern end of Duval Street, the main tourist drag, where cruise ships drop their passengers. Drive instead to the more refined, less-frenetic southern end, home to one of Key West's most photographed landmarks, the marker for "The Southernmost Point in the Continental United States." At that end of Duval, you'll find more romantic boutiques and bistros and fewer T-shirt shops and burger bars, as well as plenty of gracious, old Key West wooden houses on the side streets.

After you've explored south Duval, drive to the opposite end, and park in one of the public lots. If you have a couple of hours before sunset, hop aboard the Conch Tour Train for an entertaining 90-minute tour. Not actually a train, but a motorized, multi-car tourist tram, this may not be romantic, but if you're lucky enough to wind up with one of Key West's colorful characters as guide, it sure can be a hoot.

Make it over to the Pier House Resort's waterfront restaurant, order drinks and appetizers, and enjoy the crowd celebrating the daily ritual of toasting Key West's legendary sunsets. You can stay there for dinner, or savor a romantic Italian meal at Antonia's, housed in a 120-year-old restored building on mid-Duval Street. But, if you are of a mind to splurge -- REALLY splurge -- start back toward Miami, and stop for dinner at the Dining Room at Little Palm Island Resort. Dinner for two with wine can run $150, but the restaurant gets the highest marks in South Florida for decor, romance, service and, of course, fabulous Floribbean cuisine fused with French and Asian undertones. It can't be reached by car, but at Mile Marker 28.5-O, there is a dock where you can catch the resort's 1940's vintage mahogany launch to take you to the private Little Palm Island. If you are intrigued, plan ahead; during high season, you'll need to make reservations as much as a month in advance.

--By Steve Faber, Cruise Critic contributor.

Image provided by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
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