Ocean Drive NightlifeThe first place that most visitors flock to is Ocean Drive, the always-packed catwalk that hugs the Atlantic Ocean. While this is a fine place to drink and dine (especially during the day, under a shady umbrella, when the sun is at its peak), there really aren’t many clubs on this 15-block stretch. Two exceptions: the Clevelander, a landmark bar/hotel/poolside hangout. Yes, there is a pool in the middle of the patio, and yes, you can dangle your feet (or other body parts) in the pool. It’s also a perfect example of Art Deco architecture, in case you care enough to rip your eyes away from the beautiful people lounging around. Contests and events are held almost every weekend. (1020 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, Phone: (786)276-1414).
Another fun Ocean Drive hangout is Mango’s Tropical Café. This is a U.S. version of Havana clubs of days past: salsa bands, sexy dancers in tight leopard-print hot pants, frothy tropical drinks. A menu and sidewalk seating is also available. (900 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach. Phone: (305) 673-4422).
Washington Avenue NightlifeRunning parallel to Ocean Drive (and just two blocks away) is Washington Avenue. This is another clubbing hotspot, with bars and dance clubs opening and closing with alarming frequency. You can stroll down Washington and pick your own watering hole, but two spots stand out. Crobar is a South Beach mainstay, a cavernous, chaotic atmosphere that will keep you dancing until the sun comes up. Famous DJ’s and famous party hosts (think Wilmer Valderrama) frequent Crobar. (1445 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, (305) 531-5027). Nearby is Jazid, a club that is Crobar’s opposite. It is tiny and swank, featuring live jazz music every night, often with a Latin beat. (1342 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, (305)673-9372).
Getting Around South BeachYou can easily club-hop the previous venues on foot, but if you want to explore a bit, grab a cab (parking is nearly impossible) and head to the Opium Garden. This Asian-inspired club is a beach survivor. It is also the city’s most exotic-looking dance spot, with half of the dance floor located under the stars and palms. (136 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, (305)531-5535).
If walking or driving doesn’t appeal to you, consider taking the South Beach Nightclub Shuttle. For $50 per person, you get door-to-door service from your hotel to the club of your choice and the club entrance fee. The shuttle then picks you up at 4 a.m. and brings you back to your hotel. Another plus: you don’t have to wait in line at the club.