by Zolton in Cool Travel on Thursday 3 April 2008

There’s something compelling about the energy, the charisma, and the incessant pmmft, pmmft, pmmft of the slippery ghetto tunes blasting (and I mean blasting) out of every hotel, café and bar in South Beach, Miami. It’s as if everyone is there for a good time, and damned if anyone, or anything, is going to get in their way. With my ears ringing like an over-sized cowbell from the music playing in the hotel lobby — and, I have to point out, it was loud enough to drown out a 747 — I strolled down the long beachside strip taking in an ambiance that was as much about the people as it was about the places at which they congregate. It was an odd mix – from conservative out of towners, in the mood for some spicy Miami action, to locals reveling in the comparative serenity of a mild Spring afternoon. If the promenade was unusually quiet on the day I walked down it — and insiders at a local cafe suggested it was — then, please, beam me back on a warm summer’s day, strap me into a comfortable deck chair, and let the great catwalk of life make its way past my eyes. Yes, South Beach is a one-off — this long, airbrushed expanse of sand and water, beautiful, interesting, and inviting. The area was the first section in Miami Beach to be developed at the turn of last century, which is reflected in the density of shops and hotels. A hurricane swept through in 1926, causing considerable damage. But the strip recovered well and now is a thriving, year-round destination with a prominent Latin American community. With so much going for it, it’s ittle wonder it has the highest property values in Miami. It’s a fun place to explore, but be sure to stock up on water beforehand. You’ll be drinking plenty of it. And make sure that your hotel room is a long way removed from the rather boisterous reception areas which, I suspect, are really surrogate nightclubs in brilliant shades of white.