By Paula Szuchman
Winter is high, high season here: the half-clad Europeans are back in droves and the parties up and down Ocean Drive are in full swing. Miami nights start late—dinner doesn't get going until well past nine—so leave time for a catnap before hitting the streets. Hedonism still reigns at South Beach nightspots like Nikki Beach Club (1 Ocean Dr.; 305/538-1231), an adult playground where you can bump and grind on one of four dance floors or rent a four-poster bed on the beach for the price of a bottle of booze. Restaurant and club owners are also establishing outposts in other neighborhoods; in Little Havana, a group of DJ's and musicians called the Spam Allstars packs Café Hoy Como Ayer (2212 S.W. Eighth St.; 305/541-2631) every Thursday night with their blend of traditional Cuban music, funk, and rock. Daylight hours are typically reserved for sleeping off the night before—preferably on the beach. If you've had your fill of sunshine and 72-degree water, check out the eclectic collection of furniture, art, and objets at the Wolfsonian in South Beach (1001 Washington Ave.; 305/531-1001), or try retail therapy at the just-opened Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables (358 San Lorenzo Ave.; 305/529-0200), where gardens and fountains share space with Neiman Marcus, Carolina Herrera, and Diane von Furstenberg.
Stone-crab claws and freshly shucked oysters at Casablanca Fish Market (1040 MacArthur Cswy.; 305/371-4107), on the way to South Beach.
Side Trip: Swamp Fever
Overloaded on creatures of the night?Escape to Everglades National Park (305/242-7700; www.nps.gov/ever), where, in winter, the creatures of the day—alligators, bobcats, and 300 species of birds—come out from their hiding places. (And, more important, the mosquitoes decamp.) Now in the midst of a huge environmental restoration, this 1.5 million-acre ecosystem is still the perfect spot for restful contemplation. The Flamingo Lodge & Marina on Florida Bay (239/695-3101; www.flamingolodge.com; Doubles from $95) rents houseboats, canoes, kayaks, and fishing gear.
Fort Lauderdale's airport, a 40-minute drive from South Beach, often has more cheap flights than Miami's.
WHERE TO STAY
Clinton Hotel This 88-room Art Deco throwback with a space-age lobby emerges from a $12 million face-lift this month. Doubles from $140; 825 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305/538-1471; www.clintonsouthbeach.com
Lily Guest House During breakfast in the leafy courtyard, the SoBe glitz seems oceans away. The 19 suites all have marble baths and hardwood floors. Doubles from $125; 835 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305/535-9900; www.lilyguesthouse.com
Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove All you'd expect: 115 rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows; jet lag facials; and—lest you try to lift a finger—butlers to draw your bath and help you shop. Doubles from $375; 3300 S.W. 27th Ave., Miami; 800/241-3333 or 305/644-4680; www.ritzcarlton.com
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
SushiSamba Dromo A samba sound track accompanies the colorful Japanese, Peruvian, and Brazilian seafood—and the occasional caipirinha-induced dance marathon. Dinner for two $80; 600 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305/673-5337
Magnum The menu at this warmly lit spot in Shorecrest—a gentrifying area north of downtown—ranges from homey fried chicken to dressy snapper in beurre blanc. Dinner for two $70; 709 N.E. 79th St., Miami; 305/757-3368
Mynt Ultralounge The buffed and beautiful line up at this former fifties cafeteria to snag a spot at the Plexiglas bar. 1921 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786/276-6132