A Piece of the Maldives in Miami

By Giselle Mueller of Mandarin Oriental, Miami
November 1, 2011 | Miami, United States
A Piece of the Maldives in Miami

We’ve all seen those dreamy aerial photographs of Indian Ocean atolls — circular or crescent-shaped islands with gorgeous blue lagoons in the middle. Well, guess what? Miami’s got one of those.

At Matheson Hammock Park, there’s a sandy peninsula that juts into Biscayne Bay, and at its tip is a beautiful circular beach enclosing a lagoon. It’s a manmade atoll, though the lagoon is flushed naturally by the tidal action of the bay. The beach is dotted with photogenic palm trees whose reflections you can see in the surface of the pool. And off in the distance is the downtown skyline. It’s a special place that residents treasure, and too few visitors know about.

One of the best ways to enjoy the beach and all of the park, which includes a bike path canopied by mangroves, is on two wheels. A delightful ride begins in Coconut Grove, where you can rent a bicycle by the hour or the day (Highgear Cycling rents hybrids and cruisers for $35 per day; note, they’re closed on Sundays).

But before heading out on your leisurely five-mile ride you’ve got to fuel up. For this, Le Bouchon Du Grove is an adorable French bistro, filled with Francophile tchotchkes. The chef (yes, he’s very French) is adamant about fresh food — I’ve heard there’s no microwave or freezer in the kitchen — and each customer is greeted with a little glass of champagne.

Just go easy on the bubbly, because you’ve got some cycling to do! Heading south toward the park, it’s a flat ride, and you’ll pass through residential neighborhoods that will give you a taste of old and new Miami. On the right side of the street you’ll see rows of cute, narrow railroad-style houses known as “shotgun shacks” (from the front door you can see clear to the back of the house). On the other side of the street, you’ll recognize what has come to popularly characterize today’s Miami: million-dollar mansions glittering on the waterfront.