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Dispatch from South Florida: The Latest from Miami & Palm Beach

Indagare’s Peter Schlesinger was working remotely from Miami Beach for all of January. Here, he shares what it’s like on the ground in South Florida right now.

In the wintertime, South Florida is one of the only U.S. destinations warm enough for real, bonafide beach time. And this year, it’s become a popular escape for Americans looking for sun and sand, plus comfortable outdoor dining options, without having to leave the country. As one such sun-seeker myself, I worked remotely in Miami Beach for the month of January. During that time, Indagare fielded dozens of requests for potential trips here, with many hopeful travelers sharing their concerns about safety. Here are my Covid travel takeaways from my month in and around Miami.

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to discuss trip possibilities to Miami or Palm Beach. Our team can match you with the accommodations and activities that are right for you and provide information on coronavirus travel safety, Covid-19 hotel policies, private villas and charters and more.

The Mask Situation

In New York City, it’s generally expected that everyone wears a face covering when outside. The same was true during my November trip to Aspen. In Miami, Miami Beach and Palm Beach—the three cities I spent time in—that’s simply not the case. Here, it’s more common than not for people to be outside (on the beach, boardwalk or a city street) without a mask. (On January 20, in the U.S., new mask mandates went into effect for national parks and federal buildings as well as for public transportation and flying.)

Seeing strangers’ full faces for the first time in months came as a shock, initially, but I soon got used to it. Floridians seem to have fully embraced the idea that virus transmission in wide-open spaces is low-risk, with social distancing of more than six feet.

Indoors, face coverings are officially required. Unfortunately, compliance and enforcement varies greatly. I had multiple encounters with individuals—pharmacy and grocery store attendants, Lyft drivers, waiters, fellow travelers—whose masks drooped under their noses (or even under their chins). Sometimes, I politely reminded people to fix their masks. Other times, I hurried through the transaction and left.

The bottom line: The point of a South Florida vacation is to unwind, and it’s impossible to unwind when you don’t feel comfortable. I avoided all indoor dining (more on that below), stayed away from crowds and didn’t ride elevators with anyone else. For me, this was enough to make me feel safe. For others, it might not be.

The Restaurant Situation

Miami has a famously sceney restaurant vibe. Even now, it’s easy to find yourself at a spot where the tables are close together and every seat is taken. But with some simple planning, it’s just as easy to find great restaurants that are handling the situation more responsibly. My personal choice was to eat only outdoors—although indoor dining is currently allowed at 50 percent capacity—and I avoided any situation that looked too busy. Highlights from my month of outside eating included a delicious tasting menu at Stubborn Seed, Argentinian at Orilla, Italian at Lido at The Surf Club—with its beautiful, palm-studded terrace overlooking the pool and ocean at the Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club—steak at LT (at The Betsy), Indian-fusion at Jaya (at the Setai)fusion  and Argentinian again (when in Miami…) at Los Fuegos. In Palm Beach, Renato’s and Café Boulud were both exceptional, as was Osaka, a new nikkei spot in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood. Each of these restaurants had outside tables spaced far enough apart (six feet or more) that, even with a full house, I felt totally comfortable.

Related: Top Tables Miami & Top Tables Palm Beach

The Hotel Situation

Winter and spring is the peak season in South Florida, and this year is no exception: hotels are crowded. Still, some are doing a better job of enforcing social distancing in public areas than others (and some of the favorite party hotels are not even trying).

The Betsy, a South Beach standout for its cultural focus, has multiple outdoor spaces for eating, drinking and lounging, and its gorgeous rooftop pool has chairs spread out over a large area.

It’s a similar scene at Faena, Miami Beach’s most glamorous property. Here, the see-and-be-seen vibe has been toned down substantially, though visitors still line up (six feet apart) to take photos by the golden wooly mammoth sculpture by Damien Hirst. And at The Miami Beach EDITION, guests have two pools and spaced-out beach chairs that make it easy to stay away from people.

For extended stays, the all-suite Carillon Miami is an excellent beachfront option, as every room features a full kitchen. Here, multiple pools mean it’s always possible to spread out, although its popular hydrotherapy spa is currently closed due to the pandemic.

Of all the Miami properties I saw, only Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club conducted temperature checks upon arrival. The resort also had hand sanitizer readily available for use.

And up in Palm Beach, the just-opened White Elephant Palm Beach (sister property to the White Elephant in Nantucket) has only 32 rooms, and is an ideal option for a chic shopping getaway. Its glamorous, marble-clad lobby with coral accents, thoughtful art collection and soothing rooms instill an immediate sense of calm that feels world’s away from the frenzy of South Beach.

A word on service: Hotels in the area have had difficulties restaffing following months of being closed. Don’t be surprised if drinks by the pool or beach take a long time.

For more details on which Miami or Palm Beach hotel is right for you, contact your trip designer.

The Covid Test Situation

Miami Dade County has multiple outdoor testing sites, where anyone can receive complimentary PCR and rapid tests as long as they register. For my own sense of ease, after my fourth day after flying to Miami I went to the testing location by the Miami Beach Convention Center on 17th Street, where I waited for under 20 minutes to receive both tests. Results for the PCR test came back within 36 hours.

Related: Spring Break Vacation Ideas for 2021

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to discuss trip possibilities to Miami or Palm Beach. Our team can match you with the accommodations and activities that are right for you and provide information on coronavirus travel safety, Covid-19 hotel policies, private villas and charters and more.

– Peter Schlesinger on February 4, 2021

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