A Miami vacation wouldn't be complete without some beach time. A great way to experience all that Miami has to offer is to base yourself in Miami Beach, spend the mornings relaxing in the sun, and then use your afternoons for excursions. South Beach is the most popular neighborhood for good reason: It's a holiday carnival, full of star sightings and nightclubs that thump into the early morning.

The oceanfront hotels are predictably expensive, but worth the splurge if you can swing it. The Raleigh (www.raleighhotel.com; 1-305-534-6300) is an art deco gem with a pool that looks like it was plucked off an Esther Williams film set. Less pricey is the Chesterfield Hotel, a boutique hotel one block off the beach (www.thechesterfieldhotel.com; 1-305-531-5831). For an inexpensive lunch, take a seat at the outdoor counter at La Sandwicherie (www.lasandwicherie.com; 1-305-532-8934), a French deli that serves smoothies and sandwiches to locals and celebrities alike.

ELIZABETH LARSEN