By Paul Rubio
In the thick of Miami’s bustling beaches, dazzling skyscrapers, and superb nightlife, it’s easy to forget that incredible nature surrounds us. But head ninety minutes up the coast, and arrive at the planet’s largest nesting ground for loggerhead sea turtles. Travel ninety minutes southwest to Florida Bay, and discover the only place on Earth where alligators and crocodiles coexist. Or go even deeper into the 2400-square-mile subtropical wilds of Everglades National Park to spot river otters, manatees, dolphins, some of the park’s 347 bird species (including our national bird, the Bald Eagle), and possibly catch a glimpse of an elusive Florida panther.
While it may not be an African safari, a day immersed in Florida nature is undoubtedly worth a missed day of shopping and sun worshipping on Miami Beach outside Acqualina Resort. So pack your best DSLR camera (you’re bound to get some great shots), high SPF sunscreen (note that some places have limited shade), bug spray (the mosquitos aren’t as bad as the rumors but they do bite), and your sense of adventure, and embark on one of these four, non-touristy day trips into South Florida’s ecological treasure trove.
Experience Baby Sea Turtle Nirvana
Watching hundreds of just-born, baby sea turtles make their pilgrimage to sea is arguably one of nature’s most inspiring sights. And, during summer birthing season (which peaks in August), chances of witnessing this phenomenon are high, as Florida’s Atlantic coast constitutes Earth’s largest nesting ground for loggerhead turtles. Reserve in advance to participate in a naturalist-led, hatchling release program at Loggerhead MarineLife Center, a conservation and education facility located off prime loggerhead real estate in Juno Beach (85 minutes north of the resort). If you’d rather meet the moms, from June to September the Center also offers nighttime “Turtle Walks” to observe pregnant females surface from the ocean and lay their eggs on the beach.
Your experience continues back at the resort, where Acqualina is proudly partnering with EcoAdventures at Miami Dade Parks to provide a unique encounter with sea turtles on Miami Beach. Join us for the opportunity to see and learn about nests close to the resort, including interactive educational sessions led by a nature expert from EcoAdventures.
Bike Among Alligators
At the “Shark Valley” entrance point to Everglades National Park (70 minutes southwest of the resort), a 15-mile bike loop penetrates untamed subtropical wilderness, where massive alligators and wading birds rule. Old school two-wheelers can be rented from the park welcome center, but don’t expect to speed through the ‘glades on your Huffy Bike. The park’s prolific alligator population loves to sunbathe along the bike path—meaning, yes, you’ll be a few feet from some very stubborn gators, hoping they move out the way! (Don’t worry: Such proximity may sound dangerous, but no accidents or injuries have ever been reported.) If you love this adrenaline-packed bike ride—and we’re pretty sure you will—make plans to return in February and March when park rangers host special night bike tours to watch alligators mate under the full moon (advanced reservations required).
Go On A Florida Wildlife Boat Safari
If you ever thought the Everglades to be nothing more than a boring, mosquito-infested swampland, the national park’s southern reaches will surely prove you wrong. Drive to the “Flamingo” entrance point (2 hours southwest of the resort) to reach the brackish waters and marine-rich, saltwater flats of Florida Bay. Here, park-sponsored “Florida Bay Tours” and “Backcountry Tours” take to the bay to expose a wild world rife with dolphins, manatees, and white pelicans and where an abundance of apex predators—from crocodiles and alligators to bull sharks and lemon sharks—peacefully and naturally coexist.
Bird Watch In The Ten Thousand Islands
Serious bird watchers and nature lovers should consider driving due west, across the state (but still under 2 hours from the resort), for a private Birding Photography Tour with outfitter Everglades Area Tours. Cruise through the Everglades’ 10,000 islands, and saturate memory cards with breathtaking scenes of roseate spoonbills taking flight, predatory hawks fishing for breakfast, terns blanketing entire sand bars, bottlenose dolphins leaping through the air, and frenzied rookeries teeming with just-hatched pelicans, ibises, and egrets calling out for mama. Bonus: This region of Everglades National Park tends to have few mosquitos and bugs during the summer months.
To make personal arrangements for any of the above day trips, please contact the Acqualina concierge.
*All photos courtesy of Everglades National Park.
About the Contributor
Travel journalist Paul Rubio is a Miami native who has lived in nine countries and traveled to 110 (and counting). Rubio’s writing appears in Condé Nast Traveler, LUXURY, Robb Report, Private Clubs, and ultratravel.