If you’re planning to visit the Magic City of Miami, and thinking about how to get around, you may be wondering “do you need a rental car in Miami?”
Sure, you’ll want to soak up the sun at a beachfront hotel or sip frosty cocktails at the pool, but you might want to check out sporting events, international cuisine, and natural attractions away from the city. If you don’t want to spend your entire vacation in one spot, you’ll need to choose a transportation plan.
The city of Miami is located in South Florida’s Miami-Dade County. It’s a center of finance, international trade, arts, and culture. It’s also a dang cool place to visit (well, it’s actually hot and tropical, but you know what we mean).
A major tourist destination, Miami, Florida is second in the U.S. after New York City for international visitors. The Port of Miami is the busiest cruise port in the world, justly earning the nickname “Cruise Capital of the World.”
Why is it so busy? Because there are many fun things to do in and around Miami! So much so that if you’re looking to hit up as many places as possible, or you’re in town for a while, you might want your own wheels.
If you’re staying in South Beach, day trips to places like Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Key Largo, or the Miami Seaquarium on Virginia Key are much easier with a rental car.
Amazing Key West is approximately four hours from Miami, and you would definitely want a rental car to visit. I highly recommend this side trip from Miami. It sounds like a long drive, but it’s incredibly scenic. The Seven Mile Bridge offers stunning Atlantic and Gulf Coast views. Stop in small towns, try local seafood, and enjoy the drive.
Even if you don’t make the whole trip to Key West, there are several attractions in the Upper and Middle Keys of Key Largo, Islamorada, or Marathon that are worth a visit. Look out for John Pennekamp Coral Reef, the Dolphin Research Center, the Turtle Hospital, and the Theater of the Sea.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What am I going to be doing in Miami?
- Am I going to stay within the city limits or travel to nearby sites?
- Do I mind searching for parking spaces in Miami?
- Am I okay with being in close quarters with others on public transportation?
- Is it better not to rent a car in Miami?
How to Get to Miami
Miami International Airport (MIA) is near downtown Miami. Being a major international hub, most airlines fly into Miami International, including American Airlines, British Airways, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, and many more.
Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport (FLL) is another option for airline travel. It’s about an hour by car to Miami, and you can rent a car on-site at the airport. This is a good option if you want to check out sites north of Miami (like Hollywood Beach or Fort Lauderdale) on your way to and from the airport.
Take a Train
Brightline train service currently runs from Miami to the Orlando Airport (MCO) with stops in Cocoa Beach, West Palm Beach, and Fort Lauderdale. If you’re based in any of those cities, this is an alternative to driving to Miami.
Airport Transportation to Miami
Airport Shuttle/Taxi Concierge service to the city from MIA is available with Sky Ride Car and Concierge and Pines Taxi.
Is there Public Transportation in Miami?
If you decide it’s better not to rent a car in Miami Beach (or you just don’t want to deal with parking), you’ll find a variety of choices for public transport in Miami.
You can avoid parking tickets, Miami drivers, foreign drivers, parking meters, and rush hour traffic in Miami downtown by using public transportation. Parking meters are strictly enforced, so this may be a good alternative to avoid parking fees.
Traveling to Miami without a car is easy with all the public transportation options available in Miami Dade County. Metrorail is a 25-mile elevated monorail-type rail system. You can take it from the airport all the way to South Beach.
You can find a Metrorail station in a wide array of places in downtown Miami. There are ticket vending machines at all Metrorail station locations to pay for a ticket or an Easy Card.
Metromover was designed for exploring downtown Miami, Florida.
You can avoid traffic, the parking problems, and get where you want to be. It operates in the downtown and Brickell area on a 4.4-mile loop. Use it to get to the Frost Museum of Science, the Perez Art Museum, and the American Airlines Arena.
Most locations are north of the Miami River, but there are some in the Financial District. It’s also elevated, which is just cool, in our opinion. Best of all? It’s a free ride!
The Metrobus bus system is a shuttle bus that serves Key Biscayne and Miami Beach, Florida (which aren’t serviced by Metrorail or Metromover). Buses run to shopping centers, entertainment venues, and more. The cost for buses is around $2.25 a ride (each way). You can also purchase a one-day pass for the cost of $5.65.
Part of Miami Dade transit, the bus system was designed as a middle ground between Metrorail and Metromover.
There’s also an express bus to get to the airport (it runs every half hour) and Marlins games during the season. This is a terrific option to avoid traffic and parking for those traveling to Miami without a car.
Who doesn’t love a trolley? The Miami Beach Trolley runs from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day of the week. Four routes include the South Beach loop, Middle Beach loop, North Beach loop, and the Collins Express route.
The Collins loop connects to the other three loops via Collins Avenue. This makes connection easy to jump on and off between destinations with this free trolley.
There’s a separate Miami trolley system in the city of Miami, Coral Gables, and Miami Gardens. The Miami Gardens trolley bus stops at Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Open tennis tournament.
Water Taxi Miami
Water taxis are so much fun! Water Taxi Miami stops at Miami Beach Marina, and Bayside Marketplace. Along the way, you’ll pass the American Airlines Arena, Monument Island, the Venetian Causeway, Star Island, and Hibiscus Island.
Water taxi drivers/captains are usually pretty knowledgeable about the area and offer facts and fun trivia along the way. You can also book Biscayne Bay cruises on the weekends.
This is a terrific way to view luxurious celebrity homes and possibly dolphins while getting around Miami without a car. Dolphins are definitely our kind of traffic jam!
Cabs and Uber
Yellow Cab and 24/7 Yellow Cab are readily available if you don’t rent a car in Miami. Uber and Lyft operate in Miami.
Enlist the help of the hotel’s concierge or do a quick Google search to connect in Miami without a car.
Can I Rent Other Types of Transportation in Miami?
CitiBike bicycle rentals are an excellent way to get around in Miami, Florida. Solar-powered bikes are available at select docking stations. Unlock from any station, ride around, and return to any station.
There are nearly 165 stations with more being added all the time. You can use bikes at an hourly rate or become a BikeShare Member.
Getting around Miami without a car is easy if you prefer to stay in one or two sections of town. Segway tours are super fun for just this purpose. Local guides take you to the best scenic and historic spots. No worries about getting lost or running out of gas.
Miami segway tours are available at varying times throughout the day. Choose the evening for cooler temps, less humidity, and stunning sunsets.
Benefits of Renting a Car in Miami
- Travel at your own pace and leisure while visiting Miami.
- Go where you want when you want without having to wait for a bus or taxi taxis.
- No worries about trying to stuff luggage into a cab or on a bus.
- Traveling with kids is so much easier when you have your own car.
- Avoid the stress of getting somewhere late because the taxi didn’t show up or the bus broke down.
- Take a day or multi-day side trips to Hollywood Beach or the Florida Keys and Key West.
- No worries about pandemic issues such as social distancing and mask-wearing.
Renting a Car in Miami
There are many car rental companies in Miami and South Miami. Enterprise, Alamo, Budget, Hertz, Avis, and more offer car rentals at Miami International Airport. Some might say renting a car at the airport is more expensive.
When you think about the convenience factor, though, it may be worth it. The alternative would have you taking a taxi to an off-site car rental company (and doing the same to return it). It’s nice to be able to just get in the car and go after a day of airline travel.
Decide if you want rental car insurance. Rental cars are already insured through the company, but some may require some sort of additional insurance. You are responsible for any damages during your trip.
Before driving off, check rental cars for scratches, dents, and scrapes. Report anything you find so that you aren’t charged for it.
Decide whether you want to fill the car up with gas yourself before returning it, or just pay a fee for the company to do it (that way, you can return it at whatever gas level you want).
Most car rental companies require the car to be returned with a full tank or ¾ full tank of gas. If you’re running late, it could cause unnecessary stress to try to find a gas station on the way to the airport.
Take Miami’s geography into consideration when deciding if you need a rental car. Downtown is a bit of a distance from the Atlantic beaches (and that famous South Beach vibe), which are across a causeway on the other side of the Bay.
Sometimes, it’s not about what you need. It’s what you want. This is your vacation, after all. You might not want to deal with hailing a cab or catching a bus. Likewise, you might not want to deal with parking spaces, city streets, and other drivers.
If you’re a Google maps expert, or even if you’re not, your trip to Florida’s beaches and around the city of Miami can be a fun experience with the freedom of your own rental car.
Neighborhoods in Miami
Not just sand and surf (though there’s plenty of that), Miami, Florida is filled with diverse neighborhoods full of art, architecture, culture, and natural attractions.
North Beach runs from 60th Street to the town of Surfside. It’s more modern and residential than the art deco and glamourous persona of its southern side. North Beach Oceanside Park is nine blocks of green space with shade trees, barbecue grills, and dog runs.
The Normandy Fountain has lots of global restaurant choices nearby, including Jewish, Italian, Peruvian, Mexican, Cuban, and more. The Beach Walk, along the ocean, connects with Mid Beach and South Beach if you’re up for walking, running, or peddling.
Additional attractions in Miami include the Normandy Shores Golf Club and the North Beach Bandshell for live music and outdoor events.
Mid Beach combines the cool and hip vibe of South Beach with the calm and leisurely side of North Beach. It runs between 24th and 60th streets and includes the arts and culture of the Faena District and the Faena Hotel Miami Beach.
South Beach stretches from South Point Park to 23rd Street. This area offers the world’s largest collection of art deco architecture. You’ll find hotels, cafes, and other buildings in South Beach. Stroll along Ocean Drive or Collins Avenue for stunning examples of art deco.
Espanola Way has the Mediterranean Revival architecture of France and Spain. Visit Lincoln Road, within walking distance to South Beach local, a mile-long section for shopping and dining.
The Venetian Causeway and MacArthur Causeway connect South Beach to the mainland. It’s worth it to take a drive just for the views of homes, buildings, and beaches (and another reason to rent a car in Miami).
The Wynwood district is where to go for murals, bustling bars, cafes, restaurants, craft breweries, food halls, and nightclubs. It’s north of downtown and west of Miami Beach.
You can view contemporary art, murals, and street art for days as well as more than 70 art galleries.
Downtown Miami/Brickell is home to the Perez Art Museum Miami, and the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science. It’s about a 20-minute car ride to Miami Beach and a 10-minute car ride to the Miami Airport.
Miami Design District
The Miami design district is found in about 18 square blocks of space just north of Midtown Miami. It’s approximately 4.5 miles from downtown. Get to Mid Beach via the Julia Tuttle Causeway, which crosses the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) and the Bay.
For upscale shopping, public art, and fine dining, this sophisticated section is where you want to be. This is where you want to see and be seen (unless you do want to be seen – then maybe don’t visit here).
Well-known the world over for fashion, art, and fine dining, you’ll find designer boutiques such as Prada and Balenciaga, as well as the Institute of Contemporary Art and a wide array of Michelin-starred restaurants in the Miami Design District.
Check out intriguing sculptures like Sol LeWitt’s sculpture garden and the Netscape hanging chairs installation by German artist Konstantin Grcic in Palm Court.
A neighborhood with rich Cuban heritage, Little Havana is where to go for live music, authentic food, and salsa dancing at hip spots along Calle Ocho or Southwest 8th Street. It’s an area filled with social, cultural, and creative activity, about 4.5 miles from downtown Miami.
Renting a car in Miami makes it convenient to get to and from games, festivals, and other attractions in Little Havana.
Little Haiti – also known as Edison, Lemon City, and Little River – features colorful streets, theaters, restaurants, bars, lively nightlife, and Afro-Caribbean culture. Visit the Little Haiti Cultural Center and a Caribbean marketplace.
Little Haiti is about 5.5 miles north of downtown Miami. You would probably want a rental car if you’re going to be traveling back and forth.
Located bayside, on Biscayne Bay, the Coconut Grove community offers that tropical South Florida ambiance of history, scenic parks, sidewalk cafes, and colorful boutiques.
Visit Dinner Key Marina for yacht views while in “The Grove.” Coconut Grove is about 20 minutes from South Beach (across a causeway over the Bay).
Coral Gables is a planned community dating to the 1920s with an array of global and local cultures. Check out Mediterranean Revival architecture, visit the Miracle Mile area for shops and dining, or stroll past the shops, art galleries, and restaurants in Giralda Plaza. Attractions include the Biltmore Hotel and the Fairfield Tropical Botanic Garden.