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— April 29, 2017

Beach Blanket Boot Camp

  • Traveling healthfully in Miami is getting easier as more hotels offer extreme fitness training.
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A street magician doing rope tricks works the outdoor tables at a restaurant as a cigarette girl in fishnet stockings competes for the attention of patrons sipping from 60-ounce margarita glasses. Passersby stop suddenly, moved to dance to the samba music blasting from the restaurant’s speakers. Up the street, a man rolls cigars. The occasional Lamborghini passes by. A dozen tourists on a Segway tour gawk. The circus is in town—and on Ocean Drive in Miami’s South Beach you have a front-row seat. This is perhaps Miami’s most famous district, but there’s much more to this balmy tourist playground than this neighborhood known for its European models, pastel-colored boutique hotels and the setting of perhaps the most disturbingly violent scene in “Scarface.” Miami is an enchanting place where you can find adventure by engaging animals of a different sort. It is also among the most perfect environments in which to eat heartily and healthfully and get fit—perfect because it engages all your senses without overloading them. Unless, of course, you’re at the circus.

Traveling healthfully in Miami is getting easier as more hotels offer extreme fitness training.

by Allan Richter

Where to Stay and Get Fit Many of the renovated hotels in Miami Beach offer modern amenities but in the framework of a classic architecture that reflects the area’s Golden Era—a winning combo in our book. The Confidante, originally opened in the 1940s and now a Hyatt hotel is one such property, airy and modern throughout but with an old-timey radio antenna on its rooftop. We also love Miami Beach for the boot-camp–style fitness classes that are becoming more popular at its hotels. The Confidante recently partnered with health and wellness group V Art of Wellness, whose principals, Miami-based couple Christopher and Tracie Vlaun, lead 60-minute fitness sessions on the beach or at the property’s 10th-floor open-air rooftop spa and fitness deck, where a mural of Muhammad Ali provides added motivation. The sessions focus on holistic wellness, with workouts such as Yoga Core Fusion, combining ancient yoga asanas to build strength, create balance and boost flexibility with the core-strengthening and lengthening movements of Pilates. After a recent beach workout, Chris Vlaun looked over the blue-green Atlantic and the lavender skies overhead, observing that beach fitness is a holistic experience because you get color therapy as well as the benefits of negative ions from the waves splashing on the shoreline. And working out in the sand is 30% more challenging than a conventional flat surface, Vlaun, a Chuck Norris look-alike, adds. The Confidante sports two outdoor pools, one just for adults, as well as cozy garden nooks and top-notch restaurants; we loved the house-made granola and preserves at the breakfast buffet. Theconfidantehotel.com Spartan Races is behind some of the world’s most popular and invigorating obstacle course races, with more than 1 million global participants. The company has launched its first Spartan Gym in the country, at 1 Hotel South Beach, where the fitness-minded of all levels can climb and navigate rope courses and monkey bars, stretch out on an oceanfront yoga platform and lift state-of-the-art weights that look like they came from the minds of NASA scientists. The 14,000-square-foot gym is urban minimalist in feel, built for sweating more than relaxation. At this writing, only hotel guests could access the Spartan Gym, with public memberships said to be coming soon. 1hotels.com. The Carillon Miami Wellness Resort’s all-inclusive model gives guests access to 200 weekly fitness and well. ness classes, including boxing circuit and TRX cardio workouts. Many yoga classes are held in an oceanfront studio, and guests can navigate a two-story rock-climbing wall. Carillon Miami’s gorgeous spa features a Finnish sauna, experiential rains and other innovative hot and cold rooms. In addition to exercise physiology and physical therapy services, Carillon Miami offers nutritional and health counseling and acupuncture. But Carillon Miami isn’t about deprivation; dining options, for instance, are for foodies and the health-conscious alike. Carillonhotel.com The Standard, on Belle Isle near South Beach, promotes itself as more of a spa with guest rooms than a hotel; we couldn’t agree more. And given its surroundings, the focus is decidedly on water—it’s a self-dubbed “hydrotherapy paradise.” The Standard Spa sports a Turkish-style hamam, aroma steam room, Roman waterfall hot tub, Finnish sauna, arctic plunge, treatment baths, mud lounge, and a saltwater infinity pool. Yogis and other instructors offer classes, and guests can indulge in in-room treatments. Standardhotels.com

To Get Close to Lemurs and Other Creatures: Personal animal encounters at zoos and wildlife parks are getting more creative and with a wider variety of creatures. Miami is a hotspot for such close encounters. At Jungle Island, guests can go on V.I.P. tours and feed carrots to a 150-year-old giant Aldabra tortoise, stroke a red kangaroo and cuddle with an albino python. Believe me—you haven’t lived until you’ve had half a dozen lemurs leaping on your head. We hear actress and animal lover Hayden Panettiere took this tour; visit Jungleisland.com For getting personal with animals in the water, visit Miami Seaquarium. In addition to offering shallow-water dolphin encounters, Miami Seaquarium lets guests swim with seals, interact with a penguin in its habitat, and feed manatees, stingrays, and sea turtles. Miamiseaquarium.com

Where to Eat: We like Noa Café because it serves fresh food with a menu that changes with the seasons but remains true to its Mediterranean theme. That this neighborhood spot serves vegetarian-fed, hormone-free chicken tells you where its heart is. Among current selections on the menu at Noa, which began as a caterer, are teriyaki salmon, Haloumi salad and Middle Eastern mezze. Kudos to Chef Adi Kafri; noacatering.com The food is more hearty and heavy than at Noa, but we love visiting Versailles, the iconic Cuban restaurant in Miami’s Little Havana, for its ample meals and history. This is where Cuban-Americans gather to schmooze and is a mandatory stop for presidential candidates vying for their votes. We tried the grilled salmon fillet served with yellow rice and sweet plantains—muy sabroso (very tasty). The cavernous restaurant, with fancy etched-mirrored walls and chandeliers, has a great bakery, too. Versaillesrestaurant.com

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