What’s the deal with Coconut Grove?
Dubbed “Miami’s original neighborhood,” Coconut Grove is an eclectic waterfront enclave with a rich history as the oldest continually inhabited neighborhood in the city. Once a bastion for free-thinking wheeler-dealers who enjoyed its serene bay setting, Coconut Grove still attracts creative types, though its reputation as a cultural oasis has as been overshadowed by a growing spate of modern high-rises and white cube houses. Beyond its recent real estate boom, Coconut Grove is a pretty little neighborhood with some of Miami’s most beautiful architecture and pockets that are full of character.
OK, so tell me a little bit of Coconut Grove history.
Settled beginning in 1825 with the operation of the Cape Florida lighthouse, Coconut Grove packs in a whole lot of charm, history and culture into a relatively little area along Biscayne Bay. Around that time, the area saw an influx of Americans from the Northeast as well as British and white Bahamian immigrants.
In the 1880s, Coconut Grove's first Black settlement was established by Bahamian laborers who worked at the Peacock Inn (an iteration of the first hotel on mainland South Florida). In 1925, Coconut Grove officially became part of the City of Miami, and in the ’60s, the neighborhood was an epicenter of the local youth countercultural movement. Through the ’70s, the Grove’s Bahamian community continued to grow, imbuing the area with the bold flavors and irreverent spirit of the Caribbean.
Today, mixed in with the bohemian bungalows, independent book shops and locally owned cafes, you’ll also find newer developments, including a completely reimagined CocoWalk open-air mall, sleek high-rise condos and a couple of modern hotels.
Where exactly is Coconut Grove?
Coconut Grove is nestled between US-1 to the west and Biscayne Bay to the east, beginning at Rickenbacker Causeway to the north and ending near the Coral Gables Waterway to the south. It’s a popular destination for students at the University of Miami, whose main campus is nearby in Coral Gables, and it is easily accessible to residents and visitors in Downtown, Brickell and Wynwood.
Coconut Grove is most dense and walkable around the central-east intersection of Grand Avenue and Main Highway, where you’ll find most of the neighborhood’s shops, restaurants, bars and parks perched along the waterfront and tucked beneath old-growth trees. Commodore Plaza, McFarlane Road, Tigertail Avenue and Mary Street are other leafy promenades to explore.
If you only do one thing…
… visit Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, a palatial historic residence and pristine grounds that will transport you to Miami’s gilded age. The Italian Renaissance-style villa and gardens set on Biscayne Bay were completed in 1916 as Chicagoan industrialist and Europhile James Deering’s winter estate. Today, Vizcaya is a popular year-round attraction that hosts a range of events, from farmers' markets and community workshops to decadent themed fetes.
How to get to Coconut Grove
By car: Take the FL-836 East to the I-95 South and exit at NW 27th Avenue. Drive south on 27th Avenue until you cross US-1 and enter Coconut Grove. You can also take I-95 south until it runs out and turns into US-1. Continue south on US-1 and cross into the Grove by turning left in Tigertail Avenue.
By public transportation: From Miami International Airport, take the MIA Mover to the Miami Intermodal Center. At that point, you can either rent a car or hop on the Metrorail Orange Line, with service to the Coconut Grove stations. The Coconut Grove Metrorail Station will drop you at SW 27th Avenue, which is about a mile from the heart of Coconut Grove. Shared bicycle stations operated by CitiBike Miami are located throughout Coconut Grove. The Miami-Dade Transit Tracker app and the Miami Trolley App are also useful tools for navigating Coconut Grove via public transportation.
Get off the beaten path…
…on the west end of Grand Avenue, where you’ll find laidback fish market Shore to Door. Your selection of daily catch is cooked fresh and served at picnic tables on the funky back patio. Wash down your whole fried snapper, conch ceviche, Mahi, shrimp or lobster with cold beers from the honor-system ice chest. The staff here is friendly and the live music is always chill.
What’s a perfect day in Coconut Grove?
Start early with a coffee and pastry from Panther, Miami’s homegrown chain of artisanal coffee and tea. Their cold brew is a potent companion for a morning stroll through one of the neighborhood’s many waterfront parks, like Peacock Park or David T. Kennedy Park. After working up an appetite in nature, it’s time for some brunch. GreenStreet Cafe is a popular destination for sidewalk dining, but get there early or risk facing long wait times since they don’t take reservations. Peacock Garden Cafe is another classic option, or for something a bit more trendy, try Krüs Kitchen which also doubles as a market and wine store. Next, peruse the shops and boutiques at CocoWalk or along Commodore Plaza and Main Highway. To satisfy your sweet tooth, stop in at the Miami outpost of cult ice cream chain Salt & Straw.
What’s a perfect night in Coconut Grove?
Catch the sunset at Monty’s, a lively dockside raw bar with strong tiki drinks and picturesque views of the marina. For dinner, Ariete (New American) and Los Félix (Mexican) both earned nods in the new Miami Michelin Guide. If the vibe is more casual, LoKal is an excellent choice for city-best cheeseburgers and a vast selection of craft beers. After you’ve lined your stomach, a bit of barhopping is in order. Do as the college kids and hit up the Grove’s quintessential dive bars, like Sandbar and Barracuda. Or opt for more elevated spots like the Taurus (whiskey bar), Bellini (a swanky rooftop), the Commodore (at the Ritz-Carlton) or The Key Club (David Grutman's latest Grove venture). End your night on a sweet note with an over-the-top, nostalgia-inducing sundae from Vicky’s House.
On a rainy day
Browse the selection at Books & Books, Miami’s beloved independent literary hub with several outposts around the city (and even a location in Key West). The Grove store is smaller than some of the others, but still offers two levels of highly curated titles for all types of readers. Hunt for treasures at This & That, a quaint long-running shop filled with vintage and antique items, or catch a movie at the shiny new Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas inside CocoWalk.
What else is nearby?
Coral Gables is an adjacent Miami neighborhood worth exploring especially if you're already down south. On Miracle Mile, you’ll find a charming stretch of upscale and more casual restaurants, bars and shops. The flagship Books & Books location is also in Coral Gables, along with the Venetian Pool, a historic public swimming pool formed from coral rock and fed by freshwater artesian wells.