Why does a long layover need to be boring? Miami International Airport might not be the most interesting place to spend 4-7 hours – but there’s definitely a way to find that Miami heat you didn’t even know you were looking for.
Whether you want to avoid the hassle of leaving the airport or you’re looking to discover why South Florida is such a popular destination, you have options. From world class lounges at the airport to world class beaches a short bus ride away, the 305 isn’t the worst place to layover. Trust me, Pitbull wasn’t exaggerating.
What is there to do inside of Miami International Airport?
Compared to San Francisco and Atlanta, staying inside of the airport is not as exciting at Miami International. The concourses are divided in 3, with no access between them inside security. So if you’re not in the mile-long Concourse D and you enjoy walking, you’ll have to exit the secure zone to find somewhere to walk.
There are some decent restaurants, especially if you love Cuban food. This is MIA’s saving grace.
And some of the lounges are fantastic – but others not so much. I’ve had mixed experiences.
American Airlines has several lounges in Concourse D, with day passes available at $59 for non-member passengers flying AA.
The best lounge at MIA is also in concourse D, and that is the American Express Centurion Lounge. You must have an Amex Platinum, Centurion Card, or Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex.
Concourse E features the Turkish Airlines lounge, accessible for Priority Pass members or those flying business/first on Star Alliance flights.
In concourse F, you’ll find Club America. You can get a day pass for $50.
Delta fliers rejoice; a fantastic SkyClub is available in Concourse H for those members flying Delta or SkyTeam international flights.
Concourse J features the Avianca SALA VIP Lounge, which in my opinion is not very VIP. Food options are lacking and it’s pretty cramped. You can purchase a day pass or as a Priority Pass member have free access.
There is also the LATAM Lounge, in Concourse J, with day passes available for non-members. These start at $40 for Gold members and $60 for non-members.
Right now, PriorityPass is offering up to 25% off yearly memberships. In just two lounge visits, you are already ahead vs. paying for one-time access. Just one if you bring a guest!
Bask in the Miami sun
If you’re like me, you love going out, getting fresh air and a bit of sun when you can. Hello, fellow plant. I feel you.
Assuming you’re willing to go back through security, there is a decent “park-like” area just outside of arrivals.
To get to the outdoor area, head to Concourse E arrivals and cross all of the roads (ground transport/pickup). The “park” is basically in the middle of the airport, and features benches, fountains, and trees for shade.
MIA has over 100 restaurants, cafes, and food stations across the 3 terminal areas, though many are still closed due to Covid-19. If you’re looking for additional dining options, you’ll find a great selection of restaurants outside of the secure area in the Central Terminal.
The most well-known restaurant at MIA is La Carreta, and I try not to miss it whenever I’m passing through. Versailles is a close competitor – especially if you’re looking for some of that addicting Cuban coffee!
How can I explore the Miami area on a 4-7 hour layover at MIA?
Glad you asked.
There are tons of options for any sort of layover at MIA. Whether you’re craving some epic Cuban cuisine or some boutique shopping along the nicest streets of Downtown Miami, there are easy (and sometimes free) ways to do it.
It’s definitely feasible to explore Miami on a 4-7 hour layover at MIA Airport. You can:
- Take cheap and efficient Public Transport from the MIA Airport Center(Train/Bus)
- Travel by Rideshare directly from arrivals/departures
- Get a Rental Car to fully explore the Miami area
- And my favorite: The Secret to Free Transportation at MIA
And here are the places you should explore on your layover:
How long of a layover at MIA is enough to leave the airport?
Obviously, you’re going to want to have enough time to head out and get back through security. There are a handful of factors at play;
- Are you arriving to MIA from an international flight? If so, you’ll have to go through customs, then back through normal security again. Depending on how long it takes to get through customs, your options may become limited.
- If you have Global Entry, this will significantly cut down the time it takes to get through customs.
- What time is your connecting flight departing? If it’s between 8AM-10AM or 4PM and 8PM, you will have to contend with rush hour traffic.
- Are you enrolled in TSA PreCheck, or better yet CLEAR? MIA does have CLEAR Checkpoints at concourses E and H, with typically <5 minute total time to get through security.
- Are you checked in your for next flight, including baggage (if checking it in)? Waiting in line to check in a bag will add considerable time to the process.
- What’s the weather like? Inclement weather can cause delays and cancellations.
With a 4 hour domestic connection, you typically will have enough time to go somewhere close, like Little Havana or Coral Gables, where you can have an epic lunch or dinner far superior to anything at the airport.
If you have 6+ hours, you definitely have time to head to Downtown Miami or perhaps explore even further.
Transportation options from MIA
From scooters to buses, exotic rental cars to taxis, Miami International Airport has an array of options to explore the area on any length of layover.
Exploring the Miami Area by public transport from MIA Airport (bus or train)
Miami International Airport is very well connected to the rest of town, thanks mainly to its “MIA Mover” skytrain system. To catch it, follow signs for MIA Mover up to the third floor. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you find moving walkways.
Follow signs for the MIA Mover, which you will take to the Airport Station/Rental Car Center. Here, you’ll find express buses, a MetroRail system, a rental car center, and more.
The quicker way to explore Miami: Rideshare or Taxi
If you’re looking to travel a little more efficiently, ride shares and taxis are the way to go.
Taxis are also available from outside of the arrivals area on the ground level. Metered fares cost $6.90 for the first mile and $2.40 for each additional mile. Various flat rates are also available.
These are almost always the most efficient way to get to and from MIA airport, but traffic can get pretty bad in the MIA. Make sure to plan in some extra time just in case.
The secret to getting free transportation from MIA Airport: hotel shuttles
As a cheap pilot, I like free stuff. Maybe you do too.
That’s why hotel shuttles are a great option on layovers. At MIA, hotel shuttles pick-up and drop-off on the upper level outside of departures.
Most hotels with shuttles available aren’t located in a particularly interesting part of town, so it’s worth calling if you see one that’s near a point of interest (restaurant, park) that you’re inclined to visit.
For example, the Best Western Premier Miami Intl Airport Hotel & Suites Coral Gables is located next to Miami's premier Cuban restaurant: Cafe Versailles. You could take a free hotel shuttle here and walk a couple minutes on over.
I highly recommend leaving a tip to the van driver!
Renting a car on your MIA layover – and fully enjoying South Florida
You can also ride the MIA Mover on the 3rd level to the Rental Car Center, from which there are tons of rental companies.
I personally prefer using Hertz as a Gold Member, since I can hop in any available car and drive away instead of waiting in a long line to check in. On a short layover, this is incredibly important.
The freedom you’ll have thanks to a rental car is paramount to being able to efficiently explore the Miami area. Even on a relatively short layover, you’ll be able to visit world-famous Wynwood Walls, Little Havana, and downtown Brickell. With a little extra time, you can head to the absolutely magnificent Key Biscayne for white sand beaches and climbing an old Lighthouse!
Top spots in Miami to spend your layover
Whether you’re looking for an amazing beach, some amazing Venezuelan Arepas, some fine dining and finer shopping, Miami has you covered. Here are spots you can easily reach on your 4-7 hour layover at MIA.
Let’s go to South Beach for the best layover ever!
Miami Beach (South Beach): There’s no better way to get the real taste of what everyone really wants to see in Miami. And how great is it that you get to do this on your layover instead of staying inside the airport bored?
From exotic cars to some of the greatest wealth in the nation, what is more Miami than South beach?
How to get there
From the Airport Station, you can take the 150 Express bus to South Beach for an awesome layover. In total, this only takes 30 minutes each way!
The Miami Beach Bus runs from the Airport Station to Miami Beach (41st Street to South Pointe Drive) daily from 6 a.m. – 11:40 p.m and costs $2.65.
Exploring downtown Miami (Brickell) from MIA Airport
Why not enjoy a quick stroll in Downtown Miami on your layover?
You’ll find an endless selection of cuban food, fine dining, delicious ceviche, Italian or French food, and even Chipotle – whatever caters to your craving.
There’s also some great walking to be done here, and it’s hard to miss all the joggers flying by. My personal favorite is the loop around Brickell Key.
How to get there
To get to Downtown Miami from the airport station, you will take the Orange Line Metrorail towards Dadeland South. Get off at Brickell to see the height of downtown Miami, surrounding yourself with skyscrapers and scenic bay views.
Don’t want to go as far? Check out Little Havana and Calle Ocho
Calle Ocho – have you heard of it? Little Havana, probably the cultural center of Miami, is super close to the airport.
Here, you won’t have trouble finding somewhere to eat, places to shop, and things to do.
From the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame to the Viennese Culturales Center to epic Cuban sandwiches at Sanguish, you’ll easily be able to stay entertained on your layover.
How to get there
I recommend arriving by rideshare, but it is possible to get here by connecting buses from the airport station.
Want something a bit more upscale not far from MIA airport? Check out Coral Gables
Also close to the airport is the luxurious, upscale Coral Gables. Whether you’re in the mood for fine dining or shopping at a boutique mall, you have options.
Miracle Mile is the place to be, almost resembling the Florida version of Beverly Hills. For some amazing Spanish food (and I’ve verified this myself!), head to the Bulla Gastrobar. The tapas here are insaaaanely good!!
How to get there
If you’re hoping for a free hotel shuttle to Coral Gables, you’re in luck. The Courtyard by Marriott Miami Coral Gables is located right in the heart of Coral Gables and has shuttles every 30 minutes.
Otherwise, the best way to get here is by bus or rideshare.
The coolest and most “hip” Miami experience: Wynwood
This up and coming area used to be kind of a slum. But recent massive efforts to revitalize Wynwood have completed transformed it.
The most obvious change is the artwork here. It’s honestly more impressive street artwork than even in New York City.
And there’s phenomenal food and nightlife here. Pretty often, the city runs events and ceremonies, highlighting the local culture and lengths this part of Miami has come. Very very cool.
How to get there
From the airport station, take the J line bus towards Beach / 41 St. Get off at NW 36th St & W 2 Av. Or my preference, by rideshare or rental car (13 minutes driving vs 45 minutes by bus).
Spotting at MIA Airport: the BEST (and free) way to spend your layover
I like to take the hotel shuttle to the Hyatt House Miami Airport or any of the “Blue Lagoon” hotels, and cross the street towards the 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant. Even if you don’t eat there, it’s one the of the most popular aircraft spotting locations at Miami International Airport.
Watching heavies from all around the world take off and land, witnessing the power and engineering that has to come together in perfection to make it all work – there’s nothing like it. I can spend all day admiring the feat of magic that flying is.
The Ultimate Miami Layover: Going Out or Staying In?
As you can see, the fantastic location of Miami International Airport makes laying over here delightful. Whether you decide to go out and explore or simply kick back and relax at the airport, you have plenty of options.
In my opinion, there’s so much to see and do outside the airport that it’s worth spending the extra energy to go out and explore. From cultural hotspots like Little Havana and Wynwood to fantastic beach areas like Key Biscayne to incredible nightlife at South Beach, you can’t get bored here.
Plus, the air conditioning at MIA runs a little strong…. Go out, get some fresh air!
Make sure to check out and bookmark these for your next layover:
Seattle, Washington: 10 BEST Things On a Short Layover
Atlanta Airport: The Ultimate 4-6 Hour ATL Layover Guide (by a Pilot)
The Ultimate 7 Hour JFK Airport Layover (by an Airline Pilot)