I believe that South Beach is one of the most special neighborhoods in the world. You’ve got the mythical Ocean Drive and an infinite beach of white sand and crystalline water where you can admire the colorful baywatch booths, lines of palm trees, surfers, and skaters. You can actually see what was once the Versace mansion, now transformed into a hotel.
But this small city within the big city of Miami hides many other places that go beyond the commercial streets of Collins, Washington Avenue and Lincoln Road. I’m talking about a little gem that often goes unnoticed, just two blocks between Washington and Pennsylvania avenues: the Española Way, a small area that has experienced an unprecedented growth the past 10 years.
From my own experience, Española Way is the place that Latinos who live in Miami Beach will always recommend for other Latinos to visit.
When I was there, it didn’t matter who I talked to, the advice was always the same: “You have to go have a few drinks on the Española Way. You can also eat excellent Mexican or Cuban food, and there are amazing dance shows. Don’t miss it!”
So I went…and let me tell you – this is a Miami Beach must do! Keep reading and get ready to be tempted by this beautiful Hispanic stroll.
The origins of Española Way
With the first commercial development in Miami Beach in the early 1920s, this street was built as a Spanish-speaking artists’ colony with an eclectic atmosphere that mirrored Greenwich Village in New York and the artists’ neighborhood in Paris.
With the real estate boom of 1927, the promoters N.B.T. Roney de Roney Palace and William Whitman thought Miami Beach needed a bohemian district. In its early days, this area was known as The Spanish Village. They teamed up with architect Robert Taylor to make the project come to life, and soon the streets were filled with antique, fashion, furniture and décor shops, and restaurants.
Although the intention was good, that place destined to become a space for artists and intellectuals began to stand out for other reasons. These streets hosted Miami’s high society and the occasional infamous guest, like the gangster Al Capone, who usually visited the Clay Hotel to gamble.
But, in May 2017, the Miami Beach government completed a $2.5 million revitalization project for the only existing pedestrian street, the Española Way. Today, this area is experiencing renewed fame, living up to the intentions of those who built it nearly a century ago. It’s a street full of life, where locals and travelers get together to meet, create and celebrate.
What to do in the Española Way
The first thing you’ll see when you arrive in this area are many colored lights, music and good vibes coming from all the places within its beautiful streets.
The area is packed with restaurants and there are so many places where you can enjoy yourself, big time! One of the oldest places is À la Folie, a French restaurant where you can have a coffee with a croissant or some crepes and the classic French onion soup.
Cuban heritage is also present on Española Way. Havana 1957 is a restaurant that offers succulent Cuban breakfasts and sandwiches, as well as amazing music nights and live shows.
And don’t leave without having tried an ice cream at Konos or at Mammamia, which specializes in Italian ice cream!
What if you want to stay in the Española Way?
In this amazing area there are some iconic boutique hotels that are worth staying in, even for one night, if you have the chance.
In October 2022, the Esmé Miami Beach Hotel finally opened its doors after several years of remodeling. Its own name comes from the word emerald (a hidden gem), a wink to that past in which Española Way was an aspiring artists’ colony.
This is an ideal hotel “for design lovers”. The buildings it occupies today, specifically nine out of the entire street, once belonged to the mythical The Clay (that’s right, the same one where Al Capone used to gamble).
It has 145 rooms, a rooftop and five restaurants for guests and visitors. They wanted to bring back the idea of a small town and its connected spaces by using small corridors, patios and corners, which will make you think that you are in the south of Spain instead of Miami.
Tempted yet? Use this guide to start planning your next trip!