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The Ultimate Guide to Living in Miami | SmartStop

The Ultimate Guide to Living in Miami, Florida


Miami boasts sunny white-sand beaches, great year-round weather and a thriving nightlife culture, but the Magic City has so much else to offer: a robust art scene, historic neighborhoods with gorgeous art deco architecture, unparalleled Cuban cuisine and more. Whether you’re thinking about relocating to the famous Florida city or just stopping in for a weekend getaway, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about living in Miami, including the cost of living, seasonal climate, job market, best places to live, hot restaurants and iconic things to do.

In This Article:
  1. Living in Miami: An Overview
  2. What’s the Cost of Living in Miami?
  3. The Best Places to Live in Miami
  4. The Job Market in Miami
  5. The Best Things to Do in Miami
  6. Planning Your Move

1. Living in Miami: An Overview

Located on the southeastern tip of Florida, where the shallow estuary of the Biscayne Bay meets the Atlantic, Miami is a coastal metropolis that spans over 56 square miles. It was the 44th-largest city in America in 2020, and the core of the nation’s eighth-largest metropolitan area. If you’ve never been to the city, the stereotypes of Miami as being full of retirees, perma-tanned partygoers and alligators everywhere are hardly true. Ranked the healthiest city in America for two years in a row by the MINDBODY Wellness Index, the city is an active, diverse and electric cosmopolis where anyone can find something to love.

  • Population: 467,963
    • Diversity: 76.1 percent white (Hispanic or Latino), 16.8 percent Black or African American, 11.3 percent white (non-Hispanic or -Latino), 1.1 percent Asian
    • Median age: 40.7
    • Median household income: $39,049
  • Weather: hot, oppressive and wet summers with short, temperate, windy and clear winters
    • Best time to visit: early November to late April, when the weather is warm and humidity is low
    • Cool season: November to April
    • January is the coolest month; August is the hottest month


Miami has a population of 467,963, as of the 2019 census (out of a total 2,716,940 population in Miami-Dade County). Long before it became the epicenter of Cuban immigrants in America, with a vibrant cultural and culinary haven centered in Little Havana, Miami was a sleepy destination for snowbirds and vacationers. Now, the city features a diverse population, with the majority (76.1 percent) of its residents identifying as Hispanic or Latino and 16.8 percent of the population identifying as Black or African American. Living in (or visiting) Miami has been likened to a trip to Cuba, without the passport, and it’s an incredible opportunity to experience a varied lineage of traditions and languages. The median age in Miami skews older, at 40.7, and the median household income is $39,049 per year.


You may think that Miami has perfect weather all year long, but it’s not all sun and beach-perfect skies. Unlike Southern California’s dry heat, this East Coast hub has humid summers where temperatures can hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit in August. Mugginess stretches between the months of April and December, with peak humid conditions in July and August. Expect pleasant, warm showers and thunderstorms, and cool, clear winters with temperatures hovering in the mid-70s.

2. What’s the Cost of Living in Miami?

Miami’s an expensive city when you look at the median income of $39,049 per year vs. the median home price. In fact, an October 2021 Housing Affordability Index report by RealtyHop found that the city surpassed Los Angeles as the second least affordable housing market in the country, after New York City. Redfin’s housing market data indicates that the median home sale price is about $418,000 — 17.7 percent higher than it was last year, and nine percent more than the national median. That said, Miami (like all of Florida) has no personal income tax, and a sales tax of seven percent.

  • Housing: $420,000
  • Rent: $1,915
  • Utilities: $136.71
  • Groceries: 1.12 percent higher than Los Angeles
  • Gas: $2.70 per gallon
  • Storage: $23+ per month

How Expensive Is Renting in Miami?

If you’re not looking to settle down in the city quite yet, there are plenty of affordable renting options around the city, especially if you look outside of Downtown Miami. According to RENTCafé, the average rent in Miami is $1,915 per month, with an average apartment size of 887 square feet. The most expensive neighborhoods to rent in are Miami Design District ($2,321), Brickell ($2,393) and Brickell Key ($2,646), while the most affordable are Palmer Lake, Mia Station ($986); Mays Gardens ($1,118); and Ascot Park ($1,345).



3. The Best Places to Live in Miami

Miami is made up of roughly 25 neighborhoods, with Downtown located in the “heart” along the eastern shore. Though each offers its own rich history, here are five of the best places to live in Miami — and tips on which one is the right neighborhood for your needs.

  • Coconut Grove
  • Little Havana
  • Wynwood
  • Downtown Miami
  • Kendall

Coconut Grove

Coconut Grove was once a hippie bayside hamlet in the ‘60s. Now, it’s a laidback hotspot of sidewalk cafes, bars and charming boutiques. Though the area is relatively pricey — it’s no longer a go-to destination for writers and artists — the neighborhood has maintained an “artsy” atmosphere, with striking art deco architecture, lush banyans and palms, and lots of pedestrian-friendly walkways. Students at the University of Miami, located about a mile away in Coral Gables, often flock to Coconut Grove on weekend nights.

  • Population: 26,815
  • Median household income: $88,824
  • Cost of living: $1.04M median house price, $1,846 average rent
  • Places to check out: Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Coconut Grove Saturday Organic Market, Books & Books
  • Places to eat and drink: Greenstreet Cafe, Ariete

Little Havana

It’s the heart of the city’s Cuban diaspora, located just west of Downtown Miami — and the closest you can get in the U.S. to a taste of Cuban culture and cuisine. Centered around Calle Ocho, the neighborhood is full of restaurants, bakeries, fruit stands, art galleries, murals and more, offering residents and visitors a vibrant journey into some of the most exciting artistic and cultural achievements in Miami.

  • Population: 85,755
  • Median household income: $30,806
  • Cost of living: $295K median house price, $2,016 median rent
  • Places to check out: Hoy Como Ayer, Los Pinarenos Market, Tower Theater, CubaOcho, Futurama, Domino Park
  • Places to eat and drink: Ball and Chain, Versailles Restaurant, El Rey De Las Fritas, Cafe La Trova


The Wynwood/Midtown area — which used to be called El Barrio — is one of the city’s hippest enclaves, where creatives and young professionals gather for some of the most exciting Miami and international art as well as the bars, restaurants and shops. Once full of gritty warehouses, Wynwood is going through a “renaissance” due to a revitalized interest in the area. Within Wynwood is Miami’s Design District, which some locals are calling the “new South Beach,” with a flourishing of bars, lounges and clubs for young bohemians and city transplants alike.

  • Population: 14,886
  • Median household income: $37,470
  • Cost of living: $490K median house price, $1,804 median rent
  • Places to check out: Wynwood Walls, Museum of Graffiti, Boho Hunter
  • Places to eat and drink: KYU, R House, Valentina’s Pizza, Morelia Gourmet Paletas, Taiyaki NYC, Coyo Taco

Downtown Miami

Downtown Miami features a breathtaking cityscape, and the skyscrapers over Biscayne Bay are a view that visitors and residents alike should experience at least once. During the day, Downtown erupts with life, as businesspeople, students and other professionals weave through the neighborhood’s crowded streets. (This is often true on weekends as well, as people flock to the bustling Bayside Marketplace and other iconic Downtown establishments, including DuPont Building, Freedom Tower and others.)

  • Population: 55,259
  • Median household income: $40,896
  • Cost of living: $475K median house price, $2,272 median rent
  • Places to check out: Bayside Marketplace, Hobie Island Beach Park, Frost Museum of Science, Olympia Theatre, 
  • Places to eat and drink: Jaguar Sun, Verde, Meraki Greek Bistro


If you’re trying to get away from the bustle of the city, Kendall is the perfect place to live. Located southwest of Coral Gables in the “South Miami” region that encompasses Kendall, Perrine, Cutler Ridge and Homestead, this suburban neighborhood is heavily residential, with strip malls, a bit of farmland and an overall slower pace of life. Since the cost of living is cheaper here than in the more urban parts of Miami, it’s the perfect place for solo professionals looking to save up (and still be able to work in Downtown Miami, which is about 21 miles away, or a 30-minute drive), students looking to pay off their debt or older couples who’ve tried (and are ready to leave) city life to settle down.

  • Population: 80,410
  • Median household income: $73,081
  • Cost of living: $323K median house price, $1,650 average rent
  • Places to check out: Dadeland Mall, Zoo Miami, Gold Coast Railroad Museum, Kendall Ice Arena
  • Places to eat and drink: Ghee Indian Kitchen, CVI.CHE, Makan Miami Food Truck, Finka Table & Tap, Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant and Bar

4. The Job Market in Miami

Miami is a hub of commerce, culture, the arts, entertainment and international trade, and the city also boasts a number of research institutions, medical centers and biotech companies to boot. Residents of Miami make about $39,049 per year, as of the 2019 census — less than the $69,560 national median. The most common industries in Miami (with the median salary) are:

  • Accommodation & Food Service: $23,703
  • Retail Trade: $24,130
  • Professional, Scientific & Technical Services: $55,658

The highest-paid occupations are:

  • Architecture & Engineering Occupations: $76,022
  • Health Diagnosing, Treating Practitioners & Other Technical Occupations: $70,252
  • Legal Occupations: $67,080
  • Computer, Engineering & Science Occupations: $64,962
  • Management Occupations: $61,911

If you’re interested in learning more about Built In’s list of 15 of Miami’s largest employers, check out the following list:

  1. REEF Technology
  2. H&R Block
  3. Norwegian Cruise Lines
  4. Royal Caribbean International
  5. Ryder
  6. Carnival Cruise Line
  7. VITAS Healthcare
  8. Lane Bryant

Finally, here are some places you can find open positions in Miami:


The Best Things to Do in Miami


5. The Best Things to Do in Miami

Miami has some of the country’s best beaches, but there’s plenty of other things to do for the foodie, nature lover or art enthusiast alike. Here are a few of our favorite things to do in MIami.

Parks & Attractions

  • Wynwood Art Walk (FREE). A world-class collection of murals, vendors, food trucks and music convene every second Saturday of the month in the Wynwood Art District in Miami. Between the food, cocktails, DJs, games and artisans, the Wynwood Art Walk is better than any block party for friends, date nights and families looking to support local community and small businesses as well as have a great (boozy) time. Currently postponed due to the pandemic.
  • Everglades Airboat Tour ($41.99+ for adults). There’s no better way to see the Everglades than by soaring along the water in an airboat tour. Captain Jack’s is a great time, but Wooten’s and others offer similar variations on the Everglades experience. Take a private mangrove tour with family or friends, venture into the nearby cypress forest or get up close and personal with alligators — there are plenty of options available for afternoon or all-day fun.
  • Bayside Marketplace (varies). This festival marketplace is a two-story open-air shopping center in the middle of Downtown Miami, with restaurants, shops and boat tours all along the picturesque banks of Biscayne Bay. It often tops lists of “most popular attractions in Miami,” so if you’re not into crowds, skip it on your tour of the area.
  • Vizcaya Museum and Gardens ($25 for adults). Named after an enchanting shoreline on the Spanish coast, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens was once the villa of James Deering, who built the 70-plus-room mansion with a crew of 1,000 workers. Inside the house, you’ll find an intriguing collection featuring everything from ancient Chinese ceramics, European paintings and more, while outside lie the estate’s 10 acres of lush gardens — full of mazes, classical statues and rare flora.

Iconic Events

  • Art Deco Weekend (FREE). Miami is full of iconic art deco buildings, especially along Ocean Drive. But every January, Art Deco Weekend brings together the Miami community for more than 80 events squeezed into three days of festivities, including live music, fashion shows, guided walking tours and more — all aimed to preserve and celebrate the best of Miami’s architecture, art, culture and entertainment.
  • Miami Beach Pride (FREE). This multi-day celebration of the queer community, art and culture involves social mixers, installations, world-class entertainment and a two-day parade that typically draws more than 170,000 people each year. With events along the beach and Ocean Drive, among other hot city spots, it’s a beautiful annual tradition that you won’t want to miss.
  • Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival ($70-$300 per ticket). This yearly music festival at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens has boasted previous lineups featuring Smokey Robinson, Chaka Khan, Walter Beasley, and Anita Baker in a weekend of jazz, soul, and R&B along with a food village, merchandise hub, and onsite bars and cigar lounges.

Best Places to Eat

  • $ Doggi’s Arepas (@doggis). With two Miami locations, Doggi’s serves renowned arepas locals and visitors alike can enjoy in a casual sit-down environment. Their crispy fried corn-flour cakes are the next best thing to mom’s, with dozens of meaty and vegetarian-friendly options. Try the Pabellon, made with shredded beef, fried plantain, black beans, and white shredded cheese, or the traditional semi-sweet corn capacha with “queso de mano,” cream and white shredded cheese. Check out the menu here.
  • $$ Mandolin Aegean Bistro (@mandolinmiami). Let yourself be whisked away to coastal tavernas on the Greek Islands at Mandolin Aegean Bistro, where Ahmet Erkaya and Anastasia Koutsioukis have built a culinary goldmine within a charming bungalow in the heart of the Design District. Start with the Turkish sampler featuring warm bread, hummus, tomato, eggplant and garden vegetables before laying eyes on the masterpiece that is the whole Mediterranean sea bass. Explore the menu here.
  • $ NaiYaRa (@naiyaramiami). Chef Piyarat Potha Arreeratn — Chef Bee — is at the helm of this popular Miami spot, where fresh, local ingredients are brought to life through a blend of masterful techniques and flavors inspired by Thai street food and Japanese delicacies. This is one of the few places where you can get incredible sashimi and sushi — like the taki taki roll, made with spicy tuna, cucumber, avocado, jalapeño and yuzu miso, topped with tuna tataki —  as well as delicious pad thai and popcorn shrimp. Gluten-free options available.
  • $$ Boia De (@boiaderestaurant). Don’t try to show up to Boia De without a reservation — with limited indoor and outdoor seating, this Michelin-star-worthy Italian restaurant is always packed. With innovative twists on classic flavors and dishes, Boia De breathes new life into your tried-and-true favorites: buttery beef tartare served on beef tendon crisps, delectable lamb ribs rubbed in Urga and topped with spicy cucumber pickles, and a blissful sunchoke caramelle. The menu is online, but subject to daily changes.
  • $$ Red Rooster Overtown (@roosterovertown). You may recognize Marcus Samuelsson, the Swedish Ethiopian celebrity chef, from his guest judge appearances on Chopped or in a cooking video from “Bon Appétit.” But this chef and restaurateur also opened Red Rooster Overtown in one of Miami’s first Black neighborhoods, taking diverse culinary traditions from the Caribbean and Latin America and mixing them with soul food. Charred octopus with smoky squid-ink BBQ sauce and toasted peanuts and orange sour ribs with pickled onions are unbeatable dinner picks, but if you’re swinging by for brunch, grab the sweet potato waffle with chicken, pickles and fennel. Check out both the dinner and brunch menus and book a reservation to secure a seat. 

6. Planning Your Move

Moving to Miami will involve a lot of planning ahead, but we’ve made it easy for you to lay out the logistics, create an airtight moving plan and get your packing, moving and storage needs all in place. Check out our helpful guides:

Be sure to download our checklists, too:

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