Are you looking to soak up the sun and explore a tropical paradise all without leaving the U.S. mainland? If so, I’ve got your go-to place! It boasts fabulous sunny weather, delightful ocean breezes, and magical sunsets—and plenty of fun things to do, too. You’ll find this much and more in beautiful South Florida!
I’ve been lucky enough to explore Florida on many occasions. My in-laws spent winters in the Fort Lauderdale area for years and we went to see them all the time. Now I have a son in college in South Florida and let’s just say, I like to visit. A lot!
I’ve heard that the Gulf side of South Florida is to-die-for—especially the Naples and Ft. Myers area, but I haven’t had the pleasure of staying on the western side of South Florida … yet! My time in South Florida has always been exploring the best places to visit on the Atlantic side, so that’s what we’ll explore here.
With that said, here are my top picks for the most fun in the South Florida sun!
We’ll start in the northernmost of our favorite South Florida destinations, in tropical Delray Beach, the city voted the most fun small town in America! Delray is the quintessential beach town, so bring your flip flops and get ready to have fun.
Breakfast in Downtown Delray
For a great breakfast with a beach view, I recommend Cafe Luna Rosa, right across the street from the beach on Ocean Drive. Open seven days a week and serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you can’t miss with its alfresco dining and awesome food. It’s been voted Best Outdoor Dining and Best Oceanfront Dining by Boca Raton magazine, and I can see why. We enjoyed a truly scrumptious breakfast with just the right ambiance. Next time, I’m going for wine, homemade pasta, and gelato. Yummo!
Hit the Beach
After breakfast, meander across the street over to the beach and claim your spot. The beach in Delray is really gorgeous and the location can’t be beaten. If you’re like me and forget to pack everything (like a hat and sunscreen), it’s super convenient to hop across the street and grab essentials from one of the markets. There’s a burger place right across the street too, so you can grab a burger and shake for your lunch on the beach.
Shop on Atlantic Avenue
When you’ve had enough sun, it’s time for one of my favorite activities—shopping! Head over to Atlantic Ave, the main street and hot spot in Delray. Along Atlantic, you’ll find plenty of shops for your browsing pleasure. From specialty boutiques to antique stores to upscale consignment stores, you’ll find something to love!
Take a Delray Yacht Cruise
For an evening to remember, tour the exclusive homes in the area by water. The tour lasts about two hours and you’ll see some of the most jaw-dropping properties of the rich and famous!
Where to Stay in Delray Beach
For a great location, you can’t beat the Delray Beach Marriott. It’s so close to the beach, you’ll have excellent beach views, and it’s super close to all the action on Atlantic Street. Plus it’s a Marriott, so you know it’s going to be nice. Marriott’s are one of my absolute favorite go-to hotels. And it’s super easy to get a free night!
Heading south from Delray, our next stop on this South Florida tour is lovely Boca Raton, FL. Boca Raton is high on the list of top places for snowbirds wintering in Florida. So much so that it’s often referred to as the ‘sixth borough,” in reference to all the New Yorkers who flock to Florida to escape the frigid north.
Located right on the coast, there are many fun things to do in beautiful Boca.
Snorkel Red Reef Park
A super cool way to spend a day in Boca is at Red Reef Park. The park, located at 1500 North Ocean Blvd, is an oceanfront expanse that offers everything from swimming to fishing to snorkeling. If you elect to snorkel on the man-made reef, keep your eyes open for lots of colorful fish and even crabs. There’s also a playground, which will appeal to the little ones, and everyone will appreciate the showers and bathrooms at the park!
Boca has a huge number of public golf courses for you to work on your game! One of the coolest just happens to be the Red Reef Executive Golf Course at Red Reef Park. Enjoy excellent ocean views while playing a quick nine holes.
Shop at Mizner Park
More shopping! What can I say? I love to shop! You notice I didn’t say “buy.” Shopping is fun and free! Buying is a different story. I like shopping more than buying so I have more money to travel!
Ritzy Boca Raton knows how to entice shoppers and buyers of all kinds! Mizner Park is one of the best outdoor shopping malls I’ve visited. It’s actually more of an event center, as there’s an amphitheater, a movie theater, and an art gallery right on the premises.
But if you’re there for shopping, you won’t be disappointed. It’s got you covered with everything from Lord + Taylor to Kendra Scott. I found one of the cutest stores I’ve ever been to: Sugarboo & Co. It has so many unique, cute things! You’ll find everything from jewelry to prints to stationary to cooking essentials. I literally spent a couple of hours wandering around the store. It’s that good!
After you’ve had your fill of shopping, there are tons of bars and restaurants. We liked the Yard House for burgers & beer and Le Macaron for gorgeous and scrumptious desserts. You must try a macaron! Good luck picking out only one—with so many gorgeous colors, it’s hard to choose.
Book a Deep Sea Fishing Trip
For a fun day on the water that’s perfect for just about any age group, why not try deep-sea fishing? One of our most memorable experiences in South Florida was our deep sea fishing trip. We booked a private daylong fishing charter for six of us, and it was really spectacular. Our charter boat was owned by a real fisherman with years of experience who gave us hands-on help with everything needed to have a great day of fishing off the coast.
If you aren’t sure that you’ll want to be out on the water all day; a great alternative is to book a half-day charter. If you love it, you can book another half-day. If you want a less expensive alternative, share a charter with others. Private charters are the most expensive and the privacy may not be worth it to you. And, just remember, there are lots of options when it comes to fishing charters so you’re sure to find one that works for you and your party.
Where to Stay in Boca Raton
In Boca Raton, go upscale and stay at the Boca Beach Club. This luxe beachfront resort will set you back, but hey, you’re in Boca, so go big!
After Boca, head south about 20 minutes to laid-back Hollywood, Florida. Hollywood is a super relaxed town with a beachy vibe.
Head to the Hollywood Boardwalk
While in Hollywood, the number one thing to do is check out the Hollywood boardwalk. You can walk, bicycle, or rollerblade the famous 2.5 mile long Hollywood boardwalk. We rented bikes and it was the perfect way to explore the whole boardwalk without having to walk the entire thing. Bars and restaurants line the other side of the street, so when you get thirsty and hungry you won’t have far to go.
Take a Class at Hollywood Hot Glass
Try your hand at the art of glass blowing. Hollywood is known for its glass blowing art and at Hollywood Hot Glass, you can register for a workshop to learn the art for yourself. And, an instructor will help you complete your masterpiece in under 30 minutes.
Drive the A1A
To relax after a busy day of sightseeing, cruise on the A1A. The A1A is the highway that runs north and south along the Atlantic Ocean. Starting at the Georgia/Florida line, the highway goes all the way down to Key West, Florida. It’s so cool to skip I-95, slow down, and take the scenic route through little Florida beach towns. You never know what you’ll discover. If you can find a convertible to drive, that’s even better!
Where to Stay in Hollywood
My vote goes to The Riptide Oceanfront Hotel. It’s a beachfront bargain, with a restaurant and tiki bar on site! Gotta love it.
So there you have my top picks for exploring South Florida. There is so much to do in this part of Florida that you’ll want to visit again and again. This list really is just the tip of the iceberg to get you started exploring on your own. Once you head south, you’ll find so many more things you like to do. Who knows, you may like South Florida so much that you’ll take up residence there!
By SJ Morgensen
I’m SJ. Come visit me at theprosperousblonde.com where we talk travel, money and how to live a prosperous life. It’s more than just about money! It’s about flourishing in life! My favorite U.S. travel spots right now are Sedona, AZ: New Orleans, LA, South Florida, and NYC!