The Floridian sun sparkles off rolling waves, reflecting dancing patterns of light onto the white-and-red hull of Aquaworld Miami’s excursion vessel, the Caribbean Spirit . The double-masted catamaran catches the gulf’s gusty winds in its twin sails to journey to a shallow sandbar for a day of watersports, offloading jet skis, banana boats, and a parasailing-equipped speed boat into the knee-deep water. On Atlantic Ocean excursions, the 78-foot vessel parks over a shallow water shipwreck for guests equipped with snorkels to explore. The rhythmic thump of the waves combines with Calypso music that constantly drifts from the boat’s speakers, offering the only method of sonar capable of identifying an undersea dance party.
The wind catches a sail, and suddenly the 41-foot vessel springs to life. The sail boat's hull cuts across the water at increasing speeds, racing alongside city skylines and a mangrove-covered shore. The man at the helm is Captain Carlin, and he guides the vessel with a confidence and ease that can only come from more than 45 years of sailing experience. The captain's charters take up to six passengers through the Biscanye Bay: a shallow estuary home to pelicans, manatees, and retired leviathans. Along the way, groups can sip wine as they bask in the midday sun or the soft glow of an ocean sunset.
Some runners race for the thrill of victory while others just want to escape from the living dead. Half traditional 5K, half horror movie come to life, the Zombie Run 5K has something for everyone. At the starting line, the human racers—known for their ability to enunciate, give warm handshakes, and appreciate paprika—are tipped off that horror looms as they embark from a flipped tanker that has spilled zombie-birthing toxic goo. After a 1K warm-up, the tension ratchets as contestants enter the second K's militarized zone, where the walking, lurching, and jogging dead begin to give chase.
Now since zombies are a fictional creation, they're played by fellow racers clad in bloody makeup and trained in zombie choreography. And since eating people is still illegal in the U.S., humans wear flags that the zombies grab in lieu of chomping. Zombies multiply like zombie rabbits across three more running zones, including a vaccination hydration center reprieve and a heart-pounding 2K free-for-all to the finish. Alive or "dead," everybody gets to finish the race, which is followed by the Quarantine Party—featuring live DJ music from alive DJs, snacks and refreshments, and movie-quality zombie makeovers for people who want to nail the job interviews they have the next day.
Miami Beach Ocean Watersports equips patrons with all the tools they need to plan an exhilarating day on the picturesque waters of Biscayne Bay. Visitors can grab an ore, hop on a paddleboard or kayak, and glide atop the blue expanses, or satisfy their need for speed on a jet ski. The company’s customized powerboat whips inflatable banana boats back and forth with hairpin turns, and sends parasails skyward so riders can enjoy expansive views and score points with seagulls by pointing out unsuspecting picnickers.
As they observe the vibrant exhibits of aquatic life inside the Miami Seaquarium, many guests don't realize that they are walking through a movie set and a hospital. In the onsite lagoon, bottlenose dolphins swim through waters once traversed by Flipper, who filmed several television episodes and films at the venue. The Seaquarium is also recognized as a manatee critical care facility. Its staff has accomplished several historic treatments, including monitoring the conception and arrival of the first manatee born under human care and conducting the first manatee neurological surgery.
These facets of the Seaquarium—along with its many conservation efforts, educational programs, and shows—underscore a united commitment to wildlife consciousness. The animal attractions enable visitors to witness the allure and fragility of oceanic fauna up close, whether they are petting the back of a stingray or washing a dress shirt on the rough back of an 8-foot nile crocodile. Special encounters decrease the distance even further, sending patrons on underwater Sea Treks through the reef display or helping them to lead marine-mammal training routines.
It's hard to pinpoint the biggest personality inside the Seaquarium tanks, but Lolita the killer whale—who performs daily alongside pacific white-sided dolphins—claims the title of heaviest, period. On the other end of the scale, macaws and cockatiels perch around the Tropical Wings section of the park, and endangered sea turtles lounge at Discovery Bay. Elsewhere, a watery playground and three-story ropes course keep legs from growing too wobbly after a trip to Shark Channel or a smooch from a sea lion.
Located in the heart of the city, Watson Island sometimes feels like a tropical paradise—complete with a leopard lurking in the undergrowth. Luckily, this jungle cat is safely within the confines of Jungle Island, which has inhabited the isle for more than a decade. And yet the story of this themed park, which houses everything from exotic birds and primates to rare plants and trees, began more than 75 years ago.
Jungle Island got its start in 1936 as Parrot Jungle, a small South Miami roadside attraction where the exotic birds could soar uncaged. In the following decades, the aviary hosted a wide array of noteworthy occupants, including Pinky—a high-wire bicycle-riding cockatoo—and several pink flamingos that appeared in the opening credits of Miami Vice. When Jungle Island's current owners purchased the company in 1988, they introduced new mammals and reptiles—but after Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992, they made plans to relocate. They settled on Watson Island, and in 2003, finished construction of the animal habitats and 18 acres of tropical gardens, renaming it Jungle Island.
Jungle Island is currently home to rare white tigers and a white lion, a high-wire bicycle-riding cockatoo, one of the only tame cassowaries in the world, a set of orangutan twins, a rare occurrence. Animal shows and presentations allow visitor to experience Jungle Island's residents in many ways, and a VIP safari tour is available for the very curious. Jungle Island's latest addition is a floating aqua park.