White sand beaches, cerulean waters, and towering palms make Jungle Island feel like a tropical paradise—complete with a leopard lurking in the undergrowth. Luckily, this jungle cat is safely within the confines of the Jungle Island, which has inhabited the isle for more than a decade. And yet the story of this popular Miami attraction, which houses everything from exotic birds and primates to rare plants and trees, began more than 75 years ago.
In 1936, Franz Scherr established an aviary where the exotic birds could soar uncaged, giving his South Miami park the apt name of Parrot Jungle. In the following decades, the aviary hosted some noteworthy occupants, such as Pinky—a high-wire bicycle-riding cockatoo—and several pink flamingos that appeared in the opening credits of Miami Vice. When the zoo's current owners purchased the company in 1988, they introduced new mammals and reptiles—but when Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992, they were forced to relocate. They settled on Watson Island, and in 2003, finished construction of the animal habitats and 18 acres of tropical gardens, renaming the park Jungle Island.
Hundreds of animals and plants from around the world call Jungle Island home. Naturalistic habitats contain mammals such as orangutans and a liger; reptiles such as American alligators and pythons; and birds such as African penguins and emus. The gardens house rare plants including cycads and African sausage trees. More than 1.35 miles of covered walking trails wind among the exhibits.
Many of these animals feature in daily demonstrations. In Winged Wonders, handlers showcase the antics of colorful parrots, the flight of vultures, and the resident 6-foot cassowary's ability to eat an apple whole. Explore the behavior of rare big cats, including four species of tigers. Alternatively, in-depth tours and encounters may bring guests face-to-face with popular primates, or deep into the Serpentarium to feed an alligator in its enclosure and ponder whether snakes could possibly wear neckties.
Imagine standing eye level with a giraffe, holding out your arm for parrots to land on, or touching the head of an endangered rhino. At Zoo Miami, these experiences happen every day, fulfilling the institution's mission of encouraging the conservation of wildlife. More than 3,000 animals—from chimps to tigers—populate the African, Asian, and Australian lobes of the zoo. Many of the individual exhibitions don't use cages, but are instead bound by moats throughout more than three miles of walking trails. This setup allows guests to get closer to animals as they romp in their habitats. More than 1,200 plant species populate these habitats, which are re-creations of the animals' native environments.
Guests can use free WiFi to download a free mobile app for iPhones and Androids. The app then delivers functions such as location beacons so that family members keep track of one another, show times, and GPS-enabled maps that show the nearest dining venue or restroom. Transportation options within the zoo range from an air-conditioned monorail to tram tours, which provide insights such as which animals have recently had babies, what they named the babies, and each baby's first word. Developed specifically for kids, a children's zoo offers camel rides
and a playground.
Gables Aquarium in Miami offers animals like lions and tigers and bears. With so many animals to explore, you'll spend the entire day.
Parking is plentiful, so guests can feel free to bring their vehicles.
In the 1920s, one man accomplished a feat so seemingly impossible that scientists, engineers, and scholars are still mystified by it today. This man, Ed Leedskalnin, actually carved 1,100 tons of coral rock to create Coral Castle. Thanks to Ed's ultra-private, night-owl work habits, the methods he used to do so remain mysterious to this day.
Part museum, part sculpture garden, Coral Castle features a hand-carved 9-ton gate, a Polaris telescope, and a sundial with seasons—all carved from coral rock. Visitors can explore the site through guided tours, which delve into the history and science behind the structures, as well as a love story. Afterward, they can grab a bite at Coral Castle Café.
The highly ranked TripAdvisor attraction has been referred to as a modern megalith and compared to such ancient megaliths as the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge. Some even consider it one of the Wonders of the World, and it has been featured on everything from the History Channel to the Travel Channel. In 1981, the TV show In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy profiled Coral Castle.
Rocky the tiger, Chewy the camel, and a literal rescue of other animals such as alligators, chameleons, owls, and wolves are just a few of the critters that take up residence at the nonprofit Everglades Outpost Wildlife Refuge and Rescue. Though their pasts aren’t necessarily happy—all of the facility's animals are taken in due to neglect, improper care, or injury—the staff of loving volunteers ensures each story ends happily and each tail continues to wag as they revive and nurse native and exotic animals from all walks of life back to health. In addition to the refuge, which is open to the public, the Everglades Outpost Wildlife Refuge and Rescue also conducts educational events and outreach programs.