Coconut Grove vs South Beach: Which Miami Neighborhood is Better?

When most people are thinking about moving to Miami, or even within Miami, one of the two most popular neighborhoods are Coconut Grove and South Beach. These are two of Miami’s older and more established neighborhoods, and both offer an incredible quality of life, especially for those who want to be close to the sea. But how can you know which neighborhood is right for you? Will the lush fauna and bohemian vibe of Coconut Grove suit you? Or is being able to ride your bike to the beach (or better, walk) on your list? 

Both neighborhoods have had their share of history and fame, and have earned great reputations among tourists, but living in each of these neighborhoods also has its perks. While Coconut Grove and South Beach share some similarities in walkability, art fairs, and waterfront activities, each neighborhood has its own unique charm and character. We’ve provided a detailed breakdown of how these neighborhoods compare to one another for those considering making their home in Coconut Grove or South Beach.

Lifestyle: Coconut Grove vs. South Beach

Coconut Grove is older than South Beach and older than the city of Miami itself. This historical neighborhood boasts a rich history and laid-back Caribbean lifestyle, surrounded by natural beauty, with direct access to Biscayne Bay. Coconut Grove has always appealed to artists, bohemians, and those who love to live outside the box. The Grove also attracts boating and sailing aficionados who want to enjoy a lifestyle of fun in the sun on the Bay.

Coconut Grove Marina - FL
Coconut Grove Marina - FL

Shady streets are lined by majestic tropical trees, ranging from banyans to grand poincianas, and the lush display of flora and fauna features plenty of exotic bird species including wild macaws, as well as quaker and Amazon parrots that have escaped the pet trade and set up colonies in the canopy. And living in “The Grove” means you’ll be sharing your streets, driveways and roofs with friendly but wild peacocks that roam the neighborhood!

Ocean Drive - South Beach, FL

South Beach, on the other hand, was founded in the early 1900’s and is one of Miami’s most colorful and lively neighborhoods, famed for its distinctive Art Deco architecture, boutique hotels, party-all-night lifestyle, and of course, its sandy Atlantic beaches. A haven for tourists from all over the world, many celebrities and VIPs from around the globe have purchased vacation homes in some of South Beach’s most exclusive and glamourous neighborhoods, such as Fisher Island, the Venetian Causeway, and SoFi (South of Fifth).

Both neighborhoods are relaxed and cater to a shorts-and-flip flops lifestyle that’s blended with a healthy dose of wellness and fitness. In both neighborhoods, you’ll see many people running, biking, exercising, doing yoga, and living la pura vida.

Business: Coconut Grove vs South Beach 

Both Coconut Grove and South Beach are ideal settings for small businesses offering professional services such as attorneys, doctors, and real estate agents, retail boutiques, and unique restaurants, as well as art galleries, fitness centers and yoga studios, and health food stores.

Coconut Grove
Coconut Grove. Photo courtesy of

Coconut Grove is a cozy neighborhood where residents walk their dogs or ride their bikes under the shady canopy and patronize the small businesses in the area. Adjacent to the University of Miami in Coral Gables, the Grove serves as home to UM faculty and students alike, with plenty of excellent affordable venues that cater to college students.

The Raleigh Hotel on South Beach
The Raleigh Hotel on South Beach

In addition to shops, restaurants, and nightclubs, South Beach is home to an array of day spas and beauty salons, as well as some of Miami’s most well-known hotels, that come with internationally known restaurants, glamorous bars and nightclubs and specialty spas. There are
co-working spaces in each neighborhood, including WeWork and Buro, among others.

Walkability and Transportation: Coconut Grove vs South Beach 

Both neighborhoods win in this category. Coconut Grove and South Beach have always been characterized by a highly walkable lifestyle, even when public transportation in Miami had not reached the level that it has today. In a city where few areas have allowed residents to enjoy living car-free, these two areas are a pedestrian paradise.

Metromover - a free public transportation system

The Grove is served by both the Metrorail and the free Metromover, as well as the free Coconut Grove Trolley and the Coconut Grove Airport Shuttle, which takes you to Miami Airport for under $5. Several buses also connect Coconut Grove to other areas of Miami. Within the Grove, a bicycle will get you pretty much anywhere you need to go.

Lincoln Road - South Beach
Lincoln Road - Pedestrian Street in South Beach. Photo courtesy of TimeOut

South Beach has great transportation options for getting around the beach itself, such as the Free Trolley and several local buses, and everything in the neighborhood is within walking or bicycling distance of most homes. The Miami Beach Airport Flyer shuttle runs every half hour and provides service from 6 am to 11:40 pm. There is also talk of extending Metro Rail service to South Beach in the near future.

Looking to live car-free?
Don’t miss our article on other Miami neighborhoods where you can live without a car.

Parks and Greenspace: Coconut Grove vs South Beach

Coconut Grove offers access to a wide variety of out-in-nature experiences, including shaded streets that are ideal for walking, and greenspaces such as Kennedy Park and Peacock Park, where you can enjoy outdoor sports like volleyball or flag football, and direct Bay access where you can launch your own boat, and enjoy sailing, or rent a boat and enjoy a relaxed Bay cruise. Other sports such as kayaking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling are also available. There are also golf courses and shady areas where dogs can enjoy being off-leash. Historic sites such as the beautiful Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and Barnacle Historic State Park provide unforgettable outdoor experiences that combine history, architecture, greenspace, and local culture.

Vizcaya Museum - Coconut Grove
Vizcaya Museum - Coconut Grove

In comparison, South Beach is all about beachfront living, with direct access to the Atlantic Ocean and beach parks such as South Pointe Park, where the ocean meets the bay. You can also enjoy fishing, kayaking and jet skiing, as well as swimming at various waterfront locations.  Flamingo Park has a great public pool as well as tennis, soccer, handball and basketball courts, and Lummus Park features areas for skateboarding, roller blading, and kids’ playgrounds, as well as direct ocean beach access, and there’s also a public golf course.

Miami Beach
Lifeguard station on South Beach

Again, both neighborhoods have incredible outdoors spaces and foster an indoor-outdoor lifestyle. You can’t lose living in either one. It’s really a question of whether you prefer a lot of lush greenness or you’re a blue water and sand-in-your-toes kind of person. Hard call, we know.

Arts and Culture: Coconut Grove vs South Beach

Both Coconut Grove and South Beach provide plenty to enjoy for those who love arts and culture. Both neighborhoods feature great street fairs, as well as local galleries. While Coconut Grove is home to the lavish Vizcaya Museum, an architectural wonder that features a collection of amazing antiques surrounded by European-style gardens and a natural mangrove forest, South Beach is home to the edgy Bass Museum of Art, where regularly updated contemporary exhibits feature work by international visionaries and experimental creators, in addition to select Baroque and Renaissance pieces from the Museum’s permanent collection.

Art Basel

Art fairs and cultural festivals abound in both neighborhoods, including the Grove’s popular King Mango Strut, Goombay Festival, Coconut Grove Arts Festival, and The Great Taste of the Grove Food & Wine Festival. On the other hand, South Beach wins for being the host of the annual Art Basel Art Fair, an international art fete at the Convention Center for the world’s top collectors, as well as Design Miami. South Beach is also home to Oolite Arts, which hosts an array of subsidized artist studios that are open to the public, as well as Florida International University Wolfsonian Museum and Library. Finally, South Beach’s long-running winter Antiques Mall on Lincoln Road has been a favorite for decades, and while oodies flock to the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, Fashion Week Miami features the latest in beachwear, and several fitness events and music festivals happen several times a year.

Eating and Shopping: Coconut Grove vs South Beach

South Beach excels in both eating and shopping experiences, but Coconut Grove can also hold its own. The sheer number of tourists that visit South Beach each year means that you’ll have an endless variety of dining options year round. New York’s famous Carbone just opened South of Fifth, with many new dining spots planned. For a more relaxed environment, try the Indian cuisine at Diya in Sunset Harbour, or happy hour on the bay at The Standard Hotel.

Betsy Hotel on Ocean Drive
Photo courtesy of the Betsy Hotel

South Beach is simply packed with restaurants and nightclubs, as well as eclectic and brand-name shopping along the Lincoln Road promenade, including an Apple store, BCBG, Pottery Barn, Anthropologie, Zara and H&M, among many others. On 5th street, you’ll find a Target, TJ Maxx, Ross, and other big box stores.

Cocowalk in Coconut Grove
Cocowalk in Coconut Grove

The Grove, on the other hand, is known for its laid-back, outdoor cafes, sports bars and boutiques, as well as the popular CocoWalk, with an array of food, retail and entertainment.
 Eateries range from upscale restaurants such as Tigertail + Mary, Lulu or Ariete to exotic Indian fare at Bombay Darbar, and Mediterranean fusion at the Peacock Garden Café.

Schools: Coconut Grove vs South Beach

Coconut Grove is a densely residential area, with many single-family homes, and it has some of the best public and private schools in Miami-Dade County, including private Ransom Everglades High School, Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, Saint Hugh, Saint Stephen’s, Coconut Grove Montessori, the Vanguard School, and LaSalle High School. Public schools in the Grove include Coconut Grove Elementary, Frances S. Tucker Elementary, and George Washington Carver Elementary and Middle Schools.

South Beach, on other hand, has many condos, vacation rentals, and hotels, and as such, has fewer schools. It is served by South Pointe and Fienberg Fisher Elementary Schools, Nautilus Middle School, and Miami Beach Sr. High, and private schools such as St. Patrick’s and the Hebrew Academy.

For a list of Miami’s top-ranked private schools, see our blog here.

Architecture and Housing Options: Coconut Grove vs South Beach 

Coconut Grove is a gorgeous mix of old and new, with high-rise and boutique condos, beach bungalows, and spacious single-family homes in old Florida cottage style as well as new modern styles, as well as gated communities featuring waterfront mansions. For families looking for single-family homes, Coconut Grove is your best option.

Carlyle Hotel in South Beach
Art Deco’s Carlyle Hotel in South Beach

South Beach also mixes colorful Art Deco architecture dating back to the 1930’s with glamorous new constructions. Luxurious condo living is what you’ll find in South Beach, with many options ranging from ultra-luxury high-rises, to boutique low-rises, lofts and renovated art deco delights. While single-family homes are less abundant than in the Grove, multi-million dollar options can be found on the Venetian Islands, Sunset Islands, and dotted here and there.

View available condo options in South Beach and Coconut Grove.

Cost of Living: Coconut Grove vs South Beach

Both neighborhoods cater to higher-end buyers and those seeking luxury waterfront properties.  Average listings in the Grove range around $1,278,068, or $569 per square foot, and can run as high as $20,000,000 or $1,987 per square foot. South Beach listings average about $1,250,252, or $722 per square foot, but luxury properties may list for as much as $93,500,000 or $22,959 per square foot. Still, affordable options can be found in both neighborhoods.

Which Neighborhood is Better? Coconut Grove or South Beach?

This really depends on you and what kind of lifestyle you prefer, as the two neighborhoods are vastly different in their pace of life. Coconut Grove is much more laid-back than South Beach, and is anchored by its community feel of full-time residents. If you want to be on the water, enjoying a family-friendly residential lifestyle surrounded by gorgeous trees, while having access to all the perks of living in a big city, such as restaurants, bars, and great shopping, Coconut Grove can check off all of your needs.

Coconut Grove Marina
Photo by Lukas from Pexels

But if you’re a beachgoer that likes to mix a high-low lifestyle with endless options, from riding your beach cruiser in flip-flops to then partying like a rockstar shoulder-to-shoulder with a celebrity or two, or going to yoga on the beach and then dining at some of the country’s most exclusive restaurants, South Beach may just perfect for you.

If you’re interested in more of our neighborhood comparisons, check out these below: 

If you want to talk to locals who really know Miami and can help you figure out which neighborhood is truly ideal for you, we’ll be thrilled to help. Give us a call for more information on the perks and benefits of each location, and let us show you our many available properties in both Coconut Grove and South Beach. We’re here to help you choose your dream home in Miami.

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