Comparing Miami’s Best Beachfront Neighborhoods: Sunny Isles Beach vs Miami Beach

Among Miami’s most desirable neighborhoods are those with beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. If living within walking distance of a sandy beach where you can swim year-round sounds like the lifestyle you want, you’re probably considering moving to one of two beachside communities: Sunny Isles Beach and Miami Beach.

Both Sunny Isles Beach and Miami Beach are located on an island off the Miami mainland. They are separated from each other by just a few miles, with the quiet, residential town Surfside and the glamourous Bal Harbour tucked between them. While they both offer the privilege of direct access to the area’s prized Atlantic beaches and convenient access to major airports, as well as shopping, restaurants and nightlife, there are plenty of differences between them, with each having its own unique feel and lifestyle.

Our neighborhood comparison highlights the differences and similarities between these two oceanfront neighborhoods so you can get a clearer idea as to which would be most ideal for you.

Lifestyle: Sunny Isles vs. Miami Beach

Sunny Isles Beach

Sunny Isles Beach - Photo courtesy of

Sunny Isles Beach is a small community located along the strip of Atlantic coastline north of Bal Harbour, and is primarily a resort community with fabulous beaches, including a clothing-optional beach nearby at Haulover Beach. Sunny Isles Beach is known for its branded high-rise luxury condo towers (
Residences by Armani/Casa, Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, Bentley Residences, and Porsche Design Towers are some of the luxury branded condos here), and assortment of restaurants and shopping areas. With a diverse community, including immigrants from Russia, Canada, and the Americas, the area also welcomes tourists from all over the world year-round.

South Pointe - Miami Beach

South Beach - Photo courtesy of

Miami Beach is a larger and more diverse area consisting of a wider variety of housing options which vary across its different neighborhoods. Typically divided into three main areas, Miami Beach includes:

  • South Beach - South Beach stretches from the southernmost tip of the island north to 24th Street, and is the most densely populated area of the Beach, as well as the most popular among tourists. Its sub-divisions include the Art Deco District, Collins Park, South-of-Fifth, Lincoln Road, Sunset Harbour, West Avenue, Belle Isle, and the Venetian Islands. South Beach is known for its shopping, restaurants, and lively club scene.
  • Mid Beach covers the area from 24th to 63rd Streets and includes the Collins Waterfront strip of luxury condo towers known as Millionaire Row; the Morris Lapidus historic district which includes the famed Fontainebleau Hotel and its adjacent Fountainebleu Tresor, known as Condo Canyon; as well as the gated Allison Island community, and an enclave of luxurious single family residences to the west of Indian Creek. Newer upscale developments in the area, such as the Faena District and the Residences at the Edition Hotel, have infused new vitality to this area, attracting a diverse array of upscale professionals, art lovers, alternative health-seekers, wealthy retirees, and boating aficionados.
  • North Beach runs from 63rd to 88th Streets and includes the area known as Normandy Isles, Altos del Mar, and Biscayne Point. Generally the most family-friendly and affordable area of Miami Beach, North Beach has a wide array of housing options at varying price points, ranging from affordable rental apartments to luxurious waterfront mansions and ritzy condos with ocean views. It also has a lot of parks. If your dream is to own a luxurious single-family home near the ocean, Altos Del Mar may be ideal for you. 

While both neighborhoods are family-friendly, Miami Beach has more services for youth and seniors, such as the North Shore Community Center, Scott Rakow Youth Center and others.

Business: Sunny Isles Beach vs Miami Beach

WeWork - Miami Beach

Both Sunny Isles Beach and Miami Beach enjoy a diverse array of restaurants, retail, and small businesses, such as full-service salons, banks, health professionals, and fitness centers. Being the larger of the two communities, Miami Beach is home to a much larger variety of businesses, such as architectural firms, real estate agents, and WeWork locations, mostly located in the area of South Beach. 

Walkability and Transportation: Sunny Isles vs Miami Beach

CitiBike Miami

CitiBike Miami powered by DecoBike in - Photo courtesy of

Both Sunny Isles Beach and Miami Beach are highly walkable and bikeable communities.  served In Sunny Isles Beach, the beach is always within walking distance, as are local strip malls, with coffee shops, as well as restaurants, and local parks. While it’s easy enough to access local supermarkets, stores and restaurants on foot or bike, you may choose to drive to other areas of the city, such as Brickell, Downtown Miami, and Coral Gables. The bus lines also run frequently along Collins Avenue from South Beach to Aventura.

Miami Beach wins in this category, however. Miami Beach is one of the most walkable areas in Miami and one in which it is fairly easy to live car-free, thanks to an excellent free trolley system, an array of buses, and plenty of commercial areas that are easily accessible on foot or bike from most neighborhoods. The new Brightline train service also provides access to areas on the Miami mainland, and buses from South Beach to Downtown Miami run frequently. Mainland connectivity will be improved even further once the recently-approved Monorail connecting Downtown Miami to the Beach across the MacArthur Causeway is completed.

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

Parks and Greenspace: Sunny Isles vs Miami Beach

Both Sunny Isles Beach and Miami Beach provide direct access to Atlantic Ocean beaches and adjacent parks. Sunny Isles Beach is home to parks such as Heritage Park, a 4-acre oasis of shady walking trails, with two playgrounds for kids and a dog park where furry friends can run free. Town Center Park is a favorite among the health & fitness crowd thanks to its exercise trail and breezy gazebos. Senator Gwen Margolis Park is also a popular spot to enjoy a relaxing picnic or get your sports groove on its well-kept soccer field. Gateway Park is the area’s newest addition, with five acres of shady greenspace that includes a romantic butterfly garden and a stage that hosts performing artists and other cultural events.

Town Center Park - Sunny Isles Beach

Town Center Park - Sunny Isles Beach

Miami Beach was designed as a vacation getaway with swaying palms along the shoreline, sandy beaches, and an oceanfront promenade that stretches from 23
rd to 79th Streets, so it really has some of the best parks in all of Miami. Can’t-miss parks include South Pointe Park in the South of Fifth neighborhood, which spans 17 waterfront acres, with a beachfront trail, picnic areas, children’s playgrounds, an off-leash dog park, direct beach access, and watersports, and a restaurant and cafe, all at the juncture of the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay.  The 36-acre Flamingo Park has an 8-lane lap pool, soccer and baseball fields, tennis courts, and playgrounds, while Lummus Park on Ocean Drive features direct beach access, kids’ playgrounds and concessions. Normandy Shores Golf Course in North Beach provides a great golf escape, while North Beach Oceanside Park provides direct beach access, picnic areas and pavilions, a children’s playground, a fitness trail, and enclosed play areas for dogs.

South Pointe Park

South Pointe Park (South Beach) - Photo courtesy of

Arts and Culture: Sunny Isles Beach vs Miami Beach

Art Basel Miami Beach

Art Basel, Miami - Photo courtesy of

Sunny Isles Beach definitely trails behind Miami Beach as a cultural mecca, but it hosts an Annual Jazz Fest under the stars. Fortunately, Sunny Isles Beach is close enough to Miami Beach to provide easy access to the many cultural offerings that South Beach and Miami Beach is known for, such as the Bass Museum, concerts at the Filmore Theater and New World Symphony, and the yearly Art Basel fair hosted at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The Faena District in Miami Beach also presents artsy events year-round, and the North Beach Bandshell hosts excellent outdoor concerts by well-known and emerging artists from all genres right by the sea, as well as activities for youth such as community skating and tennis.

Eating and Shopping: Sunny Isles Beach vs Miami Beach

Luxury Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Miami | Acqualina Resort

Sunny Isles Beach offers great shopping options at the RK Village Plaza, and top-rated restaurants such as Chayhana Oasis, which serves classic Middle Eastern cuisine, and El Tropico, where you can enjoy authentic Cuban food. For a great steak, try La Barra, a traditional Argentine steak house serving choice cuts of meat. For quick healthy eats, try Sproutz or Miami Juice. At the Epicure Restaurant and Gourmet Market you can shop for gourmet specialties and enjoy lunch on the premises. Acqualina Resort offers an elegant dining experience, while the Beach Bar at Newport Pier serves up refreshing cocktails on the water.

Smith & Wollensky Steak House in South Pointe Park

Miami Beach is home to an endless array of great eateries, including such classics as Joe’s Stone Crab and the famed Smith & Wollensky Steak House in South Pointe Park on the water. Gitano Miami at Casa Faena features regional Mexican cuisine from the Yucatan region on a fabulous rooftop terrace. Sunset Harbour is filled with delightful oceanfront eateries where you can enjoy outdoor dining overlooking the water, such as Stiltsville for classic seafood, Diya Indian cuisine, Sardinia Enoteca for authentic Italian, or the whimsical Pubbelly Sushi, where Sushi meets Latin fusion. If you want to keep things Kosher, try the delicious Middle Eastern specialties at Grill House Miami on Arthur Godfrey Road. In North Beach, Little Brazil offers the best local Brazilian cuisine, while Merkado 31 serves up unforgettable Peruvian fusion.

Miami Schools: Sunny Isles Beach vs Miami Beach

Both Sunny Isles Beach and Miami Beach are home to great public schools. Students in Sunny Isles Beach are served by Norman S. Edelcup, which offers K–8 education for students in Sunny Isles Beach, Eastern Shores, and Golden Beach. Bay Harbor Elementary School in nearby Bay Harbor Islands, is also an option.  Students in Sunny Isles Beach typically attend high school at Michael Krop Sr. HS in Aventura, or Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Sr. HS in North Miami Beach, of the MAST Academy magnet at the FIU Biscayne Bay Campus.  Students may also attend private schools in the area such as Sunny Isles Kids’ Club and the Magic School Montessori Music School, or nearby Miami Country Day School in mainland North Miami.

Miami Beach is home to some of the most highly-ranked public elementary schools in greater Miami, including North Beach Elementary (ironically located in South Beach), Fienberg-Fisher Elementary, South Pointe Elementary, and Biscayne Elementary in North Beach.  The Mater Academy at Mt. Sinai in Mid-Beach serves the entire island of Miami Beach, as well as children of Mt. Sinai Hospital employees. Miami Beach students may also attend private schools, such as Lehman Day School, Hebrew Academy, St. Patrick’s School, and others.

Miami Architecture and Housing Options: Sunny Isles Beach vs Miami Beach

Sunny Isles has seen a bevy of new luxury-branded condo developments in recent years, including many that have broken records in terms of property values and sales, such as The Estates at Acqualina, Parque Towers, and Chateau Beach Residences. The area is known for its many hotel-condominium towers where you can enjoy year-round resort-style living. Many of the newer buildings include state-of-the-art amenities such as floor-to-ceiling glass walls with dazzling ocean views, residential in-suite elevators, top-of-the-line fitness centers, yoga studios, infinity pools, salons, spas, and commercial retail right on the premises, as well as concierge and valet parking.  Some older buildings in the area provide more affordable housing options with fewer amenities, yet still include ocean views and beach access, such as La Perla.

1 Hotel & Homes

South Beach is home to a wide variety of luxurious high rises and boutique buildings such as the beachfront 
1 Hotel and Homes, Monad Terrace, the Continuum I and II, and the elegant Apogee in the posh South of Fifth neighborhood. If you’d prefer a smaller boutique condo, consider Absolut Lofts or Louver House. In Mid-Beach you’ll find the iconic Blue Diamond and Green Diamond, and the chic Faena House in the heart of the buzzing Faena District. North Beach is home to the posh Akoya and the Carrillon Miami Wellness Resort and Residencies, a unique resort-condominium with one of the area’s most elegant spas. If you’re charmed by the elegant isolation of the Venetian Islands, you might like Nine Island Avenue or the Grand Venetian.

Cost of Living: Sunny Isles vs Miami Beach

Both Sunny Isles and Miami Beach offer various types of condo living at various price points, with both attracting their fair share of high-end residences and buyers. Condo listings in Sunny Isles Beach average about $514 per square foot and higher, with record-breaking higher-end listings in the multi-millions.

Miami Beach listings vary by area, with South Beach listings averaging $1,234,712 or $728 per square foot and higher-end property listings going for multi-millions or $2,000 per square foot. Mid-Beach listings average $1,183,395, or about $671 per square foot, with higher-price properties going for about $1,600 per square foot and higher. In North Beach you may find more affordable listings in the range of $880,551, or about $616 per square foot, with higher-end listings going upwards of $2,000 and higher per square foot depending on the size of the residence and its location.

Should I Choose Sunny Isles Beach or Miami Beach?

Every person or buyer is looking for a specific type of lifestyle, residence and amenities, as well as a specific price point. If you crave a vibrant, diverse urban community where arts and culture surrounds you, and you’ll rarely have to use your car, Miami Beach might be the ideal location for you. If you’d prefer the perpetual vacation experience of living in a condo resort with state-of-the-art amenities and breathtaking ocean views, fewer tourists, and a community feel, you might be happier in Sunny Isles Beach.

To see more of our Miami neighborhood comparisons, check out the following: 

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