I visited Miami’s oldest neighborhood and discovered a lush, one-of-a-kind oasis unlike the rest of the city

(R) Pink picnic tables in the shade on a street in Coconut Grove (L) the author takes a selfie with palm trees and bushes in the background
The author went to Miami’s oldest neighborhood, Coconut Grove, and found a shady tropical paradise. Joey Hadden/Insider
  • Coconut Grove is Miami’s oldest neighborhood and feels like a shady, tropical, Bahamian paradise.
  • But the neighborhood is quickly changing, with luxury apartments, hotels, and offices on the rise.
  • I visited and wonder if this special enclave is about to become like the rest of Miami.

Welcome to Coconut Grove, Miami’s oldest neighborhood known for its leafy streets.
A shady walk way in a Coconut Grove park
A shady park in Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
Source: Sun-Sentinel
South of downtown Miami, Coconut Grove is located on a marina, giving it a different vibe from Miami’s beach neighborhoods.
A map of coconut grove
A map of Miami shows Coconut Grove. Google Maps
But new developments in the neighborhood put it at risk of losing its unique feel as new construction replaces older homes and natural spaces, The Sun-Sentinel reports.
A Coconut Grove scene with a big tree on the right and a road and some buildings on the left
Construction and new buildings in Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
Source: Sun-Sentinel
I recently made my first visit to Coconut Grove and found a green paradise and an artsy shopping district.
The author and a building in  Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood
The author visits Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
But as I walked closer to the water, I found tall buildings housing hotels, banks, and other businesses.
A scene in Coconut Grove with buildings on the left and palm trees on the right
A street near the water. Joey Hadden/Insider
Coconut Grove was first established back in 1873 before Miami even existed, The Sun-Sentinel reports.
Close-ups of tree branches in Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood
A lush area of Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
Source: Sun-Sentinel
In the 1870s, Bahamians settled here because the tropical landscape felt familiar, and the Florida Homestead Act provided nearly free land, Conde Nast Traveler reports.
A lush residence in Coconut Grove
A shady driveway in Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
In the 1900s, the new Florida East Coast Railway brought in wealthy white people looking to build winter homes in Coconut Grove, according to the same source.
A shaded street in Coconut Grove
A 20th-century estate in Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
Then creatives moved in, from Robert Frost to Tennessee Williams, Conde Nast Traveler reports. Perhaps for the same reason others were drawn to the area — the tropical landscape and affordable living, Boca Raton Magazine reports.
A museum store front in Coconut Grove
The Coconut Grove Historical Museum. Joey Hadden/Insider
Joe Donato, a jazz saxophonist who lived near Coconut Grove in 1970, told Boca Raton Magazine he was intrigued by “the way they let things grow … like a jungle.”
The influx of artists moving in made Coconut Grove a “hippy haven” by the 1960s, comparable to NYC’s Greenwich Village and San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, The New York Times reported.
Unique artistic buildings in Coconut Grove
A mural in Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
The neighborhood’s theaters and festivals brought audiences to the area, Boca Raton Magazine reports. This put Coconut Grove on the map as a destination for the arts, according to The New York Times.
More recently, Coconut Grove is becoming known for its real estate boom as luxury apartments and hotels go up along the bay, The New York Times reported in 2020.
Buildings near a dock in Coconut Grove
Buildings on the bay in Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
Source: New York Times
As a result, the new developments are attracting people from the glitzier parts of Miami, according to Conde Nast Traveler.
A residential complex in Coconut Grove
A residential building in Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
The neighborhood is so big, I visited it twice. On the first day, I explored the residential parts of the neighborhood. On the second, I wandered busy streets full of shops, businesses, and hotels.
Two sides of coconut grove: spacious, lush, residential and shopping clusters with hotels and banks
The two sides of Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
I found the residential areas to be lush with trees and less walkable. I was often the only pedestrian in sight.
A traffic light with trees surrounding it in Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood
A shady street in Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
Riding bikes is the best way to see the neighborhood, Conde Nast reports. After seeing people riding down the streets, I agree.
People bike on a shady street in Coconut Grove
People ride bikes through Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
While you won’t find stores and restaurants in the residential area of Coconut Grove, it is full of lush parks with walking and biking paths.
A pathway between trees in a park in Coconut Grove
A trail in a park in Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
With 16 parks, Coconut Grove is considered one of the greenest parts of the city, according to The New York Times.
A sign for Steele Mini Park in Coconut Grove
Steele Mini Park in Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
I thought these peaceful streets were the most beautiful part of Coconut Grove. They made me feel like I wasn’t even in Miami anymore.
A hidden driveway full of trees in Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood
A hidden driveway in the residential area of Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
I stumbled upon The Vizcaya Museum and Garden, an early 20th-century estate-turned National Historic Landmark surrounded by 10 acres of gardens, according to Conde Nast Traveler.
Outside of the gardens and museum in Coconut Grove
The Vizcaya Museum and Garden entrance and Trolley stop. Joey Hadden/Insider
It wasn’t open during my visit, but I hope to see the gardens next time I’m in Miami.

Source: Conde Nast Traveler

Next, I visited more developed areas and found shopping centers, sidewalk cafes, and many hotels, and I felt like I was in Miami again.
The Ritz-Carlton in Coconut Grove
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
New office buildings in this more developed area are drawing creative, tech, and finance companies, with luxury architecture and modernized shopping strips, The New York Times reports.
A modern building in Coconut Grove
New developments in Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
Coconut Grove is also known as a shopping hub. Independently owned boutiques line its streets, as does CocoWalk, a mall with brands from GAP to Victoria’s Secret.
Cocowalk shops in Coconut Grove
The CocoWalk mall in Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
The shopping district felt like a middle ground between the peaceful, residential area and the booming bay.
People gather in front of shops in Coconut Grove
People wait to cross the street in Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
It was walkable, with shops and sidewalk cafes on seemingly every corner.
A shaded outdoor dining area in Coconut Grove
A shady street of sidewalk cafes and shops in Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
I can’t help but think that the best part of my trip to Miami was discovering Coconut Grove’s tranquil, oasis-like areas.
The author surrounded by greenery in Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood
The author in shady Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider
As development expands in Coconut Grove, I hope this historic neighborhood won’t lose its roots and the intriguing appeal that makes it so special.
A bunch of trees clumped together in Coconut Grove
Trees grow in Coconut Grove. Joey Hadden/Insider