- 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.
South of downtown Miami, Coconut Grove is located on a marina, giving it a different vibe from Miami’s beach neighborhoods.
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.
I recently made my first visit to Coconut Grove and found a green paradise and an artsy shopping district.
But as I walked closer to the water, I found tall buildings housing hotels, banks, and other businesses.
Coconut Grove was first established back in 1873 before Miami even existed, The Sun-Sentinel reports.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Source: New York Times
As a result, the new developments are attracting people from the glitzier parts of Miami, according to Conde Nast Traveler.
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.
I found the residential areas to be lush with trees and less walkable. I was often the only pedestrian in sight.
Riding bikes is the best way to see the neighborhood, Conde Nast reports. After seeing people riding down the streets, I agree.
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.
With 16 parks, Coconut Grove is considered one of the greenest parts of the city, according to The New York Times.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The shopping district felt like a middle ground between the peaceful, residential area and the booming bay.
It was walkable, with shops and sidewalk cafes on seemingly every corner.
I can’t help but think that the best part of my trip to Miami was discovering Coconut Grove’s tranquil, oasis-like areas.
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.