Miami makeover nears completion

Miami Duty Free ShoppingMiami International has completed a startling transformation in the past five years. This once ageing, congested international hub has dragged itself into the modern era thanks to a massive $6.2 billion capital program which has already seen the opening of one new terminal (South Terminal) in 2007, and the partial opening of another (North Terminal) in September 2010.

July 2010 also saw the opening of a high-tech car rental centre, which is linked to a new automated people mover, which will whisk people to Miami’s downtown business and shopping districts. It is all a far cry from the airport’s humble origins in the late 1920s as a single hangar next to a dirt runway etched out of the bush and palms, and used by Pan American Airways’ rickety, eight-seater amphibious flying boats destined for Cuba.

Travellers love the ample amenities and the stunning art galleries located in the South and Central Terminals. How many airports have you been to that can boast a dedicated pet relief area, for example? More pertinently, scores of new shops, bars and restaurants (many with a suitably local Latin flavour) have opened at the airport in recent years. So read on for our guide to the best places to shop, eat and drink at Miami International.!

Miami South Terminal Shopping

The airport’s new South Terminal opened back in 2007 at a cost of $1.1 billion. It handles around a quarter of all the passenger traffic passing through the airport, serving major carriers such as Delta, Aerolineas Argentinas, Lufthansa and United. The terminal boasts over 60 shops and restaurants, the vast majority of them located post-security.

One notable exception is the Jetsetter Spa (Concourse H), which is open daily from 08.00-21.00 hrs. It features five treatment rooms, where you can choose from a long list of beauty treatments, which include all the usual pedicures, manicures facials and so on. More unusual are the futuristic sleep pods, which offer stressed travellers the chance to cocoon themselves away from the outside world for an all-too brief 30-minute nap for a $15 fee.

Once through security why not browse the excellent Cubavera fashion store (Concourse J), which specialises in the classic Latin American guayabera, a four-pocket embroidered tropical shirt? You will also find a variety of laidback suit separates, shorts, jackets and trousers• perfect for the hot, humid weather of Miami, but perhaps not ideal for Manchester in December!The terminal also features a number of brands familiar at other US airports such as Tech Showcase (electronics), Sunglass Hut (the name says it all), L’Occitane (French beauty products) and Brookstone (gadgets). Bijoux Terner is another common sight at US airports, a $10 discount store selling men and women’s fashion accessories, jewellery and gifts of surprisingly good quality.

If you are heading for another Spanish-speaking part of the world, you could head over to the Rosetta Stone (Concourse J) to brush up on your language skills. Alternatively, browse Duty Free America’s well-stocked duty-free shops, which sell a full range of fragrances, cosmetics, liquor and tobacco, on Concourses H and J.

This is America so fast food choices are wide • take your pick from McDonald’s, Nathan’s Hot Dogs or Pizza Hut. Our advice though would be to skip the Big Mac in favour of Bongo’s (Concourse J), a Cuban café-cum-restaurant chain originally set up by pop diva Gloria Estefan and her husband, Emilio. Here you can fill up on Cuban favourites such as Ceviche, Pork tamale, fried cassava and Cuban style rice pudding.

Miami Airport Central Terminal

Miami Central Terminal Shopping

In stark contrast to its neighbouring terminals Miami International’s Central Terminal needs a spruce up. This 1950s-era terminal, which is used by airlines such as American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and Iberia, is showing its age. There are plans afoot to try and find a private developer to fund an ambitious $2 billion makeover.
In the meantime, the shopping offer lacks the depth and variety of the airport’s newer terminals, the bulk of it being concentrated pre-security. You’ll find yet more Duty Free Americas stores on Concourses E and F, and there are also more outlets from Sunglass Hut, Brookstone, and Tech Showcase.

On the plus side fashion is well represented in the Central Terminal. For example, head to Ron Jon (Concourse G) for all the trendiest names in surf- and skate-themed fashion lines, accessories, footwear and swimwear such as O’Neill, Quiksilver, Ripcurl and Billabong. In addition, Havana Shirts (Concourse E) offers the same sort of relaxed Latino fashion wear as Cubavera, while Jack George sells smart business briefcases, laptop bags, handbags, wallets and leather accessories.

Retail after security is strictly limited to three Duty Free Americas shops of varying sizes, yet another Sunglass Hut and a newsagent. The dining offer is much better though• you will find excellent craft brews at the Samuel Adams pub, good coffees and smoothies at Guava and Java, and spicy burgers, salads and Tex-Mex favourites at Chili’s.If you fancy a drink before the ordeal of clearing security, why not down a mojito, daiquiri or Cuba libre cocktail at the Casa Bacardi bar on Concourse E? Non-alcoholic beverages aren’t in short supply either with the likes of Starbucks, Café Versailles and Cafe La Carreta catering to those in need of their daily caffeine hit. Dining choices include Japanese (Sushi Bar/Concourse E), and Italian (Cozzolis Pizza/Concourse G and Sbarro/Concourse F).

Miami Airport North Terminal
See our new 2012 guide Miami North Terminal

The new North Terminal was very much a work in progress. Now finished it boast 50 gates, a state-of-the-art baggage screening and delivery system, a high-speed security area, and will be capable of handling more than 30 million passengers a year.

Phase I of the new facility, which is being used by American Airlines, opened in November 2009. It boasts a raft of news stores and restaurants including an art gallery from one of Miami’s most famous artists, Brazilian-born Romero Britto. Shop Britto (Gate 32) features prints, posters, souvenirs, clothing and collectibles from the colourful Britto, who has painted such celebrities as Dustin Hoffman, Michael Jackson and Andre Agassi.Other post-security shops include two Duty Free Americas shops, Hudson News, Sunglass Hut, another Bijoux Terner store, and the self-explanatory Books & Books. If you want a gift for a sweet-toothed love one, look for the Boca Bons shop, a New York-based brand famed for its mix of truffles, fudge and brownies “all mixed into one”.

If you want to grab a bite to eat there is a Pizza Hut pre-security, but the choice is much wider airside. There are three Au Bon Pain outlets offering healthy sandwiches, soups and salads, and plenty of not so healthy choices (Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, the Islander Bar & Grill and Villa Pizza). Asian food lovers will be relieved to find either the Manchu Wok or Sushi Maki outlets.