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A Sunny South Florida Vacation Without the Thongs and Six-Packs

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If you're thinking of a Florida vacation, but would rather skip the over-populated, see-and-be-seen sands of South Beach, Sunny Isles Beach, Miami offers a quieter, more family-friendly and adult-happy alternative. Same sun, shores and waters ... fewer thongs and six-pack abs.

Sunny Isles Beach

The Haulover Bridge, completed in 1925, connects Miami Beach to the 2.26-square mile tract called Sunny Isles. Over the years, developers have widened streams, dug canals, and created islands for waterfront properties on Biscayne Bay. As an oceanfront town (20,000 people) bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Intracoastal Waterway to the west, Sunny Isles is just 11 miles up Collins Avenue from the din of South Beach. Motels and beachfront hotels from the 1950s sit side by side with new luxury high-rise condominiums and the elegant hotels that dot the shoreline.

Trump International Beach Resort

The Trump International Beach Resort (18001 Collins Avenue) jets up 31 stories with spectacular views of the Atlantic and an uncrowded beachfront that runs forever. Guests, whether vacationers or conventioneers from the U.S. or Latin America, tend to be understated couples, families and adults, rather than the skimpily-clad twentysomething revelers (e.g. Snooki and the Situation) from Ocean Drive or the glitzy social climbers from the Fontainebleau (which is bigger than the Titanic).
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Among the 390 rooms are one- and two-bedroom suites with living rooms and kitchens. Vast marble bathrooms with Jacuzzis and walk-in showers are private, as are the balconies. A contemporary American menu at the hotel's indoor/outdoor restaurant, Neomi's, provides a tropical flair: mojo skirt steak (with corn and tomato relish, plantain chips stewed black beans and mojo-churri); salmon adobo (chili spice-rubbed salmon, with tostones, papaya-mango chutney, and crema); for dessert lemongrass flan; and cocktails that include a blackberry caipirinha (homemade blackberry-orange marmalade, mint, and caçhaca).

Staying in one of the private cabanas, where massages are available, is an added luxury whether you're lounging on the beach or by the hotel's pools. The grounds include two condo towers and four tennis courts. The gym is well- equipped, enabling guests to do a full workout, which they can follow with a relaxing facial, mineral bath, or body scrub at the Aquanox Spa, which caters to both men and women (from body wraps to waxing). After a couple of hours on the tennis courts and a work out in the gym, your body will appreciate the "Traveling Man" two-hour treatment ($225), which features a brisk salt and eucalyptus oil exfoliation, followed by a eucalyptus herbal bath and ends with a relaxing massage. Trust me, your muscles will thank you.

In and Around Sunny Isles

Charter boats docked along the Intracoastal Waterway at Haulover Beach Park offer deep-sea fishing. Haulover's nine-hole par 3 golf course and tennis courts beckon sports enthusiasts. If you want to see how the locals spend their leisure time, head to Oleta River State Park for the mountain bike trails, kayaking, canoeing and family-friendly picnic pavilions.
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A 10-minute drive down to 9700 Collins Avenue takes you to the upscale Bal Harbour Shops mall, which is as ritzy as Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue. Armani, Bottega Veneta, Tiffany, Jimmy Choo, Neiman Marcus, Ermenegildo Zegna, and a host of luxury stores and restaurants make this Florida's hottest shopping destination. Unlike Rodeo or Fifth though, this mall is rarely crowded, has great sales, the best goods aren't picked over and the salespeople are truly friendly.

Free shuttle-bus service takes you to the Aventura Mall (19501 Biscayne Blvd.), a short ride across the Lehman Causeway, where you'll find Bloomingdale's, J.C. Penney, Macy's, Nordstrom's, an Apple store and a 25-screen multiplex.

Consider planning your Sunny Isles adventure around one of these upcoming events:

June 10 - 13, 2010: Third Annual Sunny Isles Beach Offshore Powerboat Challenge. Professional offshore race teams and fans from all over the world stream into Sunny Isles Beach to watch amateurs and professionals alike compete in the Bimini Ocean Challenge.
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October 15 -17 2010: Third Annual Sunny Isles beach Jazz Festival. The extraordinary sounds of jazz flow throughout the weekend event and benefit Joshua's Heart Foundation. Renowned musicians and notable local jazz artists play on a backdrop of 2 ½ miles of the Atlantic Ocean, in one of the most beautiful oceanfront parks. In years past, local residents and visitors from around the world gathered to hear groups like The Neville Brothers.

Some might live for the incessant partying and people watching of South Beach, but if you're looking for peace, quiet, and leisure-time fun, Sunny Isles beckons.

For more information on Sunny Isles Beach, visit www.sunnyislesbeachmiami.com.

Visit travel writer Dwight Brown at www.DwightBrownInk.com.