Literally Everything You Need to Know About Miami International Airport

Despite an exceptionally high passenger volume, MIA offers a pretty smooth trip

April 18, 2023 6:00 am
Airplane flying over an ocean and bodies of land.
The Miami International Airport recently surpassed the Orlando International Airport for the title of busiest airport in Florida.
Courtesy of Miami-Dade Aviation Department

It’s not always amazing when MIA makes the news: Recent headlines include “Chirping Suitcase Leads to Egg-Smuggling Arrest at Miami Airport” and more reports of travelers biting police officers than might seem reasonable. Beyond that, though, and despite handling 50 million-plus travelers a year, MIA is surprising mostly in that it offers those arriving in and departing from Miami a peaceful trip. 

One of the busiest airports in the United States, Miami International Airport has more flights to the Caribbean and Latin America than any other airport in the country. Spread over 3,000 acres near downtown Miami, it recently surpassed Orlando International Airport for the title of busiest airport in Florida. 

I fly out of MIA at least once a month, and considering the sheer volume of passengers, I’ve found the experience to be pretty smooth. The airport is well-organized, with an easy-to-follow layout of three terminals (North, Central and South) spread across three levels. Arrivals and baggage claims are on Level 1, Level 2 is for ticketing and departures, and Level 3 is designated for terminal connections. For first-timers, the Miami International Airport may be overwhelming, but below we have a guide to everything you need to know.

What airlines fly into MIA? 

Miami International Airport has over 90 air carriers, including major airlines like American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest. American Airlines established MIA as a connection hub in 1989, and today the airline serves 140 destinations out of Miami. 

Other major international carriers operating out of MIA include United Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, JetBlue, Air Canada and Air France. The airport is also home to regional carriers like Cayman Airlines, Caribbean Airlines and Bahamasair. 

The newest air services at MIA include French Bee, which offers direct service from Miami to Paris, a new direct flight to Vancouver via Air Canada and Volaris El Salvador, providing service to San Salvador.  

What are the best restaurants at MIA? 

In the North Terminal (Gate D), Cafe Versaille is popular, with Cuban sandwiches, Cuban coffee and pastelitos. In the same terminal, Shula’s Bar and Grill serves steaks and burgers, 305 Pizza has square-shaped pies with generous toppings, and Sushi Maki has spring rolls, sushi tacos and Kobe beef sliders. 

At MIA’s Central Terminal (Gates E, F and G), Chef Creole has Caribbean staples like oxtail and peas and rice on the menu, and Half Moon Empanadas has countertop service with savory and sweet empanadas. Finally, my top pick for MIA’s South Terminal (Gates H and J) is croquetas and lechón asado at Bongos Cuban Cafe. 

What are the best hotels at/near MIA? 

If you have an extended layover at MIA or you’re flying in to catch a cruise, there are several solid hotels near the airport. If you don’t want to actually leave the property, consider checking into the Miami International Airport Hotel, located on the second floor of Terminal E. Guestrooms have soundproof windows, and the lobby restaurant, Vienna, is great for cocktails, wood-fired flatbreads and hearty pasta dishes. 

The Best Western Plus Miami Airport North Hotel and Suites is another convenient, affordable option. Less than a mile from the airport, the hotel has large, contemporary rooms, and a stay includes complimentary breakfast. 

A little further away, The Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Miami Airport South – Blue Lagoon is about a 10-minute ride via a free shuttle. The hotel also has complimentary breakfast, an outdoor pool and connecting rooms for families and large groups. Inside, the rooms and suites have been updated with sleek furniture and comfortable beds. 

Another nearby hotel is Candlewood Suites Miami International Airport – 36th St. The property has 130 studios with kitchens and also offers a free shuttle from the airport, which is just eight minutes away. The suites are clean and modern and have a convenient workstation and sitting area.

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What’s the best way from MIA to South Beach? 

After landing at MIA, most travelers make a beeline to South Beach, Miami’s famous stretch of beachfront. There are a few ways to get to South Beach, but the most convenient way is via a rideshare app like Uber or Lyft or via a taxi.  

If you want your own wheels during your stay, head to the airport’s MIA Car Rental Center, which is open 24 hours a day and includes national brands like Avis, Budget and Enterprise.Though car rentals are available, overnight parking on South Beach is expensive (most hotels are valet-only), and finding a parking spot can be time-consuming. If you do rent a car, look for public parking garages offering overnight parking. Another option is public transportation: The Miami Beach Airport Express bus costs $2.25 and departs every 30 minutes from the Metrorail station. 

How long does it take to get from South Beach to MIA? 

South Beach is about 10 miles away from the Miami International Airport, but depending on the traffic and your transportation, it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour. Like most cities, traffic will swell during morning and afternoon rush hours, and you can expect even longer travel times during special events. My advice is to plan ahead and be patient, and if you’re using a rideshare app, consider scheduling your ride in advance to avoid long waits. 

A locals-only tip

The official MIA app actually will make your life a lot easier, with a live map, TSA Security wait times and flight notifications. And for a smooth eating experience at MIA, consider ordering through the app or online so you can pick up your food when it’s ready and avoid long lines. 


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