When flying in or out of Miami, you have three main options to choose from – MIA, FLL, or PBI. If these acronyms are unfamiliar to you, you’ll probably also need a little help figuring out which of these three airports is the best to use when planning your trip. Below, we’ve summarized useful information on each – about location, ground transport, amenities, and more – to help you decide which will be your port of call when you touch down in Miami.
Miami International Airport
Located just over eight miles from the city center, Miami International Airport (MIA) is the largest airport in Miami and the easiest option to fly into for a visit to central Miami. This airport also has the most ground transportation options for when you land. For maximum convenience, you can take a taxi, available around the clock, which will get you to South Beach in just over a quarter of an hour. From MIA to South Beach expect a flat rate of $35 for destinations through 63rd street in Miami Beach, and $40-55 for stops north of 63rd. Alternatively, an Uber may cost you slightly less, especially if you choose to ride-share. But the advantage of MIA is that it also has great, affordable public transport options. The Metro costs as little as $2.25 for a one way trip, and train fares start from $6.25. The cost and suitability of these will of course vary depending on where you’re staying, but are a significantly cheaper option to a cab. For those staying in Miami Beach, the Miami Beach Airport Express Bus 150 will get you there in about an hour for $2.25 each way, and runs every half an hour – it’s fast, easy, and convenient. Be aware that the public transport doesn’t run 24/7 so just make sure to look at your options depending on your arrival time.
A key feature of any airport are the amenities, you want to be sure you can grab a coffee and a snack when you arrive, and lounge around or do some last minute souvenir shopping before you leave. Travelers will love MIA most for its extensive shopping and dining options. The airport has 73 restaurants which cater to every taste possible, whether you’re in the mood for a greasy burger or a proper fine dining menu. There are also a number of grab and go places to stock up on airplane snacks, as well as popular bars where you can open or close your trip with a drink. And for the shopaholic, MIA hosts over 12 shopping destinations, from designer labels to crafty souvenirs. Across the three terminals you can explore plenty of clothing, beauty, and luxury items to ensure you’re vacation-ready and trendy.
MIA is Miami’s busiest airport, with over 80 airlines serving approximately 150 destinations worldwide. With so many planes going in and out, you have to keep in mind that flights may be delayed from time to time – the average airport delay at MIA is about 15 minutes. Also, in 2021 alone, MIA served over 31 million passengers and was the second busiest airport in the US for international travel. This means there are always lots of people rushing about the airport at all hours of day, particularly queuing up for security and immigration. So, make sure to factor in at least an extra twenty minutes spent in TSA and/or immigration. The good news however, is that whatever your delay, there are any number of interesting shops and restaurants to browse through and kill time.
In terms of convenience, another great thing about MIA is the number of useful facilities readily available throughout the airport. If you need to pull out some cash or change some money, you’ll find 20 ATM machines in every corner of the airport terminals, as well as currency exchange points in six terminals. For families, you’ll find Plane Fun in Concourse E, a fun interactive children’s play area. And for nursing moms, the MIAmamas suites are a quiet and private option, found in each of MIA’s concourses. Finally, for a peaceful moment amidst the hustle and bustle, the Yoga Room in Terminal H is a tranquil space to recenter yourself.
Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport
Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport (FLL) is located just over 30 miles from central Miami city, and is the second biggest in the city. FLL also has a number of transport services operating day and night to get you to where you need to be. While slightly further from the downtown area than MIA, you can still get to Miami Beach by taxi in just over 35 minutes, for $75-95. To save some cash, take the bus. Though not the fastest option, Route 1 service buses are available every ten minutes for $2.25. The commuter train also provides services to Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County – note that there is no train stop at the airport itself, but there is a free shuttle to the nearest Tri-Rail station. Tri-Rail fares are fixed by zones, but are an affordable alternative, ranging from $2.50 to $8.75 depending on the number of zones crossed.
Like MIA, FLL also offers over 70 restaurants across its four terminals. Coffee options are of course available in every terminal, with Starbucks in Terminals 1 and 2, and several smaller cafes in Terminals 3 and 4. For a drink of the stronger kind, Terminal 3 is your best bet with several lively bars, or even head to Terminal 1. For those who are ready to treat themselves on vacation you’ll find a burger or pizza option in every terminal, and alternatively grill and healthier options for those on a strict bikini diet.
The shopping at FLL, while not as extensive as MIA, is also promising. If you’re looking for a great vacation or plane read, there are book and newspaper shops like Hudson Booksellers in Terminals 1 and 2 where you’re bound to pick something up. If you need beach attire, head to Ripcurl in Terminal 1, or A Day At The Beach in Terminal 4 for a browse. And for a trip souvenir, Discover Ft.L. in Terminal 1 is the stop for hats, sweatshirts, magnets and the likes.
While not quite as busy as MIA, there is still plenty of air traffic at FLL, with over 60 domestic and international airlines operating out of it. So like MIA it is wise to anticipate airport delays of up to 15 minutes, as well as security and immigration delays of about 20 minutes. However, to help your planning on the day of, you can conveniently access updated information about the current air traffic delays on the airport’s website.
FLL also has several other helpful facilities to make your travel easier. For those who need a little help planning their itinerary, at the security gate at the arrival block at each terminal you’ll find a tourist information center where you can get local insight. For the business traveler, FLL’s Business Service Center in Terminal 2 conveniently concentrates facilities for US Mail drop-off, faxing, copies, phone cards, stamps, Money Wire, and more. There are also 16 ATM machines present in all terminals, as well as currency exchange points in terminals 2 and 4.
Palm Beach International Airport
Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) primarily serves passengers in and around the Miami metropolitan areas, and is the farthest from the city center, so is perhaps not ideal for those staying in the downtown area. However, PBI has no shortage of convenient ground transport services. A taxi will cost you about $2.64 per mile, which means that if you’re staying in downtown Miami, which is over 70 miles away, this might hurt your wallet. Instead, if you’re staying further away from the airport, try the Tri-Rail for transportation between West Palm Beach and Miami, and with stops at many locations in between. There is also an Amtrak station accessible from the airport, and a shuttle there to ensure you’re not struggling to haul your luggage all over. There is also the Palm Tran, the county’s public buses with regular services all over Palm Beach.
Since PBI is a much smaller airport, its shopping and dining venues are much more limited than its neighbors. Still, you certainly won’t be stranded for a bite or a browse here. Caffeine addicts don’t fret – you can grab a coffee and a muffin throughout the airport, at Starbucks – found in the Main Terminal, and Concourses A, B, and C. For a bigger appetite, try Sam Snead’s in the Main Terminal, or Chili’s Too in Concourse C. There are also a few food markets with grab and go options across the airport, in case you’re dashing to board. Otherwise if you’ve got more time to kill and muscles to relax, head to the All Earth Elements Spa and Shop where you can really treat yourself to a luxurious massage before or after a long travel day, or pick up some high quality lotions and oils to have you feeling zen at any time.
While the amenities may not be as wide-ranging in this smaller airport, the major advantage is that since fewer passengers and airlines operate out of PBI, the delays are generally less. This means you can usually whiz through the security checks in five minutes, though immigration can take a little longer.
For those traveling with pets, the indoor and outdoor pet relief areas at PBI provide nice wood chip and grassy space for pets on the go, to run around before their flight.