MIAGuide

Where To Go That’s Like Pura Vida But Isn't Actually Pura Vida

You deserve better after dodging other people's sweat during a 45-minute spin class that exclusively played Flo Rida.
acai bowl topped with vibrant fruit and granola

photo credit: CLEVELAND JENNINGS / @EATTHECANVASLLC

At some point, you’ve been summoned by friends or family to a place that’s slowly taken over Miami, one acai bowl at a time. It’s called Pura Vida, a Costa Rican motto that’s meant to celebrate a stress-free lifestyle, not $19 turkey wraps and fruit smoothies with stupid names like “vitamin sea.” It’s no secret this healthy chain is absurdly expensive. And the only people smiling in here are wearing yoga pants and probably have their meal comped. And yet, Miami’s 17 Pura Vidas are always packed. Because when you’re in the mood for light sandwiches and smoothies, this pastel blue healthstaurant is an obvious choice. But this city has an abundance of places with better interpretations of healthy bowls and juices that are at least $3 cheaper.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Andrea Grieco

Vegetarian

MiMo

$$$$Perfect For:Keeping It Kind Of HealthyBreakfastLunchOutdoor/Patio SituationVegetarians
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Flora is a crisp MiMo restaurant with a huge outdoor patio, lots of counter seating great for dining solo, and a menu that revolves around vegetables in the form of sandwiches, bowls, and salads. If you are trying to save money, don’t do it here. You will pay $22 for a breakfast sandwich. But at least that sandwich comes with good service and a peaceful environment free from wellness influencers loudly reviewing their Mediterranean salmon wrap into propped-up iPhones. The long tables outside can also fit an obnoxiously large group, in case you’ve made friends with your entire prenatal yoga class.

If you are sick of the homogenized juice bar aesthetic Pura Vida has spread across South Florida, try Miami Squeeze. This Aventura spot doesn’t feel like one big Instagram filter. It’s got an actual personality. There’s an outdoor bar where you can sip your delightful carrot-orange juice. There’s also a covered patio and more nooks where you can be alone with something from the big menu. Options include turkey burger pitas, smoothies, salads, falafel, and more dishes that will make you feel better about not eating a vegetable over the last 30 days.

Aguacate is an animal sanctuary with excellent vegan food and a juice bar. The only chicken here is staring you right in the face and begging for mariquitas while you stuff your mouth with a mushroom burger (her name is Lucy, by the way—the chicken). Plus, they’ve got bowls—acai, a Cuban bowl with vegan picadillo, and animal feed bowls (those are for the goats). Ever been to a Pura Vida with a petting zoo? Didn’t think so. Aguacate also hosts morning and night yoga classes every day. This outdoor spot in Tamiami is pure life and filled with characters we actually enjoy hanging out with, like Lilly (the pig) and Bertha (a cow).

Under The Mango Tree is where you should unwind after a South Beach boot camp where a woman named Ashley screams at you because you phoned in your last set of sumo squats. The menu isn’t as big as Pura Vida, but the food is better, a little cheaper, and there’s a tree inside the space you can hug for emotional support. We like the spicy kale melt, which is mercifully less than $10. The juices and smoothies will still hurt your wallet the way Ashley hurt your confidence to exercise in front of strangers, but at least you can numb that sinking feeling in your stomach with a cold acai bowl.

Beehive relocated several blocks west from its original location, but the minerally smell of vitamins is the same. This is an old school healthstaurant. They sell every kind of supplement imaginable—but there’s also a counter where you can devour daily specials like zucchini lasagna with brown rice and black beans for $10. The special changes daily, and you can also make your own salads or sandwiches. Plus, they have a jackfruit empanada that looks and tastes like barbecue chicken. Order a fresh smoothie to kick that cold your kid picked up from school, and the resentment that’s pierced your soul every time you’ve had to pay for an overpriced smoothie (plus tip).

Naked Farmer is a chain that makes healthy bowls with seasonal ingredients from Florida farms (allegedly). The ordering system is a classic assembly line where you choose your base, sides, and proteins. For the indecisive, they have pre-designed bowls that change every couple of months. If they’re available, get the golden beets and honey-chili brussel sprouts as your sides—they go great with brown rice. The rosemary chicken is well-seasoned and not totally dry (an accomplishment in such places). A meal here is filling, around $16, and maybe good for your cholesterol? It’s a great takeout option but if you’re looking to photosynthesize, their Gables location has prime outdoor seating.

If the thing that turns you off about Pura Vida is the smoothie-clutching mayhem—not the Goop-esque wellness of it all—then maybe try Cafe Smood. This is also one of those fancy health spots where you may hear a server declare that a certain smoothie is “good for your skin and gut health” but at least it’s peaceful inside and the service is good. The food is better than Pura Vida too. The place serves bowls, egg dishes, sandwiches, salads, and a spinach quiche we’d eat again. You can order it all for takeout, but you can also sit at a table and place your order with an actual server.

This tiny Coconut Grove classic has been making healthy salads and sandwiches for about 50 years and already outlived numerous trendy franchises. Their pitas are stuffed with so many vegetables, they tend to split open—so try not to wiggle with joy when you eat them. There are tons of vegan and vegetarian options, but we like the white chicken salad pita. They also have wonderful smoothies, fresh juices, and wheatgrass shots. Seating is sparse, but there’s a diner-style counter, a few stools by the window, and a couple of tables.

Love Life Cafe has always been a reliable place to spend a little too much money on some sort of vegan creation. You can expect to have no shortage of personal space here because the dining room feels like an airplane hangar. There are an almost overwhelming amount of options on the menu: burgers, arepas, pizza, burritos, sushi rolls—all vegan and all pretty tasty. They have a kids menu too in case you want to introduce your little one to a life of $10 juice.

Your quick, healthy options in Downtown are severely limited. But that doesn't mean you have to get sucked into one of Pura Vida's multiple Brickell locations. Instead, just come here. Manna is one of those places good for a quick plant-based breakfast or lunch. They’ve got the usual suspects: acai bowls, smoothies, and veggie bowls. But they also have a great coconut meat ceviche served with arepa wedges, burritos wrapped in nori, and a selection of arepas—which are piled with falafel, avocado, and more tasty things.

Right on 14th and Collins is a two-story cafe with beautiful outdoor seating and enough gluten-free and vegan options to satisfy your most intolerant friend. Blue Lavender tows the line between healthy and unhealthy quite well. Their beef burger is made on a notoriously heavy brioche bun, but instead of fries, it comes with a side of roasted potatoes and carrots. Their tuna salad contains no lettuce and includes fingerling potatoes—objectively more interesting than your average lunch break tuna salad. They make good lavender coffee and unlike most cafes of the healthy genre, they have alcohol. Even though they’re open for dinner, the menu only makes sense for breakfast or lunch. Otherwise the food just feels inappropriate. Kind of like taking a child to a playground at night.

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