The Miami Palapa Power Rankings

Because life is better in a palapa.
Exterior of Reyes Juice Fruits & Nursery

photo credit: Cleveland Jennings

You may know them as tiki huts, but these are more than just a hobby bar your dad built by the pool for his friends to drink Mai Tais. These giant structures with dried palm frond roofs keep things cool all year round—making them the perfect environment for enjoying conch fritters, Cuban sandwiches, and, yes, Mai Tais. These are our favorite ones in Miami, ranked from make-you-feel-like-you're-in-a-Corona-commercial to perfectly enjoyable.


photo credit: Cleveland Jennings



$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsKidsDancingLive Music
Earn 3x points with your sapphire card

Giant platters of beef, a live band shredding an electric harp, Venezuelan dancers, and frozen piña coladas—all under a palapa that could double as a megachurch for those who worship meat. Welcome to Nando, where you’ll find tender carne en vara (salted meat cooked on a rod over an open flame), pork ribs, cachapas, and so much more piled high on lazy susans. This is by far the most fun palapa out there. There’s dancing and singing. It’s great for big groups, and kids can party in the bounce house or pet donkeys. At night, the music turns up—and things get wild with flashing lights and smoke machines. Just know that this is a part-time palapa that’s only open on Friday nights and all day on Saturdays and Sundays. Music starts around 3pm, so plan accordingly.

Louie’s feels like sneaking into a Miami Beach hotel. Except instead of being asked to leave by an annoyed manager, you’re invited to stay, relax, and eat delicious things between bread. This Cuban concept in the back of a Mid-Beach hotel is one of the only local-friendly options a mere 15 yards from the sand. They make a very meaty Cuban sandwich and a simple smashburger, which are both among the best in town. The palapa is small, but in a good way. You’ll probably get to know your palapa peers after a couple drinks (there’s a full bar, by the way) and it’s a great place to remind yourself that hanging out in a hut next to the beach isn’t only for tourists.

It’s a small honey and fruit market, a fresh juice bar, and has the absolute best pan con minuta around. You’ll find this Cuban palapa in Redland, which is also where they're sourcing the fish for the minuta and pork for the lechon. Even on a hot summer day, the breeze from Black Creek Canal’s flowing water keeps you cool while you eat here. Get a giant box full of vaca frita too. But do not leave without reaching your hand into one of the refrigerators on the side of the straw hut and grabbing some dulce de leche cortada with sugary milk curds that squeak when you bite them.

You’re not coming to Monty’s for the food (although the conch fritters are pretty good). You’re here for the views of the bay, strong frozen drinks, and to channel Jimmy Buffett’s spirit by putting empty oyster shells to your ear and listening for the sweet melodies of “Margaritaville” (RIP, Jimmy). You can usually catch a live band by the raw bar, too. Monty’s is a Grove classic that’s been around for over 50 years. We’re pretty sure those lacquered tables are about the same age too. The whole place is one giant palapa with smaller tiki huts around the perimeter. It’s a good place to meet up with friends, watch the boats come and go from the nearby marina, and sip on sugary rum drinks from plastic cups.

photo credit: Cleveland Jennings



OpenTable logo

Sitting outside is really your only option at this Turkish restaurant in Upper Buena Vista, which is always a good backup plan if you can’t get into Mandolin. You can grab a table near the kitchen next to a giant 120-year-old banyan tree or snag a few seats inside their palapa. This thing has so much straw, you’d think one of three little pigs lived here. But this hut is sturdy, and even a wolf with a marathon runner’s VO2 max, could’t threaten it. The food here is good enough, but prioritize any of the boreks (flaky meat pies) or mezes.

The actual golden rule at this palapa is: order anything fried, and you’re good. That includes light and sweet conch fritters, stuffed po’ boys, and crunchy coconut shrimp. There are two tiki situations to choose from at Golden Rule (the grand or garden hut). We like the grand—it’s about the size of an airplane hangar, has lots of TVs, and mini waterfalls that sound like background noise at a day spa. But the really cool thing about these palapas is that there’s a small indoor fish market filled with nautical tchotchkes right next to them. There, you can buy alligator meat, stone crabs, and a lot more.

This is the second option on this guide if you’re looking for big platters of meat in southwest Dade. This hut is a bit smaller than Nando, but it does have a bigger stage and a tiny go-kart race track by the entrance. Given the amount of potholes you’ll have to dodge on the long road to JH, we’ll pass on the race track. The food isn’t quite as good as Nando’s—the steak is pleasantly smoky but the arepitas are so greasy, you could use them to change the oil on those little go-karts. You can still have fun here thanks to live llanera music, and plenty of picnic tables long enough to keep your dad from strangling your little sister’s affectionate new boyfriend during her birthday party.

The Chef Creole drive-thru can get a little hectic, so put that Toyota in park, order at the counter, and enjoy your oxtail and conch underneath their little palapa, which is the only place to sit down and eat here. This palapa, unfortunately, doesn’t come with a stellar view (unless you find NW 54th St. sexy). But it does come with some really solid Haitian and Caribbean food served in generous portions at reasonable prices with access to cold Prestige. That’s better than staring at your check engine light while you wait 20 minutes in the drive-thru.

Chase Sapphire Card Ad

Suggested Reading

A table next to a lagoon at Zoi.

The Best Outdoor Restaurants In Miami

Spots for those days when you feel guilty eating inside.

The Best Outdoor Bars In Miami   image

Some great bars for those days when a roof just feels unnecessary.

Outdoor tables next to Biscayne Bay.

If you’re trying to eat outside and stare at the water, head to one of these spots.

Three tripe tacos with guacamole, pico de gallo, and cilantro in a takeout box.

The best milkshakes, tacos, cinnamon buns, and the key lime pies in the county.

Infatuation Logo


2024 © The Infatuation Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The views and opinions expressed on The Infatuation’s site and other platforms are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of (or endorsement by) JPMorgan Chase. The Infatuation and its affiliates assume no responsibility or liability for the content of this site, or any errors or omissions. The Information contained in this site is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.


Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store