How to Boat Around Miami if You Don’t Have Rich Friends

Look like a baller—even if you’re not.

Boat on Miami River
Getty Images

People who don’t live in Miami generally assume we locals fill our time between bottle servicecruising around on a boat. And while it’s always painful to watch their disappointment as we explain our sitting-in-traffic to living-like-T-Pain ratio, once in a while it’s nice to get out on that big, aquamarine playground. Of course, owning a boat is a financial decision right up there with going to E11ven after 5 am. And finding friends willing to invite you on their boats is excessively difficult unless you happen to be an Instagram “model.” So what’s a water-loving Miamian—or visitor to Miami—to do? Well, you’ve got plenty of options…

People Celebrating a Birthday on a Boat
GetMyBoat | GetMyBoat

Take over someone else’s boat

Owning a boat is expensive, which is probably the main reason you don’t have one. Boat owners around South Florida mitigate their costs by renting them out to people by the hour or day, and if you’ve got enough people this might be the most cost-effective method of making your nautical dreams come true. GetMyBoat is a little like Turo for boats, where you can peruse a collection of other people’s watercraft and select which one you want. Click and Boat is a similar concept.

Charter a private boat

If you’re looking to rent a boat, but want a more full-service experience with a captain and cleanup crew, look at chartering a yacht or smaller boat through a local company. You’ll find everything from multi-level party yachts to tiki boats at Miami Charters. If just you and a few friends want something a little smaller, try Miami Yachting Company or Miami Yacht Charters. Or, if you’d like to do things a little more local and a little less corporate, Miami is full of charter brokers who’ll hook you up.

Women Posing on Boat
Miami Party Boat Rentals | Miami Party Boat Rentals

Yes, you’re going to have that Little Big Town song stuck in your head, and you’re probably going to have to make a rule about people insisting the mountains are blue. But other than that these pontoon rentals might be the best deal in boat rentals, as you’ll get a big, flat vessel that seats up to ten people for as little as $300 a half day or $500 a day. You won’t be racing any drug runners, but you will have a relaxing way to tool around the afternoon under a shaded canopy. If you’re planning to enjoy more than a few of those blue mountain cans, captains are available for hire for $180 per half day.

This being Miami, you’ll never find a lack of enterprising entrepreneurs finding ways to capitalize off over-serving people on the water. Almost every weekend, Miami Boat Party Events throws open bar cruises that are open to anyone willing to part with $110 for the experience. The cruise roams around Biscayne Bay with a live DJ, and serves you all the drinks you want for three hours. Scour Eventbrite or Facebook events for Miami Boat Party, and they’re not hard to find.

Poseidon Ferry at Bayside
Poseidon Ferry | Poseidon Ferry

Probably the most criminally underused public transportation option in Miami is the Poseidon Ferry, a private ferry system contracted with Miami-Dade County to take people from downtown Miami to Miami Beach. It’s stocked with a full bar and some food, and boasts Insta-worthy views of downtown, the cranes and cruise ships at PortMiami, and the marinas along the bay side of Miami Beach. You can pick it up at either the Downtown Hyatt or Bayside, and bask in the sunshine to either the Bentley or Miami Beach Marina. Fares are $13 each way.

The far funkier (and not government subsidized) cousin of the Poseidon Ferry is the Miami Water Taxi, which takes guests from Bayside Marketplace to the Miami Beach Marina south of Fifth Street. Onboard seating consists of a few rows of benches and more benches around the perimeter, and you’ll find a cooler of beer with cans for sale. The ride takes about half an hour, and costs $15 each way.

Fishermen with Mahi
Hot Shot Charters | Hot Shot Charters

Go deep sea fishing

What’s better than spending a day delving deep into the turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean? Coming home with some mahi, obviously. The Florida sportsman’s dream is pretty easy to achieve in Miami, with deep sea fishing charters leaving everywhere from Coconut Grove to Miami Beach. Trips typically run in half-day increments, from about 8 am to noon or 1 pm to 5 pm, though the exact time will vary by operator. Expect to drop a minimum of about $250 per person, plus tip, though that can run a little higher if you have a smaller group.

Scuba under the sea

Sometimes when you live in Miami you forget that we’re the only place in the lower 48 you can dive a natural coral reef. People travel for days to dive in South Florida, but when you live here, you’re rarely more than an hour from a dive boat. You’ll find no shortage of dive outfits who’ll take you down to the Keys, or to wrecks offshore, like Underwater Unlimited in Coral Gables or Tarpoon Lagoon in South Beach. For some real underwater exploration, head down to Biscayne National Park, which recently started running dive trips right from the visitors center. Trips typically travel through the park’s Maritime Heritage Trail, a collection of six shipwrecks dating as far back as the 1870s.

Under and Over Biscayne Bay View
Biscayne National Park Institute | Biscayne National Park Institute

Snorkel with tropical fish

If you’re not Scuba certified you can still spend some quality time under the water. Most shops that run dive trips also allow snorkelers onboard, who can float atop the ocean and gaze down at schools of tropical fish. Exploring Biscayne National Park is even easier for snorkelers, too, as almost-daily snorkel trips to the park leave from Coconut Grove.

Take a boat tour

You’ve probably driven past Star Island about 10,000 times, but rarely have you gotten any closer than the views you’ll catch crawling along in traffic on 395. Get a new perspective on the islands of Biscayne Bay and their astounding homes on a boat tour of the city. Miami Tour Company runs a 90-minute tour around the islands that leaves from Bayside Marketplace for $28.

Ride a jetski across the bay

Few things get you closer to embodying the Miami music video lifestyle than careening across Biscayne Bay on a jetski. Speeding around the water is a time-honored vacation tradition, and for anywhere from $150 - $250 an hour, you too can live like DJ Khaled. Get Your Guide has a pretty good selection of recommended places to rent, where you can comparison shop to discover who’ll make you look like a baller for the least amount of money.