GETTING THERE: Most major carriers fly from Washington to Miami; United, for one, offers nonstop service for about $170 round trip, with restrictions.

WHERE TO STAY: In Coral Gables, the Biltmore Hotel (1200 Anastasia Ave., 800-727-1926, www.biltmorehotel.com), which opened in 1926 and was named by Frommer's as the Best Historic Hotel in Miami, has received Al Capone, Judy Garland and lots of other notorious characters as guests. Johnnie "Tarzan" Weissmuller taught swimming at the hotel. Nightly rates start at $279.

In South Beach, the Marriott South Beach (161 Ocean Dr., 888-236-2427, www.marriott.com) -- which received a perfect 100-out-of-100 rating by the Best Miami Hotels Web site -- offers rooms with balconies overlooking the ocean or downtown skyline. Rooms from $250 a night.

In Coconut Grove, the Doubletree (2649 S. Bayshore Dr., 800-222-TREE, www.doubletree.com) is not the fanciest hotel in Miami, but the concierge did spend nearly an hour helping us try to find Pencil Pines, where Robert Frost once lived. Rooms from $89.

WHERE TO EAT: In Little Havana, Versailles (3555 SW Eighth St.) is as famous for its people-watching as it is for its food. It stays open into the wee hours on weekend nights. There is a bakery next door if you want some rum cake on the run. In South Beach, David's Cafe (1058 Collins Ave.) is open all the time for cafe con leche and munchies.

WHAT TO READ: "Miami Blues" by Charles Willeford is hard to find but worth the hunt -- if you like your fiction dark and your writing bright. "Naked Came the Manatee" by Carl Hiaasen and others is a comic novel cobbled together by Miami wordsmiths. "Bitter Sugar: A Lupe Solano Mystery" by Carolina Garcia-Aguilera delves into the noir side of the Cuban exile community. "Iguana Love" by Vicki Hendricks is gritty and witty -- not for the faint of heart or prudish in attitude. "Tourist Season" by Hiaasen is but one of many comic novels by the Miami Herald columnist. And "Road Atlas" by Campbell McGrath is a collection of incisive prose and poems.

INFORMATION: Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-933-8448, www.tropicoolmiami.com.

-- Linton Weeks