Afifa Fiaz: Sunny Isles Beach 2021


Photo taken by Komal Sahar// CC by 4.0

Afifa Fiaz is a junior pursuing a Bachelor’s degree at Florida International University (FIU), enrolled in the FIU Honors. She was born in Pakistan and moved to the United States when she was 7-years old. After receiving her Associates degree at Broward College, she transferred to FIU to earn her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences. Her main goal is to be able to help people through medicine and therefore is planning on going to Medical school after she graduates. She is currently working as a medical assistant in a surgical clinic. Afifa loves traveling, dancing, and spending quality time with her family and friends.


Screenshot from Google Maps

Sunny Isles Beach, also known as “The Venice of America”, is a city in the northeastern Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States. It is located at 25°56′30″N 80°7′30″W   (25.941270, -80.125111). The city has a total area of 3.7 km2 (1.4 sq. mi) according to the United States Census Bureau, with 2.6 km2(1.0 sq. mi) of land and 1 km2 (0.4 sq. mi) of water (28.37 percent). Sunny Isles is a two-mile long island surrounded by Aventura, North Miami Beach, and the Atlantic Ocean.


Photo taken by Afifa Fiaz// CC by 4.0

Sunny Isles, also known as The Venice of America, is a 2.26-square-mile plot that was bought by Harvey Baker Graves for tourist attraction in the 1920s.   The building of the Haulover bridge in 1925 attracted developers who built coastal residences in this area. A year later nearly a million dollars were invested by a group of investors to build an all-wooden racetrack that was later destroyed by a strong hurricane, naming this event Fulford’s Folly.

After the building of the Sunny Isles Pier, the city became a tourist attraction, later causing it to be marked as a historic site that can still be visited today. The city continued to develop until the 1950s and 1960s when over 30 motels developed, creating “Motel Row”, along Collins Ave. Ocean Palm is one of the 30 motels that caught a lot of attention as it was the first two-story motel in the United States. The Beatles and many other entertainments even visited the themed motels along Collins Avenue.

Tourism began to slow down in the 1970s, however, new mid-and high-rise multi-family buildings created opportunities for residents. The residential areas become more populated due to the development of the condominium buildings such as Winston Towers and Arlen House. In 1997, the citizens of Sunny Isles vote the city be established as a municipality, causing it to be put on the map. In the early 2000s, the city saw a surge in large luxury projects, which replaced majority of the historic motels.  Sunny Isles History


According to the United States Census Bureau, Sunny Isles Beach population estimates to be about 21,804, increasing 4.7% from 2010. The ratio of male to females is only 2%. In terms of age demographics, the majority of residents are 65 years old, followed by youths under 18 years and children under 5 years, with 24.1 percent, 14.0 percent, and 3.7 percent. In the last 12 months of 2015-2019, the per capita income was $47,470. It has increased by 7.3 percent over the previous year, and the median household income has increased to $55,350. The city of Sunny Isles Beach has 91.1 percent White citizens, in which 46.0 percent are Hispanic or Latino residents and 47.5 percent are White only. The city has a very low percentage of Asian and Black or African population, it is respectively about 2.9 percent and 2.5 percent.


Photo of Michelle Hernaiz taken by Aileen // CC by 4.0

Michelle Hernaiz is a Sunny Isles Beach resident.

Afifa: “Where are you originally from? And how long have you been living in Sunny Isles?

Michelle: “I am originally from Venezuela and moved to Sunny Isles 7 years ago with my mom.”

Afifa: “How would you describe Sunny Isles? Is there anything you particularly like about this city?”

Michelle: “I would describe Sunny Isles as a sweet and lovely place. People are here are either extremely nice or extremely rude lol. My favorite part about living in this city is the beach and shopping centers.”

Afifa: “Okay, and is there anything you dislike about the city?”

Michelle: “I would say the traffic, it gets really bad at times and makes it difficult to get around but other then that I think I love everything about the city.”


Collins Ave

Collins Avenue, also known as the heart of the city, is located at the center of Sunny Isles Beach and is the main street of this city. It was named after John S. Collins, a developer who completed the Collins Bridge that connected the Miami Beach to the mainland across Biscayne Bay.

Collins Avenue is home to many historic Art Deco hotels. Art Deco is a visual arts, building, and design style that originated in France shortly before World War I. Art Deco merged contemporary trends with exquisite craftsmanship and luxurious materials. Buildings exterior design and interior architecture were influenced by Art Deco’s signified luxury. Eden Rock and  Fontainebleau Hotel are two examples out of the many Art Deco architectures on Collins Avenue in Sunny Isles Beach.

St. Bernard de Clairvaux Church

Photo from Spanish Monastery website

The history of the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux dates back to 1133 AD, “making its cloister the oldest building in the western hemisphere.” Its construction began in Sacramenia, a municipality of Segovia in northern Spain, and took about 8 years to complete in 1141 AD which is about 360 years before Columbus arrived in the Americas. The Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux become home to Cistercian monks for about 700 years after the canonization of Bernard of Clairvaux. However, in 1830 it was seized and sold due to a social revolution.

In 1925, The Cloisters and the Monastery’s outbuildings were bought by a man named William Randolph Hearst. He had the structure brought to the United States, in carefully hay-wrapped after it was dissembled. Over 11,000 wooden crates were sent to be shipped, unfortunately, not all of them made it due to the outbreak of the disease epidemic in Spain. After the arrival of the shipment, Hearst started to face financial hardships causing him to sell most of the pieces at an auction. These crates were stored in a warehouse for about 26 years until bought by two entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs spent over 20 million dollars and 19 months to put the monastery back together!

In 1964, the Ancient Spanish Monastery was sold to Colonel Robert Pentland, Jr. He was a multimillion, who gave them to the Bishop of Florida. “Today, it is owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida.” Ancient Spanish Monastery

Sunny Isles Beach

Sunny Isles Beach is a very well known tourist attraction. The city is constructed right up to the water’s edge, and many of the greatest hotels and resorts are waterfront properties. Many celebrities chose to own residencies along the coastline of Sunny Isles as it is considered to be a very high-end place. Many people chose to retire in Sunny Isles to enjoy the views. The warm weather and endless option for water sports allows the beach to be a tourist attraction all year long.


Oleta River State Park

Photo taken by Afifa Fiaz// CC by 4.0

The Tequesta Native Americans arrived on the banks of what is now known as the Oleta River as early as 500 BCE. The land The Oleta River park’s history goes as far as the Tequesta Indians. The Tequesta Indians set their camp on the Oleta River thousands of years ago. The land supplied various natural resources for the livelihood of the Tequesta. This riverway was called Big Snake Creek in the 1800s and it wasn’t until 1922, that it was renamed Oleta River by developers. During the 1800s, the Oleta River was used as a route in the Second Seminole War by the U.S. troops, federal forces utilized the river to move south. While the river was a useful resource, the Florida war had devastating consequences for the indigenous people.

Kayaking at Oleta River Park
Photo taken by Afifa Fiaz// CC by 4.0

“In 1938, the historic Blue Marlin Fishhouse opened as a successful smokehouse, fish house, marina, and restaurant w” In 1938, the historic Blue Marlin Fishhouse opened as a successful smokehouse, fish house, marina, and restaurant which can still be visited today.” Regulations to protect the park were put in place after it started becoming increasingly popular. Oleta River State Park was then purchased by the state of Florida in 1980 to conserve and nurture the park’s unique natural elements. Today it’s open to the public for kayaking, biking, and much more. Oleta River Park

Haulover Park

Haulover Park, also known as Haulover Nude Beach, is a 177-acre park with 1.4 miles of beachfront. This beachfront property was acquired by the Dade County Commission in 1940. Haulover park was constructed by William Lyman Phillips in 1945 after the outbreak of World War II.  It was officially open to the public in 1948. In 1991, Haulover Beach became a nude beach, meaning clothing here is optional. Haulover Park

Heritage Park

Heritage park, located on Collins Ave, pleases people with its green and gorgeous open space. Even though this park is not as vast as the others it does have something special that other parks don’t. This park has a memorial dedicated to Sunny Isles residents who have served the country. Each year nominations are held to add more members to the wall who have served in the United States Armed Forces.


Sunny Isles Beach has a variety of modes of transportation. Transportation spans from reasonable to expensive, and sometimes free, making it convenient for the community’s diverse financial range.

SIB Shuttle

The SIBshuttle is a free community shuttle service that runs three lines, seven days a week. For the convenience of residents and tourists, three lines (Orange 1, Orange 2, and Blue) are in operation at the same time. The SUBshuttle also connects residents and visitors to other cities such as Aventura, Hallandale Beach, and North Miami Beach. Transportation

Miami-Dade county Transit

Another form of transportation available in Sunny Isles is the Miami-Dade County transit that provides public bus, train, and mover transit. Miami-Dade Transit buses, including Routes E, H, K, S, and V are available in Sunny Isles Beach. The Miami-Dade Metrorail system also includes 23 accessible Metrorail stations located one mile apart from Kendall to northwest Miami-Dade, including Miami International Airport. Transportation


Other form of transportations include personal vehicles, Uber and Lyft drivers, etc. Sunny Isles is considered a rich neighborhood in which many household members own cars. According to, about 76.7% of the population in Sunny Isles drive their own vehicles to work compared to 3.6% that use mass transit. Since so many residents in Sunny Isles own vehicles, it has an average of 31.8 minutes one-way commute time. That is more than the 26.4-minute average in the United States.



Sunny Isles Beach Seafood Restaurant - BALEENkitchen
Photo from Sole Miami’s website

 Baleenkitchen is a popular restaurant located on Sunny Isles’ gorgeous Sole on the Ocean. The theme of this restaurant is inspired by the Baleen Whale that is “known to be the world’s fastest-moving migrator that wanders through international waters feeding throughout the arctic, tropics, and everything in between.” The interior of the restaurant is inspired by the coastal views that can be seen in its floor-to-ceiling windows. The restaurant’s menu goes respectively with its motto, “Eat Local. Think Global.”


TIMO, Sedona - Menu, Prices & Restaurant Reviews - Tripadvisor
Photo on TripAdvisor

Timo, a restaurant that started as a dream of two F.I.U. students is now a four-star neighborhood restaurant in Sunny Isles. This restaurant offers contemporary Italian-Mediterranean food. The warm friendly environment of the restaurant is ideal for a quick meal, an intimate supper, or a lively gathering spot for friends and family. TIMO


Photo from Trip Advidor

Chayhana Oasis is another known restaurant in Sunny Isles. This is South Florida’s first real Uzbek restaurant. Chayhana is named after the tea shops common throughout Uzbekistan, where men meet on comfortable beds to sip tea, eat snacks, and have intellectual conversations. The interior architecture design entails elements like geometric patterns and onion-dome arches. Their Chef expertly combines Uzbek, Caucasian, European, and Middle Eastern that provides homely tastes. Chayhana Oasis


When most people think of Miami, they envision a beautiful, luxurious location with a wild nightlife and year-round warm weather with a beach, such as Sunny Isles Beach. Sunny Isles Beach is home to world-class restaurants, nightclubs, theaters, cultural attractions, and, of course, the beach. Sunny Isles Beach has one of the most beautiful coastal views in the Miami area, with miles of magnificent white sand, immaculate public parks, and plenty of places to party. Sunny Isles would be considered the “perfect” place to be in Florida. As far as what doesn’t work is the unaffordable real estate. Sunny Isles Beach real estate is not only among the most expensive in Florida, but it is also consistently among the most expensive in the United States. Another thing to point is the percentage of whites in the city. The White percentage is about 91.1 compared to the 8.9 African American and others. This is a major red flag in my opinion as it doesn’t show much diversity. This goes back to our history of placing the whites as a high and rich status.


Services, Miami-Dade County Online. “Haulover Park.” Untitled Document,

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Art Deco”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2 Feb. 2021, Accessed 12 December 2021.

 “A Mini History of Oleta River State Park.” The Shoreline,

Mola, Valeria. “History of Sunny Isles Beach.” ActiveRain, 30 Sept. 2007,

“Heritage Park.” City of Sunny Isles Beach, 1 Nov. 2021,

Commuting in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida,

“Transportation.” City of Sunny Isles Beach, 22 May 2021,

“Best Places to Eat in Sunny Isles Beach.”,

Inc., Pringle Technologies. “Chayhana Oasis ” Home.” Chayhana Oasis,

“Timo.” TIMO,

“Sunny Isles Beach Seafood Restaurant – Baleenkitchen.” Sole Miami Beach Resort, 16 Oct. 2021,

“History.” Spanish Monastery,

U.S. Census Bureau Quickfacts: Sunny Isles Beach City, Florida.

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