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Connecting to the Internet On Your Miami Vacation

Finding the Hotspots in SoBe


In today’s world, the Internet has become a staple of life, on a par with eating, sex and sleeping.  Many of us often wonder how we even got by before 1995—you remember, that prehistoric age before Youtube and Facebook.  Somehow we did, even when it meant writing out our email by hand and sending it off in stamped envelopes! But now, stay away for more than a day and you start to go into web withdrawal! As luck would have it, there are plenty of ways to get your online fix during your stay in South Beach.  Here are a few.

Public Internet Connections
For free connections, there are basically two options.  The first is the city library, located at 227 22nd Street in Miami Beach, near the Miami Ballet studios.  It is not required that you be a resident of Miami Beach to use the computers here.  The library has very modern equipment and and ample selection of computers, as well as a WiFi connection.  Your second option for a free connection is the City of Miami Beach WiFi system.  Service is citywide, covering 95% of all outdoor areas, and 70% indoor coverage up to the second floor of a building—but it can be spotty and undependable at times.  This system is not encrypted, so, like all public connections, take a little extra care when browsing (see security section below).  To connect, simply go to your network connections on your computer, and look for City_of_Miami_Beach_WiFi or MBKIDS (this one is content filtered).  When you first connect to the network, you will be prompted to register for access, which involves choosing a username and password.  Then, after you’ve agreed to the terms and conditions, you’re ready to surf!

Private Internet Connections
Internet cafes come and go in Miami Beach like the tide.  For years, the place to go for a satisfying combo of cheap internet, used books, and exotic coffee was Kafka’s Cafe at 1464 Washington Avenue.  Kafka’s is no more—only the sign remains; the Italian cafe that once occupied the rear of the building, Caffe di Mauro, has now taken over all two floors, and today, the atmosphere is as much about carbonara as it is computers!  Not to worry, the cyber section is still there, but instead of the used books, you’ll now find some of the yummiest authentic Italian food this side of Padua!  Another good spot for local web browsing is Cybr Caffe at 1574 Washington.  It stays open past midnight, and features comfortable seating, a large-screen TV, snacks, coffee and music.  You can select from one of the 27 work stations, or bring along your laptop to connect with their WiFi signal.  Another locals’ Internet hangout is the newly relocated and revamped D’Vine Hookah Lounge, 445 Lincoln Road, which is the only place you can drink and smoke a hookah while you do your web surfing.  If you prefer to connect somewhere a little more mainstream, there’s always Starbucks, with South Beach locations at 749 Lincoln, 416 Lincoln, and 1209 Washington. 

How Secure Is a Public Internet Connection, Anyway?
In a word, not very.  Okay, that’s two words, but the bottom line is that all public connections are open networks and thus, vulnerable to security breaches.  Data is not encrypted—and this means that everything from your passwords to your email messages could be visible to hackers.  Although not foolproof, there are a few precautions you can take to make sure your confidential data stays secure:

  1. Turn on your firewall - now.  A firewall is a barrier that keeps your information from getting into the wrong hands.  All Windows operating systems come with a firewall.  Just make sure it’s on!
  2. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).  Does your WiFi hot spot require you to log in with a network security key or other system? If your public hotspot has no encryption, you can download your own VPN free of charge, and encrypt your data that way.
  3. Turn off your WiFi adapter when not using it.  When you leave your WiFi connection on, you risk the possibility that it could log on to a malicious hotspot without your knowledge.  So turn it off when it’s not in use.  Most computers have a switch for manually turning it on and off.

Other precautions you can take: make your files private, disable file and printer sharing, and encrypt your files.

The Future in Vacation Websurfing
“We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.”—Ed Wood

What does the future hold in store for the Internet-savvy vacation traveler? One trend is blogging—it’s no longer just a hobby for nerds living in their parents’ basement.  These days, there are so many blog sites to choose from, anybody and everybody can start a blog about anything.  If you like to travel, why not consider starting a vacation blog? It’s a great way to share everything you’re doing without having to repeat yourself again and again to your friends and relatives.  You can join many blog sites for free! A few of the more popular ones include wordpress, blogger, tumblr, weebly and xanga.

Another trend in the web world is face-to-face interaction.  Now, sites like Skype and Google Talk are becoming increasingly popular.  Why email your friends, when you can talk to them (almost) in person using these sites’ video interaction capabilities?

Some might say that the Internet is the last place you want to be during your Miami vacation.  And to a degree, that’s true.  You want to be outside, getting the most out of your time away, soaking up the rays, frolicking in the Atlantic! But for those times when you want to connect with your friends back home, it’s a great way to share your experiences! Fortunately, South Beach, with all its web-friendly options, is the perfect place do that.

About the Author:

Douglas Eames is a freelance writer, homespun philosopher and budget bon vivant who divides his time between Southern California and South Beach.

See more articles by Doug.

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