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Vero Beach and the rest of Indian River County Florida are a far cry from the fashionista-laden, self conscious show-off atmosphere that can make Miami a bummer. And the beaches are just as nice, even if they're not topless.

Ok, ok, there are those who love Miami's hipness. That cool South Florida feeling, those many Cubanos, and that sizzling nightlife. Contrast that with 'Zero Beach,' as some locals jokingly referred to the city of 21,000. Here the lights go out at 10 pm, and there's more emphasis on outdoor activities like kayaking or early morning beach strolling.

Our day began on a hot Vero afternoon, driving the long and straight Highway 60 from Orlando, past endless traffic lights til we reached a big bridge. We looked down and followed sailboats lazily navigating the calm waters below.

We were entering Orchid Island, a barrier island with the intracoastal waterway flowing on one side and the wild Atlantic on the other.

Boris Holds Court

Our accommodations were with Boris Gonzalez, whose family is well-known here for the large land holdings and Cuban roots.

With his partner Elizabeth Kennedy, Boris has created a cozy boutique hotel called The Caribbean Court, which stands out for its cool decor and updated ambience.

Boris Gonzalez , proprietor of the Caribbean Court a boutique hotel in Vero Beach, Florida.

One of the first things we did upon arrival was sit for some strong Cuban coffee and meet Boris, who was born in Havana and educated and raised in Spain and later the U.S. Elizabeth also runs a busy catering company in Vero.

This dynamic pair has created a big buzz on the sleepy island with their Havana Nights piano bar, a compact little bar with mojitos on the menu and a hip clientele.

It's packed on the weekends. Elizabeth told us that Vero is called by some 'the Hamptons of Miami,' where big-city folk come to relax and unwind. Vero is a two-and-a-half-hour drive up the East coast, but really a world away, she said. READ MORE



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