You're in South Florida. Cool! I'm in the Tampa Bay area and have been XC riding for years here. I also own a 29er SS and a 26" FS for off road pleasure. Boglesan is right, you should really be chatting with MTB'ers from Florida because this site is more geared towards bike touring. However, let's see if we can help you out.
How much are you looking to spend? If you're wanting to stay under $1k, then just find a shop in your area and see what they have. I don't think you'll go wrong with anything in this price range. 29'ers are great because they will roll over any root and/or rock you'll find here in FL, but a 26" will be faster in the tight & twisty single track we have. If you go with a 29'er then stay with a hard tail, but if you decide on a 26", then try and get a FS. I personally don't care for Trek or Cannondale; however, all others are ok in my book, but that is me. Specialized has their 29er Hardrock with disk for under $600 and this is not bad for a starter. Also, check out Giant, Gary Fisher, and/or Salsa. Don't get all wrapped up with the 80 or 100mm fork because you'll be fine with either one here in FL. Anyway that is my $.20 (adjusted for inflation) worth of dribble.
Try and get up to Alafia S.P., Santos, Carter Road, and San Felasco when you can. All great places to ride!