Two decades ago a little girl stood on a hot tennis court grumpily swatting at yellow balls, her parents' dreams of a professional tennis career dashed. She counted the minutes until she could get back to the beach with her sisters...
With that sunny stretch of sand still in my mind, I decided to give Sarasota, on the Florida Gulf Coast, another shot with my own family. It was the middle of February and we were desperate for a long weekend of much-needed sun. What we got was a record-breaking freeze. Thankfully, Sarasota has a lot more than beautiful beaches (and there are plenty). Here's what we discovered:
° An amazing aquarium. The Mote Marine Laboratory offers sea turtles, dolphins, and an adorable manatee named Hugh, that my son Miles thought looked like my dad.
° Some damn good restaurants. Yes, we spent a lot of time eating, and I wasn't going to let a little cold ruin my dream of lounging on a terrace with a cocktail. There's Mar Vista, hidden at the end of Long Boat Key (order the fried calamari); the Italian Salute for dinner; the Peruvian Selva Grill, with tangy Pisco Sours; the diner-like Blue Dolphin Cafe for blueberry pancakes; and my sons' favorite, the waterfront, no-frills Old Salty Dog, where all the seafood is fried--and then fried again.
° Beautiful Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. We spent an entire afternoon wandering around these 14 acres, which are filled with bamboo and banyan groves, orchids and bromeliads, and a mangrove forest. The best part: the indoor Kids' Corner, an interactive space with plant-themed books, puzzles, activities and crafts.
There's more: The renowned Ringling Art Museum, a downtown with great galleries, and of course, lots of good ice cream parlors (a must-stop for every afternoon).
As for where to stay, the Long Boat Key Club is right on the beach and ideal for families: 2 and 3 bedroom suites with everything you need—dining table, kitchen, a super-friendly staff, and a flat screen TV for movie nights if you decide to stay in.
A lot of people dream about packing up their workaday lives and moving to paradise, but few of us actually do it. Mark Yokoyama, a former marketing and merchandising executive, and his partner, Jenn Yerkes, an advertising copywriter, did just that when they moved to St. Martin in November 2009 to found Les Fruits de Mer, "the world's first Extreme Shallow Snorkeling team, dedicated to pioneering the sport, art and science of extreme shallow snorkeling all over the world."
When not extreme shallow snorkeling, Yokoyama spent much of the last three years hiking the island and documenting the diversity of its wildlife. The result is The Incomplete Guide to the Wildlife of Saint Martin, a book of original up-close nature photography and original research he released as a print-on-demand edition in 2010. Yokoyama is currently raising funds on Kickstarter for a revised and expanded edition. According to his campaign video, the more copies Yokoyama sells in advance, the cheaper he can make them and the more accessible the book will be to the island's kids. (He freely acknowledges playing the "do it for the kids" card.)
As he tells T+L below, the book is also a great resource for visitors to the island with an interest in nature and local culture.
Q. What are you doing on St. Martin and how did you come to document the island's wildlife?
As a child, I was very interested in wildlife and wildlife photography, but I grew away from that in my teens. I ended up in St. Martin after developing a love of scuba diving and underwater photography. Spending all day wandering the hills taking photos of insects was a natural next step, and now I'm doing exactly what I loved to do when I was ten-years-old.
Surfers will travel far and wide in search of the perfect pipe. For Florida native Louis Wilson in 1974, this meant a two-month drive from Miami to the then-shack village of Tamarindo, Costa Rica.
In this new episode of the Reserve Channel's series, EX-PATS, host Savannah Jane Buffet catches up with Louis on his love for riding waves and protecting the saltwater jungles of Costa Rica. His passion for conservation led him to open up one of the oldest eco-tourism destinations in Central America, Hotel Las Tortugas. Forty years later, Louis and his fellow ex-pat wife, Carrie, are still living la pura vida amongst the leatherback turtles and tiger-herons.
Check out the full episode for more on Louis' quest to conserve Tamarindo.
Maria Pedone is a digital editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.
Am I the only one who hears Donovan and remembers that scene in Goodfellas everytime I see Atlantis mentioned?
Okay, ridiculous confession aside, there’s good news for families looking for getaway ideas. (And really good news: this one doesn't involve Joe Pesci.) JetBlue is briefly offering a big deal: book at minimum 3-night vacation to Atlantis in the Bahamas, and your kids fly free, stay free, and eat free. Book before midnight Sunday (January 20) for travel before March 7.
There are some restrictions, natch: one kid per paying adult; blackout dates from February 13-26; maximum 2 adults and 2 kids per room; etc. But you KNOW how much it costs to fly the whole family anywhere—the airfare alone represents a big savings.
“We were finishing up a morning shoot in the Philippines on White Beach in Boracay, this big, long stretch of supersoft, sugary sand on the island’s western coast. It’s lined with resorts.
Before heading to our next location, we took a swim in the sea just outside our hotel. While drying off, I spotted this couple sleeping with their big, floppy, matching sun hats. They weren’t wearing bathing suits, so I assumed they were just arriving, maybe waiting to check in. For me this moment encompasses that whole feeling you get at the start of a vacation: when you know that everything’s going to be taken care of and your needs will be met. The sky is going to be ablue and the sun will be out, and the palm trees will shade you. The water is going to be warm; the drinks, cool; and the daybeds are there. It’s time to relax.” —Emily Nathan, photographer