Beaches + Islands
Growing up in Southern California in the 1960s, my friends and I would start off each summer’s quest for a tan by heading to the beach to lay down a good “base coat”—or what doctors like to call a second-degree burn. I had so many sunburns by the time I graduated high school I can’t even count them. We didn’t use high-factor SPF sun protectants; we used cocoa butter and tanning oil to really soak up those UV rays. Then someone went and discovered that, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, having even one severe sunburn as a child doubles your risk of developing melanoma as an adult.
Now you tell me.
I travel frequently and like to explore the outdoors wherever I go—swimming in Phuket, scuba in the Great Barrier Reef, early morning walks beside the Huangpu River on the Bund in Shanghai. At home in the States I dig biking and body surfing. I love doing the morning crossword puzzle sitting by my backyard pond. I even enjoy weeding my lawn. The point is, I’m outside a lot, and I can’t afford to get sunburned again. That’s why I was especially glad about a recent unplanned meeting with an acquaintance in the green room at CNN.
June 15, 2010: Just back from a family trip to Seaside, Florida, where I was expecting to see beaches marred by the oil spill. On the contrary, the Gulf Coast beaches that I saw (Fort Walton, Santa Rosa, Miramar), were as gorgeous as ever—fine white sand, blue-green water. Let's hope they stay that way.
Whitney Lawson is the photo editor at Travel + Leisure.
Photo by Whitney Lawson
I recently returned from a weeklong trip to Miami Beach with my good friend Peter. He turned out to be the perfect travel buddy because, like me, we had two plans for the trip: lots of beach time and lots of good food.
We checked into the recently renovated Palms Hotel & Spa on Collins and instantly fell in love. The view from our seventh floor Oceanfront room was amazing; I did not grow the least bit weary of waking up to it. Though if you want to splurge and really get the full Oceanfront experience, I'd suggest booking one of the top-floor suites, which are bigger, with hardwood floors and balconies. Otherwise, the Oceanfront is truly the only choice. How could you be that close and not opt to see the sea at all times??
I'm sure you can find the beach, so let's get to the food part, shall we?
When the tsunami alert was announced for Hawaii on the morning of February 27, keening sirens echoed through the seaside north-Kauai town of Hanalei. Within the hour, everyone in the low-lying community—including me—had evacuated for the higher ground of other neighborhoods.
That’s what I thought, anyway. But once I’d settled myself on a lofty nearby hotel veranda—from which I could safely survey the still-tranquil sweep of Hanalei Bay—I realized some Hanaleians had stayed behind. I could see them, bobbing on the bright slashes of their boards just a few hundred yards from shore: surfers. Scared of the impending tsunami? Hell, no. They were hoping to ride it.
After the week I’d spent in Hanalei, this made sense. Though the town’s just a speck on the map—and unsung compared to famed Hawaiian surfing meccas like Oahu’s Sunset Beach—it takes its waves very, very seriously. Existence in Hanalei revolves around the area’s handful of shore and reef breaks; every car in town has at least one board strapped to the roof. World-class pros—Laird Hamilton, and Bruce and Andy Irons—are seen frequently; landlubbers and beach bunnies, not so much.
On such a wintery day, I can’t help but daydream about my recent whirlwind trip to Ambergris Caye, a small island off the northeastern coast of Belize—a place so consistently warm that residents easily (and even somewhat wistfully) recall in detail the one day of the year they wore a sweater. I was there to check out a hotel for T+L’s “40 Secret Beach Hideaways” (March 2010), and expected to spend most of my time stretched out on a white sand beach, piña colada in hand. The island, after all, is only 25 miles long and one mile wide. And while I did my fair share of reclining, I was surprised—and thrilled—to discover how many activities are available to the traveler. Here’s my short list for how to best explore the island and its surroundings.
I’ve just returned from a blissfully relaxing trip to the deep Caribbean. After the Christmas rush, my family annually escapes to the West Indies for a week of sailing, diving, and, with months-in-advance reservations in place, great food! As French and posh as ever, St. Bart’s seemed virtually unaffected by the unfavorable economic climate—with Microsoft magnate Paul Allen’s 416 foot mega-yacht Octopus in the lead, an unparalleled collection of pristine 150+ footers took up their usual spots on Gustavia’s glitzy dock.
That is, until a powerful tide and unforeseen surge forced the multimillion dollar vessels to leave their front-row seats on the flashy dock and retreat to the outer harbor (where our relatively diminutive sailboat lay), leaving the high-profile passengers to be shuttled in their heels and tuxes to the mainland in lieu of stepping right off their boat onto dry ground. A nice reminder that being on a boat does, in fact, involve being in contact with water!
Tis the season for toys and presents, but what about getting your 2010 travel calendar in line? These three contests might make for one heck of a New Year.
Ultimate Fiji Adventurer
Now – January 1st
Make your New Year’s resolution to be more adventurous. Tourism Fiji has launched a video contest to give away a pair of roundtrip tickets
to Fiji on Air Pacific (from Los Angeles) and seven nights—with
meals—at Sonaisali Island Resort. Contestants must submit a 2-3 minute video explaining why they are an Ultimate Fiji Adventurer at www.fijime.tv/videocontest.
After entries close on January 1st, it’s up to the public to vote on
their favorite submission. We could not confirm at publilcation time,
but contestants shoudle expect to pay taxes and fees.
After almost a decade as an editor at Travel + Leisure, I’ve developed a sixth sense about offers that seem too good to be true. Which is why I was justifiably skeptical when I ran across the U.S. Virgin Island’s CENTsational sale (while doing research for an appearance on the Today Show; watch the video here).
The cynic in me was tempted to write the deal off a a clever marketing ploy with enough fine print to fill an encyclopedia. However, after examining the details closely, I have to say that I’m sold. Here’s the back story: to celebrate the newly minted U.S.V.I. quarter, a dozen hotels on St. Thomas and St. Croix , including Marriott Frenchman's Reef Resort, are offering a 25 cent nightly rate for a three-night stay (plus nominal taxes and fees).
Sure, sure, Siesta Key, Florida, is known for having one of the world’s nicest beaches, but it's also home to some of the world’s best breakfasts. The Broken Egg (140 Avenida Messina) came recommended to my breakfast-deprived boyfriend and me upon our arrival at our Sarasota hotel after taking one of those ridiculously early LGA to TPA flights.
“It’s where the locals go,” said the hotel manager (and sure enough the BE’s website plays “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”).
I was pretty sure it was 2009 when I hopped in my friend Lisa’s Volvo in Boston, but when we parked in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, two hours later, I felt like we’d driven back in time into the 1950’s. Our intended beach getaway had magically transported us to the midst of classic Americana in all its kitschy, fun glory—think neon lights, vintage diners, old-school motels, and waterfront amusement park, not to mention the slow-pace of a much simpler era….