10 Tempting Seaside Experiences
Discover pursuits for every type of beachgoer
By Madison G. Welch
The best thing about beaches is that they come in all varieties: soft and white sands, rocky coastlines, intimate oases or large swaths perfect for people-watching. Beaches around the world lure visitors to unique natural and man-made attractions, and there's more to do than savor the sun and surf. Waterfront activities come in an endless array of options, from watching a sea turtle dig its nest to braving the most adrenaline-pumping coaster on a boardwalk.
Read on for 10 top beaches, stateside or a bit more exotic, each with its own alluring activities. Our list includes a mix of dreamy locales that can be experienced on a cruise, with a tour package or during a resort stay.
To learn more about these options, click the suggested links or contact travel discounter Vacations To Go: for cruises, (800) 338-4962, and for easy-to-budget tours, (800) 998-6925. To price a resort stay, call (800) 998-6925.
Gigantic boulders or "batholiths" protect secluded tide pools on the southern peninsula of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. Tour The Baths National Park when you cruise with Royal Caribbean International. On the "Virgin Gorda Baths and Snorkel" excursion, available during port calls at the neighboring isle of Tortola, guests swim 300 yards from a boat through crystal-clear ocean to the shore, where boulders loom as large as 30-plus feet across. Weeklong Jewel of the Seas sailings to the southern Caribbean depart San Juan, Puerto Rico, and start at $494 per person.
Spot an orca
From May to September, Lime Kiln Point State Park on the west side of Washington's San Juan Island becomes a hot spot for watching killer whales. Three pods with about 80 orcas swim tantalizingly close to the rocky shore, where visitors come to see porpoises, seals and otters, too. A seven-night exploration of Puget Sound from Seattle with American Cruise Lines stops in Friday Harbor, WA, only 9 miles from the park. Rates start at $3,500 per person for an ocean-view cabin.
Sunbathing, history and adventure combine on the Bermuda Railway Trail, converted in 1984 to a pathway for hikers and bikers. Sail to Bermuda, roughly 650 miles off North Carolina's Outer Banks, with Norwegian Cruise Line to explore the coast on mountain bikes, with safety helmets provided (sign up for the "Railway Trail Bike and Beach" shore excursion). Your hard work earns a swim by a peaceful, private stretch of sand at Ely's Harbour. Weeklong cruises depart Boston (Norwegian Dawn, from $429 per person) or New York City (Norwegian Breakaway, from $599 per person).
Escape the crowds
Discover two of the Mexican Riviera's lesser-known beaches on a Holland America Line cruise to Puerto Vallarta. Only reachable by water, Quimixto is a small village with tasty fare and a rock-strewn beach, while Pizota is a tiny settlement with turquoise water and pristine sands. Travel to these locales by speedboat and embark on an equestrian adventure with the "Hidden Beaches by Sea and Horseback" excursion. Seven-night sailings travel round trip from San Diego, from $599 per person aboard the Veendam.
Celebrate sea turtle season
Loggerhead, leatherback and green sea turtles congregate on Florida's Atlantic coast near Disney's Vero Beach Resort from May to October. Last year, Disney's Animal Programs team documented more than 1,650 nests. The resort hosts a night walk for up to 25 guests selected by lottery to observe a nest on certain summer evenings. Turtle Troop activities allow kids to "adopt" a specimen and track its progress online.
Prepare for pampering
Beautiful St. Lucia, a Lesser Antilles island in the eastern Caribbean, beckons visitors to its palm-trimmed shores. Experience the ultimate in relaxation at Sandals Halcyon Beach, an all-inclusive resort for couples on the isle's northwest coast. Its Red Lane Spa offers massages on the beach, where Caribbean breezes help to reduce tension. Treatments range from sports relief to lava shell heat therapy, and a sampler massage draws from Swedish, reflexology and deep tissue techniques. Fine dining and unlimited scuba diving are other attractions.
Hit the boardwalk
Beyond surfing and sunbathing, San Diego promises carnival games, souvenir shops and a 1925 Giant Dipper roller coaster on the edge of California. The city's 3-mile boardwalk, stretching from Pacific Beach to Mission Beach, also offers tasty eats: giant ice cream cones, all-turkey hot dogs and funnel cakes, to name a few. Choose from more than 300 elegant rooms, studios and suites at Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa for easy access to the seaside boulevard.
Gather 'round a fire on Antigua, a Caribbean destination boasting 365 perfect beaches. Escape to sun-warmed sands on the island's western side, where Jolly Beach Resort and Spa hosts weekly stargazing sessions and marshmallow roasts. Between each gooey bite, swap stories with new friends or listen to the waves ebb and flow. The resort, with accommodations ranging from budget-friendly rooms to oceanfront cottages, creates an island vibe with live music from steel pan bands, and it offers all-inclusive pricing.
Practice wildlife photography
White sands and shallow waters invite visitors to join G Adventures for "Guanacaste Beach Break" a four-day retreat to Costa Rica's Pacific shore. The Central American country is known for its stunning array of wildlife: dolphins and swordfish in the sea, capuchins and ocelots in the jungle and herons and macaws in the sky. Relax on Samara Beach, where you can sunbathe or explore as you please. Daily departures are available, from $479 per person.
Catch a wave
On the south shore of Oahu, Waikiki's dazzling beachfront once was a recreational oasis for Hawaiian royalty. The area is famous for its surfing lessons, taught by legendary watermen known as Beach Boys since the early 1900s. Smooth waves, ideal conditions and expert instruction beckon surfers of all skill levels to see how long they can hang 10. Waikiki's Beach Boy tradition continues at The Royal Hawaiian, a luxury resort that offers surf lessons, catamaran sailing and outrigger canoe rides.
The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in July/August 2014. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925 for current rates and details.