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Most Memorable Beaches

Who doesn't dig beaches? They vary by destination (Hawaiian sand and rock beaches vs. Caribbean powdery white beaches) and season, even from vacation to vacation. Depending on who you're traveling with (group of friends, family or college pals) you get (and likely want) different things from each beach trip.

Beaches that stick out in my mind as personal favorites hold their titles from the experience of the visit - some for fond memories they conjure up, others for sheer beauty, and still others for a desire to return to the sights, foods, and local culture surrounding the shores.

A few of my memory-making beaches to whet your summer appetite include...

First Beach, Olympic National ParkWhy? I've had great conversations with family members and enjoyed spotting eagles from shore. Just spotted about 10 adult and adolescent eagles recently!

Red Beach on the Greek island of SantoriniWhy? It was my second trip abroad and my friends and I had this beach all to ourselves in the spring; gorgeous, crescent-shaped beach that took a mini-hike to get down to the water's edge. We spent an afternoon reading by the water. (Hint: Only way to get this popular beach to yourself is to go off season and non-peak hours.)

Monterosso, ItalyWhy? Cinque Terre is one of my favorite areas of Italy (made famous to most Americans by Rick Steves) made doubly delightful with family and friends. More people with whom to sip wine or limoncello (local lemon liquor). Mmmm.

West side of San Juan Island, Washington State
Why? It's where you can (environmentally responsibly) sight Orca whales. While visiting the island with friends, we drove around and stopped when we spotted approximately 50 at once. Gorgeous and a rare treat to see so many (now endangered) Orcas together.

Poipu Beach, Kauai, HawaiiWhy? Snorkeling there is a wonderful treat - so much just under the surface very close to shore so it's great for all ages, family, etc.

Isla Baru, off the coast of Cartagena, ColombiaWhy? Tiny droplet of an island (as part of the Rosario Islands Park) with shallow shorelines for swimming in bathwater temperatures. On my tour, we were served grilled fish and veggies from the locals. I highly recommend tours that take you to multiple outer islands off of Cartagena. It's an authentic Caribbean experience.

Here are (secret) coastal finds and Best American Beaches by Gadling.

What beaches serve as fond memory-makers for you?