By guest blogger Susan Wolf
On your next trip to Hawaii you may notice signs in local dive and retail shops supporting the "Take a Bite out of Fish Feeding" campaign. The stickers are part of a larger effort to protect Hawaii’s magnificent coral reefs by discouraging the practice of using food to attract fish for tourists to view. Several companies, including retail giants Longs Drugs and Walmart, have followed the lead of marine recreation businesses across the state and have agreed to discontinue the sale of recreational snorkeling fish food in all of their Hawaii locations.
Take a Bite out of Fish Feeding
The use of fish food by tourists and tour operators can have negative consequences for both reefs and the tourism industry, according to Liz Foote, Hawaii Field Manager for the Coral Reef Alliance, and Carlie Wiener, a researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. Foote and Wiener spearheaded the “Take a Bite out of Fish Feeding” campaign, working to convince businesses that selling fish food is ultimately a poor business practice. With support from the Coral Reef Alliance, the State Division of Aquatic Resources, Project S.E.A.-Link, and other partners, the two have spent years enlisting businesses to stop selling and using fish food, as well as educating visitors and locals alike about the effects and dangers of fish feeding.
Impacts on Fish and Tourists
By feeding the fish, humans are affecting the natural ecological relationships on the reef. For example, when herbivorous fish are fed by tourists, they eat less algae. With a reduction of grazing activity by these fish, the algae is left to flourish and potentially smother the reefs. For tourists, there are often incidents of accidental fish biting at popular tourist destinations where fish are fed by dive companies and snorkel tours.
Large Retailers Sign On
The recent effort to secure buy-in from the large retailers in Hawaii was taken up by San Francisco attorney Joshua Rosen, who learned about the project while visiting Hawaii last winter. Rosen believes that the companies decided to act responsibly because of their own appreciation for Hawaii’s marine life, and because it is in their best interest to become involved in local community efforts and support the long-term health of Hawaii’s economy, which depends upon visitors having a good experience with the marine environment.
Susan Wolf works at The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL). CORAL provides tools, education, and inspiration to residents of coral reef destinations to support local projects that benefit both reefs and people. Founded in 1994 to galvanize the dive community for conservation, CORAL has grown into the only international nonprofit that works exclusively to protect our planet's coral reefs.
A playground for outdoor trekkers, golfers and beach loungers, the Hawaiian island of Maui attracts families, friends and romantics to her beaches, lush mountains, renowned golf courses and rugged volcanic crater. Discover with your group why Conde Nast Traveler dubbed Maui the best Pacific island for the 16th straight year and ranked Maui number two for all destinations in the world in 2006.
Watch the sunrise atop 10,000-foot Haleakala Crater and bike down to the Pacific Ocean from its rim. Try fishing, whale watching, snorkeling, surfing or parasailing off the coast of Lahaina or go hiking in the West Maui Mountains. With Maui being home to authentic ranches and rodeos, you can also opt for a horseback riding tour from a ranch along trails that lead to the beach. Kids will enjoy the Maui Ocean Center, largest tropical reef aquarium in the world, where turtles, sharks and other marine creatures swim, play and eat. Golfers have their pick of world-class golf courses on Maui. And you won't get a true sense of the Aloha State without feasting at a luau or taking in a Polynesian show.
Trek around Haleakala National Park, one of only a few of national parks in Hawaii. Near Haleakala tumble the Wailua Falls where hikers can stop and picnic near the oasis. Drive the road to Hana, a stunning road trip with winding paths carving around steep cliffs. Bring your camera and sense of adventure. The road to Hana cuts through lush mountains with unparalleled ocean vistas, but the curvy road is infamous for turning some passengers (and drivers) into white-knucklers. Maui is also home to authentic rodeos, ranches and cowboys, so saddle up at a ranch for a horseback riding tour through hills or along a beach. Maui Ocean Center, largest reef aquarium in the world, is a perfect way to entertain the water-logged kids. Visit Lahaina's art galleries, shops, boutiques and craft displays after eating at Lahaina's many restaurants.
Maui is consistently ranked one of the best golf destinations in the world, plus host to professional tournaments. Kapalua and Wailea golf courses draw more skilled golfers, but all levels can enjoy the links at over 15 courses around the Valley Island. Nearby neighboring island of Lanai (easily accessible by boat) also offers two championship golf courses in private, tranquil luxury. Want more relaxing golf? Try golfing on jungle-dense Molokai, with two golf courses, one by the sea and another in the deep woods. No tee times or golf pros. Just ample time to perfect your swing.
Snorkeling. Surfing. Parasailing. Fishing. Whale watching. Scuba diving. Maui offers numerous ways to enjoy the Pacific. Take a surfing lesson or just hit the waves from Lahaina. Try windsurfing near Kahului. Numerous tours offer whale-watching and snorkeling adventures, often to nearby crescent-shaped Molokini island where you can snorkel around the reefs, then head to another area to snorkel with sea turtles and peer at colorful coral. Many tours also boat past schools of bottlenose dolphins and spinner dolphins to find them leaping and twisting as if playfully putting on a show.
Maui boasts an array of beaches for every taste. Kaanapali Beach is a long white stretch of sand for beachcombers, snorkelers and swimmers. Other popular beaches include Big Beach in Makena, Black Rock near Kaanapali for renowned coral snorkeling, Black Sand Beach, Changs Beach, Hana Bay, Hamoa Beach, HA Baldwin Beach Park and many more rocky and sandy shores.
Best of the Web for Maui, Hawaii
Unpleasant yet intriguing as the subject of sharks and the sea may be, I found some good data on Divester for vacationers who surf, swim, scuba dive, snorkel, and enjoy all sorts of water sports. Summer may be over, but many friends and families will soon take trips to beach destinations such as Hawaii, Caribbean, Mexico, or Australia where the sand is as warm as the day.
Sharks are out there. It's true. They are one of the great predators of the sea. But whales still rank higher on the marine food chain, and I've heard they can take a Great White shark down (someone correct me if I'm wrong). Nonetheless, one of the things that stirs shark fears is all the media hype coupled with ignorance about the true nature of shark attacks. How common are they? Divester examined a 200-page report called Finding a Balance. If knowledge is power, here are some statistics to help quell your fears (and mine).
- The number of shark-related fatalities has dropped from 13% in the 1990s to 8%, attributed largely to advances in safety practices, medical treatment, and greater public awareness.
- In 2005, surfers and boardriders composed 54% of victims worldwide; swimmers 37%; and divers 5%.
- There appear to be "no causative factors" for bites.
- The average depth in which bites occur is 20 feet and average distance offshore was 330 feet.
- Florida, South Africa, and Australia have the highest number of shark bite incidents.
- Although some degree of conditioning can occur between sharks and cage diving boats, this happens when operators do not comply with regulations and allow sharks to feed on the bait. However, this conditioning occurs between the shark and cage diving boats and cannot be linked to any conditioning with bathers as potential prey items.
And since the International Shark Attack File reported that there have have been 870 reported, documented shark bites worldwide since 1990, chances are extremely slim you'll have an issue.
Once on a snorkeling tour with my sister, she saw a 4-foot long reef shark swim about 20 feet below her, but the shark had no interest in the snorkel group. Of course, if you're intrigued by sharks enough to swim near them, there are plenty of "swim with sharks" tours out there. Go, adrenaline junkies, go. Me? I'll linger ashore sipping drinks with tiny umbrellas, taking quick dips to cool off.
Beloved by beach buffs, honeymooners, surfers, and cruisers, the Mexican Riviera — that scenic stretch of coastal communities between Mazatlán and Acapulco — entices more and more travelers to its sun-drenched shores each year.
It's the West Coast's Caribbean — a hot, bright cure for the winter blues and blahs, where visitors can reliably expect temperatures in the 80s all year long. Mexico's Pacific Coast is also starting to rival Hawaii as a fashionable wedding destination, and couples wanting beachside betrothals can choose from a low-key village celebration in Zihuatanejo to a swank hotel gala in Puerto Vallarta.
This prime swath of real estate bordering the jungle-clad Sierra Madre range began booming in the 1970s, when the country's government began a push for tourism along the Pacific coastline. Acapulco started even earlier, attracting affluent jet-setters to its spanking-new hotels in the 1950s; however, Puerto Vallarta lays claim to catching the eye of the average tourist, who arrived in droves to the site where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton made a film and a tempestuous home in the city's cobblestoned hills in 1963. In contrast, Mazatlán's popularity grew gradually as travelers discovered the beach appeal of this working seaport. Most representative of the tourism push are the sister towns of Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa. Only four miles apart, they couldn't be more different. Zihua maintains its fishing-village charm by government mandate: building codes are strict and therefore development is minimal. Ixtapa, on the other hand, was born fully fledged as a resort, and vacationers are beginning to flock to its high-rise hotels, trendy restaurants and bars, and the latest in water-sport thrills.
Today the Mexican Riviera sees thousands of cruisers arrive daily to its ports. But for groups vacationing sans big ship, the best way to visit is to fly in and rent a car or hire one of the plentiful taxis, many of which double as tour guides. Activities and excursions continue to burgeon as local entrepreneurs find new and novel ways to show off their region's charms. And then there's all that sand, sun, and sea.
Puerto Vallarta: The place to be in PV is on the malecón, a palm-lined beachside promenade punctuated by whimsical sculptures by various Mexican artists. From the walkway's southern end, cross over to the zócalo (town square); in sight is Our Lady of Guadalupe cathedral, whose gilded crown replicates that of Mexico's 19th-century Empress Carlotta. By leg power or taxi, climb the steep, narrow cobblestoned streets of the city for a glimpse of Casa Kimberley, once Liz Taylor's hideaway, and vistas of red-tiled roofs overlooking the bay. For kids, there's Splash Water Park for all things aquatic, from water rides to sea lion shows to dolphin swims. A short drive south leads to Playa Mismaloya, filming location for Night of the Iguana and now a popular site for weddings.
Mazatlán: Travelers into history should make Mexico's largest port their base camp, where they'll find nearly 500 architecturally significant buildings to admire, and most within the city center. Among them: the 19th-century Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, with its twin yellow spires and baroque interior; the 1874 Teatro Ángela Peralta, a lavish Italianate theater still in use today; and the restored townhouses surrounding Plazuela Machado. Hire a taxi or stretch the legs on a walk out to Cerro del Vigía for far-reaching vistas and a view of El Faro Lighthouse, whose altitude is second only to Gibraltar. Mazatlán Aquarium treats the curious to a peek into Mexico's underwater world, with a sea lion show and tanks of sharks, eels, and other ocean denizens.
Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo: Laid-back Zihuatanejo offers few attractions, and that's the way residents and repeat visitors like it. Ideal for an intimate wedding group, Zihua offers sun, sand, and serenity on gentle beaches wrapped around a protected bay. Stroll Paseo del Pescador, a colorful bayside promenade with open-air restaurants and vendors; head away from the waterfront and experience a friendly town sans glitz and hype. A walk down Las Gatas Beach leads to El Faro Lighthouse and panoramic views. In contrast, Ixtapa is where the action is — mostly on the wide beaches and in the hopping nightclubs. Families can swim with dolphins at the Delfiniti Dolphinarium and enjoy the wave pools and water slides at Magic World aquatic park.
Puerto Vallarta: Forty miles of white-sand beaches serve as languid launching points for parasailing, banana boating, water skiing, jet skiing, and surfing. To the south is Los Arcos National Underwater Park, a prime spot for kayaking, snorkeling, and diving amid granite rock formations. The jungle's proximity to the city means that visitors can make like Tarzan by launching from a rope into a deep pool and zipping along cables set high above in the treetops at Canopy El Eden, setting for the film Predator. Great for groups are golf and mountain biking and hiking tours; in winter, whale-watching excursions sail in search of migrating humpbacks. Year-round, party cruises abound; more demure groups may opt for a sunset dinner cruise.
Mazatlán: Along with 10 miles of beaches offering the usual sand-and-surf sports, Mazatlán's waters are known for sportfishing and nature cruises — two activities perfect for groups. Glide through mangrove estuaries to spot herons, bitterns, and the elusive roseate spoonbill, or try a hand at reeling in marlin or sailfish (catch-and-release is the general rule). Take a kayak or a boat ride to snorkel the calm waters surrounding Isla de Venados, or join a horseback tour on Isla de la Piedras. Body surfing is big at Playa Olas Altas; Playa Bruja, north of the city, has the waves to host an annual surfing tournament. Hardy souls can take guided hiking trips into the nearby Sierra Madre mountains.
Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo: Zihuatanejo's most popular beaches, playas Principal, La Ropa, and Las Gatas, offer palapas with hammocks for lazing and gentle waters for swimming and snorkeling, the latter best at Las Gatas. Anglers can hook up with a local guide to go panga fishing for roosterfish or head into deeper waters for marlin, sailfish, and bonita. On Ixtapa's two-mile-long Playa el Palmar, windsurfers, paragliders, jet skiers, and water skiers ply the waters. Golf enthusiasts can make tee times at Palma Real or Marina Ixtapa golf clubs, both of which offer group discounts. Canyons and reefs at dozens of local dive sites beckon to scuba divers, while Ixtapa Island's fragile coral reef lures snorkelers. Smaller beaches offer their own charms, including horseback riding through coconut plantations at Playa Linda.
Arts and Culture
Puerto Vallarta: More than 30 galleries and civic buildings around the city showcase local and international works of art, many of which can be found on a stroll through El Centro, the heart of PV. History buffs will want to visit the Museo Arqueológico and Museo Río Cuale for their collections of pre-Columbian artifacts. Plays, dance, and open-air movies take place regularly at the Cuale Cultural Center, as do theatrical productions at the Santa Barbara Playhouse on Olas Altas. At the malecón's Los Arcos Amphitheater, mariachi and ranchero grupos perform regularly; come evening, it's a popular place for socializing and listening to local musicians.
Mazatlán: Arts lovers will want to time their visit to take in a performance at the ornate and historic Teatro Ángela Peralta; events include ballet, opera, concerts, and movies. Fiestas full of folkloric entertainment take place weekly at the Hotel Playa Mazatlán and El Cid Castilla Beach Hotel's La Pergola Theater. Shoppers seeking authentic wares should avoid the touristy jewelry and souvenir stores — far better are the covered Mercado Municipal and open-air shops of Old Mazatlán, particularly on Saturday nights, when Plazuela Machado becomes the weekly Artisans' Bazaar. The Museo de Arqueológia and Museo de Arta exhibit local artifacts and artworks, respectively; the latter can be purchased at the nearby Galería Nidart.
Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo: Neither fishing village nor resort community have yet to develop an arts scene; still, there are a few places not to miss. In Zihuatanejo, the Museo Arqueológico de la Costa Grande exhibits pottery and stone artifacts, maps, and murals dating from or illustrating the earliest peoples along this part of the Pacific. Behind Zihua's Paseo del Pescador lies the Mercado Turístico de Artesanías, an open market with more than a hundred vendors selling genuine crafts and goods. Bargaining is welcome. (A smaller artisans' market is on the main boulevard in Ixtapa.) Many of the hotels in Ixtapa host folkloric fiestas and dance performances.
- Sayulita: Barely developed surfing beach less than an hour north of PV, with kayak and board rentals and beachside restaurants.
- Yelapa: Rustic, laid-back beach community in a lush cove with waterfalls, accessible by boat, water taxi, or mountain bike tour from PV.
- Copala and Concordia: Historic colonial towns anchored by cathedrals, one built in 1740, the other a century earlier; about an hour from Mazatlán.
- Teocapán: Fishing port rife with wildlife on the verge of ecological preserve designation, 75 miles from Mazatlán.
- Laguna de Potosi: Ecological preserve 15 miles south of Zihua, a birdwatcher's and kayaker's paradise.
Mexican Riviera Events Guide and Calendar
- Banderas Bay International Regatta Sails fill the horizon off Banderas Bay during the day; at night, parties and performances abound, March.
- Festival Cultural de Mayo Concerts showcasing pop, symphony, mariachi, and other styles of music, plus art, ballet, and theater, often around mid-May. Read more about Cinco de Mayo history.
- Old Town Art Walk Meet local artists and view their work, alternate Wednesdays from late October to mid-April.
- International Puerto Vallarta Sailfish and Marlin Tournament Anglers compete for big-ticket prizes as they cast for marlin and other game fish, mid-November.
- Puerto Vallarta Cup Golf Tournament Amateur golfers from around North America vie at Vista Vallarta Golf Course and El Tigre Golf Club, mid-November.
- Puerto Vallarta Film Festival Contemporary films, documentaries, and luminaries from the Americas, mid-November.
- International Festival Gourmet Vallarta Taste specialties whipped up by international master chefs during a week in late November.
- Carnaval One of the world's largest pre-Lenten celebrations, with parades, fireworks, and dancing in the streets, late February or early March.
- Festival Cultural de MazatlánPerforming arts, exhibitions, literary readings, film, and more at venues in Old Mazatlán, mid-October through mid-December.
- International Amateur Golf Tournament Amateurs compete for prizes during this golf tourney at the El Cid Golf & Country Club for a week in November.
- Mazatlán Billfish Classic World Billfish Series Pacific division championship. Big fish, big prizes, for a week in November.
- Zihuatanejo Sail Fest Regatta held for charity during a week of events such as beach games and a chili cookoff, in early February.
- Zihuatanejo International Guitar Festival Musicians performing classical, jazz, traditional, blues, folk, flamenco, and rock during a week of guitar virtuosity, in March.
- San Jeronimito River Regatta Music, food, and racing pangas, kayaks, and rafts on this river near the town of Petatlán just south of Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, in October.
- Ixtapa Zihuatanejo Total Tag & Release Tournament Fly-fishers and conventional anglers reel for prizes at inshore and open ocean locations, in early November.
Families fit into San Diego's cheerful profile like feet into flip-flops. This coastal city's perennial sunshine, sandy beaches, and kid-friendly attractions make it easy for adults to trade workday stress for an endless-summer attitude — even in December.
The agreeable climate engenders a laid-back, welcoming aura that pervades from mountain town to beachside community. And this is truly a year-round destination: Visit in fall and winter to get a healthy dose of vitamin D on beaches offering plenty of elbow room. Come in spring for the spectacular wildflower show in the Anza-Borrego Desert. Early summer sees the city caressed by a cool marine breeze before heating up for events such as the San Diego County Fair, the World Championship Over-The-Line beach softball tournament, and the US Open Sandcastle Competition.
America's Finest City is not just one long strip of beach, however. Mountains border the county's eastern reaches before dropping into a vast desert valley; in between lie scores of diverse neighborhoods that blanket the region's tawny hills. San Diego is a military municipality, a college town, a center of Mexican-American culture; wholesome and yet tolerant of its more counter-cultural facets. And it is a city on the cutting edge of urban renewal, having taken a shambling downtown and reincarnated it as a vibrant destination for entertainment, dining, shopping, and strolling. No visiting groups should miss the Victorian charm of the Gaslamp Quarter, Horton Plaza's colorful complex of shops and cinemas, and the revitalized areas surrounding the city's architecturally distinct convention center and PETCO Park, new home of the San Diego Padres.
Thanks to San Diego's temperate climate, animal lovers can get their share of critter-viewing and then some: at the San Diego Zoo, where a pair of panda cubs delight amid Tasmanian devils, sun bears, two-headed snakes, and a kingdom of creatures; the San Diego Wild Animal Park, 1,800 acres of African-style savannah with free-ranging lions, zebras, elephants, and other beasts; and SeaWorld, home of Shamu and his orca descendants, dolphins, penguins, and the seasonal Cirque de la Mer.
For a constructive take on theme parks, head to LEGOLAND, the original plastic-brick playland, with 15,000 LEGO models built from more than 30 million pieces. Or combine old-fashioned amusements with hot new rides at Belmont Park, right on Mission Beach. Ride the restored wooden Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, built in 1925, then hone surfing or skateboarding chops on the new FlowRider, a continual sheetwave that provides a steady supply of excitement for all ages.
Get immersed in the city's history, starting at Mission San Diego de Alcala, founded in 1769 and first of the California missions. At Old Town State Historic Park, original adobe buildings showcase furnishings, artifacts, and skills from San Diego's beginnings. The 1863 Star of India anchors the flotilla of historic ships that comprise the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Tour the decks and exhibits and try to catch a sailing aboard the tall ship Californian. Wrap up at Cabrillo National Monument, which commemorates the 1542 landing of explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo and, incidentally, provides commanding views of San Diego Bay. Betrothed couples take note: All of these locations, including two of the historic ships, make for popular and unique wedding settings.
Naturally, with 300 days of sunshine a year comes a wealth of opportunities for outdoor adventure. The Mission Beach Boardwalk provides an ideal way to people-watch while zipping along on inline blades or bike. Pick up wheels from one of several rental shops, or rent a bodyboard and surf the friendly waves. Mission Bay's mellow inlets and coves make a family sailing on a rented sloop a breeze; groups can charter a boat for private cruising, diving, and sportfishing in the harbor and beyond.
Golfers wanting seaside vistas can tee up at the 18-hole Torrey Pines Golf Course, a junior-golf-friendly set of championship greens and fairways. Hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians of all ages can tackle trails in the Cuyamaca and Laguna Mountains, where meadows and woods are rapidly recovering from the wildfires of 2003 (find stables and more in the nearby gold-rush town of Julian). Closer in, 40 miles of trails traverse the oak woodlands and open chaparral of Mission Trails Regional Park, including three paths that ascend 1,400-foot Cowles Mountain.
For a break from attraction overload, pack a picnic basket and head to the park. Balboa Park, San Diego's queen of green space, surrounds cultural attractions with 1,200 acres of woods, gardens, and sports fields. Mission Bay Park is an ideal setting for family reunions, with its 27 miles of meandering shoreline, sandy beaches, and grassy swards with picnic tables and firepits. Perched high above Pacific Beach, Kate O. Sessions Park offers views, ocean breezes, and sloping runs of grass perfect for kite flying.
Arts and Culture
Playtime isn't just for the playground. San Diego's renowned theaters offer up year-round theatrical diversions of award-winning caliber. The Old Globe Theatre brings Shakespeare out under the stars during the summer-long Shakespeare Festival, while other seasons see new works and revivals on the boards. Celebrated playwrights often premiere their latest at the La Jolla Playhouse, a 1993 Tony Award winner for America's Outstanding Regional Theatre residing on the UCSD campus.
Performing within the historic confines of the 1929 Copley Symphony Hall, the San Diego Symphony pleases classically minded parents as much as it does fun-loving kids, with its occasional Family Festival (with free pre-concert activities) and annual Summer Pops series, where families can spread a blanket on the lawns of Embarcadero Marina Park South and enjoy programs like classic cartoon tunes and Tchaikovsky's thunderous 1812 Overture.
Nurturing an appreciation of the arts and sciences is easy at Balboa Park, the urban cultural oasis that mingles museums with lush greenery and a nonstop sense of fun. Kids willingly accompany mom and dad to view the collections at the San Diego Museum of Art, knowing they'll also see the cool displays at the Aerospace Museum and Model Railroad Museum, plus virtual-reality exhibits and IMAX movies at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. Teens dig the WorldBeat Cultural Center's music-oriented exhibitions and drumming classes. The park also features a miniature railroad ride and a 1910 carousel, not to mention restaurants and dozens of other absorbing sights to see.
Activities Galore For Families
More San Diego Fun
- Orange County theme parks: Two Disney and two Knott's Berry Farm amusement parks lie a two-hour or so drive north.
- Catalina Island: An attractive town and miles of hiking trails on a protected island off Long Beach reached via high-speed boat.
- Temecula wine country: So-Cal's hottest wine-growing city offers hot-air balloon and biplane rides above vine-covered hills.
Events Guide and Calendar
- Buick Invitational Golf Tournament, San Diego's original golf tourney, played in January amid the seascapes at Torrey Pines Golf Course.
- Accenture Match Play Championship, PGA championship golf arrives every February at the two par-72 courses of La Costa Resort and Spa.
- Carlsbad Village Faire, one of the state's largest street fairs, held on the first Sunday in May and November, with art, food, pony rides, and performances.
- Old Town Fiesta Cinco de Mayo, a lively celebration of Mexican-American culture with music, an equestrian show, and a Kids Village, first weekend in May.
- Summer Pops Series with the San Diego Symphony, Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.
- Shakespeare Festival at the Old Globe, June to October.
- San Diego County Fair, top-name performers and thrill rides at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, mid-June through July 4.
- Del Mar Racing, thoroughbred races where the surf meets the turf, mid-July through Labor Day.
- OMBAC World Championship Over-The-Line Tournament, the city's unique beach softball tourney, on Fiesta Island, weekends in July.
- US Open Sandcastle Competition, one of the country's largest sandcastle events, held at Imperial Beach over three days in July.
- Street Scene, big-name bands performing on various stages across Qualcomm Stadium's parking lot on a July weekend.
- San Diego Pride Two-day gay and lesbian celebration with a parade, music, dance, and beer gardens at Marston Point in Balboa Park, July.
- San Diego Thunderboat Regatta, hydroplane races on Mission Bay, September.
- Traditional Gathering and Pow-Wow, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation welcomes tribes from around the nation and visitors for dance, competition, games, and crafts, second weekend in September.
- Cabrillo Festival, re-enactment of Cabrillo's landing, plus dance, music, and food, first Sunday in October.
- Little Italy Festa, a weekend of food, bocce ball tournaments, and Italian crooners, second week in October.
- Miramar Airshow, three days of aerial performances and aircraft displays, capped by the Blue Angels, mid-October.
- For more listings, see The San Diego Event Guide.
Photos courtesy of the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau
Choosing the best beach destinations is totally subjective. Preferences for beaches can vary widely. However, after considering factors like natural beauty, water quality and amenities, here's our list of the Top 10 Beach Destinations in the U.S. Note, most of the places on this list are destinations with multiple beaches v. beach-specific.
Reading the list makes me daydream of booking a ticket (or road tripping) to the coast, and sinking my toes into the sand after a refreshing dip in the water.
1. Maui, Hawaii: Known for its stunning beaches, Maui offers a mix of popular spots like Kaanapali Beach and more secluded shores. The island's diverse landscape provides opportunities for snorkeling, surfing, and simply relaxing in a tropical paradise.
2. Miami Beach, Florida: Famous for its vibrant culture, art deco architecture, and lively nightlife, Miami Beach is a hotspot for groups seeking both a city atmosphere and a beach experience.
3. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: Popular for family vacations, Myrtle Beach offers miles of sandy beaches along with amusement parks, water parks, and numerous golf courses.
4. Malibu, California: Known for its celebrity homes and beautiful coastline, Malibu beaches like Zuma Beach and El Matador Beach are perfect for sunbathing, surfing, and spotting dolphins.
5. Outer Banks, North Carolina: This string of barrier islands is known for its natural beauty, historic sites like the Wright Brothers Memorial, and unique activities like wild horse watching.
6. Cape Cod, Massachusetts: Famous for its quaint villages, lighthouses, and beautiful beaches, Cape Cod offers a charming New England beach experience with excellent seafood dining options.
7. Clearwater Beach, Florida: Known for its powdery white sands and clear, shallow waters, Clearwater Beach is ideal for families and offers a range of water sports.
8. Laguna Beach, California: This scenic beach town is known for its artistic community, picturesque coves, and tide pools, making it a great spot for both relaxation and exploration.
9. Key West, Florida: The southernmost point of the U.S., Key West is known for its laid-back atmosphere, historic sites, and beautiful sunsets, along with great opportunities for snorkeling and diving.
10. Waikiki, Hawaii: Located on the island of Oahu, Waikiki is famous for its iconic crescent beach backed by high-rises and retail establishments, offering a lively urban beach experience with excellent surfing conditions.
Each of these beach destinations offers a unique experience, whether you're looking for relaxation, adventure, or nightlife. Daydream away...
Article updated November 2023.
Going along with my previous post on the rising nude travel trend, the next logical question is "where are the nude beaches?" since it seems like a natural combination - beach and bare buns. (Unless, of course, the subject makes you uncomfortable as hell and you'd rather go to your happy place and pretend you aren't intrigued. Understandable.)
So, how does one find these elusive edens of au naturel relaxation? A quick internet search can be enlightening (just maybe not at work). There are websites and online communities dedicated to the naturist lifestyle, with maps and guides to help you find your little slice of bare beach heaven.
We've compiled a list of the best U.S. beaches for naturists. Have a look. Then walk, don't run, to plan a trip if you dare to go bare.
Haulover Beach, Florida: A Floridian favorite for its white sands and welcoming atmosphere.
Black's Beach, California: A hidden gem beneath the cliffs near San Diego.
Gunnison Beach, New Jersey: The only legal nude beach in New Jersey, known for its friendly vibes.
Little Beach, Hawaii: A Hawaiian paradise on Maui, famous for its Sunday drum circles.
Baker Beach, San Francisco: Offers breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Moshup Beach, Massachusetts: Located on Martha's Vineyard, this beach offers a more secluded experience.
Collins Beach, Oregon: Nestled along the Columbia River, known for its laid-back atmosphere.
Blind Creek Beach, Florida: An undeveloped and serene beach on Florida's Treasure Coast.
Red Rock Beach, California: A small, hidden cove near San Francisco, known for its peaceful setting.
San Gregorio Private Beach, California: Located in San Mateo County, this is the oldest nude beach in the U.S.
Each of these beaches offers a unique experience, from the bustling crowds of Haulover to the tranquil shores of Red Rock. They are united by a common thread: the joy of enjoying nature as nature intended.
Remember to check local rules and regulations, as each beach has its own guidelines for nude sunbathing. And, as always, respect for others and the environment is paramount.
From the sunny coasts of Florida to the rugged shores of Oregon, the U.S. is dotted with havens for those who prefer their beach days au naturel. So grab your sunscreen (lots of it), and embark on a liberating journey. Happy sunbathing! 🌞🌴
OK, not literally. Gawkers, stay calm. But nude travel has tripled in the last decade with nude cruises, nude resorts, and an increasing number of clothing-optional travelers flocking to areas where they can bare all. Here's what the American Association for Nude Recreation has to say:
As any kid who breaks loose from you at bath time to go romping through the house can tell you, it's just fun to enjoy your birthday suit once in a while.
When you're nude you're the way you were meant to be: completely natural. Many who enjoy clothes-free recreation and living refer to themselves as naturists and with good reason. Being naked, especially in the great outdoors within appropriate settings, draws one inherently closer to nature.
Yahoo reports on the growing trend, and how Florida's Pasco County (south of Tampa) is turning into a "nudist Mecca" in the United States.
Three of Pasco County's six nudist resorts are taking off the gloves and everything else as they attempt to attract more of the worldwide clothing-optional market, which has tripled in size since 1992.
The American Association of Nude Recreation estimates nudists pump about $400 million into the global tourism economy, up from $120 million in 1992. The association says its ranks have grown 75 percent to 50,000 members in that time.
Nudists can choose from 270 clubs, resorts and campgrounds in the United States.
Why the growing trend in nude travel? Your guess is as good as mine. I've heard about European topless or nude beaches and wonder if the increase in American nude travel is a result of relaxed moral standards from our puritan past or just groovy attitudes toward being more au naturale. I'm curious if the baby boomer hippies from the 60s, now retiring after being in the work force, are fueling this trend. You know, the generation that invented "free love" and peaked at Woodstock? But with rising trends in natural recreational activities such as spa travel and ecotourism as well, I tend to think that for many, it is not a fascination with being surrounded by naked bods, but a draw of being natural and real. Spa industry has boomed over the last decade as well, and spa appeal has long been self-pampering, often in the nude (while scantily clothed in sheets) for ultimate relaxation. Any other ideas on why the trend is growing? (Keep your comments clean or they'll get deleted.)
I highly doubt you'd find me at the flashy new Florida nudist resort and spa called Caliente. I'm more likely to hit a rustic hot springs in a galaxy far, far away from civilization and other people. Hat's off (er, clothes off) to an industry for innovation, though.
The infinite blue horizon calls us all.
Whether we road trip with family in tote, flee the city with friends, or travel solo to meet up for a destination wedding, oceans continuously lap the shores to welcome summer visitors, swimmers, surfers, snorkelers, scuba divers, fishers, boaters, kayakers, and the lazy rest of us who gaze wistfully at the scenery.
You? What beach activities lift your spirits? Thanks to Vagablond for pointing out Caribbean group scuba dives and other activities through Red Sail Sports Aruba, Grand Cayman operations.
As travelers, we often find ourselves under the relentless sun, whether lounging on a Caribbean beach or hiking through the Mediterranean countryside. Protecting your skin from harmful UV rays is crucial, not just to prevent sunburn, but also to ward off long-term damage and skin cancers. To do this effectively, understanding and using sunscreen is key. Broad-spectrum sunscreens, which block both UVA and UVB rays, should be your go-to choice. Apply sunscreen generously and frequently, especially after swimming or sweating.
Understanding SPF ratings: SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is a measure of how well a sunscreen will protect your skin from UVB rays, the kind responsible for causing sunburn and contributing to skin cancer. An SPF 30 sunscreen, for instance, theoretically allows you to stay in the sun 30 times longer without burning than you would without protection. However, this is not a linear scale, and high SPF numbers don't mean total blockage. SPF 30 filters out about 97% of UVB rays, while SPF 50 filters about 98%. No sunscreen can block 100% of UV rays, so reapplication is necessary.
What to look for when choosing a sunscreen: When selecting a sunscreen, look for ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These mineral-based ingredients are effective at blocking both UVA and UVB rays. For those with sensitive skin, mineral sunscreens are less irritating compared to chemical ones. Also, look for sunscreens free from oxybenzone and octinoxate, as these ingredients can harm marine life and are banned in some regions due to their effects on coral reefs.
For water activities like swimming, water-resistant sunscreens are a must. Look for products labeled as 'water-resistant' for up to 40 or 80 minutes. For high-altitude or snow environments, where UV exposure can be more intense, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 50 or higher. For everyday urban environments, a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen should suffice, and it can be integrated into your daily skincare routine.
Remember, sunscreen is just one part of sun protection. Wear protective clothing, seek shade, and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. By choosing the right sunscreen and using it correctly, you can enjoy your travel adventures while keeping your skin healthy and safe. Whether you’re scaling mountains or exploring cityscapes, the right sunscreen can be your best travel companion.
Here's to youthful skin, and vacations filled with youthful activities!
Updated December 2023.
Who doesn't dig beaches? They vary by destination (rock beaches vs. powdery white sand) and season. 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 include:
First Beach, Olympic National Park: Why? I've had great conversations with family members and enjoyed spotting eagles from shore. Once spotted about 10 adult and adolescent eagles!
Red Beach on the Greek island of Santorini: Why? 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, Italy: Why? 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, Hawaii: Why? 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, Colombia: Why? 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.
To further whet your travel planning appetite, these 10 destinations represent some of the finest beach experiences the U.S. has to offer:
Lanikai Beach, Hawaii: Known for its powdery white sand and clear, calm waters, perfect for kayaking and swimming. Best visited from March to September for ideal weather conditions.
Clearwater Beach, Florida: Renowned for its miles of white sand and clear, shallow waters, great for swimming and water sports. The optimal visiting period is from March to May.
South Beach, Miami, Florida: Famous for its vibrant atmosphere, Art Deco district, and clear blue waters. The sand is fine and white. The best time to visit is from March to May when the weather is warm but not too hot.
Kauna'oa Bay, Hawaii: Known for its crescent-shaped beach with fine, white sand and clear, calm waters, ideal for snorkeling and swimming. The best time to visit is between May and October.
Coronado Beach, San Diego, California: Renowned for its expansive, golden sands and gentle waves, ideal for families and surfers. The optimal time to visit is from March to May and September to November.
Poipu Beach, Hawaii: Famous for its golden sand, clear water, and the chance to see Hawaiian monk seals. It's great for snorkeling and swimming. The best time to visit is from April to October.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Known for its long stretch of soft sand and family-friendly attractions. The beach is bustling and lively. The best time to visit is from June to August.
Cannon Beach, Oregon: Famous for its rugged coastline and the iconic Haystack Rock. The sand is soft and golden. The best time to visit is during the summer months, from June to August.
Cape May, New Jersey: Known for its historic Victorian architecture and clean, beautiful beaches. The sand is fine and the waters are inviting. The ideal time to visit is from June to August.
Hanauma Bay, Hawaii: Renowned for its stunning natural preserve and excellent snorkeling in clear, blue waters. The beach has fine, white sand. The best time to visit is from April to September.
Craig M. reached out to us to share one of his favorites: "I love a beach on Maui called Slaughterhouse Beach. There used to be a slaughter house just above the beach - today, the beach is reached by a staircase off the highway passed Kahana - it's small, never busy, always clean and quiet and great body surfing waves too."
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