Now that we are smack in the middle of winter, I was thinking that it may be a good time to daydream for a moment, to when life was a little warmer for us.
After working on cruise ships for so many years, one of the questions that Jon and I get asked most often is; what have been your favourite beaches around the world?
I've narrowed my list and I now have a Top 10 that I'd like to share with you.
I should preface this list with a few facts on how I rate my beaches.
✼ I'm obsessed with clear water/white sand beaches. My travel list, before I started travelling, was filled with places that looked pristine in travel brochures.
✼ And one of the most important factors for me to enjoy the beach is the temperature of the water. (Being the big baby that I am with the cold, that normally means the water has to be just about the temperature of bath water before I will be able to enjoy it.)
I whittled down my list and we will begin in Europe.
After telling you all that I'm obsessed with white sand/clear water beaches, my #10 beach is a black sand beach.
At first glance it's not as beautiful or striking as some other beaches, but the black sand feels like powder. And that soft powdery sand continues out into the sea, as far as your feet can touch the bottom. It's perfectly clear water as well, although it doesn't seem like it with the dark sand giving a false impression (alternative facts?)
In the summertime the water was almost like bath water and since it is in more of a cove on a protected side of the island, the water is normally very calm.
Your view is Marina Coricella to the north-west and on a clear day the island of Capri (CAH-pree) with the odd cruise ship cruising by is straight ahead. Now top that off with the addition of Italian cuisine (such as pizza Napolitana and gelato), and a day spent on this beach is close to perfect. CLOSE... but we're not there yet.
Oh and the downside to Chiaia Beach - the 180 steps (I counted) that you have to walk down to arrive at the beach (and then walk back up again to return home!)
We stay in Europe for my next beach pick.
#9: Barcelona, Spain's city beaches - from Sant Sebastian and Barceloneta (with the sail shaped W hotel at the western most edge) to Mar Bella and the nude beaches farther east, and every beach in between.
There are many great city beaches around the world, but Barcelona is my all-time favourite. This is in part because of how much I loved Barcelona as a city. A lively, modern, cosmopolitan European city that has shopping and nightlife and museums and history, beautiful architecture, famous cuisine AND an incredible beach, all walking distance from one another. Sounds like a perfect spot to vacation or maybe even live.
The 4 km of golden sand beach areas are MASSive. There are all sorts of restaurants and bars that line the beach and there are boardwalks and bike paths too. The beach runs the span of multiple neighbourhoods, so you experience different walks of life as you leisurely explore the waterfront along the coast.
The sand is light coloured and the Mediterranean shores are an emerald green. Because this is the Med, you won't find the calmest of waters, or the warmest. But there are too many other pluses++ that make this beach one of my top 10.
Jon and I have been so very lucky in our life, exploring and travelling the world. We have been able to visit many beaches all over the world, and especially the Caribbean. It is somewhat true what they say, that once you see one beach, you've seen them all. But you need to see them all in order to know this! When exploring the Caribbean there are so many beautiful beaches in Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Grand Cayman, US and British Virgin Islands, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Dominica and you can see where I'm going with this. For #8, 7 and 6 I chose different islands and different beaches that belong to the Caribbean. I'm leaving out so many beaches that are equally as beautiful but if I were to name them all this list would be Top 100 not Top 10, and we just don't have time for that!
Many people say Eagle Beach is where it's at on the Dutch island of Aruba. But my heart belongs to the 3 kilometre strip of Palm Beach. The activity, the hustle bustle and the great people watching gets me every time.
The ocean water in Aruba is a beautiful turquoise, but it isn't clear. It may be better described more as a light 'murky' green. Under the water the sand is a soft powdery white and sometimes even pink. And the temperature... like a bath. Just how I like it!
Palm Beach is lined with hotels and piers every so often jetting out into the ocean. On these piers you may find a local run restaurant or bar (such as Bugaloe Beach Bar & Grill, our favourite), where you can buy a cold beer or enjoy a fresh ceviche that will make you want to go back for more. The water is a little calmer than what you may find on Eagle Beach and since I'm not a strong swimmer, this always appeals to me.
The area off the beach is filled with trendy shops and fancy restaurants too, giving the island a feeling of luxury and satisfies the wants and needs of most people visiting this island.
Their slogan: One Happy Island.
Travel a little north in the Caribbean to find my next choice.
The entire eastern beach coast of Punta Cana is 32 kilometres lined with more than 50 hotels of all shapes and sizes. Some southern parts of the beach are more protected with eco-areas and a calm clear oasis. Other areas in the more northern part of the resort town are less protected and are more of a surfing paradise. All of it in the most beautiful colours of blue, green and turquoise, lined by powdery white sands and palm trees, so many palm trees, that dot the beach areas.
Onto my next Caribbean pick.
Antigua & Barbuda is an independent commonwealth country and one of the more luxurious islands in the Caribbean. My favourite fact about this island, the 365 powdery white sand beaches. A different beach for every day of the year. I chose Dickenson Bay not because it is necessarily the nicest, there are just too many to choose from. I chose it partly because it is the most accessible beach from the port when you are travelling by cruise ship. I also chose it because it has everything I want in a beach - white sandy beachfront, warm clear waters, restaurants, bars, every type of water sport to take advantage of and a reef for easy snorkelling right off the coast. As well, it's a bay. So the water is generally calm. Win-win-win-win for me!
Moving away from the Atlantic Ocean & the Caribbean sea, we jump into the Pacific Ocean for my next pick. Hawai'i!
Where do I begin in Hawaii? Ala Moana is just one of SO many great beaches in this chain of islands that makes up America's 50th state. I could do a Top 10 list in Hawaii alone!
My first visit was to Ka'anapali, Maui in 2005 and it was for a 10 day vacation that didn't leave me wowed. I have to be honest, I thought, 'what's so special about Hawaii?' It was after visiting Hawaii a few more times on a cruise ship that the beauty began to overwhelm me. Looking back, I think my company in 2005 may have had something to do with why I was underwhelmed the first time. I began to realize that each island and beach offered something special and unique from the last, for such vastly different reasons. And the people. Hawaiian people and their culture is something that in itself, without any beautiful beaches, could leave you amazed.
Jon and I have been so fortunate to see all of the islands and have even had a few personal tours from our friend and Hawaiian artist, Walfrido Garcia. Because we've seen so many places, narrowing it down to one beach was so difficult! But I made my choice - Ala Moana Beach Park.
Ala Moana is a Honolulu city beach of warm clear waters, big sandy beaches with ALL of the amenities (including restrooms and showers). If you keep walking along it's shores for a short distance, they will lead you to the famous Waikiki Beach. Although Waikiki is beautiful, Ala Moana offers a less touristy feel and wider sandy beaches, with a better view of Diamond Head! It also doesn't hurt that it's across the street from my favourite shopping mall in the world (Ala Moana Centre)!
Now we find ourselves in the South Pacific. I have always described the islands that I've visited in the South Pacific as the views screensavers are made of. I remember being in awe and I couldn't stop telling people that it looked exactly like screensavers and it's NOT EVEN PHOTOSHOPPED!
Like the Caribbean, there are so many beautiful islands and beaches in the South Pacific and I had to fight my natural long windedness to not choose them all.
The French territory, New Caledonia is a chain of dozens of islands. The main island is surrounded by a massive barrier reef and includes a 24,000 square foot marine-life-rich lagoon that is one of the largest in the world. Being a French Territory, you will also find Carrefour grocery stores and McDonald's with Le Big Mac and Le Royal Cheese on the menu.
Yedejele Beach is just a big beautiful beach on the rustic and not as developed island of Maré. If you are visiting by way of cruise ship, you tender into port. Then you can rent a scooter or a bicycle or take a bus to this incredible beach for a day trip to remember. It's perfectly suited as a tourist retreat. The under development of the island gives you an authentic experience and leaves you humbled by the incredible locals.
We are now into the top 3.
Many people who have visited this beach have been known to describe it as, heaven on earth. I tend to agree. The crystal clear turquoise water, white sandy beaches, locals grilling fresh lobster, fresh chopped coconuts will have you pinching yourself to make sure you aren't dreaming.
Chamagne Bay beach gets it's name from a natural phenomenon. At low tide when the water is shallow it fizzles like champagne as it passes through volcanic rocks on the sea floor. The beach is surrounded by lush tropical forest and there are fresh water blue holes close by for swimming.
And if you find yourself in Vanuatu or Fiji, don't forget to drink the kava.
This beach was my #1 for a long time. Although it is in the Caribbean and is an island in the Bahamian chain of islands, it isn't a beach you can get to easily. It is a private island owned by Holland America Cruise Lines and used by HAL and Carnival Cruise Lines exclusively for their passengers. I was able to visit when I was cruising on Carnival ships and felt so lucky I had been able to.
It's an uninhabited island that is a cruise ship playground.
It's the perfect port beach. Whiter than white sand and clearer than clear sparkling water. I've only ever visited in summer months and therefore the water was borderline so warm that it was not refreshing. I mean for normal people. I didn't complain.
The cruise ships unload their own food and beverages into the pre-built area for service, just for the day. There are water sports also run by the cruise ship. Beds and chairs line the beach awaiting the passengers to pile off the ship and onto the sandy oasis. They have activities such as horseback riding and jet skiing to snorkelling and scuba diving excursions .There are volleyball courts in the sand and parasailers all around the cruise ship that will always be anchored at sea. Basically a playground in paradise.
This brings me to my top pick. And we have a tie!
Both of these beaches are off of a Cayo in northern Cuba. They are the most perfect pristine beaches I have ever experienced. They took my breath away.
Both were similar in that the sand is fine and white and so powdery that it sticks to you. They both have soft sandy bottoms that feel pillowy as you walk and shallow for some time out from shore. The water is so clear that you can even see a clear colourless fish that may swim by. The sun reflects on the water and makes it look like a sparkling diamond. The shades of blue and teal and emerald had me mesmerized. The water was warm enough in the winter months for me to sit and not want to leave. I actually felt sad leaving both these beaches when the time came.
Had I experienced bad weather when I was on these beaches, my opinion may be different. But for both of these picks, the weather was perfect on the days I was there and it was truly bliss for me. These beaches were everything I had hoped all the beaches I wanted to visit looked like. The type of beaches that (my) dreams are made of.
And they aren't far! Travelling to islands in the South Pacific may take a day long flight and a big bank account to find. Cuba is a 3 hour flight from Toronto, to an island country only 50 miles south of Florida.
My list is not done yet!
Honourable mentions go to:
◦ South Beach, Miami (another amazing city beach)
◦ Dravuni Island, Fiji (uninhabited paradise)
◦ Isle of Pines, New Caledonia (A+ snorkelling)
◦ Turtle Bay, St. John's, US Virgin Islands
◦ Cane Garden Bay, Tortola
◦ Orient Bay, St. Martin (the French side)
I haven't been everywhere and still have many beaches on my bucket list.
I would say it still still reads like a novel. Or maybe a short story.
◦ (everywhere in) Thailand
◦ (everywhere in) Indonesia
◦ (everywhere in) Philippines
◦ (everywhere in) Vietnam
◦ Bora Bora, French Polynesia (of course)
◦ the one that got away - Whitsundays, Australia
(We have been to Airlie Beach and Port Douglas multiple times, both being gateway ports for travel to the Whitsundays. Sadly I never was able to get there... One day Whitundays, one day.)
Now back to our regularly scheduled program... Winter.