Sea Safaris


Tenerife

Discover a whole new side to Tenerife with a voyage beneath the ocean. Dive into a vibrant underwater world of colour, creatures and caverns.

The more energetic visitors to Tenerife venture from the resort towns to climb the slopes of Mount Teide, Spain’s highest mountain. But in recent years increasing numbers of tourists have discovered another attraction—the colorful marine life inhabiting the subtropical waters surrounding the island. Basalt rocks form intriguing underwater caverns and piles of boulders where stingrays, moray eels and nudibranchs (sea slugs) make their homes. There are numerous dive sites around the island, with the greatest number on the northeast and southwest coastlines.

At Las Galletas on the south coast the stingrays come to feed. Cow-nosed rays and eagle rays swoop in from the darker deeper water to cover the sandy bottom. As you kneel on the sandy seabed the rays soar over your head.

With the North African coastline just 70 miles away, Tenerife is reliably warm, and even in the winter the temperature of the water rarely drops below 61°F, even reaching 78°F at the height of summer. One of the other attractions for divers is that the sea around Tenerife offers good visibility, sometimes as much as 30 meters.

Given Tenerife’s rocky landscape and volcanic origins, the underwater topography is varied. It is full of nooks and crannies, caves and caverns for scorpion fish to hide in while waiting for their prey. Small zebra bream form shoals around the rocks and bright scarlet bullseye lobsters peer out from their lairs. Divers will not expect to see vibrant coral reefs this far north of the equator, but there are black corals, and bright tubular anemones with pink tips where striped cleaner shrimp hide.

In the darkest recesses of the basalt crannies are tiger morays. Poking their snouts from their lairs they seem to threaten anything that ventures too near, though like most sea creatures they never bother divers who treat them with respect.

Close to Los Cristianos is the wreck of the Condesito, a former cement barge that ran on to the rocks in 1972. Now colonized by marine life, it sits in 20 meters of water and the hull is home to barracuda and visiting amberjacks.

In winter, as the waters cool down, Tenerife offers divers a good chance of spotting angel sharks, curiously flattened fish that cover themselves in sand and wait for their prey to swim overhead. Suddenly, with lightning speed they open their mouths and suck in their unsuspecting victims, though they are harmless to people. Like stingrays the angel sharks have flat wing-like fins and are delicately camouflaged, which allows them to stay motionless on the sea bed.

For many divers the favorite sightings are the smaller fish that offer bright shoals of color: ornate wrasses, parrotfish and red mullet. Tenerife’s underwater rock formations also mean you have a good chance of spotting an octopus, its beautiful mottled skin flashing against the basalt. Its cousin, the cuttlefish, with their torpedo-shaped bodies, are also commonly seen.

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Myrtle Beach Bounty


Myrtle Beach

Tame Myrtle Beach’s array of enjoyments with a game plan.

As you cruise down Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, you’ll pass buffet barn after barn, each with a sign shouting “170 items!”, “150 items!” or “200 items!” The owners hope that diners will rush in from nearby beaches to load up on barbecue, fried seafood, “chicken bog” and piping hot hushpuppies. These Southern-flavored all-you-can-eats are kitschily entertaining, rather tasty and a pretty good deal.

The same can be said of this coastal portion of the Palmetto State. There are so many different things to sample in the Myrtle Beach area—miniature golf, spas, musical revues, shag dancing, outlet shopping, amusement parks, beachcombing—that you might feel as if you’re tackling a monster buffet. So pick up a plate, decide what you’re craving and see how much you can pile on, given your limits. Here’s the best of all Myrtle Beach has to offer.

WELCOME TO THE GRAND STRAND
Myrtle Beach is the main hub of what’s known as the Grand Strand, some 60 miles of shoreline, small towns and strip malls, running from Little River at the North Carolina border southward to Georgetown. Towards the southern end is Pawleys Island, which became a warm-weather getaway back in the 1700s for plantation owners seeking cool beach breezes. In the same century, pirates (like Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard) hid out in the coves, barrier islands and marshes around Little River. One hundred years later, Civil War blockade runners did the same thing. All along this stretch of coast, miles of fine sand, dunes fringed in sea oats, and ragged maritime forests rife with wax myrtles and live oaks are set off by the ever-changing blues of the Atlantic Ocean. At the turn of the last century, developer F.G. Burroughs and his sons capitalized on the area’s appeal by building a railroad that barreled into Myrtle Beach.

Decade by decade, Myrtle Beach blossomed. The first golf resort and the waterfront Pavilion opened in the 1920s. By 1950, the rebuilt Pavilion had its own lavish carousel. Soon an 11-acre, Coney Island-flavored park had sprung up, with sweets shops, hot dog joints, soda fountains, ice creameries and attractions (miniature golf, Ferris wheels and bumper cars) that stretched along Ocean Boulevard. Flat-roofed motels sprouting giant cement pelicans, shells and the like were joined by high-rise resorts. And beachfront bars were crowded with people doing the “shag,” a Low Country dance in which partners hold one hand, then slip-slide across the floor. And that free hand? Well, you’ve got to hold your drink, now, don’t you?

PAST MEETS PRESENT
Today, Myrtle Beach is transitioning into a carnival of a different sort. Yes, the beaches are still beautiful, but now the buildings stand 20-plus stories high and are squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder along Ocean Boulevard. Resorts have indoor water parks and spas. The old Pavilion is gone, but there’s a new, mile-long boardwalk in its place. Many of the mid-century motels have been refreshed, and their old-time cement accessories now hold vintage appeal.

Inland, a former Air Force Base has recently been refashioned as a shopping hub/neighborhood called the Market Common, where you can get a superb steak at Divine Prime, walk or bike Valor Park or check out the sales in stores like Anthropologie and Pottery Barn. At the entertainment complex Broadway at the Beach, Ripley’s Aquarium draws crowds to its walk-through tank tunnel and baby animal exhibit, and MagiQuest fulfills kids’ Harry Potter dreams with interactive wand play. The Carolina Opry, the first of the revue-style shows in the area, won the Governor’s Cup for the state’s most outstanding tourism attraction a while back. And there are now more than 100 highly ranked golf courses.

In the old days, things were a little wilder here. In recent years, however, reinforced helmet laws and noise ordinances have tamped down “Bike Week,” and stricter decorum and rental policies inhibit the former spring break rowdiness. These days, Myrtle Beach is showing its mainstream persona year-round, and adding affordable luxuries to the picture. Maybe that explains the 14 million-plus visitors who appear annually.

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Myrtle Beach Bliss


Myrtle Beach

Have fun in the sun, chow down in full Southern style, or even get abducted by aliens in this primo resort town.

The crews who dug the Intracoastal Waterway in the 1930s probably didn’t have a clue about what would spring up in their wake. But when they connected inland rivers at the northeastern tip of South Carolina and continued some 60 miles southward, they birthed one crown jewel of an island.

The area that eventually became Myrtle Beach—at the time known by only a few, for its pristine white beaches—was sparsely dotted with vacation homes and a few resorts. But by the 1940s, thanks to its new Air Force base, dance clubs that gave rise to the Carolina Shag and a motel-lined strip, it had been duly discovered. Nearly 80 years later, Myrtle Beach (named for the wax myrtles that sprout in maritime forests and edge up onto the dunes) welcomes almost 14 million visitors annually. Here’s what’s fresh in this long-beloved destination.

PLAY HARD
Myrtle Beach’s famed Ocean Boulevard has always been the place to cruise in the Palmetto State. But since 2010, when the city’s Boardwalk opened, the attention has been shifting from the automobile to the pedestrian. The 1.2-mile walk stretches from 2nd to 14th Avenues and includes countless benches, canopies, parks, souvenir shops and arcades.

You won’t run out of amusements on the Grand Strand, but two must-sees sit within a few blocks of each other on Ocean Boulevard. First, the beachfront SkyWheel, a nearly 200-foot-tall Ferris wheel sporting 42 glass-enclosed air gondolas and a million LEDs that dance in a stunning light show. A ride on this marvel, which opened in 2011, offers views of as far as 20 miles in every direction; try it at dusk to take in the sunset and the strip’s neon artistry.

Just south of the wheel, Family Kingdom has reigned as Ocean Boulevard’s amusement park for decades. While it’s known for its old-school wooden roller coaster, 2013 brought the Twist ’n’ Shout steel roller coaster and a 2-person flying-gondola ride. You can stroll the amusement park grounds free of charge; you pay only to ride.

Farther afield in nearby Murrells Inlet, Pirate Adventures awaits pint-size landlubbers looking for seafaring action. After donning swashbuckling clothes and dabbing on pirate makeup, kids (and their chaperones) climb aboard an old wooden ship to sail in search of treasure. Spoiler alert: Rogue sailors attack along the way.

Myrtle Beach

GEEK OUT
How long would you have lasted in the cold waters that claimed the victims of the Titanic disaster? Stick your hand in an icy tank and find out. Think you can use your mind to move objects? Strap on a sensor-laden headband and give it a go at WonderWorks, where you’ll find hands-on experiments galore. Until Labor Day, Encounters: U.F.O. Experience displays 200-plus artifacts centered on purported run-ins with aliens.

TEE UP
Golf Digest has ranked the Grand Strand, with its 102 greenways, among its top 10 best buddy golfing destinations for years. And now, the area’s pick-of-the-litter course is easier to access. Instead of booking through your resort to score a reservation at the semiprivate Dunes Golf & Beach Club, you can book at myrtlebeachgolf.com.

SHOPPING BREAK
Myrtle Beach’s onetime Air Force base is now home to Market Common, a walkable live/work-shop complex with A-list stores. Noteworthy recent additions include City Mac, a chic Apple shop where you can get the latest phone or troubleshoot laptop snafus; the Kangaroo Pouch, which has the hippest baby gear and wear; Devo Olive Oil Co., selling some 60 types of pressed oil; and the Coastal Wine Boutique, where you can taste and buy

EAT YOUR HEART OUT
Find the Crab Cake Lady’s hand-made crab cakes at Harrelson’s Seafood Market, in Murrells Inlet. And hunt down Mr. Fish at its newly opened location, north of the old (closed) spot; the lines for fried platters and chocolate pie still run out the door.

For down-home food, head to Lulu’s Café (their eggs Benedict is a take on biscuits and gravy, and cheese fries come with pimento cheese). Kudzu Bakery offers cakes, while Coccadotts gets wacky with cupcakes (try the maple and bacon).

A casual lunch of Nacho Hippo’s tacos stuffed to the limits can’t be beat. And a great date night destination is tiny Sobaya Japanese Bistro, where Korean and Japanese dishes are made to order. On the other end of the evening-out spectrum, drive to North Myrtle Beach for 21 Main at North Beach’s country-club-meets-steak-house fare. Chef Lou Petrozzi’s steaks are perfectly rendered; his seafood dishes, like seared scallops, are impeccable.

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Atlantic City Revival


Nearly a century after its Prohibition-era heyday, the boardwalk is back.

There’s more to Atlantic City’s old nickname, “America’s Playground,” than raucous speakeasies and glittering nightclubs. This New Jersey beach retreat was also once known for a more wholesome brand of fun—namely, great food and spectacular shows. Now, after decades of decline followed by casino-focused development and a post-Hurricane Sandy revitalization, a new playground has emerged that mixes some of the old, Prohibition-era delights with more modern pleasures.

FRESH TRACKS
In his book Boardwalk Empire, on which the HBO series is based, historian Nelson Johnson writes that Atlantic City blossomed in the 1920s because of its accessibility. Ninety-nine trains, including 11 of the 16 fastest in the world, cruised in and out of A.C. each summer day. The city eventually evolved into a car-centric town, but rail travel returned in 2009 with the launch of the double-decker ACES train, which runs from New York City on weekends and is a far cry from the dreary casino buses (think leather seats and drink specials).

HISTORY SAMPLER
If you arrive in time for lunch, pop over to the White House Sub Shop, a favorite for its overstuffed sandwiches. The walls of this workingman’s deli, which opened in 1946, are plastered with photographs and memorabilia from A.C.’s past, including glossies signed by a zillion Miss Americas and a towel used by Frank Sinatra during his last show at the Sands. Dozens of friendly cooks whip up cheesesteaks and hoagies, using fresh bread supplied by the folks at Formica Bros. Bakery across the street.

When you’ve reached your caloric capacity, take a stroll down the boardwalk to Garden Pier, just north of the Trump Taj Mahal. Here the Atlantic City Museum awaits, with exhibits about the Steel Pier’s diving horses and the very first Ferris wheel. The boardwalk itself has few of the legendary hotels from Prohibition days, but near the Tropicana you can peek into the old Ritz-Carlton (now the Ritz Condominiums). It was from the Ritz’s ninth floor that crooked political boss Enoch “Nucky” Johnson ran the city in the 1920s. “Nucky had leased the entire floor from where he reigned as the ‘Czar,’” writes Nelson Johnson. With his silk robes and hedonistic lifestyle, Nucky turned the Ritz into a “lavish temple of pleasure.”

To get a real taste of old Atlantic City, leave the boardwalk and hit the traditional eateries. Several celebrity-chef restaurants have opened in town—including the Borgata’s Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck establishments—but locals will still point you to Dock’s Oyster House. Dock’s has been run by the same Dougherty family since it first opened in 1897, and they often greet you at the door. The dining room retains its old-world feel, with a pianist playing standards from behind the bar and a menu that still lists the same century-old hits: fried oysters and crab cakes.

Farther down Atlantic Avenue, you’ll find an even greater culinary landmark: The Knife & Fork, founded in 1912. It’s housed in an idiosyncratic, Flemish-style building that was first a private club and then a speakeasy until federal authorities raided it. In 2005 the Knife & Fork was purchased by the Dougherty family, of Dock’s fame, and given a makeover. It still serves traditional beef and reef fare, but the revamped menu also offers modern twists like Kobe sliders and Asian slaw.

MODERN THROWBACKS
Not all of the “vintage” establishments in the city are old. The Chelsea, a 1950s-style boutique hotel, opened in 2008 as the first non-gaming resort on the boardwalk in the casino area. Retro lamps and art deco mirrors accent the rooms; the two restaurants were developed in part by Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr. Teplitzky’s is a chic diner and bar straight out of The Jetsons, while Chelsea Prime resembles an old-school steak house with its leather booths and black-and-white photos of 1940s A.C. The tall windows with sweeping ocean views make a perfect backdrop for a succulent T-bone.

Old-school revelry is also making a comeback. Check out the free parade put on three times a day Wednesday through Sunday by the Showboat casino, with dancers, acrobats and singers wearing feather boas and colorful costumes. Showboat may not be the spiffiest casino on the boardwalk, but you won’t find a more entertaining tribute to the glory days of the Steel Pier.

NEW TOUCHES
Had enough history? Head to the Pier Shops at Caesars, where you can browse the latest fashions at high-end boutiques (Gucci, Ferragamo) and marvel at the Water Show, a dramatic display of fountains, lights and music. Take a break in the Adirondack chairs on the mall’s third floor (which has great sunset views, by the way), then wander over to the outlet stores on The Walk.

As with shopping, Atlantic City’s entertainment scene has also gotten a serious update. With new casinos popping up across the country, the gaming industry is growing more competitive, and Atlantic City is trying to keep up with the changes by improving its other attractions. So far, the work has paid off. The city has now drawn big-name performers like Bruce Springsteen, Shakira and Lady Gaga, with more consistently on the horizon.

If you don’t have tickets to a show, you’ll find plenty of action at one of the many nightclubs and lounges. Exhibit A: Harrah’s Pool. By day, it’s a huge, watery oasis of hot tubs and palm trees. Come evening, DJs are unleashed and it transforms into an aquatic dance club with mini-cabanas and an MTV Jersey Shore vibe. The nearby Borgata also has several popular clubs and lounges with nightly DJs and live bands.

And to help you recover from your big night out, Atlantic City has tons of spas. Opt for the seashell massage ($125) at Showboat’s Vive Day Spa, which is like a hot stone treatment, but with a shore twist. The South Jersey shore, that is.

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Coastal Cali Drive


Cruising down the California coast may well inspire a lifestyle change.

SanDiego

When people talk about Southern California, they’re usually referring to the idyllic, 130-mile strip of coast between Los Angeles and San Diego. The “California Riviera,” as it’s often called, is as much a lifestyle as a location. People here live outdoors—even, it seems, when they’re indoors. To see California beach culture at its best, start your drive 40 miles south of L.A., among the surfers and volleyball gods of Orange County’s Newport Beach. Then cruise down toward San Diego, about 90 miles farther.

NEWPORT BEACH
Stop in Newport Beach for a bike ride along the 3-mile-long Balboa Peninsula. The flat cycling path cuts between the sand and a row of whimsical beach houses—a simple sea cottage is next to a palazzo, which is next to a tiki hut. Rent beach cruisers for $10 an hour from Easy Ride Bicycle Rentals. The beach is improbably wide and full of dunes; at its south end is the Wedge, a scenic inlet where sailboats and Duffy electric touring boats glide by.

Move slightly inland to sample Newport’s upscale diversions. Key among them is the nearly 400-acre Pelican Hill Golf Club. The Tom Fazio-designed 36-hole course is open to the public. A longtime Newport Coast institution, the club is now surrounded by the palatial, Mediterranean-style Resort at Pelican Hill. Soak up the ambience over an early dinner at Andrea, one of Pelican Hill’s dining rooms. It’s easily one of the state’s finest Northern Italian restaurants.

Leaving Newport Beach, Highway 1 dips and winds along cliffs and past sandy coves. Rather than blasting by all this beauty, set aside an afternoon for Crystal Cove State Park, a protected 3-mile sandy strand backed by 2,400 acres of seaside cliffs and forests of eucalyptus, pine and Canary Island palms. Before you head out on the 17 miles of hiking trails, fuel up at the 3-year-old Beachcomber Café, reportedly the first restaurant in 40 years to open right on the SoCal sand.

Orange County

LAGUNA BEACH
The affluent and arty city of Laguna Beach is home to fewer than 25,000 people. With its curving bay and bungalow- and mansion-dotted hillside, it’s like an American version of Italy’s Positano—but with surfers. At Laguna’s center is Main Beach, with its tidal pools and boardwalk; across from the beach are the galleries of Forest Avenue—Laguna Beach has lured artists for more than a century. The town’s Heisler Park has walking paths that drop down to golden sands where you can swim, surf, dive or just explore the tide pools. It’s a great vantage point for views of the rugged coast, human-scaled town and palm-silhouetted sunsets.

Treasure Island Park also has Pacific views to spare. Here, locals work their way through morning yoga routines on the lawns while bunnies can be heard hopping about in the underbrush. After your visit, stop at the adjacent Montage, a Craftsman-style resort that has been wowing travelers and celeb weekenders from L.A. since it opened in 2003. If you book a treatment you can spend some time at the spa, with its open-air relaxation areas, pool deck and oceanfront gym. Or just relax over drinks by the fire in the plush lobby. Views of the Pacific included, naturally.

NORTH COUNTY, SAN DIEGO
The next stop is North San Diego County—known as North County. An easy coastal drive south on Interstate 5 leads to the pretty community of Del Mar, anchored by the Auberge Del Mar resort. The lobby lounge and the tiered decks that hold the Waterfall Terrace and Bleu Bar are social magnets, and the restaurant, Kitchen 1540, is well worth a visit.

End your SoCal road trip in La Jolla, a walkable, Mediterranean-style village with a strong sense of community. The town’s ocean swimmers like to drop their towels on the emerald green lawn above La Jolla Cove and swim out—beyond snorkelers ogling Garibaldi fish—to the half-mile buoy in the bay. Paddlers can rent kayaks and tour the coast’s seven sea caves, while the more daring might sign up at Torrey Pines Gliderport for a 20-minute tandem flight above the sands of Black’s Beach.

When you’re in La Jolla’s oceanfront park, wander south along the coastal path to a tiny cove populated by sea lions basking in the sun. Humans must stay behind the rope: There’s no touching allowed. But from here you can admire (and photograph) the sea lions enjoying their version of the SoCal lifestyle.

Southern California Coast

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Dune & Bayside Bar


Bayside Bar
St. Lucia 
In 2012, the former Jalousie Plantation emerged from a multimillion-dollar facelift as the Viceroy chain’s swanky Sugar Beach. Much had changed, but the view of the Pitons from the resort’s Bayside Bar remained blissfully the same. Adirondack-style chairs occupy a deck shaded by almond trees on Anse des Pitons, the only white-sand beach on St. Lucia’s southwest side (full disclosure: the sand was imported to replace the black sand for aesthetics). Enjoy the view while you linger over the bar's Caribbean Sorrel cocktail (below) and make a toast to the good life, distilled.  
Val des Pitons, Soufrière; viceroyhotelsandresorts.com 

Dune
Paradise Island, Bahamas 
Ditch the crowds at the sprawling Atlantis resort for something classier. Dune, at the nearby One & Only Ocean Club, sits atop a dune beside Cabbage Beach, which is one of the nicest in Nassau. While the French-Asian menu is amazing (no surprise; the chef is Jean-Georges Vongerichten), you can feast almost as well on the view from your table on the deck. “The setting is so magnificent that everything else pales in comparison,” says Mark Jordan, a photographer from Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. Take it in while sipping a Dune Cocktail—a riff on Nassau’s famous Sky Juice, made with gin, Cointreau, curaçao and coconut milk. 
1 Casino Dr., Paradise Island, Nassau; oneandonlyresorts.com

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Fun in Fort Lauderdale


This seaside Florida town has moved far beyond its former spring-break-hotspot heyday.

When in Fort Lauderdale, it never takes long before you hear a reference to the city’s once apt (and recently reinterpreted) motto: “Where the Boys Are.” That 1960 movie about a gaggle of Midwestern college girls who came to Florida’s Gold Coast for unfettered fun inspired countless spring break pilgrimages to Fort Lauderdale.

 

Winter months see fewer visitors, even though temperatures hover around 75 degrees. A recent spate of luxury hotel openings has transformed a once-uninspired beach town into one of South Florida’s most sophisticated destinations.

 

These days, a more fitting mantra for Fort Lauderdale’s sun-spackled stretch of endless waterways (more than 300 navigable miles in total) would be “Where the Boats Are.” With 100 marinas and boatyards and more than 40,000 resident yachts, it makes sense that the city has also been dubbed the Venice of America. Wherever you find a perch along the waterfront, a wake will surely roll your way.

 

WATERY WAYS

The best way to get your feet wet is to hop on the Water Taxi, which plies the Intracoastal Waterway and New River, making 13 stops from the Galleria Mall and Las Olas Boulevard to the Convention Center. The most impressive stretch of the Intracoastal is known as Millionaire’s Row, showcasing manicured properties with lavish mansions and yachts moored out front.

 

Ride the Water Taxi to the end of the line and get off at Riverwalk, which hosts the Urban Market every Saturday, selling everything from handmade soaps to Peruvian street food. The waterfront esplanade runs alongside several downtown highlights, including the Museum of Discovery & Science, home to an IMAX theater and the largest living Atlantic coral reef in a museum, and the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, displaying works by American Impressionists and visiting Latin American artists.

 

The Jungle Queen offers several fun family outings to explore the area’s waterways, with the requisite touch of kitsch that makes it a local institution. Every evening, the two-story riverboat leaves the Bahia Mar Beach Resort on a tour of the river and canals, ending at a private riverside location where a buffet and alligator show are on the menu. It’s a sit-back-and-soak-it-all-in kind of affair, with the captain providing commentary along the way.

 

PEDALING AND DOG-PADDLING

For something less sedentary, rent a beach cruiser bike from Fun Rentals for a few hours to explore the 2 miles of promenade along the ocean. The showers every few blocks make a cool-off swim in the ocean all the more appealing.

 

Another prime place to take a dip is the W Fort Lauderdale hotel, where Sunday pool parties, open to the public, draw hipsters to what’s arguably Florida’s sexiest pool (in the hotel’s lobby, you can peer through portholes cut into the ceiling above for views into the pool).

 

Pedaling back south, turn west at the Las Olas Bridge to access the Finger Islands—narrow residential streets with names like Isle of Venice and Fiesta Way. Here, canals that were dredged in the 1920s are lined with a patchwork of old Florida bungalows (disappearing fast) alongside enormous Spanish Mediterranean mansions.

 

Take a break at Colee Hammock Park, just off Las Olas Boulevard, where kids kick soccer balls and families picnic and strum guitars under banyan trees and rustling palms.

 

SHOPPING THE BOULEVARD

The city’s most sociable street, Las Olas Boulevard, is lined with establishments that range from diners and trendy restaurants to needlepoint shops and European couture. Seek out shops like Blue, the outpost of Key West jewelry designer David Symons. His organic pieces are displayed alongside eclectic beach finery such as colorful sarongs from Kenya. During the 1970s, the owner of Moda Mario dressed the stars of Miami Vice. Nowadays, the real-life yacht set stop by for prêt-à-porter European clothing and hard-to-find brands for men and women. Celebrity of Las Olas is a sure bet for swimwear, with an ever-present sale rack of good buys. And follow the scent of molten chocolate to Kilwin’s, an ice cream and candy shop whose peanut-brittle waffle cones take the cake.

 

If you’re visiting on a Sunday, be sure to hit the Gourmet Farmers Market. Residents catch up on neighborhood news while browsing the handful of tented stalls. Though the range of products is small, the quality is high: The guacamole guy pounds his dips to order, with a mortar and pestle used by the indigenous people of Colombia. From Argentinean empanadas filled with ham and cheese to ceramics from Provence, the items for sale here are as diverse as Fort Lauderdale’s residents.

 

Tony Kantorski pulls his red pickup truck alongside the market every week. In the back are coolers holding grouper filets, Key West pink shrimp and a Florida favorite: stone crab claws that he’ll crack open for you with the back of his ice scoop and serve with a spot of lemony mustard sauce. You’ll get about 6 big claws for $10, a bargain compared to restaurant prices. It’s a high-life indulgence served in laid-back Florida fashion—much like Fort Lauderdale itself these days.

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Cozumel – Island of Swallows


Josef W.Walking down the stone streets of Playa del Carmen, past the numerous vendors and quaint shops, the ferry to Cozumel slowly comes into view. It looks sleek, fast and modern sitting atop the crystal clear blue water of the ocean. As we wait in line with mild trepidation to board, we watch the families play along the pristine white sand beach, bathed in the warm sunlight. Boarding the ship is quite a breeze once the gate opens and we are soon under way heading to Cozumel. As Cozumel slowly comes into focus, small droplets of ocean water cool us off during our complimentary sun tan on the 30 minute ferry ride. Arriving in Cozumel proves to be as easy as boarding was and we are soon on our way to the resort.

One of the first things that we noticed about Cozumel was that it feels like mainland Mexico, yet feels very different as well. There were numerous places to rent scooters on the side of the road, offering adventurous travelers the opportunity to explore the island on their own. They seem to be quite the popular mode of transportation to get around for the tourists and locals alike. We quickly leave the town limits of San Miguel de Cozumel, the capital, and drive along the highway towards our vacation destination. The resort staff is quickly at our service with towels and fresh drinks upon our arrival. We are quickly checked in and on our way to explore the resort. Having the ocean right outside our door along with a convenient ocean-side bar made this stay quite the treat.

The island seems to move at a slower pace than the mainland which makes everything more relaxing. We managed to spend some time exploring the local shops and dining at a quaint restaurant in the heart of San Miguel. The locals are eager to show you their items for sale and are quite friendly.  The food was amazing in both taste and presentation. We truly enjoyed spending a nice evening exploring this charming city. Don’t forget to also spend some time snorkeling at the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere, located off the coast of Cozumel. Make Cozumel your next vacation destination and enjoy the tranquility and beauty of Mexico!

We hope you enjoyed all of the great photos shared by RCI subscribing members. Be sure to check back with us next week!

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Cozumel – Adventure and Relaxation in One


Kristina W.Walking through the small streets of Playa Del Carmen, the excitement was building. We were heading towards the ferry terminal that would lead to our Cozumel journey. The process of using the ferry as transportation was quite simple and enjoyable. It was a beautiful sight to see the island coming into view as we felt the calm waves of the ocean rocking the ferry. Upon arrival on Cozumel, transportation to the resort was easy. The island of Cozumel is not an overwhelming size as it is roughly 30 miles long and 10 miles wide. There is one main road that circles the island, so if you choose to rent a car it is pretty easy to navigate.

Once you get settled in, be sure to check out the amazing water sport activities, like snorkeling. The largest reef in the Western Hemisphere, the Mesoamerica Reef, can be explored while staying in Cozumel. The ocean is crystal clear which makes for some fantastic sightings such as tropical fish and turtles.

Back on the island, the town of San Miguel offers many unique shopping prospects. While we were visiting, we enjoyed a night out in Cozumel with a phenomenal dinner at a local restaurant. Additionally, Cozumel provides many choices for spa treatments. Whether you are looking for a relaxing vacation, or an exciting getaway full of adventure, Cozumel offers the perfect trip for any family.

We’re continuing to share RCI subscribing members’ Cozumel photos. Stay tuned, there’s more to come!

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Something for Everyone in Mazatlan


Chad K

Mazatlan’s economy is based on two primary industries: tourism and fishing. Visitors flock to the city to enjoy its beach front resorts and hotels, which have most of their rooms featuring westward views, showcasing sights of the beaches, the ocean, and stunning sunsets. Fishing in the area is primarily for shrimp and tuna, meaning that local restaurants have the freshest ingredients for entrees with those favorites.

Beyond the beaches, tourists often are drawn to Mazatlan for two main features: the famous Malecon and Old Town.

Mazatlan’s Malecon is a promenade that hugs the coastline for many miles. Guests can traverse the Malecon in open air taxis that usually feature friendly and informative drivers who will point out the sights that you won’t want to miss. These include gazebos, photo locations, bars amd clubs, shops, monuments, and street vendors.  There is a fun and safe buzz about the Malecon in the evenings, and these open air taxis are a great way to fully enjoy the action.

Old Town Mazatlan is a major draw for tourists, featuring the famous Cathedral and the Plaza Machado. The Plaza was built in 1837 and features strong French and Spanish influences. Guests that enjoy outdoor dining at Pedro y Lola often comment that the architecture above and around them reminds them of places such as New Orleans or Paris. Street vendors and artists showcase their wares on the plaza, usually at very cheap prices. The Mazatlan Cathedral faces the Plaza Principal in Old Town. Built in 1875, it features high, twin towers, a dramatic interior, and beautiful statues.

Add in world class golf, beautiful weather, sunset cruises, various children’s activities and you’ll see there is something for everyone in Mazatlan.

For the next two weeks we will be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members that have also visited Mazatlan. Be sure to check back soon!

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Glorious Sunset in Mazatlan


Glorious Sunset in Mazatlan

View of the sunset over the Pacific Ocean from our room at Pueblo Bonito Resort in Mazatlan, Mexico.

-David S. from Valley Center, CA

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Puerto Vallarta – The Convergence of Contrast


Jozef WPuerto Vallarta, a city rich in culture and excitement, is a wonderful location to relax while still offering the opportunity to experience adventure. What strikes me each time I visit Puerto Vallarta is the meeting of opposites.

It has always fascinated me that a location so well known for Mexican culture can also feel so American. Puerto Vallarta is one of the top spots abroad, where some Americans choose to settle down after retirement. This speaks to the fact that many of the people in Puerto Vallarta speak English, as well as, Spanish. There are also many American-style stores and restaurants to enjoy.

However, if you are looking to experience traditional Mexico, head into town. There you will find Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, which was constructed in the 19th century. Near this church you will find an open air market to shop for local crafts. Don’t forget to head a bit southwest of the church to find the newly remodeled Malecon, a boardwalk in Puerto Vallarta. The Malecon is teeming with life, from shops to live statues to impromptu fire shows… the Malecon offers it all!

Puerto Vallarta is located on Banderas Bay, the third largest bay in Mexico. You can swim in the warm ocean water, as most of the resorts are located on or near the beach. You will also see cruise ships docking into the ports, which can make for a nice evening activity, watching as the sun sets on the horizon.

Another benefit of Puerto Vallarta is the easy access to the ocean while still maintaining the enjoyment of the Sierra Madre Mountains. The Sierra Madre Mountains are within easy access if you’d like to add some adventure to your trip. There are opportunities to partake in adventurous activities such as ATV riding and hiking. Spend the day in the lush mountain jungles as you explore the rivers and trails that Puerto Vallarta has to offer.

Want to hear more? Come back to the RCI Blog this week, where we will be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have visited Puerto Vallarta as well.

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Once In A Lifetime


My boyfriend of three years and I decided to take a spontaneous vacation in July. We were in our early 20's and living together for a little less than a year. We found a fantastic deal and booked a trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Our excitement was palpable.

As a young couple in love, off we went to Cancun International Airport on our first trip to Mexico, to an all-inclusive resort and to a beach not on the US eastern coast. We were thrilled to just be away together in such a lovely place.

After settling into a room, squeezing in a little pool time, and enjoying a delicious dinner at the buffet, we decided to take a walk on the beach. Hand-in-hand we went as we took a seat on two loungers under a tiki hut. The stars twinkled above us on this dark night, the ocean lapped the sand, and we enjoyed the silence that surrounded us in this peaceful moment.

I said to my boyfriend, "What a perfect place, what a perfect dinner, what a perfect night." At that moment he replied "It's the perfect time for me to ask you to marry me." I stared in awe as he got down on one knee and opened up a box showing my sparkling engagement ring. I smiled and cried tears of joy as I replied "Yes!” We shared an emotional and happy moment under the romantic sky.

As it turns out, he had done an impressive job asking my parents for their permission, receiving the delivery of the ring, and getting through the airports' security and customs departments. I was excited, beaming, and still in shock when we went to the lobby. We celebrated with champagne as we watched the live Mexican band play along with couples and children dancing about...

We immediately got moved to an oceanfront room and spent the rest of our vacation in bliss as we relaxed, got massaged, sunbathed, dined, drank, danced, and laughed together. During our remaining days, we frequently visited Jack and José who shared in our happiness as a newly engaged couple and new timeshare owners. This was a very special vacation for us and I will never forget the once in a lifetime memories that were created at Ocean Maya Royale.

-Erin D. from Blue Bell, Pennsylvania

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40th Anniversary


We had a beautiful trip driving down the coast of Spain to Malaga. The resort was wonderful and we met some very nice people from England, as well as other counties. They had very good entertainment at night, which we enjoyed. We found a lovely beach restaurant, called Max Beach. We spent our 40th anniversary there, with a lovely table overlooking the ocean, great food and great entertainment. It was a very special week, with lots of sightseeing and fun. The next week we went to Albufeira, Portugal. We had a very memorable and lovely vacation. Ended it all by spending three days in Frankfurt, Germany. My husband surprised me with First Class tickets for all our flights. Who could ask for a better 40 anniversary!!!

-Carolee A. from Mississauga, Canada

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Timeshare is the best thing we have ever owned


For Christmas four years ago, we took both of our sons and a significant other to Kauai, Hawaii. We spent the whole week taking helicopter rides, which was awesome. The best way to see the beauty of this gorgeous island. We also went snorkeling, to a luau, toured every inch of this gorgeous island, took a boat ride around to the Na Pali Coast, swam in waterfall pools, the list goes on. The resort had a lanai for both rooms that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. We hated to go to sleep and woke up very early every morning to sit on the lanai to watch the sunrise. The weather was absolutely perfect and the resort was wonderful. It was a Christmas dream vacation to be in the most beautiful place in the world with our grown children and friend. We want to go back and recreate the whole week because it is the one trip that we can never forget. Owning our timeshare is the greatest purchase we have ever made. We have been to all of the Hawaiian Islands and Kauai has been the most special.

-Richard K. from Bells, Texas

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No Worries, Mate


My husband, James and I looked at each other and then grinned as we continued packing for the trip of a lifetime. Finally, it was September 25, 2011, and we were on our way to Australia, a continent halfway around the world. The flying time is twelve-hours from Los Angeles. The trip was booked nine months earlier. We used our Points with RCI and stayed at the Boambee Bay Resort in Coffs Harbour, Australia. We decided to stay in Coffs Harbor, a coastal city on the north coast of New South Wales, about 340 miles north of Sydney...

Coffs Harbour has numerous beaches and high mountains, which delivers incredible vistas. You can enjoy water sports or backpacking and camping. The resort unit was modern, large, comfortable, and clean, and it contained a laundry room. The resort has numerous family activities daily, and behind the resort were the Boambee Bay Creek and the Boambee Beach. The Pacific Ocean spills into the beach so we walked on the Boambee Bay Creek and followed it to the Boambee Beach. We noticed that people were swimming with their family, including their dogs, so we entered the water as well.

We went sightseeing on our own with the help of the Boambee Bay Resort staff, which offered sightseeing suggestions, maps and directions. Our first stop was the Jetty Markets, which sells clothing, gifts and souvenirs. There was also a farmers market. A band played country music and the blues. Our second stop was the Jetty Beach where we watched surfers. We walked the beach and visited a botanical garden. We drove to Woolgoolga, a suburb of Coffs Harbour and visited the beach. We drove down Woolgoolga’s, Beach Street to the whale lookout. Numerous beaches surround Coffs Harbor; on our way to Woolgoolga, on the Pacific Highway, we passed Sapphire Beach, Moonee Beach, Emerald Beach and Sandy Beach.

James did not want to leave Boambee Bay Resort, and he wants to return in the future. Our Australian vacation was unforgettable. If we had it to do it over again, we would extend our trip to 12 days as opposed to 7 days. This was the trip of a lifetime and we enjoyed everything about it. We especially enjoyed the kindness and friendless of the Australian people, and love their mantra “No worries, mates”.

-Bonnit B. from Vallejo, CA

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Cabo San Lucas


I spent a wonderful week in Cabo San Lucas, MX at Pueblo Bonito Resort at Sunset Beach. Pictures can't capture the beauty of that property. Our room was very nice, including the Pacific Ocean view. The food was outstanding in all of the restaurants. I made use of the fitness center, the spa and one of the pools. I found things extremely clean and the service fantastic. It's convenient to be able to take the free shuttle to the other Pueblo Bonito properties in Cabo as well. I can't wait for my next visit!

 

I spent a wonderful week in Cabo San Lucas, MX at Pueblo Bonito Resort at Sunset Beach. Pictures can't capture the beauty of that property. Our room was very nice, including the Pacific Ocean view. The food was outstanding in all of the restaurants. I made use of the fitness center, the spa and one of the pools. I found things extremely clean and the service fantastic. It's convenient to be able to take the free shuttle to the other Pueblo Bonito properties in Cabo as well. I can't wait for my next visit!

- Cheryl from Farmington, MI

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Ocean View


The view from our beautiful room at Pueblo Bonito Resort at Emerald Bay at Mazatlan, MX

 

The view from our beautiful room at Pueblo Bonito Resort at Emerald Bay at Mazatlan, MX

 

- Larry H. from Modesto, CA

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Ahhhhhh....


Several years ago, my husband I took a trip to Mazatlan, Mexico - my first trip south of the boarder! We stayed at the Pueblo Bonito Resort at Emerald Bay, which is one of THE nicest resorts we've ever stayed. A lot of times you go on vacation and you need another vacation when you get home to recover from all the activities you did, right? Well, not this one. We excelled at relaxing on this vacation, which is super easy to do when there's a beach chair, sun, awesome pool, and Victor - the poolside drink waiter. Ahhhh. If ever I need to calm down and think of a happy place I picture myself in our room there, laying on that comfy bed, listening to the ocean waves, with the breeze gently flapping the sliding glass door curtains, staring at the ceiling fan going round and round and I have no place to be.... ahhhhhh.

 

- Kristin F. from Albany, OR

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Glorious Sunset in Mazatlan


View of sunset over the Pacific Ocean from our room at Pueblo Bonito Resort at Emerald Bay in Mazatlan.

 

View of sunset over the Pacific Ocean from our room at Pueblo Bonito Resort at Emerald Bay in Mazatlan.

 

- David S. from Valley Center, CA

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