Great Winter Beach Vacations



Most of us like to be around water at some time in our lives.

It's totally relaxing, the scene ever-changing with fantastic sunrises and sunsets, warm sand, and gentle breezes.

It's usually too cool in Southern California during the winter for dipping in the Pacific unless you enjoy cold water. Mexico is popular with many Arizonans, so we'll start there. You have to go south to at least Cabo San Lucas to find winter weather warm enough for ocean swimming. Cabo is popular, especially with young people, having great resorts, and a lot of activity at night. And, it's not far by air from Phoenix Sky Harbor.

Acapulco is on the comeback now. Here is a city of some three million people, miles of shoreline, protected ocean waters and dozens of good hotels and resorts. Again, a lot to do in the evenings and plenty of shopping available for the ladies and a zillion restaurants from which to choose your meals.

A beautiful area on Mexico's Pacific coast is Ixtapa and Zihuantanejo, with great beaches, fishing, wonderful resorts and not too many tourists, yet! This would be my pick on the West Coast.

My favorite location in all of Mexico for a beach vacation is Cancun. It is situated in the Mexico State of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Peninsula. It has Caribbean weather, water and a resort city that was carved out of the wilderness in the 1970s to become Mexico's most popular vacation destination.

It's got everything! You'll find the finest hotels and resorts, upscale shopping, great food and convenient air schedules. This is where I would go if I wanted Mexico.

Florida has some wonderful beaches. I suggest you stay away from Miami and Fort Lauderdale only because of a large population. On the West Coast consider the Tampa/St. Petersburg outlying areas such as Clearwater with its fantastic white sand beaches. On the east coast of Florida, Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach, and Palm Beach are interesting, and at the southern tip of the state is Key West where there is a lot of nightlife and lots to do.

For us, Hawaii is convenient by air and rarely disappoints.

Cruising is a great way to sample the Islands' beaches. NCL America features several ships this year and would be an easy way to discover fantastic beaches. Cruising itineraries usually begin in Honolulu, then to Kauai, Hilo and Kona on the big Island, Maui and return to Honolulu. All this in one week. You check into your stateroom on the ship, unpack only once and let the ship take you through the Islands. Your food is also included, making it easier to budget. You can make arrangements on your ship to rent a car at each port of call.

Another advantage of a Hawaii vacation is you are still in the good old United States with safe water and food.

My pick of the Islands for a stay-put vacation would be Kauai and Maui. All over the various Islands you'll find fantastic resorts and hotels, golfing, fishing, some of the best beaches in the world, interesting food and scenery that is hard to beat.

The Caribbean is also loaded with great scenery, resorts and hotels, Again, my choice to experience this area would be via cruise ship. I suggest you take what is called an Eastern Caribbean itinerary that will take you to a selection of interesting and beautiful islands. At each location, you can hire a cab to take you to a fine beach and then pick you up later in the day to return to your ship. The ship will even pack a lunch for you to take on your beach adventure.

For both Caribbean and Hawaii cruises, the shore excursion staff will give you information as to where the good beaches are and, also, what to avoid.

There is a no-frills small cruise vessel in the Caribbean this winter that departs St. Maarten each Friday, visiting St. Barts, Anguilla, St. Kitts, Antigua and Nevis. This will operate in the area through April. It is operated by a European no-frills airline. The boat is called easyCruiseOne.

It was converted from a small luxury vessel into a very plain offering. It is marketed principally to the younger traveler. It carries 170 passengers. Meals are not included.

With the exception of their so-called suites, the rooms are barely larger than the bed or beds in the cabins. Fares are as low as $17 a day. Call 1-650-385-0563 or go to to get more information on this product.

Remember that we only get what we pay for!

If you want to stay in a resort or hotel on one of the Caribbean Islands for a few days there are many to choose from. Here, there are endless beaches, fantastic scenery, interesting people and water that is often so clear you can see more than 50 feet to the bottom. Snorkeling is popular (you can rent gear at your resort) and fishing, biking, walking trails through the lush growth, often interesting local food and shopping.

These islands are, for the most part, quiet, friendly and restful. If you want to get off the beaten path, consider St. Lucia and a stay at Jade Mountain, part of the Anse Chastanet Resort. Or try an all-inclusive vacation at the Jumby Bay Resort in Antigua set on its own island. It has 40 suites and 11 villas done in retro-colonial style. You can choose between a beachfront barbecue and a formal dinner in the 230-year-old Estate House after lazing by the 80-foot swimming pool.

Decisions, decisions.

In Martinique there is the all-inclusive Club Med Buccaneer's Creek. Located on one of the island's finest beaches, this 293-room resort plays up the Creole theme with piquant food at the Pays Meles Restaurant. Here there are various water sports, then entertainment when the sun goes down. Enjoy!

Also, look into visiting the Turks and Caicos. Here are some of the closest islands to the United States, but feel far away once you arrive.

Of course, there are great beaches all over the world. How far do you wish to travel and what is your budget? The Fiji Islands are packed with great beaches. Air Pacific has some value vacation packages to consider. Various airlines have packages you should look at as well as tour companies. A good travel agent should be able to make suggestions and assist you with your bookings. Remember that now you must have a passport to depart and re-enter the U.S. No passport, no trip!

Wherever you choose, have a wonderful, restful beach vacation this winter. May the water be with you!

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