Snowbird Bliss: 10 Best Beach Getaways
Life is a beach. Here, the best beach destinations selected by the editors of Zoomer magazine.
Why: for a Romance redux. “Romance is hot!” say the experts at Half Moon – named for the perfect crescent of white sand on which it sits – in Rose Hall, Jamaica. Their mission: to revive tired couples and inspire themto re-engage – with each other and with nature. The newest base of romance clients – boomers – are also looking for a wedding, whether the second time around or a renewal of vows, that offers a multigenerational experience, something for everyone, as well as respecting religious and cultural choices. The resort works with a local rabbi for Jewish nuptials, and they’ve done weekend-long Indian weddings. But if you’re not renewing, just reconnecting, the beautiful Fern Tree spa specializes in couples’ treatments (there’s even a spa suite in which you can spend your holiday), and the luxe suites with oversized tubs and terraces facing the Caribbean induce a relaxed, yet sultry vibe. Petite, seemingly private beaches dot the shore, and walking barefoot from your door to nearby steps that take you down to the sea feels just so decadent.
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Why: For the multi-gen fun of it.The mythical city of Atlantis is the inspiration for the renowned resort on Paradise Island, Bahamas. The Atlantis complex is like a giant aquarium within a water park within a world-class resort, complete with top chef restaurants (Jean-Georges, Bobby Flay, Nobu), a serene spa and, of course, stretches of sandy beaches. The Reef tower – designated an eco-conscious Blue Tourism resort – was built for families and longer stays in mind. The rooms have spacious sitting areas and balconies, as well as kitchens stocked with a fridge, stovetop, microwave and dishwasher. Eating at the resort is as simple as making a reservation and toting your room key; most restaurants on property take the key as currency. But the real attraction here is that it’s a playground for all ages. Granddad can hit the gaming tables in one of the only daylight casinos on the planet (glass doors next to the tables open to an outdoor terrace), while Dad and junior marine biologists can spend a day at Dolphin Cay learning about this intuitive marine mammal, and even swim with these gentle creatures. There’s plenty of family-oriented fare on hand – and for the hands. Grandma, Mom and pint-sized daughter can even stake their place together at the Mandara Spa’s manicure station.
Why: For the Caribbean less travelled. This tiny British protectorate (pop. 13,500) boasts 33 powdery sand beaches – the island’s biggest draw – along with gallery-hopping, golf at the 18-hole Greg Norman-designed course, snorkelling and biking along flat, uncrowded roads (be prepared to wave back at motorists). There are no chain hotels, but the island is home to some of the Caribbean’s most renowned resorts, such as Cap Juluca and Malliouhana – which features a 25,000-bottle wine cellar – along with cosy B&Bs and more than 150 independent villas, perfect for a multi-generational family trip. The culinary traveller will feel right at home dining at some of the finest restos in the Caribbean, perhaps with the likes of island visitors Jennifer Aniston or Robert De Niro.
Why: For those birds and other flights of fancy. The resort island of Galveston welcomes Canadians dodging winter for a warmer clime. Even if visiting for only a few days, it’s worth getting up early to enjoy the abundant birdlife at East Beach, rich with wading birds such as herons, ibis, egrets and gorgeous roseate spoonbills. There are different “birds” – historic aircraft – at the Lone Star Flight Museum; book a flight in a warbird, perhaps a B-17 Flying Fortress. The splendid yet intimate Grand 1894 Opera House survived both storms and today offers a full season of world-class entertainment. And don’t miss a stroll along the island’s seawall, where the luxurious San Luis Resort, Spa and Conference Center sits atop the battery of old Fort Crockett, while the elegant Hotel Galvez and Spa, built as a symbol of Galveston’s resilience, celebrated 100 years back in 2011.
Why: For A bit of Brit hospitality closer to home. Mark Twain once said, “You can go to heaven if you want. I’d rather stay here in Bermuda.” Time makes the difference between heaven and hell on a volcano. Bermuda’s 138 divine islands are actually the limestone tips of a 4,000-metre volcano that last erupted 30 million years ago. The climate is subtropical – warmed by Florida and Gulf Stream currents – yet this paradise is only a three hour flight from Toronto. Before international financial and insurance companies came to dominate the island country’s economy, tourism was its most important industry. And no wonder. Graceful seabirds – Bermuda longtails – skim over turquoise water as visitors run pink sand between their toes at picturesque beaches. The surf boils past reefs that have sunk many a vessel but are the habitat for the colourful fish that enchant snorkellers. Ashore, lush trees and flowering shrubs spice the air with fragrance. In the town of St. George, a World Heritage Site, you can admire the bronze statue of Admiral Sir George Somers, who saved all 150 aboard the Sea Venture, wrecked on the island’s treacherous reefs during a storm 400 years ago, believed to be Shakespeare’s inspiration for The Tempest. Mr. Twain might still consider St. George, relatively untouched by time, suitable digs.
SUNNY ISLES, FLA.
Why: For a taste of OLD miami. Gleason and Ava Gardner, Sunny Isles Beach – Florida’s Riviera – is located on a barrier island midway between downtown Miami and Fort Lauderdale. It is home to the Mediterranean-styleAcqualina, which towers over the Atlantic on the east and the Intracoastal Waterway on the west. Upon arrival, we’re greeted with champagne and Bellinis; children sip apple juice. At the pool, there’s no shortage of grandmothers swimming with tots and dads taking in some sun and a cocktail with, well, their dads. There is also an adults-only pool, but for the most part, the hot spot at the resort is the main pool, flanked by private cabanas on one side and the beachside Costa Grill resto on the other. For dinner, there’s the Zagat top-rated Il Mulino New York, where the menu suits palates of all ages with classic Italian fare and brilliant presentation. We’re nearly satiated with salty hunks of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, carved straight from the wheel at table, along with a selection of antipastos that would make any Mama envious. The resort features ESP A, one of the rare North American outposts of this English leader in spa treatments. Guests can use facilities such as the Crystal Steam Room or the Ice Fountains while indulging in treatments, and the 45-plus set will enjoy ESP A’s trio of facials, which use the company’s Super Active anti-aging product line.
LOS CABOS, MEXICO
Why: For the star treatment. At the One&Only Palmilla in Los Cabos, you can sit and sun, take a dip at one of the few swimmable beaches on this ruggedly beautiful shoreline or snack on renowned chef Charlie Trotter’s C Restaurant menu. Take a day trip and visit local artisan fairs, try a native Mexican dinner, have a desert adventure or enrol the children in the KidsOnly program, to take a Spanish lesson, paint a piñata or learn how to cook. But it’s the outdoor spa that beckons: I’m floating, face up. The sky is pristine blue, the palm fronds warm and “freeing therapy of that fronds are gently waving in the Pacific breeze and healing hands are cradling me in warm water. I’m gently swirled in circles while being expertly pulled and stretched and massaged. This is Watsu, a hybrid of water and Shiatsu, and the concept is “freeing the body in water.” Developed by Harold Dull in 1980, this form of aquatic therapy is excellent for chronic pain, stress-busting and relaxation and is just one of the unique offerings at the resort’s ESPA spa, which serves up inspired lunches that help maintain that light-as-air feeling right through the day.
PALM BEACH, FLA.
Why: Where luxury loves company. What is it about Palm Beach that maintains its enduring allure? It might be the fab factor of Worth Avenue’s chic boutiques, the pristine beach dotted with yachts or the knowledge that the likes of Donald Trump and fallen magnate Conrad Black reside there (when not making ill-fated attempts at the U.S. presidency or staying in a state penitentiary). No matter the reason for its mystique, this tiny sandbar smack in the Atlantic coastal waters has lured Canadians for more than a century.
It’s fitting that the partially Canadian-owned Four Seasons chain enlisted homegrown interior designer Brian Gluckstein to revamp its Palm Beach property. Of course, the new look compliments the spa that Gluckstein transformed in 2008. Decked out in Greek marble, handpainted walls and Asian-inspired details, the space offers up the perfect mix for couples on retreat with its Seagrass Room, featuring private steam room and raindrop shower. While most women enjoy indulging in a facial or pedicure, sometimes men need a little convincing, which brings us to the Willow Room, exclusively for the gentleman who wants to feel like a million bucks. Set up in a classic barbershop chair, men can get a six-step hot shave, haircut, manicure, pedicure and other treatments in private.
HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIF.
Why: For the California dreamin’. If Huntington Beach is the mecca of surf culture, then the Strand– the strip of sand where the U.S. Open of surfing takes place – is its zenith. Take a lesson or stay on solid ground at the International Surfing Museum, where all things surfing and the other Duke – the father of modern surfing, Duke Kahanamoku – are celebrated. At 45 years of age, the Hawaiian, winner of five Olympic medals, was a member of the U.S. water polo team and the man who taught the first speaking Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller, his famous flutter kick. For a table with a view, sit poolside at Shades at the Hilton Waterfront, where the waves break onto the beach across the street. Jerry Mathers (Beaver Cleaver to you and me) held his wedding reception here in 2010. Gosh, Beav, it’s good to know that it’s never too late for love.
Why: To do as the locals do. Air Canada may fly direct via Toronto to this lush island on Saturdays and Sundays, but if it’s Friday, it must be the jump-up at Gros Islet near Rodney Bay. To kick off the weekend, the town shuts its tiny main thoroughfare to traffic and, after dark, turns it into a street party. Bars and restos line the road, their doors flung open to the elements, while street vendors and food purveyors break out their portable tables and get busy. The locals mix, mingle and dance with the tourists. Go with a group or – even better – with a local. There’s more than just partying: adventurers of all ages can try Jeep safaris, ziplining through the rainforest and getting up close to a volcano with its bubbling sulphur springs. And no visit to St. Lucia is complete without cruising the coast to the bay between Les Pitons, the volcanic protrusions that stretch to the sky at nearly 2,000 feet (where it’s not unusual to see Oprah’s yacht anchored in their shadow)