Best beaches near Orlando

Daytona Beach aerial (2)

Daytona Beach aerial (2)

BeachManiacBlogWithText_150pxFor all the great entertainment the Orlando, Florida, area has to offer, its location in the north-central part of the state leaves it somewhat separated from what we here at beachmaniac.com feel is Florida’s greatest attraction: its beaches. But the good news is that if you are visiting Orlando, and you can tear yourself away from the amusement parks, you are a short drive from some great beach locations.

VisitFlorida.com recently pulled together a list of six nearby beaches on the Atlantic Coast, some of them just a one-hour drive from Disney World. We are not only sharing that list – and linking to TripAdvisor reviews of the beaches – but we are adding a few Gulf Coast beaches as well, since you can get to the Gulf Coast from Disney World in roughly an hour and half.

Atlantic Coast beaches near Orlando:

Gulf Coast beaches near Orlando:

Beach Maniac Blog by Bill Hurley

Read More

Top 9 spring break party destinations to enjoy, or avoid

Panama City Beach. Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor.

BeachManiacBlogWithText_150pxNo matter your age, if you are traveling during spring, you definitely want to know where the top spring break party destinations are. Why? Well, either you want to be where the party never stops, or – if you’re over 25 – you may want to stop being where the party is. With that in mind, here are 9 top spring break party destinations to enjoy, or avoid, as ranked by Fox News Travel (we link to TripAdvisor for more information about these beach destinations and so you can compare hotel prices):

  1. Panama City Beach, Florida
  2. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
  3. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  4. Las Vegas, Nevada
  5. Miami Beach, Florida
  6. Cancun, Mexico
  7. South Padre Island, Texas
  8. Lake Havasu City, Arizona
  9. New Orleans, Louisiana

 

Read More

Siesta Beach does it again: Named America’s best beach

TripAdvisor traveler photo

 

TripAdvisor traveler photo

TripAdvisor traveler photo

BeachManiacBlogWithText_150pxThis kind of attention is nothing new for Siesta Beach, with its pristine, sugary white sand and wide expanse, but this Florida Gulf Coast slice of paradise has been named the best beach in America by the 2015 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards.

“I was totally blown away by how fine, soft, clean and uncrowded the beach was. My feet were in heaven,” wrote on recent traveler.

And while the sand is the main attraction at Siesta Beach, the island that serves as its home is also a big draw. The beaches of Siesta Key, just south of Sarasota, are lined with condos and hotels, but the island nonetheless has retained a quiet get-away atmosphere. You won’t find a lot of restaurants and bars on the beaches of Siesta Key, but that keeps it quiet and family-fun oriented.

The other top 10 American beaches in the 2015 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards, in order, are:

The Beach Maniac Blog by Bill Hurley

Read More

Restoration project adds gleam to Space Coast beaches

Florida's Space Coast Beach Restoration

Florida's Space Coast Beach Restoration

BeachManiacBlogWithText_150pxIt’s easy to walk along Florida’s beaches and just assume Mother Nature did all the work to make them so expansive and beautiful. And while Mother Nature certainly deserves a great deal of credit, these beaches get a lot of help from the communities that line them.

One of the state’s biggest recent beach restoration projects points to the importance of putting a lot of work – and money – into expanding and maintaining these great beaches.

Cocoa Beach recently added 4.7 million cubic yards of beach sand as part of a $39 million beach restoration project. In a ceremony in Washington D.C., this proud seaside community was recognized for being one of only four U.S. beaches named a 2014 “Best Restored Beach” by The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association. Once a narrow, sandy strip lined with concrete seawalls, the iconic beach known for surfing and space exploration has expanded its shoreline by an impressive 160 additional feet.

“Get ready to be impressed,” Florida’s Space Coast Executive Director Eric Garvey said in a news release rightfully bragging about the project.  “Our beach improvement program has dramatically enhanced the beach experience here, from surfing to sand-castle building to soaking in the sun.”

Check out these impressive before and after pictures:

SpaceCoastBefore

SpaceCoastAfter

See more photos at:  www.visitspacecoast.com/recent-news/

As Visit Space Coast tells us:

Beach restoration on Florida’s Space Coast began as an effort to protect the 72-mile-long coastline from threats p...

Read More

TripAdvisor names Grace Bay in Turks & Caicos the world’s second best beach

Grace Bay. Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor.

Grace Bay. Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor.

Grace Bay. Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor.

BeachManiacBlogWithText_150pxGrace Bay in the Turks & Caicos is the second best beach in the world, according to the TripAdvisor 2015 Travelers’ Choice Awards. Only two other beaches in our region made the top 10 – Playa Paraiso Beach, Cayo Largo, Cuba, and Flamenco Beach, Culebra, Puerto Rico. The other Top 10 beaches are in Brazil, Italy, Spain, Seychelles, the Phillipines, Australia and Greece.

That makes Grace Bay perhaps the best overall beach destination for American visitors, when you combine locale, access and quality. The Turks & Caicos, lying just southeast of the Bahamas, are often overlooked in part because they are a higher-end destination and the price of a vacation can dwarf the price of similar vacations in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and other popular Caribbean islands.

But Grace Bay is becoming increasingly popular, and lodging options are growing. TripAdvisor lists:

Tourism has been increasing rapidly in recent years, with many upscale resorts lining the shores of Grace Bay. In addition, the islands have built a large new cruise ship port and recreation centre. Turks and Caicos Islands is a premiere diving destination with one of the longest coral reefs in the world.

This is not the first year that TripAdvisor travelers ranked Grace Bay – on the island of Providenciales – at or near the top...

Read More

Beaches Ocho Rios named one of best all-inclusive resorts for families

TripAdvisor Traveler Photo

TripAdvisor Traveler Photo

TripAdvisor Traveler Photo

BeachManiacBlogWithText_150px

The Beaches Resort near Ocho Rios, Jamaica, is one of the five best all-inclusive resorts for families in the Caribbean, according to minitime.com, a family-oriented travel website.

The website was not only won over by the resort’s sandy shores and “super cool waterslides” but the fact that your kids will be greeted by larger-than-life-size versions of Sesame Street characters Elmo, Cookie Monster, Grover, and Zoë.

A scan of traveler reviews on TripAdvisor confirms that moms and dads love bringing their little ones to this resort.

“Wow, what a fantastic resort!” writes one travler. “Having spent well over 100 nights at various Sandals and also having stayed at all the other beaches I can honestly state that this was the best ever Beaches / Sandals holiday.” While some note that the beach is not large, there is a waterpark on the property and the staff and food are highly rated.

Read more about Beaches Ocho Rios, and check prices.

Beach Maniac Blog by Bill Hurley

Read More

Pier House, Key West, tops Conde Nast Traveler list of Florida resorts

TripAdvisor traveler photo.

TripAdvisor traveler photo.

TripAdvisor traveler photo.

beach_maniac_blog_100pxThe Pier House Resort & Spa in Key West is one of the two best resorts in Florida, according to a new ranking by Conde Nast Traveler.

The magazine says the iconic Key West resort is an especially good getaway for “couples who like the seclusion of a private beach but still want to be close to the Duval Street nightlife.” It ranked the Pier House Number One among resorts in a category that covers the Atlantic Coast and the Florida Keys. (The top resort in the Gulf Coast and Central Florida region was the WaterColor Inn & Resort on Santa Rosa Beach.)

The Pier House also gets top ratings from TripAdvisor travelers. “Best Location in town,” writes one visitor. “Duval St. at your feet and historic seaport restaurants and bars steps away. Close to Mallory Square and Sunset Pier for the nightly sunset revelry. Hotel is beautifully landscaped. Pool and private beach are beautiful with a lovely bar and great service. Room was clean and well maintained.”

Key West is one of my favorite places, and, yes, I have stayed at the Pier House and it definitely lives up to its ranking. If you’re looking for a great resort within walking distance of everything Key West has to offer, be sure to check out the Pier House.

Beach Maniac blog by Bill Hurley

Read More

Magen’s Bay, St. Thomas, named one of Caribbean’s best beaches

beach_maniac_blog_100px

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

USA Today has just named its Top 10 Beaches in the Caribbean, and one of them is one of my favorites: Magen’s Bay on the Island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I recently had the opportunity to visit Magen’s Bay with my wife, Diane, and we loved the soft sand and clear, calm water.

You won’t find hotels and bars on the shores of Magen’s Bay, which is protected much like a national park and is run by the Magen’s Bay Authority.  There is a small ($4 when I was there) entrance fee, and the authority provides a rustic park-like concession stand. It also rents snorkeling equipment, lounge chairs, kayaks, paddle boats and other non-motorized boats.

The bay is surrounded by an arc of mountains and islands, protecting the waters from the rough waters of the Atlantic and creating a calm respite of beauty and relaxation. Many say Magen’s Bay is more like a salt-water lake than an ocean. Walking from one end of the mile-long white sand beach to the other reveals stunning views of cliffside mansions (one, we’re told, owned by Bill and Hillary Clinton and another by Adam Sandler) scattered on the hills, green and blue hued waters, yachts, sailboats, kayaks and swimmers...

Read More

Marco Island is most expensive beach destination in Florida

TripAdvisor traveler photo

TripAdvisor traveler photo

Marco Island Marriott. TripAdvisor traveler photo.

beach_maniac_blog_100pxMarco Island, located a few miles from the Florida Everglades and close to Naples, is the most expensive beach destination in Florida, according to the latest survey from CheapHotels.org.

The survey specifically compared the hotel rates of 20 popular Floridian destinations for this year’s February and March time period, the high season for most beach destinations in the Sunshine State.

In Marco Island, travelers will have to spend an average of $302 per night for the most affordable double room. It bears pointing out that only hotels located close to the beach and with a positive average client rating were considered for the survey.

The following table lists the 10 most expensive beach destinations in Florida. The rates indicated reflect the average rate for the cheapest available double room (minimum: 3-star hotel) at each locale for the time period spanning February 1 through March 31, 2014. Although this survey comes from CheapHotels.com, I am linking out to TripAdvisor pages where you can compare prices from multiple sources for your specific vacation dates.

  1. Marco Island $302
  2. Sanibel Island $287
  3. Key West $254
  4. Delray Beach $253
  5. Fort Myers Beach $214
  6. Islamorada $198
  7. Anna Maria Island $197
  8. Key Largo $184
  9. Sarasota $183
  10. St. Pete Beach $181

For the full results of the survey, visit http://www.cheaphotels.org/press/florida2015.html

Read More

Gorgeous Maldives hotel tops new TripAdvisor list

TripAdvisor traveler photos

Gili Lancanfushi Maldives

beach_maniac_blog_100pxTripAdvisor has come out with its The Best Hotels of 2015 That Transport You to Other Worlds, and its top hotel is Gili Lankanfushi, a gorgeous resort on a tiny coral island in the Maldives. It’s a place where your villa sits on stilts above the water “and your days are spent gazing at blue as far as the eye can see.”

And travelers love this hotel, giving it a near perfect traveler rating, with comments such as this: “This place exceeded our expectations. Everything about it is just incredible. The villas, staff, food is exceptional. We would go back in a heart beat. It’s a world class resort. You won’t find better.”

Of course, you have to have deep pockets to stay at a hotel like this. A quick search on Expedia for dates in late March reveals prices of $1,484 per night. And that’s not including the flight to the Indian Ocean islands, which will cost you $1,200 to $4,195 per person roundtrip from Chicago.

But hey, we can dream, right?

TripAdvisor traveler photos

 

TripAdvisor traveler photo

TripAdvisor traveler photos

Find out more about the amazing Maldives Islands

Beach Maniac Blog by Bill Hurley

Read More