Why you should care
Because whatever you’d do in that overpriced and underwhelming hotel room, you can do on that spectacular beach instead.
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If a great vacation for you means a superior beach, here’s a tip: Look beyond luxurious hotels with multi-star ratings to more middling properties that occupy some of the best seaside frontage in the world. You probably won’t find these overlooked diamonds listed in Condé Nast Traveler or Departures magazine primarily because the hotel may be lacking in some way.
“God ain’t making any new beaches,” so best to experience them any way you can.
But don’t let that stop you from a soaring beach experience. Beach lovers know that you’re not supposed to be in your Highway 66-style hotel room all day anyway. Does the hotel offer a beach towel, beach chaise and beach drinks service? Check, check, check. Just don’t forget your bathing suit and sunblock.
To mangle a truism of real estate salespeople: “God ain’t making any new beaches,” so best to experience them any way you can.
Have you been on TripAdvisor — and who hasn’t — to get a handle on what exactly your hotel will be like? Then you know it’s wildly unpredictable, and you should tread carefully when you’re weighing whether a particular beach is worth the trip. Often raters give more weight to the hotel; as if the beach is a backyard koi pond. You end up with a skewed assessment of the possible pleasures that await you.
It’s easy to be unwittingly swayed by impressionistic guest photos and comments. I remember being set on a trip to the W Hotel on hipster Vieques Island, off the coast of Puerto Rico. Then I went online, saw a couple of uncomplimentary guest photos, and bam, I changed course entirely.
In hindsight I don’t know that I made the right decision. I should have focused on the celebrated Vieques beaches instead of the hotel. After all, one woman’s despicable hovel is another woman’s rustic retreat, and I still haven’t made it to Vieques. If it’s an exquisite beach experience you’re after, don’t let the faded beauties or honest critiques keep you from your bliss.
Here are some jewels to try:
- Antigua, a sleepy gem of an island, boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. “There are 365 beaches in Antigua,” a taxi driver there once told me. “One for each day of the year.” OK, so maybe he got that from a tourist brochure. But there are certainly a number of beaches in Antigua, and one of the best is Jolly Beach. It’s abutted by Jolly Beach Resort and Spa, a hotel that was probably lovely in its prime but is now showing its frayed edges. The beach, however, is a different matter. It’s about a mile of soft sand, dotted with collectible seashells, and you can wade in the clean, clear water for several yards out to sea.
- In Montego Bay, Jamaica, Doctor’s Cave Beach is more than 100 years old and its sea is said to have curative powers. The beach is not big. It has exquisite deep blue water, warm waves and white sand. Hotels across the street, like Doctor’s Cave Beach Hotel, have been updated but are nonetheless modest and spare.
- In Long Beach, N.Y., the Allegria is one of only two hotels that serve this town’s magnificent length of sand and boardwalk. The beach and ocean views are simply spectacular, the hotel experience mixed. The only guarantee is the beach. Walk along the sand, jog the boardwalk or just sit and drink in the view. You’ll be a changed person.