At the Beach, Tips 'n Tricks — April 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

How to Pick Your Beach

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©istockphoto/allyanora

©istockphoto/allyanora

If life is a beach, then hopefully you visit one. Everybody loves the beach. Most of us though, don’t get to spend near enough time there. Since beach time is so precious, you may want to make sure you pick the right one.

So Many Choices
Beaches, just like people, have differing and distinct personalities. A beach in Southern California is way different than one on the Mayan Riviera of Mexico. Customs and norms change from country to country and island to island. While all Mexican beaches are supposedly open to the public, access is limited in many areas. Resort beaches are usually well protected if not by security then by location. Popular beaches like the one in Akumal, southwest of Cancun, are well used by the locals for obvious reasons: they are great and lovely beaches. Don’t be afraid to mingle with the locals as they know where the finest white sand and crystal blue waters, along with the best snorkeling can be found. You may have to fend off a vendor or two but everyone is there for fun.

To Relax or Party
Some beach resorts tend to blast music all day long while others offer at least some peace and tranquility. For some reason, a lot of beach resorts, especially along the Mayan Riviera on the Yucatan Peninsula, seem to think we all love Electronica/Euro Pop/ Hip Hop blasting at excruciating decibel levels. I understand when the discos go that route late at night, but it doesn’t seem to fit the daylight beach hours. If you want peace at a resort, choose one big enough to let you get away from the party vibe that is usually closest to the pool and beach volleyball areas.

What to Wear
While nudity is illegal on public beaches in Mexico, it is quite common to see topless women there. That is where the different customs come into play. Public nude beaches can be found in spots like Orient Beach in St Maartin which is on the half of the island that is under French rule and influence. While topless sunbathing is natural and acceptable all over the area, it is the south end of this popular public beach that sports the all-nude vibe. While this may be an exciting stop on your travels, I advise avoiding it on days the cruise ships are on the island as a lot of the cruisers have just left the buffet line, if you get my drift.

Size Matters
Some of the real gems of the Caribbean are the very small and sometimes harder to access public strips of beach that are everywhere for your enjoying. Baie Rogue on St Maartin is a lovely stop with a shanty type bar and restaurant called Gus’s Beach Bar. With plastic chairs, deep, white, powdery sand and a barbecue pit going at it, this is a great find. It’s a small, quiet beach on the French side but right before the line to Dutch territory, with a bar that even sometimes has live music on a rickety stage.

Orient Beach on the opposite end of the island is a huge, scenic, and extremely popular beach filled with restaurants and bars and the most go-to spot on St Maartin. Whichever suits your fancy, places like St Maartin have you covered.

I Get Around
Sometimes the best way to find your perfect beach is to rent a car and drive around the island. St John in the Virgin Islands is a perfect example. While there are many maps available to show where the big, well-known beaches are, there are many that require you to pull over and walk a half mile or so to reach. These are some of the most tranquil and scenic spots I’ve seen. Not to give away a special spot, but drive past Coral Bay and you find several roads or paths filled with seashells with nothing more than a small wooden sign naming your beach. Pull over, explore and discover some hidden gems.

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