Monthly Archives: January 2016

My Top Ten Beaches, And Why They Should Be Yours

Ah…the beach. The destination of choice for sun worshipers, water sports enthusiasts, and people just looking to relax. Then there’s people like myself who every so often inexplicably feel the need to find themselves on a shoreline somewhere. Beaches are rated in a myriad different ways, but at the end of the day it is all subjective. Here’s a list of my personal “Top Ten” beaches – some famous, some less so – that should definitely be considered the next time you head for the shore.

10) Fire Island National Seashore, Long Island, NY, USA

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Ranger Station with a View – Fire Island National Seashore

I’ll admit to being biased in favor of the beaches from my home region of Eastern Long Island. But as anyone who has visited the Fire Island National Seashore – a narrow barrier island along the south shore of Long Island – can attest, the broad swaths of sand, surf-able waves, and tranquil setting make this stretch of multiple beaches both world-class AND a national treasure. For more info see the post: Reflections on Shirley (And Don’t Call Us Shirley)

9) Clearwater Beach, FL, USA

As a peninsula, it’s no surprise that Florida has more than its fair share of lovely beaches. While the Atlantic beaches are definitely wonderful, my vote for Florida’s best is on the gulf side, where inviting water, power-soft sand, and the occasional dolphin make for a great day at the beach.

8) Chiaia di Luna, Ponza, Italy

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Chiaia di Luna, Ponza, Italy

Ever since I first discovered this hidden gem of an island during my honeymoon, the beach of Chiaia di Luna has been on my itinerary. Essentially a large crescent of towering cliffs surrounding a turquoise center, it is arguably the most scenic spot on the island. Though temporarily closed due to rockslide issues (apparently they’re working on it), this amazing space is still reachable via private watercraft. You can learn more in the post Ponza Revisited Part II – All About the H20.

7) Grace Bay, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

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Turtle Cove, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

It’s not for nothing that Grace Bay is the primary destination for visitors to this Caribbean outpost. Large resorts dot the gentle curve of this powdery beach that is also a gateway for some spectacular wall diving for those willing to go a little further afar. And with a semi-desert climate, the chances of catching some sun are high indeed.

6) Matira Beach, Bora Bora, French Polynesia

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Lagoon of Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Bora Bora doesn’t have much in the way of publicly accessible beaches. But Matira Beach will allow you to lay out on the sand as you contemplate the most incredibly blue lagoon imaginable. This is the tropical paradise everyone thinks of when they hear the name Polynesia, and if you’ve come this far, you might as well verify it for yourself. For more information see the post Tahiti – Misconception in a Grass Skirt.

5) Patong/ Karon/Kata Beach, Phuket, Thailand

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Idyllic Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand

When I was trying to decide which of Phuket’s main three west coast beaches was the best, I realized that I couldn’t. If you find yourself in this Thai island paradise, you won’t go wrong with any of these choices. They combine awesome sand, gorgeous water, and some of the best sunsets on the planet. If you can ignore the one million percent humidity (mainly by dipping in the water) I’m sure you’ll find it hard to decide which is best as well. For more information see the post Phuket – Paradise Restored.

4) Playa Knip, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles

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Playa Knip, Curacao

Easily my favorite spot on this small but charming island, Playa Knip is a secluded haven of turquoise water that is so inviting that you’ll want to jump in with all your clothes (or none, if that’s your style). There’s little in the way of facilities, but such is its appeal. For more information see the post If in Doubt, the Answer is Usually ‘C’.

3) Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Made famous by an unnamed girl who used to frequent this trendy beach, Ipanema is one of the most desirable places to be in all of Brazil. With a more upscale and sedate vibe than even-more-famous Copacabana around the corner, Ipanema offers power-soft sand, Atlantic waves and great views of O Dois Irmaos – the iconic twin peaks that trail off in the distance. For more info on Rio and its beaches see the post In Rio de Janeiro, Save the Drama for the Scenery.

2) Megan’s Bay, St. Thomas, USVI

It was on my first trip to the Caribbean that I came to Megan’s Bay. After that, I knew my eyes had been spoiled. The lush green hills, white sand and ridiculously blue water was everything I’d ever envisioned (or hoped) a beach could be. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, do yourself a favor and rent a floating mat for a few hours of soaking in this otherworldly beauty. It might sour your view of less-gifted beaches, but you will thereafter know how truly great a beach can be.

1) Anse Lazio, Praslin Island, Seychelles

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Anse Lazio, Praslin Island, Seychelles

If your idea of a great beach is something right out of a calendar or screensaver, then this beach is for you. Appearing in its fair share of both, Anse Lazio at the tip of swanky Praslin Island is a gorgeous crescent of silky sand, lush forest and a collection of those signature eroded boulders the Seychelles are known for. It’s also a great place to be as the sun goes down, and its combination of natural beauty, setting and the intangible ‘WOW’ factor makes it tops on my list. To learn more, see the post The Seychelle Islands – Vacationing Inside Your Screensaver.

Honorable Mentions

With so many incredible beaches across the world, I couldn’t very well list them all. But in the spirit of full disclosure I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention the following amazing beaches: Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda; Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Brazil; Trunk Bay, St. John, USVI; and the unique, boulder-ridden paradise of Anse Source d’Argent, La Digue, Seychelles. As I mentioned before, any “Ten Best” list is going to be subjective. What is not subjective, is that each place mentioned here is a fantastic destination for lovers of surf, sand and sun.

Do you have a favorite beach you think the world should know about? Share it by commenting below!

Categories: Miscellaneous

My Top Ten List of World Monuments (Who Said Anything About Dying?)

You’ve probably seen them before – Travel guides insisting that you visit certain places before you die; as if visiting them afterwards is a bankable strategy. There is much to be said for visiting those places before flat-lining, but I’m happy to share my own personal list of the top ten world monuments that I’ve visited, all without that superfluous reminder of our common mortality.

10) Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

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Wedged between two other monuments of note in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square (Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque), the ancient monument called Hagia Sophia – meaning Holy Wisdom in Greek – began its existence as a church before being converted to a mosque and now a museum. It’s massive dome was (and still is) an architectural marvel, and wandering its cavernous halls is a must for anyone visiting this historic city.

9) Empire State Building,  New York, USA

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The Core of the Big Apple

Maybe I’m a bit partial to my former hometown, but few monuments have gotten as much screen time as the good old Empire State Building. There are bigger and bolder buildings to be found – even right there in Manhattan – but the classic art-deco architecture and famous views of the ‘Capital of the World’ from its lofty observation deck are timeless, and definitely worthy of my humble list.

8) Big Ben, London, England

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Big Ben…and a cool-looking clock tower

Technically, Big Ben is the name of the bell inside the Elizabeth Tower located at the north end of London’s Westminster Palace. But that iconic tower is commonly known for its namesake bell, and far be it for me to harp on a technicality. Well, technically I just did, but…anyway. Big Ben is one of the most recognizable images in of all Europe, especially the U.K. and that, after all, is the point of a famous monument.

7) Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia

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Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia

Poised at a scenic point between the Sydney Botanical Gardens and Harbour Bridge, this monument to culture is widely recognizable for its sail-like curves and yawning glass sidewalls. This draws tourists from all over the world (including yours truly) and also doubles as an actual working opera venue. While no one comes to Australia for urban scenery (at least they shouldn’t), a visit here is is a visit to the only world-class man-made monument on the continent.

6) Christ the Redeemer Statue, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Finding Jesus is Easy in Rio de Janeiro

The monolithic Christ the Redeemer Statue, which looms over the vibrant city of Rio de Janeiro, is not so much a must-see in and of itself, but rather a recognizable symbol of one of the world’s most amazing cities in what I believe is the world’s  most-impressive city setting. Visible from various points around the city, the views from atop its home on Corcovado Mountain provides thrilling views for even the most jaded travelers.

5) The Colosseum, Rome, Italy

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Il famoso Colosseo

In a land full of impressive monuments, the Colosseum in central Rome takes the cake (or cannoli if you will). If you can look past its checkered history as a venue for bloody entertainment, this massive stone arena is the crown jewel of Roman Empire relics. Surrounded by other famous monuments like the Forum, Trevi Fountain and St. Peter’s Square (which is technically part of the tiny sovereign state of Vatican City…there I go again) perhaps some of the Colosseum’s thunder gets stolen. But if there is only one building to encapsulate the majesty and glory of ancient Rome, this is certainly the place.

4) Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

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Le Tour Eiffel

When it comes to icons, I can’t imagine anything more recognizable than the Eiffel Tower. This is one of those monuments where you’ll never forget the moment and circumstances when you first laid eyes on it (in my case, after passing out from behind a cluster of buildings while riding a train). It is bigger and more impressive than you think. And if it weren’t for the next three monuments on my list, it could easily be considered number one.

3) Great Wall of China, Northern China

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Great Wall, Ba da ling Section, Near Beijing, China

Part of the measure of what makes a world monument great, is the absolutely, must-see factor. You simply cannot (or should not) miss out on visiting this enormous attraction if you are anywhere near northern China. Sure it’s just a wall with guardhouses snaking over a hilly landscape, but that’s not the point. Nothing symbolizes China more than its namesake wall. Just go see it (I’ll refrain from specifying why, as promised earlier).

2) Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

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Pyramid Perfection

Are there any monuments more iconic and recognizable than the Pyramids? Well, I’d say one, but it must be admitted that the Pyramids were here first. Like the Eiffel Tower, you will not forget the first time you see these sentinels of the ages baking in the sun. Whether you believe they were built by slaves, aliens, or an ancient local Egyptian contracting firm, the overall impression will leave you awed and more than just a little bit humbled.

1) The Taj Mahal, Agra, India

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It may look doctored, but this image is 100% untouched

I’ve said this before and will say it again here: There is no building on Earth that can compare with the beauty and majesty of India’s Taj Mahal. Add in the whole ‘greatest monument to love’ angle, and really, no other man-made structure can compete. I know I said I wouldn’t bring up the whole pending mortality thing, but if you only get to one spot on this list, make sure this is the one.

Not Dead Yet

Just like your life, my list of monuments is not over. I’ve still yet to visit such famous sites as Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu and the city of Petra to see how they stack up. So while I’m still breathing, (and presumably you are too) I’m keeping my mind – and my list – open to adjustment.


Share your own top ten list with your fellow travel enthusiasts by leaving a comment below.

Categories: Miscellaneous | Tags: , , , , , ,

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