Are you looking for the perfect spot for your dream tropical vacation? If so, this list detailing the amenities offered by three popular beach getaways can help you decide which destination is best for you.
Beautiful Waikiki is located on the island of Oʻahu on the southern shore of Honolulu. This exotic destination was once a retreat reserved exclusively for Hawaiian royals. And with its year-round warm temperatures that rarely fall below 68°F, anytime is the right time to visit Waikiki. For decades, Waikiki has been a hotspot for vacationers looking to soak up the sun on some of the world’s beautiful beaches or for those who have always wanted to surf Hawaii’s waves.
Waikiki translates from Hawaiian as “spouting waters,” and the waters off Waikiki are certainly streaming with fun activities for water sports aficionados. Some of these leisures include swimming, bodyboarding, canoeing, boogie boarding, snorkeling, scuba diving, and of course, surfing. If you prefer to spend your vacation relaxing instead, Waikiki has four interconnected beaches for you to lounge by all day long.
Staying in Waikiki places you in convenient proximity to numerous historic sites that shed light on the history of the immediate area, the state of Hawaii, and the United States of America.
The Waikiki Historic Trail
Created by author and historian Dr. George Kanahele, this self-guided walking tour commemorates significant moments in Waikiki’s history and the area’s contributions to Hawaii’s rich social fabric. These historical highlights are engraved on six-foot trail markers, cast in bronze, and fittingly, shaped as surfboards.
The Iolani Palace
Builders broke ground on this American Florentine style mansion in 1879. Recognized as a physical reminder of “Hawaiian independence,” this unique structure is the only royal palace ever constructed in the United States. Visitors to this national historic landmark are invited to view the palace and its lush grounds via their choice of a docent-led guided tour or a self-guided audio tour.
Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and Museum
Not surprisingly, this historic site has the distinction of being the state’s top tourist attraction. In 2017, in excess of 1.9 million people visited the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. Attracting sightseers from around the globe, the site immortalizes the events of December 7,1941 through exhibits of period aircraft.
St. George Island, Florida
Picturesque St. George Island is consistently ranked as one of the top places to see on Florida’s Gulf Coast. This small barrier island is a mere 22-miles long and is located along a distinct section of shoreline commonly referred to as Florida’s “Forgotten Coast.”
St. George Island remains largely untouched by overcrowding and industrialization. The pristine condition of the island’s environs are one of its major assets. Nature lovers and those simply seeking a respite from the hectic day-to-day grind are drawn to the locale for its uncrowded, pristine beaches, tranquil atmosphere, spectacular coastal views, and a plethora of wildlife that call the island home.
While St. George Island does afford quiet and gorgeous naturalistic views during the day, its nightlife scene is just as lively. In fact, the island is home to a diverse assortment of accommodations, fine dining and retail establishments, as well as entertainment, including live music and DJ performances.
Approximately eight miles in length, the small barrier island of Siesta Key neighbors Sarasota, Florida. As recently as the 19th century, Siesta Key was uninhabited by people and largely left untouched. No doubt this was in large part due to the island’s isolation: Siesta Key was not connected to the mainland by any means and a boat was required to get to the island.
The beach at Siesta Key is noted primarily for its distinct sand, which is fine in texture and white in color. Most importantly, the sand consists almost entirely (99%) of Appalachian Mountain quartz. The high percentage of quartz in the sand means it stays cool to the touch despite the hot temperatures typical of coastal Florida. Remember, while the unique quartz sand at Siesta Key Beach will unquestionably stay cool, in Florida’s sunny and notoriously humid weather, you will have to pack accordingly. Fill your suitcase with clothing made from light, breathable fabrics. Dress in clothing that will keep you cool in high temperatures. A cute and cool romper maxi dress, for example, is the perfect outfit for exploring the island.
Available guest lodgings on Siesta Key run the gamut of options. Luxurious, multi-floor beach houses, bed and breakfast accommodations in historic homes, small cottages by the shore, and inn or hotel rooms can be booked at a variety of price points. Pet lovers will appreciate the fact that Siesta Key welcomes trained pets in numerous lodging facilities as well as on a number of beaches. It is easy to include your four-legged family member in the family vacation on Siesta Key!
The island of Siesta Key is surrounded by shallow waters, making the pursuit of swimming, snorkeling, and similar activities both inviting and easy. Siesta Key lifeguards are on duty throughout the year, a perk that no doubt appeals to many. The public beach offers additional amenities such as picnic and grilling facilities, bathhouses, a playground and a number of tennis and volleyball courts.
Located on the eastern edge of the island is St. George Island State Park. The park encompasses unspoiled beachfront property, dunes, coves, and marshes. Featured park amenities include trials for hiking, observation platforms, and boardwalks. Due to the fact that numerous bird species utilize the island as a layover in the progress of their seasonal flights, the park attracts a large number of birdwatching enthusiasts.
Interested parties can rent a variety of equipment including kayaks or sailboats to traverse the waterways on and surrounding the island. Bicycles are also available if you prefer to stay on dry land. Cyclists can enjoy rides on paved bike trails or can opt for the off-road trails in St. George Island Park. Anglers of all skill levels have multiple opportunities to test their abilities and challenge themselves. Those who prefer to have someone else catch and prepare their seafood while they are on vacation won’t be disappointed! A diverse selection of high-caliber, local seafood is available from the multiple fine restaurants located on the island.
Because of all it offers, Siesta Beach has earned repeated recognition as a premier vacation destination, achieving popularity with travelers and accolades from industry experts. Just last year, the popular website TripAdvisor gave Siesta Beach its “#1 Beach in the United States” award, ranking it the fifth best beach in the world! Such acclaim is not unprecedented. Two years ago, the spot was declared the “#2 Beach in the United States” by Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman (author, professor, and longtime Director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University), having won the top spot five years earlier in 2011. In 2004, The Travel Channel dubbed Siesta Beach “The Best Sand Beach in America,”— a nod to those unique, 99% pure quartz beaches—protecting vacationers from the all too common beach bum complaint of burnt feet!
All three locations, Waikiki, St. George Island, and Siesta Key, offer beautiful beaches and numerous opportunities for fun in the sun. Each location has its own distinct history and atmosphere. Choose the one that appeals to you the most.