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Beaches Go Exotic: Resorts Like Destin West Add History, Activities to the Beach Experience

Perhaps this was just the way people were supposed to evolve. But it seems that even the vacation isn’t just a way to relax anymore; increasingly, travelers see their leisure time as a means of gaining knowledge, a quest for new experiences that you can’t get just lying in the sand. As adventure and educational travel blend, where does this leave the fanatic beach-lover?

“I would say that more and more people are seeking the perfect combination of adventure and activity,” says Sandy Cunningham, director of sales at Uncharted Outposts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “The main reason our guests would usually travel to a beach is if it offered something unique … for example, the Swahili culture and architecture of Lamur, Zanzibar, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, or North Island, which is the world’s most private and exclusive island in the Seychelles.”

If these people are varied in what they want — history, culture shock, or just escape —  the US figures provide some clarity. One-fifth of U.S. travelers — 30.2 million adults — have taken a trip to improve a skill, sport, or hobby in the past three years, according to the Travel Industry Association. Overall, these people are male, 39 years old on average, and they have a $75,000 mean annual income. And for pure beach vacations, the trend is booming. Beach activities account for nine  percent of an overall one billion trips in the U.S. alone. However, Cunningham says that adventure isn’t limited to the single males. “Typically, it is couples on their honeymoon that end up booking beach resorts more than anyone else,” she says.

Where Are They Going? 

Whoever they are, exotic beach-goers tend to seek enrichment along with their relaxation. And there are a select few places around the world that provide that.

Destin, Florida. Known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” — so named by a former governor who went out for a photoshoot off of Destin Pass, threw a line in the water and caught a fish — this area is also a dreamland for beachgoers. The area surrounding Destin is known as the Emerald Coast; the white, sugar-like sand extending under the clear blue water blends with the sun for a brilliant green.

“Our resort hosts four miles of secluded beaches, with what is known as the whitest, cleanest, and softest sand in the world,” says Amy Willey of the Destin West  Beach & Bay Resort. “What most people are unaware of is when you are walking along the Emerald Coasts' green waters, you are actually walking in the Appalachian Mountains. The sand is composed mainly of quartz washed down from the mountains by the Apalachicola River. Quartz allows the ground to make a perfect oval of each grain of sand — it is so soft you can hear your feet squeak when walking on it!”

The resort’s “mountain” location — it’s actually on Okaloosa Island off of Florida’s northwest panhandle — also makes it great for activities like snorkeling and deep-sea fishing. It sits at the edge of the underwater DeSoto Canyon, an erosional valley that cuts through the northern part of the Gulf of Mexico. Nutrient-rich water wells up from depths up to 1000 meters, and attracts a range of ocean creatures. “We have an endless amount of game fish from our Emerald Waters,” says Willey. “Astronomical world records have been set in our area.”

“Our resort hosts four miles of secluded beaches, with what is known as the whitest, cleanest, and softest sand in the world.” -- Amy Willey, Destin West Beach & Bay Resort

The complete beach-to-bay resort is actually two meticulously designed complexes, one recently completed and both soon to be connected by an elevated walkover. “One of the things that we are very proud of is that we just won the Grand International Award of Excellence for our bayside Lazy River pool,” Willey says. The international award was presented to Fred E. Tolbert, III and William Krueser, developer and project manager of Destin West in Dallas, Texas. Destin West Beach & Bay Resort features the lazy river ride with a zero entry, heated pool with waterfall, three luxury spas, a 5000-square-foot pool, and a half indoor/outdoor pool. Two of the buildings even feature their own private pools, plus the resort offers a state-of-the-art fitness center. A 90-slip marina is also in the works. A 90-slip marina will start construction late summer.  "I hear often that there is no better place to spend your vacation," Willey says. "Combined with the long stretch of beach and our beautifully laid out complex, we have plenty of room for everyone to relax and we'll provide all the pampering a beachgoer could want."

Barbados. Here the sand is pink, the result of white sand blending with red coral. And amid spectacular bluffs and cliffs, many of the fine resorts and hotels lining the beach allow you to walk out on a private balcony and view a panorama that you thought you could only see by helicopter. One of the most popular summer events in Barbados is the Crop Over Festival, which dates to the 1780s when the nation was the world’s largest producer of sugar and celebrates the successful end of the sugar cane season. Though Barbados’ role in worldwide sugar production has diminished, the festival lives on with calypso music, stunning costumes, arts and crafts, parades, and contests.

Puerto de la Cruz. Tenerife, the island of eternal spring in the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain, is a beach haven for beach mavens. The city officials are constantly reconstructing and redesigning the many beaches on the island, including the Terasitas Beach which features golden sand imported from a remote Spanish province. The nearly one-kilometer Playa Jardin beach, beginning at the Castle of San Felipe, has also been regenerated and upgraded. The surrounding sea beds gave precious gifts to this effort; more than 200,000 cubic meters of sand were lovingly culled from the ocean shallows and distributed across the coastline. On the other side of the island you will find breakwaters and seawalls with breathtaking views of water and land; many form perfect places to sit and watch the world go by or the sun go down. Take your pick — black sand, golden sand, open air cafes, surfing waves, it’s all here.

Where Does the Beach Fit In?

So travelers are stuffing a lot into their vacations, in terms of distance, culture, and the ever-present quest for something new. There’s lots to see and do in an “exotic” locale. And even when the beach is the main goal, where exactly does it fit in? “It’s one of our amenities that’s really around the clock,” says Willey. “It ranges from people getting up and walking on the beach in the morning to taking the family out and watching the sunset at the end of the day.”

Perhaps that last part is fitting, in a save-the-best-for-last kind of way. “With everyone’s lives so busy these days,” says Cunningham, “it is often a wise idea to finish up at the beach, to relax, and return to work refreshed and energized!”