Arguably the most exotic city Americans can visit without a passport, Miami is home to sun, sand and irrepressible style. The city's 1970s boom has resulted in a flourishing economy. Home to many Cuban-Americans, Miami is a thriving multicultural metropolis that revels in its Latin American roots. Miami Beach's white sands welcome you to a tropical paradise where you can soak up the rays, boat, water ski and windsurf. Attend a music festival, enjoy world-class cuisine, browse in fabulous shops and dance all night to the sizzling Latin beat. Hundreds of restored Art Deco buildings await admiration in South Beach, the first 20th-century district on the National Register of Historic Places. Noteworthy attractions in ethnically diverse downtown Miami include the Miami-Dade Cultural Center, containing the city's main art museum, historical museum and library; the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, a grand movie palace and concert hall; and the Freedom Tower, a key site for Cuban immigrants.
At only seven square miles, the island is easily explored by dune buggy. Pack some snorkel gear and head to beaches like Baia do Sancho and Baia dos Porcos, where you’ll see stingrays, sea turtles, and a wide variety of colorful fish just feet from the shore. Without a doubt, the water surrounding the island—a national marine park—is Fernando de Noronha’s top attraction. Take a snorkeling or diving tour to experience it first-hand. In the evenings, head to Vila dos Remedios, the island’s historic heart, where you’ll dance the night away to traditional Brazilian music at the popular and cheap Bar do Cachorro.
Come see why Corolla has been named to numerous "best beaches" lists. It's really no surprise, considering the Outer Banks coastline boasts 120 miles of sand, sea and serenity. The appeal of these windswept sands, refreshing sea breezes and vast blue skies has drawn visitors to the Outer Banks and transformed Corolla from a simple seaside fishing village to an upscale vacation destination. Activities on Corolla's North Carolina beaches go beyond sunbathing and splashing in the surf. The beaches in Corolla are pet-friendly year round, and off-road vehicles are welcome on 4WD-accessible shorelines north of town. Then, there are the famous wild horses of Corolla, which can be spotted on an excursion with a local Corolla Wild Horse Tour.
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Maui is nicknamed "The Magic Isle," and with good reason. In addition to its famous beaches (Kaanapali, Wailea and Makena to name a few), this Hawaiian island is home to Haleakala (a surreal volcanic crater that's 10,023 feet above sea level), Molokini (a crescent-shaped offshore lava formation offering superb snorkeling, Upcountry (a lush area with historic cowboy towns and lavender farms) and Hana (a remote spot perched on black-lava landscape and accessible solely via the twisting, turning Hana Highway). Add in humpback whales (from November to March), spinner dolphins and a half dozen golf courses and Maui has something for everyone.
To experience nature at its finest, it's hard to top Cannon Beach, a wide, wild swath of sand on the Oregon Coast about 90 minutes from Portland. Known for its dramatic rock formations (235-foot-tall Haystack being the most famous), lush rainforests (complete with waterfalls), large artist population (galleries abound) and wildlife (you can easily spot nesting puffins and grazing elk), Cannon Beach is ideal as a romantic getaway spot for eco-loving couples. Aside from beachcombing and surfing, hiking is the thing to do (the views from Ecola State Park are sublime) and accommodations include dozens of inns to suit all budgets.
For many families, Ocean Isle Beach is the best of both worlds: it’s less crowded, with gentler waves and warmer water than other popular North Carolina beaches like the Outer Banks, but it’s only a 45-minute drive from bustling cities like Wilmington and Myrtle Beach. The Museum of Coastal Carolina hosts a wide range of daily events tailored to small children, including story time, planetarium shows and “Touch Tank Feeding,” a chance to help staff members feed the museum’s marine animals.
The beautiful island of Molokai is where you’ll find an authentic Hawaiian welcome without the crowds or modern interruptions you get on some of the more popular neighboring islands. This is a place where you’ll have certain beaches to yourself and where the scenery is nothing short of breathtaking. Seek out the black sands of Awahua Beach (you may need a guide to help you find it). The water’s a bit choppy so be careful swimming, but the peace and quiet is unbeatable. You could explore the Pali coast on a leisurely sea kayaking trip or head up, up and away, sweeping over the area in a helicopter. With beachfront bungalows or tropical rainforest cabins for rent, Molokai is truly one of the best beach vacations to explore your inner zen.