Lately cruise ship passengers have crowded parts of this outpost of Caribbean scenery. All you have to do, though, is head a little further up from the big resorts to find yourself on one of the most underrated beaches in the region. Thick groves of palm trees lead up to shiny white sand. Venture off the beach and you’ll find funky-cute bars to enjoy a beer for only a couple of dollars.
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.
There are more than 700 islands in the Bahamas, but the vast majority of travelers never get beyond the mega resorts of New Providence (home to Nassau), Paradise, and Grand Bahama islands. That means there are plenty of lightly trafficked “Out Islands” to choose from for off-the-beaten-path beach vacations. For glassy, gem-colored water, condo-free beaches, affordable accommodations, and some the best sailing grounds in the world, head to Staniel Cay, a two-square-mile island within the Exuma Cays.
Surf City is the cultural center of Topsail Island, a long barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. For visitors looking to surf in the aptly named city, there are plenty of sporting goods stores to suit your needs. The larger area is known for its organic blueberry farms, with some farms allowing guests to come out and pick their own fresh pesticide-free blueberries. Guests can unwind in Surf City’s cozy bed and breakfast spot overlooking the ocean waves. For the outdoorsy types, the area has an array of campgrounds where visitors can pitch a tent or park their RV.
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.