I give Trip Advisor a bit of grief now and then over its ratings/voting patterns. But this one I can't argue with too much.
The company this week issued its annual list of reader's favourite beaches, and top of the class is Ka'anapali in Hawaii. Ka'anapali, which came into its own as a resort 50 years ago on the west side of Maui north of Lahaina, is an absolutely stunning piece of landscape with a number of big advantages.
Here are ten. First, it goes on for miles and miles and miles and miles. Second, the sand is soft and a very pretty gold-colour. Third, there are tremendous views of the neighbouring islands of Moloka'i and Lana'i. Fourth, it faces west so the sunsets, mostly over the Pacific but occasionally over one of the nearby islands, are outstanding. Fifth, being Hawaii, the weather seldom varies (although it was quite windy last week a friend tells me). Sixth, there are activities galore: whalewatching from October to April or so; plus sailing and snorkeling and great golf and dolphin tours and parasailing and bodysurfing and lots more. Seventh, the resorts are terrific; everything from glitzy spots like the Westin and Hyatt and Sheraton to the more subdued Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, which has great Hawaiian programming and is very true to the island culture. Eighth, there's a great pathway/walkway all along the sand, so you can go from one resort to another quite easily. Ninth, the food is terrific. Try Hula Grill or check in next door at Leilani's for outstanding fish tacos. Hint: instead of sitting with the crowds down below, go to the second floor deck at Leilani's for a fine view of the passing parade - or the sunset. Tenth, there's great shopping right at the beach at Whalers' Village; with fine jewelry and restaurants (Hula Grill and Leilani's are here) and t-shirt shops and a small museum dedicated to telling the story of the area's whaling history.
Oh, yeah, number 11: If you're a jogger and there are big waves, you might spot an attractive photographer snapping photos. This woman, who I got a picture of a couple years ago, was wearing a thong bikini and somehow grabbed the attention of a male jogger who approached her from behind...
I personally prefer Napili Beach, just up the road, as it's quieter. But it's hard to argue with anyone who puts Ka'anapali at the top of their list.
Oh, yeah, sorry, the next were Siesta Key Public Beach in Sarasota (a beautiful part of Florida), Gulf Islands National Seashore in Pensacola, Florida (I was there for the first time last month and the beaches are stunningly white and soft and powdery, see photo at left) and Fort De Soto Park in Tierra Verde, Florida (on the gulf, south of St. Petersburg and west of the 275 bridge in case you don't recognize the name Tierra Verde), giving Florida the 2-3-4 spots in the poll.
Coming fifth was Lanikai Beach in Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii, then Wailea Beach in Wailea, Maui (the south end of the island), Assateague Beach in Virginia, La Jolla Cove near San Diego, California, Laguna Beach (a fine choice) in California and Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve outside Honolulu on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. So, for those of you keeping score at home, that's Hawaii in the number 1, 5, 6 and 10 spots, Florida in positions 2, 3 and 4 and California with spots 8 and 9. Only one beach outside those states got a nod, which is Assateague.
Not to keep harping on Trip Advisor, but this DOES show how tricky these lists are. I'd like to have seen something from, say, New York's Long Island in there or perhaps South Carolina or Texas or even Oregon. And what about beaches on a lake? Don't those count?
Anyway, Trip Advisor also did a list of the world's (outside the U.S.) top strands. In order, those were Rabbit Beach in Lampedusa, Italy, Grace Bay in the Turks and Caicos, Whitehaven Beach at Airlie Beach in Australia, Baia do Sancho on the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha, Flamenco Beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico, Playa de las Catedrales in Ribadeo, Spain, Lopes Mendes Beach in Ilha Grande, Brazil, Horseshoe Bay in Bermuda (a very worthy winner), Eagle Beach in Aruba and Rhossili Bay in Swansea, Wales.
Chesterman Beach in Tofino B.C., a long and lovely stretch with surfing waves and driftwood and a great atmosphere (see photo), came 13th in the world tally. Which is nice, as it means that not everyone thinks we're a land perpetually covered in snow drifts and ice blocks. Just sometimes. Like, um, now.
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