There is no doubt about it: My coastal craving must have begun when I was just a twinkle in my daddy’s eye. As a young man, my dad was very tanned and svelte. He would spend his summers on California beaches, working out with his brother, friends and cousins, impressing all the girls. He even hung around with the famous “Godfather of Physical Fitness”, Jack LaLanne. I can imagine all those handsome Portuguese hunks. Jack was a great mentor for my dad. My father has passed on, but Jack is still kickin’ at the ripe young age of 93. Amazing!
My dad was a great swimmer, and he vowed that his children would stay physically fit, and learn to swim at a young age. About the tender age of 2, my brother and I had no choice but to learn. Living and vacationing around water, my dad’s insistence about learning to swim was truly how I fell in love with the water. We began with the fine art of treading water, to diving off a springboard. By the age of 5, we were doing back flips and cannon balls with reckless abandon. From ocean to ocean, I have continued my love affair with the water to this very day.
My favorite swimming medium is however, the ocean. From the west to the east, my fixation with all things beach has become the very fabric of my being. I have often said, that seawater runs through my veins, and I’m truly happy when my feet are on the sand.
I could literally spend eight hours a day snorkeling. The crystal clear, Emerald green water in Panama City Beach, Florida, provides plenty of opportunities to explore the wonders of the Gulf of Mexico. As an owner of a vacation property, I can tell you my thoughts easily drift to sun swept days of long walks on white sand beaches. Shell collecting has always been one of my favorite past times. Our beaches are full of beautiful shells, and snorkeling will yield even more treasures. If you are fortunate enough to own a metal detector, there is no limit to what you might dig up there.
One year after a relaxing trip to Eleuthera, Bahamas, a few years ago, we found ourselves desperately missing the beach. Landlocked in the Midwest can have that effect on you when you have been raised on the coast. Although we couldn’t find pink sand like we had in the backyard of our beach house, we did manage to create our own personal beach. We fenced off a portion of our backyard, put in a Koi pond, and trucked in about four tons of sand. Sans the ocean of course, but the water feature helps create a tranquil, tropical paradise. So if you can’t go the beach, you can bring the beach to you. In late fall I bring in my tropical plants and keep them thriving in my sunroom. Even in the dead of winter, my Elephant Ears, Taro and Hibiscus keep growing.
While vacationing in Eleuthera, I was enamored with the pink sand beaches. White powdery sand and the pink coral that lives around the island form the blushing beaches here. Seashells of all types are plentiful, along with sand dollars, urchins and other aquatic treasures. Conch shells are everywhere, and the meat from this monstrous shellfish is a delicious food staple for the Bahamians.
You’ll also find plenty of sea glass for your collection. Sea glass can range from pebble size to large chards the size of your hand, depending on your luck. A great time to hunt for this ocean tumbled glass is after a storm. The more frosted the piece, the longer it has been tossed about. The beauty of it is that you may find pieces that are from 10 to over 100 years old. Colors range from pink to cobalt blue. I’ve also found old pieces of pottery. The Bahamas are a great place to begin your collection. Don’t be surprised to find pieces of glass that may well have come from a sunken pirate ship.
A darling mongrel adopted us during our stay in Eleuthera. Here, these mixed breeds are called, “potcakes”. Smart and industrious, these dogs are everywhere, and although they tend to hang around during your visit, they have no problem taking care of themselves. They love digging for sand crabs and I believe the crabs are the biggest part of their diet. We lovingly named our potcake, “Seabiscuit”, pictured here. Although tempting to bring our loyal canine friend home with us, the red tape would have been a nightmare. Maybe he’ll still be there when we return.
Maui, Hawaii, opened our eyes to a whole new world of beach going. I had heard that sand comes in more colors than most people realize. In Maui, you’ll find the red sand of Hana Bay in Kaihalulu, also known as Red Sand Beach. Cindercone falls away from the surrounding hill and mixes with the black lava sand in the area.
Maui’s Wainapanapa State Park hosts the beautiful Honokalani Black Sand Beach. The beautiful trek that ends up here is half the fun. The sand is fine toward the top of the beach. As you gradually walk down toward the shoreline, the sand becomes pebbles, then smooth round stones, then boulders. The black sand underneath the deep blue water is breathtaking. Use caution swimming here, as there can be undertow and jellyfish.
You can take the nearly 60-mile stretch of the Hana Highway through more than 600 hairpin turns. No trip to Maui is complete until you’ve taken this marvelous drive. Be prepared to take your time, as there are 54 one-lane bridges. You’ll see gorgeous waterfalls and rainforest surroundings. Please avoid taking volcanic lava rock or lava sand home with you. It is prohibited. Although I’m not superstitious, locals will tell you that it will anger Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire. Bring your cameras along with a picnic lunch. You won’t regret it.
Have you ever heard of green sand? Papakolea Green Sand Beach at South Point will amaze you. Volcanic eruptions bring down olivine crystals to make one of the most unusual looking beaches in the world. Don’t plan to do much more than sight see and take photos at this beach. It is very secluded and the currents are too rough for swimming.
Maui also boasts beautiful white sand beaches, as well as various shades of browns, beige and tan. I even found beaches with white, beige, brown and black all mixed together. Volcanic islands never cease to amaze. If you can only take one island trip in your lifetime, I highly recommend Maui.
I have such a long list of islands and beaches I’d like to visit in my lifetime. I doubt I will ever scratch the surface of that list. But, I can certainly try. I’ve dreamed of warm summer days on the shores of Bimini, Bermuda, Bora Bora and Tahiti. That reminds me. From Fiji to the Cook Islands, God is truly the most perfect artist. I just want to enjoy as much of His canvas as I can.
We’ve enjoyed the California beaches of Santa Cruz, San Diego and Huntington Beach. Other beaches we’ve had the privilege to visit were on Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and Xel-Ha, in Mexico.
My husband and I also got to spend a day on Catalina Island, off the coast of California. Beaches there are not exactly sandy like we have in Florida. But, this charming little island is easy to get to, and about as relaxing and laid back as you can find. Little shops line the small village of Avalon. Overlooking the marina, superb restaurants with outdoor seating provide amazing views while you dine. A catamaran trip to Catalina from Long Beach takes about an hour. A great day to go is on July 4th. The fireworks show over the water makes for wonderful photographic memories.
If I never make it farther than the shores of Florida’s panhandle, I’ll still be happy to have ventured from Maui to the Bahamas. This beach connaisseur knows no boundaries. My toes shall always crave the warmth of the sand and the scent of the sea.
During this travel I used my new tactical flashlight and it did not disppoint a camper like me.