haveseen / Getty Images
haveseen / Getty Images

Fun in the Sun on Sandy Shores

Imagine sugar-white sands and shimmering turquoise waves lapping at your toes. Sound divine? Whether you choose to frolic in the brilliant green sea along Florida's Emerald Coast or prefer to unwind in an exotic island locale such as Thailand or the Philippines, read on for beach vacation inspiration.

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In the days before Hawaiians had a written language, their history was preserved through the storytelling art of hula. Ancient chants told of lineages, legends, and the traditions that reached far back to the beginning of time when gods created the islands and the Hawaiian people. While it is great fun to learn a few hula moves at a local shopping center or luau, as with any art form, it can take years to master and a lifetime to perfect. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

Stretching 14 miles long, one mile wide and 3,600 feet deep, the Waimea Canyon is often referred to as the 'Grand Canyon of the Pacific.' The main road, Waimea Canyon Drive, leads you to several lookout points where time seems to stand still and the only movement you see is the shadows of clouds as they pass over the valley. At the end of the road is Kokee State Park with 45 miles of hiking trails. The road is slow and winding, and there's no food or water'just you and nature¬'so start out early and bring everything you'll need. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

On the south side of Kauai, the Koloa district stretches from rustic Old Koloa Town all the way to the sunny shores of Poipu Beach. Quaint restaurants and charming shops greet you, and like everywhere else on Kauai, life is slow and meant to be savored. Lappert's Ice Cream is a Kauai original with waffle cones that will bring out the kid in you. To and from Old Koloa Town, a lacy tunnel of trees serves as your gateway, reminding you that beauty is everywhere. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

Perched at the northernmost tip of Kauai, the 53-foot Kilauea Lighthouse was built in 1913 as a beacon for traveling ships. Although its light was turned off in the 1970s and has been replaced by an automatic beacon, you might say it still calls out to travelers with its incredible view. From December to May, humpback whales are often seen breaching off shore, so be sure to bring binoculars. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

Hanalei Pier equals romance. From the song Hanalei Moon to the passion of Roger and Hammerstein's South Pacific, who can resist holding hands while lost in a painted sunset? If the end of the pier could talk, we know it would have many tales of whispered proposals and sparkling engagement rings. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

One of the nicest ways to explore Kauai is under your own steam in a one-man or tandem kayak. The beaches surrounding Mount Makana (nicknamed 'Bali Hai' after the island in Roger and Hammerstein's South Pacific) are gentle and inviting, and especially welcome after paddling in the sun. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

It's debatable as to which view of Wailua Falls is more beautiful'from the above where you can appreciate its majesty, or from below where the cool mist from the waterfall nourishes the hanging ferns and tropical foliage that create Kauai's popular Fern Grotto. You just might have to find out for yourself. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

Oh go ahead. Take off your shoes, roll up your pants, hike up your dress and get your feet wet. As cliché as it sounds, it's simply irresistible. Our suggestion for such frivolous frolic is on Poipu Beach where you'll find a wonderful array of restaurants, and a long stretch of sand where you can either work up an appetite or walk off dessert. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

On Kauai, beauty is everywhere, which makes a simple bike ride a non-stop photo opportunity. Pack your camera and a map and set off to explore. You'll see sights you wouldn't see any other way. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

It's hard to describe the sheer majesty of Kauai's Napali Coast, with its sheer, razor-sharp ridges that seem to drop straight to the earth. By helicopter, you're privy to cascading waterfalls and hidden inlets, and depending on your pilot, you might even swoop down into a cave. If you thirst for the sea, catamaran cruises and zodiac tours are the way to go. For experienced hikers, the multi-day hike along the rugged coast is among Hawaii's most scenic. 960 1280

The Hawaiian Islands  

Ulu Watu, Bali
Ulu Watu, Bali

Ulu Watu, Bali

Famous for being home to the oldest Hindu temple in Bali, Ulu Watu is also known for its professional-grade waves. The Ulu Watu temple sits atop an enormous cliff, overlooking the breaking waves and talented surfers below. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Playa Grande, Costa Rica

Playa Grande, Costa Rica

The beach town of Playa Grande is known as one of Costa Rica's best surfing spots. It also happens to be home to the second largest nesting ground of the largest marine reptile, the Leatherback Turtle. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Bundoran, Ireland

Bundoran, Ireland

Known as a surfer’s "cold water Eden," the shores of Bundoran on the southwestern tip of Donegal provide nearly constant swells. The town embraces the culture with extra accommodations for surfers -- even offering discounts to surfers who visit during the peak season of September-May. Just be sure to pack your wetsuit! 960 1280

Getty Images  

Jeffreys Bay, South Africa

Jeffreys Bay, South Africa

Host to the annual Billabong Pro ASP World Tour surfing competition, the town of Jeffreys Bay was made famous by the surf cult classic, Endless Summer. Its surf break is considered one of the best right-hand point breaks in the world due to its consistency and quality. 960 1280

Johanna Nel / iStock / Getty Images  

Huntington Beach, CA

Huntington Beach, CA

If you're looking for a surf destination, you can't go wrong with Surf City, USA. With 4 different-facing beaches, there’s a break for everyone -- longboarders should head to the northwest beaches, while shortboards are best in the south, by Huntington Beach Pier. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Bondi Beach, Sydney

Bondi Beach, Sydney

One of Australia’s most famous beaches is also a top destination for surfers. The white sands of Bondi Beach not only provide top-notch surf, but also plenty of restaurants and shops for when the waves have you worn out. 960 1280

Jessica Rabbit, flickr  

San Clemente, CA

San Clemente, CA

With Surfing Magazine, The Surfer's Journal and Longboard Magazine based here and Surfer Magazine not too far off, San Clemente is undoubtedly known for its waves as well as its surf coverage. It’s also home to Lower Trestles, a favorite break among surfers which has been threatened by the state’s attempt to build a toll road, but has been defended repeatedly by numerous surf organizations.  960 1280

Patrick Pelster, flickr  

Taghazout, Morocco

Taghazout, Morocco

Taghazout, a fishing village in the southwest of Morocco, is generally not crowded – a key feature when searching for the perfect surf destination. With waves for advanced surfers from September-April and smaller waves throughout the rest of the year, this small town has something for everyone.  960 1280

Cultura Travel / Tim E White / Photolibrary / Getty Images  

Teahupo'o, Tahiti

Teahupo'o, Tahiti

Known for its glassy waves, Teahupo'o is part of the World Championship Tour of the Association of Surfing Professionals circuit. Its shallow coral reef is responsible for the shape of this legendary break, making it extremely heavy and hollow – perfect for getting barreled, but best left to the pros.  960 1280

Stephanie Milani, flickr  

Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

On the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, the relaxed village of Arugam Bay is known for its steady waves during the peak season of May-November. With its laid-back vibe and wide variety of restaurants, Arugum Bay is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the water.  960 1280

Getty Images  

Tavarua Island, Fiji

Tavarua Island, Fiji

This heart-shaped island in Fiji is home to one of the most famous breaks in the surfing world – Cloudbreak. Located a mile off the island, this wave is restricted to those who check in at the Tavarua Surf Resort and has been known to get so large that only tow-in surfing is possible. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

This world-class resort town is actually a top surfing destination, as well. Even before the vacationers started coming to sunbathe, locals would ride the consistent swells on wooden planks and palm fronds. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Puerto Escondido, Mexico

The quiet Mexican town of Puerto Escondido is home to surfers, families and Zicatela Beach. This beach was nicknamed "Mexican Pipeline" due to its similarity to the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Hanalei Bay, Kauai

Hanalei Bay, Kauai

The waves are known to get rather large on this beautiful crescent-shaped bay. Known to reach 20 feet, the biggest waves occur in the center of the bay and are called "pinetrees" by the locals.   960 1280

Matthew Micah Wright / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images  

Humpback whale breaching
Humpback whale breaching

Humpback whale breaching

Humpback whales are true acrobatic animals. Here's a little breaching action: A humpback whale leaps out of the water. 960 1280

Kristin Rayfield with Rudee Tours  

The humpback whale is a baleen whale, with extra long pectoral fins. Here's a close-up of its knobby head. 960 1280

Mark Jennings, Virginia Aquarium Education Dept.  

A humpback whale raises its tail flukes out of the water. The result: a tail-slapping good show. 960 1280

Kristin Rayfield with Rudee Tours  

Thar she blows! Humpback whale at VA Beach

Thar she blows! Humpback whale at VA Beach

Thar she blows! This humpback whale is just a few yards from a boat. 960 1280

Kristin Rayfield with Rudee Tours  

Humpback whales find plentiful bait in Virginia Beach waters

Humpback whales find plentiful bait in Virginia Beach waters

Gulp! A warmer-than-usual winter -- plus, more plentiful bait like sandlance -- may explain the larger numbers of humpback whales this year. 960 1280

Kristin Rayfield with Rudee Tours  

humpback whale fluked tail

humpback whale fluked tail

The humpback whale has a fluked tail. Check out the wavy trailing edges. 960 1280

Kristin Rayfield with Rudee Tours  

humpback whale pod

humpback whale pod

The humpback whales have typically been spotted in pods of 2. 960 1280

Chris Erney  

humpback whale blowholes

humpback whale blowholes

The humpback has 2 nostrils -- blow and dorsal fin -- at the top of its head. They use these to breathe air at the surface of the water. A double stream of spray is the visual result. 960 1280

Chris Erney  

dolphins at Virginia Beach

dolphins at Virginia Beach

And if you miss the whales, head back in the summer: These guys will be waiting. 960 1280

  

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