Best Beachside Cities in Florida

By: Ben Holdt

Spending a few days at the beach is a great way to get away from the daily stresses of life and relax. With over 8,000 miles of coastline, Florida is second to just Alaska for the amount of land they have touching, sparkling ocean waters. However, the Sunshine State has the upper hand on being near the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. While there may be a lot of towns and cities dotting the Florida coast, there are only a few that indeed offer the best quality of life. Check out the best beachside cities in Florida for your next beach getaway.

Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach Rentals

Panama City Beach Skyline

With 27 miles of white sandy beaches, Panama City Beach is widely known for its ability to ease away any stress that you brought with you on your vacation. This famous town offers waterfront restaurants as well as plenty of scuba activities thanks to its nearby artificial reefs. Families will enjoy the many water parks in town as well as two state parks that offer an up close and personal look at nature. There are plenty of nearby amusements to fill a vacation at the beach when the sand castle building is all done.

Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach House Rentals

Cocoa Beach House Rentals

This popular surfing destination is just south of Cape Canaveral along the Atlantic Ocean. Cocoa Beach is known for the waves that descend upon its shores at the end of the hurricane season that offers a great opportunity for avid surfers. Check out local events to book a vacation with plenty of action out on the water as you soak up the sun from the beach. You’ll also find many things to explore in the area including tours of the Kennedy Space Center, the Dinosaur Store, and many fishing charters.

Destin

Destin Florida Vacation Rental homes

Destin Sandy Beaches

Located in Northwest Florida, Destin features plenty of sugar white beaches and sunshine. As a popular destination point for many Midwesterners, the area is well known for its wide range of fishing activities as well as shopping opportunities. You’ll find excellent fishing charters as well as plenty of events year-round to make your vacation unique. Local restaurants feature fresh seafood from the gulf, and you’ll also find plenty of golf courses in the area as well.

Palm Beach

This widely known beach is as far East as you can get on the Florida coastline. Palm Beach features beautiful palm trees along white sandy beaches and plenty of luxury. The beach sits on a 16-mile-long island that is just 0.5 miles wide with plenty of beach area all around. Many wealthy families choose this area for winter homes which have created a luxury experience in town. You’ll find the most excellent restaurants and upscale shops when you’re not enjoying the beautiful beach.

Fort Walton Beach

Fort Walton Beach House Rentals on the beach

Fort Walton Beach

The beautiful emerald waters along Fort Walton Beach are enough to attract plenty of visitors each year. Located between Pensacola and Panama City, the beach is in an excellent location for visitors to get to from other parts of the country. Fort Walton Beach has powdery white beaches and offers plenty for the family to do once a day at the beach is done. You’ll find golf courses, aquariums, and many other attractions that help make this destination a vacation to remember.

There are plenty of places to choose from when looking for a great vacation on the beach in Florida. White sandy beaches mixed with enough great food and nightlife to keep you busy after a long day on the beach is standard for many of these hot spots. Consider any one of the best beachside cities in Florida for your next vacation to the Sunshine State.

Ben Holt is a fresh air enthusiast and loves writing about it. Ben is always looking to make the most of a summer day, whether he is relaxing in his garden, hiking on an off-beaten trail or entertaining friends on his newly renovated patio.

Newport Beach, California – More Than a Day at the Beach

Synonymous with great surf for decades, Newport Beach, on California’s sunny coastline, is no one trick pony. Newport Beach’s unique culture and climate can probably be chalked up to the juxtaposition of the luxury homes, storefronts and restaurants that are occupied and frequented by sun-kissed beach bums.  I like to think of it as sand between your toes chic.

Newport beach vacation rentalsLocated in the heart of Orange County’s beachfront between Huntington Beach (to the North) and Laguna Beach (to the South), Newport Beach is home to a handfull of the most beautiful beaches in the state, and arguably, the world.
 
Including the beaches on the harbor and back bay, there is over 15 miles of beaches to discover, which I definitely plan on doing! 
Some of the beaches include Balboa peninsula beaches, The Wedge, Corona del Mar beaches and Crystal Cove State Beach, plus some back bays, the Newport Dunes, and some small community beaches.
Each beach has its distinct attributes that set it apart from the others – Balboa Beach, Newport Municipal Beach and the West Jetty View Park with The Wedge are flat, sandy expanses along the peninsula where Corona del Mar, Newport Dunes and Crystal Cove, have cliffs, rocky points and tidepools.

Best Newport Beach Rental

Of Endless Summer fame, The Wedge is one of the best surf breaks, thanks in part to the improvements (done in the 1930′s) to the rock jetty on the North end of Newport’s harbor. South swells reflect off the jetty creating a second wave, which meets up with the following wave of the set and forms a peak. This series of events is the perfect recipe for creating waves that are often several feet larger than waves at other south facing beaches in Newport on any given day.

Newport Beach Rental Property

Newport Beach Rental Beach Houses

Newport Beach offers mostly outdoor shopping in little boutique stores but is also home to the shopping Mecca known as Fashion Island. Fashion Island is an outdoor shopping mall in the heart of Newport Beach where shop-a-holics go to see and be seen. With department stores such as Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, and Macys, many appreciate the fact that Fashion Island is also welcoming of your furry friends.

Back on the mainland other attractions include Pelican Hill Golf Club, a luxurious 36-hole championship golf course, that is said to rival Pebble Beach, and, The Orange County Museum of Art, a premier visual arts museum.

Considering a beach vacation? Book your beach house today through BeachHouse.com! Find our most popular Newport Beach Rentals here!

Property Spotlight: Casa Morocco in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Casa Morocco - Street View

Casa Morocco – Street View

Welcome to the majestic Casa Morocco, newly constructed in 2011. Casa Morocco exhibits meticulous and intricate detail blending rich African and middle-eastern architecture of the highest quality and craftsmanship. Imperial archways and elaborately hand-carved mahogany doors all come together creating an exotic charm certain to carry guests away to another world. Custom-designed, hand-painted tiles of the richest colors contrast the pristine white walls on every level of this extravagant Moroccan palace which sits just steps from turquoise Caribbean waters. Atop Casa Morocco’s stately architecture stands a magnificent dome illuminated nightly, creating a spectacle of beauty and grandeur against the Caribbean’s star filled sky.

Casa Morocco - Beach View

Casa Morocco – Beach View

One of the most stunning features of Casa Morocco is its private pool, fully laid with iridescent tile, unveiling shimmering brilliance in the island sun. Overlooking the glistening pool stands an impressive iridescent wall fountain, adorned with a majestic lion head surrounded by a dazzling 24-carat gold dial.

Casa Morocco is located on Isla Mujeres and offers the epitome of versatility for travelers in search of an affordable, yet exquisite luxury retreat. This Moroccan-themed haven boasts four superb suites; each fully furnished with en-suite baths and fully appointed kitchens. Guests can lease from one suite up to the entire ocean-front property which accommodates up to 8 guests for a memorable island experience. Three ocean-front suites and one bay-view suite all showcase extraordinary vistas and the ultimate in comfort and privacy.

Infinity Pool

Infinity Pool with Grand Ocean View

Imagine your own personal beach graced with white sands where you can sunbathe, eased by the sound of ocean waves caressing the shoreline, or go for a dip in the luxuriant pool with its majestic Moroccan flair and commanding view of the open ocean, or grab your gear and snorkel in the crystal blue waters found in your own backyard. Enjoy an evening of Al-fresco dining under the third level terrace palapa as you watch the sun set upon the Cancun coastline. There you can entertain your guests with a barbeque or enjoy an intimate rendezvous. There is generous space to lounge with a glass of wine on integrated sofas, or hide away in the bubbling jacuzzi. Take in an awe-inspiring and dramatic 360 degree view of the island beauty surrounding you.

Make this the most unforgettable vacation getaway you have ever experienced by making Casa Morocco your tropical island vacation destination.

Casablanca Master Suite

Casablanca Master Suite

Casablanca Guest Suite

Casablanca Guest Suite

Tangier Suite

Tangier Suite

Remodeling to Get the Most Out of Your Vacation Rental

bluegull_7Your vacation rental should be the place for you or your tenants to relax and enjoy coastal luxury. However, it can be somewhat difficult to enjoy the pleasures of a stunning property when the interior of your house is outdated, poorly equipped or unattractive. If you retreat to your own vacation property, you want to be able to enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of the area and of your home without having to worry about dilapidated cabinets or old fashioned decor. The same is true of your renters. Whether you are looking to sell your vacation rental, lease it to a new owner or simply enjoy its merits on your own, it is vital that you remodel your property so that it can fulfill its true potential.

Many property owners are reluctant to pour too much of their hard-earned money into their vacation rentals. Oftentimes they fear that they will not be knowledgeable enough to properly renovate their home without construction management experience, or they may worry they will not see a return on such an investment, especially if the property is only occupied for a portion of the year. However, vacation home remodeling does not have to be costly, nor must it be time consuming. So long as you focus your efforts on the right areas of your property, you can get the most out of your vacation rental with just a few home improvement projects.

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First of all, you must attend to the property’s master suite. A home’s master suite is its center of relaxation, and most people are looking for an escape from the trials of their everyday lives when they travel to their vacation rentals. Consider these possible improvements:

  • You should ensure that your master suite is as lush and luxurious as your budget will allow. If possible, make room for both a sleeping area and a sitting area in the master bedroom.

  • Accentuate any special features such as large windows or a balcony with adornments that will draw the eye. For instance, floor length curtains can be used to emphasize exquisite French doors framing a beachfront view.

  • Make sure that the master bath is in excellent condition. Update all plumbing features, add high-end counter tops and flooring, and install a separate tub and shower if you have the room.

It is also important to make a vacation property’s kitchen appealing and functional. Although some choose to refrain from cooking when taking a break from their regular lives, many travelers prefer renting over a hotel in order to save money by cooking for themselves.

  • Outfit your vacation rental’s kitchen with updated appliances (and make sure they work!).

  • Replace battered or unappealing countertops and floors with new, durable surfaces.

  • Consider a fresh coat of paint to tie the kitchen together and create a pleasant cooking space.

3167603732_0f05a4ec61Above all else, it is vital that your vacation property exudes convenience and comfort. Keep these general pointers in mind during and after any renovation projects:

  • Maintain a stock of clean sheets, bathroom supplies and other necessities for the master suite.

  • Be sure to furnish the kitchen with paper towels, dish soap, utensils and a full stock of non-perishable cooking supplies and some food.

  • Don’t over-clutter. Keep all the house’s spaces open, airy and beachy.

  • Provide a list of resources for your renters including who to call in case of plumbing or electrical issues (new appliances can’t always be trusted right off the bat).

  • Most importantly, make sure everything is CLEAN! Any renovation or remodeling work will produce dust and debris, and lots of it. Clean up the whole house thoroughly after making any improvements.

Improvements to your vacation rental are a wise investment so long as they provide your renters with the relaxing ambiance they need after months of hard work. By remodeling your vacation rental to heighten its functionality and atmosphere, you will be adding both value and pleasure to your property.

Beachhouse.com Homeowners go GREEN!

Beachhouse.com is lucky enough to work with some of the best homeowners in the world…they never cease to amaze us.  One of our clients, PineappleFish, is so committed to doing good for the planet, that they went green for the Holidays.  We are happy to present to you…

The Greenest Christmas Tree in Florida!

Untitled

PineappleFish wanted to celebrate the holiday season with a beautiful tree at the site of the Anna Maria Green Village, but of course, being Green they did not want to use electricity to power the lights.

The Result?  The first Zero Net Energy Tree ever seen on Anna Maria, with power for the lights generated by the sun!

Tom Stockebrand, their solar expert, took a very simple solar panel, generating 175 W of energy over 5 hours.  He hooked it into a bunch of 24-volt batteries to store the energy and an inverter, which converts the energy into an electrical current to turn the tree lights on.  Then they set the tree lights onto a timer – from 6pm to 11pm each night.   Only 5 hours of sunshine charges the batteries!   They switch the lights on when the sun goes down and get 5 hours of electricity to light the lights!

The panel actually generates more than they need because the tree lights don’t need very much (and Florida has plenty of wonderful sunshine).
If you’re on the Island, check it out, and perhaps take a photo with the only sun-powered Christmas Tree in Anna Maria (maybe the whole of Florida!)

Click HERE for more information on the Anna Maria Historic Green Village and all of the Green initiatives on Anna Maria Island.

Homeowner Brings New Meaning to “Pet Friendly” Vacation Rentals

BBBlabel3Beachhouse.com homeowner and owner of Mermaid Cottages, Diane Kaufman, has combined 2 of her loves – property management and dogs – in her latest “pet” project, Beach Bum Biscuits.  These delectable all-natural bakery-made dog biscuits are currently on sale in Tybee Island, Georgia at Seaside Sisters, and will soon be available in a beach town near you.  As if you needed any more reason to spoil your furry friend, proceeds from the sale of Beach Bum Biscuits also go to support service and guide dogs!IMG00114-20100605-1443

Also,  by staying at any Mermaid Cottage vacation rental property, you help to support 2 great guide dog foundations:  the Southeastern Guide Dogs’ Puppy Sponsorship Program, and The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind.

Stay up to date on the latest Beach Bum Biscuit news by following their blog!

Beach Bum Biscuits are also a great Holiday gift for your pet or that special pup in your life!  To order in time for the Holiday’s, contact Diane at:  Diane@MermaidCottages.com or call her at:  912-313-0784.

Mermaid Cottages has always sponsored Guide Dogs.  Read below for bio’s and information about a few of the dogs they have sponsored:

Clarke2

Clark

Clarke is one of the first dogs we sponsored who trained at Southeastern Guide Dogs’ School in Palmetto, FL. Clarke has proven to be easy going, extremely comfortable with people of all ages and very quick to learn new tasks. We are all hoping for a great career for her as a guide dog for a deserving blind individual. Clarke is also from the Southeastern Guide Dogs Program.

(Update)  It is with great joy we tell you that Clarke was matched in June 2009 with her blind partner, Joyce. They both are quite laid back and easy going and from all appearances will be great companions for a very long time. Clarkes’s truest challenge might be living with Joyce’s six birds!! No doubt, she’ll do just fine.

Erik

Erik

Erik was given a career change in 2007 due to medical issue. We are happy to report that Erik is currently embarking on a new career as a Hearing Dog for 5 year old Jay Lommel. Jay, born deaf, recently received a cochlear implant, and with his new pal Erik will hopefully be on his way to speaking as well as hearing. Erik is receiving his new training at Polite Paws in Bluffton, SC, courtesy of owner, trainer Robin Walter.  Erik is also from the Southeastern Guide Dogs Program.

Tony

Tony

Tony is one of our newest guide dog sponsees for spring 2009 from the Southeastern Guide Dogs Program. Our update on Tony is that he is a great pup! He will be a year old in November. He is sweet and has a great work ethic. He lives with his new owner’s other dog, Sherlock, who is 8 years old. They go to work together, play and enjoy each other’s company.  Tony is a beautiful black lab, who loves to please.

Berkeley

Berkeley

Berkeley is our newest Service Dog from the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc since Fall of 2009.  Here is a great pic of him at Diane’s cottage.

Spotlight: Casa Piazza, Manzanillo, Mexico

Christmas & New Years weeks: Book Now & SAVE $1,000 OFF regular Holiday rental rates AND get $1,000 to use towards meals cooked by Casa Piazza’s Chef!

Welcome to Casa Piazza, a striking blend of Mediterranean and Mexican style in a peaceful natural setting. Our home is truly your vacation fantasy come true.

Located in in the exclusive gated community of La Punta which features controlled 24-hour security, Casa Piazza is a stunning 8000 square foot multi-level blending of Mexican and Italian Mediterranean architecture. Created by owner Scott Piazza and Italian designer Paolo Cressini, Casa Piazza is spacious and airy, designed for relaxed tropical living and lively entertaining.

Unusual and well-thought-out touches catch your eye everywhere, like custom made hardwood furniture, Mexican tilework, American antiques and Malaysian chairs. Some beds are adapted from antique farmhouse doors and the floors are tile, hand-peened brick and stone.

Relax poolside under the PalapaThe property has sculpted grounds, a tiled swimming pool, two separate palapas (outdoor living areas) wet bar and spa tub. At every turn you’ll find striking views, comfortable furniture, balconies and large windows that admit the cooling sea breezes.

Easily accommodating ten guests, the main house offers 5 master bedrooms with 6-1/2 baths. Every bedroom has a private balcony, comfortable King bed, air conditioning and ceiling fan. The outdoor dining pavilion seats 12 guests adjacent to a modern, fully equipped kitchen with gourmet appliances. The sprawling living and family rooms are perfect for relaxation with comfortable sofas, satellite tv’s, vcr/ DVD player, a film library, games, ping pong table, books and recreational diversions galore. Up on the 1600 square foot rooftop terrace, life is good as you watch the afternoon slip into evening and enjoy after-dinner drinks.

The tiled pool terrace features chaises, deck chairs and tables with large umbrellas to shade you from the afternoon sun. Just across the street are 4 semi-private tennis hard courts with night lighting. The Casa Piazza staff includes a manager, chef, houseman and maid. They are all dedicated to making your vacation perfect in every respect.

Palapa Life
In Mexico, outdoor living areas are called palapas and traditionally shaded by native-style thatched roofs. Our two palapas let you enjoy pleasurable outdoor living in the mild climate of Mexico’s Pacific Riviera, which shares the same latitude as Hawaii but offers more consistantly good weather.

Mexican and Italian Mediterranean architectureThe 1600 square foot rooftop terrace palapa has comfortable sofas, tables and chairs, a wet bar plus a second kitchen and dining area. There are also padded sunbathing chaises and a spa tub. The covered outdoor dining palapa adjacent to the main kitchen has a massive table and chairs for 12 guests to dine in comfort and style.

The rooftop palapa offers an incredible view of our glorious Mexican sunrises and sunsets. Relax with a tropical drink and you might see a migrating whale, wild parrots or frigate birds drifting lazily past. The night sky is so soft and clear you’d swear the stars are just within your reach.

Amenities

  • Masterful combination of Mexican and Mediterranean architecture
  • Designed for comfort, relaxation and easy living
  • Total living area 8000 square feet
  • Main house & casita have total of 5 bedrooms and 6-1/2 bathrooms
  • Rooftop palapa w/kitchen, wet bar, dining area, Jacuzzi Tiled heated swimming pool 3.5 to 5 feet deep
  • Poolside lounging area w/ chaises, chairs, outdoor dining pavilion
  • All bedrooms have King beds, private balconies, a/c & fans
  • Purified water system throughout
  • Chef-prepared meals to your taste included (you pay food & beverage costs only)
  • Satellite tv/vcr, DVD player, video library, internet email, direct phones, book library, games, ping pong table, croquet, darts, fishing poles, snorkel equipment and more
  • Staff: chef, manager, houseman, maid
  • Offsite administrator
  • 5 star daily housekeeping, all meals prepared on-site, your special dietary needs graciously accommodated

View from the 1600 square foot rooftop terrace palapaActivities Nearby
Golf: There are 4 golf courses nearby. The world-famous La Mantaraya at the Las Hadas resort is just over the hill from Casa Piazza. Other courses include Isla Navidad, Club Santiago and El Tamarindo.

Tennis: Right across the street. 4 semi-private hard courts (open only to La Punta owners and their guests). These are well-lighted for night play. Racquets provided at the casa.

Beaches: It’s an easy four-minute stroll to our very own La Escondida Beach Club which has an 800 feet long beach with ocean & bay frontage, a lap pool and gym. Much of the time you will be the only one on this hidden gem of a beach. There’s a stunning view of Manzanillo in the distance, plus great snorkeling or sunbathing on our floating pontoon just offshore.

Other nearby beaches include Playa de Audiencia, where Dudley Moore and Bo Derek cavorted in the film “10,” and Las Hada, La Boquita and Salagua, plus Miramar and Olas Altas for surfing. Some beaches offer boat trips, paddleboards and kayaks, boogie and surfboard rentals, waverunners and other on-or-under-water experiences.

Fishing: Manzanillo is world famous for sailfishing, with international tournaments held every year in November and February. You can charter a private boat or share one with other anglers.

Tours: We can arrange shopping, cultural, sightseeing and nightlife tours of Manzanillo. You may want to visit the colonial town of Colima to see ancient tombs and caves plus the twin volcanos Nevado de Colimo and Volcan de Colima. Shop at local native bazaars for crafts, silver and textiles and see the protected bird islands. It’s possible to visit exotic plantations and see bananas, mangos, papayas, and coconuts being grown.

07top4“El Centro”
The downtown area of Manzanillo consists of a Malecon, or boardwalk, about a mile long.

You can walk along the harbor, enjoying the view of anchored fishing boats, from the motor cruisers chartered for tourist sailfishing, to small pangas, used by local fishermen. Along the way there are numerous benches, shaded by palm trees, and sculptures done by local artists. An old ship’s anchor (a cargo ship sunk in the hurricane of 1959) is an interesting conversation piece, and a good background for a photo.

As you get to the downtown area, you’ll see the “Jardin,” or garden, which is the town square. If you’re driving, the best parking is on the north side of the Jardin. The Jardin is where everyone congregates–to have lunch, get their shoes shined, or “people watch.” On many evenings when it’s cooler, bands play in the gazebo, and folks dance in the plaza. Feeding pigeons is a favorite pastime, too.

Just off the Jardin is Av. Mexico, with its numerous shops offering tourist treasures. In fact, all around the Jardin are storefronts offering everything from silver to T-shirts. There are also several restaurants offering a variety of Mexican dishes and seafood at reasonable prices.

The “Mercado”
Manzanillo’s mercado, or market, offers a variety of items for consumption. If you want the freshest seafood, fruits or vegetables, go from 8-10 in the morning. This is mainly a “locals” market, but tourists love it for its authentic Mexican flavor. Of course, other items, such as pi๑atas, pottery and leather goods are available. The mercado area is located on Av. Francisco I. Madero, behind the Club de Leones (Lions Club), one block south of Av. Mexico.

Additional Activities (Extra Fee)

  • Fishing charters
  • Sailing/boat rental
  • SCUBA
  • Jet skis
  • Kayaks
  • Massage

Guided Tours

  • Beach
  • Forest
  • City
  • Shopping
  • Cultural
  • Mountains Golf
  • Spa services
  • Restaurant dining

Policies

Weekly Rental Rates
Weekly Rate ……………..$11,750
Holidays …………………..$14,000

  • One week rental minimum
  • Maximum 12 person occupancy
  • Saturday to Saturday stay

Terms & Conditions
50% deposit secures confirmed reservation. Security deposit of $2000, returned after your party has vacated the casa in good order. Full rental fee and deposit due no later than 60 days prior to arrival date.

Cancellations

  • 50% of total forfeited 30 days or more prior to arrival date.
  • 75% of total forfeited 15-30 days prior to arrival date.
  • 90% of total forfeited 7 days or less prior to arrival date.

Laguna Beach, Three Arch Bay & Tidepools

Laguna Beach, CaliforniaWhen I decided to move to Orange County, I was excited and nervous.  This was going to be my first time living away from the Central Coast town that I was born and raised in, had gone to college in, and had started my career in.  I had barely settled and homesickness hadn’t even had a chance to kick in, and my family and some of our close family friends came down to visit – it ended up being one of the best weekends I have ever had…

Our family friends have a house in Three Arch Bay, a private beach community on the southern end of Laguna Beach, that was established in the 1930′s.  We started the weekend at the property and headed down to check out the private beach.  A few hundred steps later (maybe only a slight exaggeration) we found ourselves on a quaint, private, and uncrowded crescent of sand, sheltered by bluffs on one side and open to the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean on the other side.  Once I had staked out my spot on the sand, I started checking out my surroundings.  There was a handful of other groups at the beach that day – a couple groups of teenagers and skimboarding, some 20-somethings working on their tans, a couple families with young kids playing in the sand and jumping in the shallow whitewater…and a crew setting up what looked to be a stage.

One of the crew members told us that they were setting up for a birthday party that one of the homeowners was having at the beach that evening.  Sure enough, as the day went on, the stage was completed, and the party site really started to take shape.  Tables and chairs were arranged, tents were erected, decorations were thrown up…so, of course we decided to stick around to see what all the fuss was about!

Tide-poolGuests started showing up around 4, and by 5 or so, sound checks started to sound over the microphones.  By this time, there were maybe 50 party guests, the ten of us, and only about 15 other beach-goers.  When the music started we all wandered over to hear who was playing.  We recognized the classic surf rock immediately once The Beach Boys started crooning and proceeded to play all of their best hits – we had stumbled upon a private Beach Boys concert!

The night eventually wound down and we made our way back up to the beach house.  The next morning, we woke up to sunshine and clear blue skies – another perfect beach day!  We went into Laguna Beach, where we had lunch at Goko Cafe (great Greek food – very fresh and mostly organic) before visiting the tide-pools at Picnic Beach (also known as Heisler Park Reserve).

As a kid I remember being fascinated by the sea creatures I found in the tide-pools – starfish, sea urchins, tiny fish, and my favorite, hermit crabs.  At Picnic Beach that day, there were several families with small children – all of the kids were enjoying exploring the rocks, looking for their favorite tide-pool critter.

Laguna Beach also has a variety of shops – everything from vintage boutiques and candy shops, to jewelry stores and art galleries.  It is a great beach town to vacation to and there are tons of beach vacation rental properties to stay in.

What stores and restaurants do you hit up when you are in Laguna Beach!  What is your favorite stretch of sand?  Leave us a comment!

Spotlight: Kona, Hawaii

Kailua BayKailua-Kona, often referenced as simply “Kona”, is an infamously beautiful tropical getaway located along the shoreline of Kailua Bay and up the southern slope of Hualālai volcano.  Reputed for the region’s bold Kona coffee beans, which are cultivated on the slopes of Mount Hualalai and Mauna Loa in the North and South Kona Districts, this exotic Hawaiian destination is also hosts popular events such as the annual Ironman World Championship Triathlon and the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament.

Stay at one of the island’s gems, The Dolphin House, located in the exclusive, gated and security-guarded community of Kona Bay Estates!   The Dolphin House is situated directly on the deep sapphire blue waters of Kona Bay and is just steps away from a private sandy beach (not to mention within walking distance to tennis and town!).  This stunning oceanfront home, known as “Ka Naia” in Hawaiian, is an upscale 4 bedroom, 4.5 bath home that boasts an atrium entry with cathedral ceilings, skylights, large living room, family room, convenient indoor/outdoor dining, and a game room with a fully equipped bar.  Take a dip in the heated swimming pool and splash under the spectacular pool waterfall!

The Dolphin House, Kona Bay Estates, Kona, Hawaii

The Dolphin House, Kona Bay Estates, Kona, Hawaii

A short oceanfront stroll leads you to a sandy, reef-protected beach cove lagoon, great for swimming, snorkeling, and playing in the sand.  Tide pools offer great exploration for children and teens, and can be found scattered along the lava rock shelf.  Enjoy nature’s marine creatures and catch a glimpse of turtles, dolphins, and whales!

The Big Island of Hawaii offers a myriad of activities for every age.  Exciting and exotic island activities include visiting the Kona Coffee Farms, Botanical Garden Tours, Sunset Dinner Cruises, Parasailing, Whale Watching, Hawaiian Luaus, Horseback Riding, Submarine Rides, Snorkeling and Volcano Viewing, just to name a few!   Take one look at this slice of paradise and you will instantly fall in love with The Dolphin House!

Travel Deal: Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Now offering up to 30% for bookings made by 12/31/09!!! Some restrictions apply.

This beautiful villa is perfect for those seeking to get away from it all. When you arrive at Villa Paradise, you suddenly realize that your body has changed, your senses expand, they unfold, they welcome you to pleasure in ways you have never even imagined.

The HDnetR original series, “Get Out” with Lindsey Clubine, recently taped an episode of the show at Villa Paradise and described it as “One of the best beach front Villas in the Riviera Maya!”

Paradise Beach, Playa Paraiso was voted the best and most beautiful beach in the world by the Discovery® Travel Channel. You feel the warm, glimmering sand under your feet and the sun extending its golden caresses onto your skin while the gentle breeze of the ocean toys with your hair… You listen to the sounds of waves breaking over waters dressed in tempting shades of blue and turquoise… Everything is already a part of you.

Villa Paradise is a fully furnished and equipped 5-bedroom, 3.5 bath luxury vacation villa which boasts in excess of 4,000 sq. ft. living area and a premier view of the Caribbean Sea.

The Villa is located along the coast of the Caribbean Sea in the heart of the Mayan Riviera on the beautiful beach of “Playa Paraiso.”

Villa Paradise is just 25 minutes south of the Cancun International Airport, a quick 5 minute drive to Puerto Morelos and a 10-15 minute drive to Playa del Carmen in a quaint resort-type residential neighborhood in Playa Paraiso, which boasts one of the most beautiful beaches of the world.

You will enjoy the tranquility and relaxation you’ll experience in Playa Paraiso, but if you’re looking for activities, there is plenty to do in the area. Playa del Carmen and Cancun both offer many opportunities for dining, shopping, and nightlife.

Travel Deal: Cabrera, Dominican Republic, Caribbean Islands

Need to get away to the sunshine? Escape to Affordable Luxury! Save 50% right now! (to take advantage of this offer, please leave a comment and we will get in contact with you)

Experience a luxurious getaway in one of the hottest destinations.  This is “The best island romantic villa!”  An exotic location with welcoming weather and a real seaside stress reliever…escape those winter time blues!

Welcome to the beauty, serenity and peaceful elegance of Casa Bella Villa. This Dominican Republic luxury vacation villa rental offers 3 bedrooms, all en suite and air conditioned, located right on the beachfront in the exclusive gated community of Orchid Bay Estates.

The beautiful white sand beach is literally steps away from the vacation villa where you can swim, snorkel or build those sand castles from your dreams.


Casa Bella Villa comes with a full staff (private chef, maid, host, gardener, guard) to take care of your every need.
Casa Bella sits right on a private beach. Come and experience a travel adventure at an exclusive exotic location!
True oceanfront/beach property
Swim everyday in clear blue carribean sea.

Amenities:

  • outdoor pool table
  • basketball hoop
  • Wii game
  • Dsl wireless internet
  • No chlorine/ swimming pool
  • and much more!

Come and experience villa rental like you never had before.

Everything is provided.  No worries of what to eat or having to do household chores.  Your stress-free vacation awaits!

***Recession-Busting to Winter Travel Deal for Casa Bella Villa–Save 50% or More***

Leave us a comment for info on special package rates for winter.  Package rates can start as low as $400 per night or $2,800 per week. (limit time only, some restrictions apply)

Travel Deal: Flying Toucans in Dominical, Costa Rica

Very popular, check availability calendar

The sights and sounds of wildlife, open-air tropical living and unforgettable views have all been captured in one special place… Flying Toucans .

This luxurious Costa Rican Villa is situated on a picturesque point on the southern Pacific coast. With unobstructed views, and lots of surrounding jungle, you have all the privacy needed to enjoy your home in peace… with the exception of some noisy visitors. Yes, the Howler monkeys and the toucans can sound off at any time without first introducing themselves.

Superbly located in Costa Rica’s Maritime Zone (within 200 meters of the shore), Flying Toucans is one of just a few private luxury home rentals in the area that is on the ocean side of the main coastal road. This unique location combines breathtaking views of jungle-clad mountains, palmtree-studded beaches, and the tranquil Pacific ocean with quick and convenient access all year long. If you like beaches, you are in luck as we have an abundance nearby. From your villa, take a short hike down to the point and discover two secluded beaches (one with its own 35′ waterfall) or jump in your car and within minutes be exploring miles of footstep-free sand.

The living and dining rooms offer the romance of open-air tropical living, blending the comforts of home with the nearness of wildlife. The living room is a great central location to gather and enjoy all that Flying Toucans has to offer. Plenty of seating for everyone. Don’t be surprised if a hummingbird or butterfly cruises through making a cameo appearance. The “formal” dining area, adjoining the living room, accommodates six.

The large fully-equipped kitchen, with its’ beautiful custom cabinetry, and casual eating area for up to six is integrated with the living room and the views beyond. Whip up a smoothie or a six course meal…your choice. There is a half bath downstairs as well as a laundry room with full-sized washer and dryer.

Once in, you’ll never want to get out of the infinity-edge pool. Within steps of the villa, it blends into the dazzling coastline and the popular Uvita “Whale’s Tail”, a unique place to walk and explore. It overlooks Ballena (which means “whale”) National Marine Park so keep your eyes open for Humpback whales and Bottle-nose dolphins.

Two well-furnished master suites are located upstairs. Each of the suites incorporates the use of precious hardwoods for the doors and vaulted ceilings. Relax in the comfort of a/c or open the windows and let the ocean breezes in. Too comfortable to get out of bed? Fine, enjoy the views from your pillow… now if you could just get someone to bring you breakfast!

Spacious bathrooms feature tumbled Columbian limestone showers and stone countertops and an openness that continues to let the outdoors in while providing all the privacy needed. (It is not unusual to have toucans or monkeys just a stone’s throw away while you are in the shower.:)

You will love taking advantage of the large terrace upstairs. It’s perfect for wildlife viewing, whale watching, stargazing, photograghy, sunrises and sunsets, or just dozing off in the comfy hammock. Surrounding the villa are exotic heliconias, a variety of fragrant gingers, exotic palms, birds-of-paradise, cola de lion, etc… not only for your enjoyment but to attract our fine feathered friends.

Hope to see you here soon. Flying Toucans … it’s UNFORGETTABLE!!!

Travel Deal: Oceano Sueno – A Luxury Beachfront Boutique Condominium With Heated Infinity Pool And Complimentary Private Concierge Service

View from guest bedroom balcony

Enjoy unparalled luxurious accomodations at affordable rates! Weekly rates presently from $1,100!!! You will also find a very favorable Peso/USD exchange rate!

Oceano Sueno (Ocean Dream) is a newly built (2008) impeccably decorated 3BR/2BA direct beachfront luxury condominium with unparalleled panoramic views. Located on the 9th floor of Cobalto a 28 unit boutique complex in Nuevo Vallarta this property defines perfection and total relaxation.

Relax in the heated beachfront infinity pool with two separate jacuzzi tubs or work out in the ultra modern gym while taking in the ocean views. Just steps away a picturesque beach awaits. Stroll and feel the soft sugar sand underfoot or walk out on the nearby breakwater and reach out to the sunset or capture the beauty of the Sierra Madre mountains that ring the Bay of Banderas.

While enjoying a cocktail or a meal on the terrace watch the humpback whales and porpoises at play or ocean birds dive for a meal. Or simply just lay back on one of the lounges relax and listen to the lapping of the waves.

From this corner unit choose from one of three separate balconies for spectacular views of the ocean, mountains, marina and breathtaking sunsets.

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom

In the early morning and evening watch cruise ships majestically glide in and out of nearby Puerto Vallarta.

Located on a quiet cul-de-sac you are just steps away from the marina with all of its boats and magnificent yachts. Over 5 restaurants are within a casual 5 minute stroll. Also nearby is Vallarta Adventures and swimming with the dolfins.

A unique feature of this boutique complex is that there are only 3 units per floor.

Guest Bedroom

Guest Bedroom

A golfing enthusiast will find the manicured Paradise Village El Tigre golf course just 1 mile away or simply walk to the nearby Mayan Palace course. If you like to jog or bike there are miles of palm-lined vistas that interlace the inland canal waterways of Nuevo Vallarta and the beautiful homes and villas.

A visit to the area would not be complete without experiencing the vibrancy, culture and charm of Puerto Vallarta which is a mere 7 miles (15 minutes) away. Walk the meandering malecon, follow the art walk to various galleries. Go to one of our recommended restaurants or simply “chaulkboard” a lunch or evening special. There are many shops selling a full spectrum of goods. Stop by the Mercado a two block maze of shops and barter for a bargain.

View From Ocean Terrace Balcony

View From Ocean Terrace Balcony

In the evening Puerto Vallarta excites the senses with outside music, performers on the malecon, fireworks as the local people and tourists come out to enjoy another beautiful sunset.

A stay at Oceano Sueno will leave one relaxed and rejuvenated and planning ahead on how soon you can return.

Travel Deal: Bayview Luxury, Fort Myers Beach, Florida

15% OFF January 2010 Bookings – Inquire Today!

A peaceful bayfront paradise. Whether you are enjoying the heated swimming pool and outdoor whirlpool or “sitting on the dock of the bay”, this 2-story 5 Bedroom, 3.5 bath home is almost sure to please any guest. Laundry facilities are located on both floors. Game room with pool table, bar, and TV to keep guests entertained if they get too much sun. there is even an outside shuffleboard court as well. Just a couple hundred yards to the nearest beach access, guests get the proximity to the beach that they want with the privacy of the bay that they need to relax.

In a house with 5 bedrooms, you almost need 2 separate living rooms. With the game room on the first floor and the living room on the second floor, guests can enjoy some quiet relaxation time while the kids are downstairs watching TV or playing games. The living room one of the largest rooms in the house with 3 sets of doors that open onto a screened lanai, an entertainment center with a 36″ TV, DVD Player, VCR and Stereo. Off the living room, guests will find the kitchen and breakfast nook, the formal dining room, the Upstairs Queen bedroom and a half bathroom.

The dining room is seldom used in a vacation home like ours, but you just never know when you are going to have to do some entertaining in a more formal setting. The table is large enough to fit 8 people comfortably, although it only has 6 chairs. Folding chairs for additional guests can be found in the master bedroom closet. It’s a perfect place for a holiday dinner or to entertain friends that live in the area or are vacationing nearby. Conveniently located directly opposite the kitchen, you don’t have far to walk to bring in the food or take out the dishes.

A luxury house requires a spacious kitchen. This house is no exception. With breathtaking views of the bay, the kitchen is the center of the 2nd floor. Guests will enjoy the extra elbow room for cooking on our center island. Staying in the house with a big group requires a lot of food – and we’ve got enough cabinets for you to keep a month’s worth. If you’re staying with just a couple of friends, eat a casual meal at our 4-seat breakfast nook or at the counter with bar stools off the living room.

The recreational/game room is where most children spend their time (when they’re not swimming in the pool, that is). Guests may enjoy our pool table, TV, bar with a separate sink and refrigerator, as well as a table for playing board games. Located directly off the pool deck, it is also a convenient place to relax if you need to get out of the sun for a few hours.

FortMyersBeachFlorida3The Master Suite: Truly the highlight of staying in this home. With a screened in lanaioff this spectacular bedroom, you can wake up each morning watching the sun rise over the bay, listening to the sounds of nature. A King-size bed seems too small in this extra-spacious room. A dresser and dual king-size walk in closets will be plenty of space for you to store your clothes in while you are our guests. A small sitting area with a TV allows you to unwind in private after a busy day at the beach.

The master bath is just as spacious, including double sinks, a shower/steam room, toilet facilities and a bath that overlooks the bay. Additionally, laundry facilities are located off the master bathroom. Enjoy a relaxing bath in our extra-deep tub overlooking the bay or maybe nice hot shower after a long day at the beach. The master suite has an oversized bathroom with luxury facilities like the extra-deep soaking tub, our steam & shower room, double sinks and vanities and laundry facilities. Fresh sheets and towels are included in all rentals.

By far the most relaxing part of staying in this bayfront home is the view of the bay as you relax by the pool. Unlike other houses on the bay, the view from this house is unobstructed and contains only what nature provides. The heated pool and outdoor whirlpool are very relaxing and perfect for families. Our bayfront dock has a boat lift, should you decide to rent a boat for the week or if you happen to have one that you’ll be sailing in on. Our pool deck also has a separate patio complete with seating for 6 and a gas grill for your enjoyment.

Travel Deal: Grand Outlook Castle in Anguilla

Best Rate on Anguilla! As low as $229 per night!!! (Rates are per couple or per bedroom)

Welcome to the Grand Outlook Castle estate; an ultimate Anguilla villa rental. 4 huge bedrooms, all masters, large baths, individually controlled A/C and each with sliders onto private balconies. Secluded and private but with easy access to all of Anguilla’s world famous beaches, the airport and The Valley (downtown). 50″ Plazma TV in the living room has open gallery ceiling, with large video library, surround sound, iPod hook-up and pool deck tunes.

Grand Outlook Castle’s performance kitchen is large and spacious with room for multiple chefs to play, prepare and entertain. Four bar stools allow others to join in on the fun and activity comfortably and makes it easy to feed the children; it’s the best of all worlds. GE Monogram appliances, gas stove with convection oven, huge granite counter tops, wine cooler and excellent lighting make this kitchen a dream come true. *** SAVE HUNDREDS IF NOT THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS DURING YOUR STAY BY BRINGING IN YOUR OWN MEATS FROM HOME AND GRILLING BY THE POOL ANYTIME. *** Ask about the easy details!!! Remember, all the beer and libations at Grand Outlook Castle cost about the same as home and the kitchen has a blender.

Gas grille and two burner stove out by the infinity edge pool makes for an outdoor area where enjoying the spectacular views and feeding the family and friends is a pleasant experience. It too is the best of all worlds. ***Anguilla allows for the import of frozen meats without ANY duty. Love to grille great? Love a butcher back at home? Freeze your best choices, pack in a cooler and check it. You will LOVE the grille! You will LOVE the view! You will LOVE to save MONEY!

Nestled near the top of the second highest point on the Anguilla, the views are simply Spectacular! Not only does the sunrise embrace you during your breakfast, your evening meal is enhanced by the kaleidoscope of colors during the sunset by the pool. Sometime we even forget to eat as the sunsets are so entertaining; don’t want to miss a moment. A fairly short walk to famous Little Bay Beach. A little longer walk to Crocus Bay beach and Limestone Bay Beach. Beach chairs, beach umbrella, COOLERS and some SNORKEL EQUIPMENT are at the castle.

The view carries over to the back side of the island where you can observe St Barts, St. Kitts & St. Martin. You can observe both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea from this “top of the world” location. You will ever be bored with the ever changing and awe inspiring views!

The four air conditioned ensuite bedrooms provide plenty of room and privacy for each guest with very large baths and individual balconies if anyone should want to be alone. Two of the bedrooms have outdoor showers with outstanding views so if you make the reservation you get your choice of bedrooms/baths. If you’re a little bit shy, the other two baths are very spacious and have private but well lit glass block enclosures.

Like many other castles, Grand Outlook Castle has a tower atop its structure from where the views are unrivaled. Zero gravity chairs there afford true comfort while observing the stunning night sky and embracing the experience of “chillaxing” as one guest aptly described the result. Guests have often been known to become so very comfortable there, they fall asleep embraced by the stars and soothing breezes. Now that’s a vacation!

The infinity pool at Grand Outlook Castle is truly “grand”. In the morning sun, the cliffs of Anguilla glissen anew and Sandy Isle appears as a truly tropical aberration; a spit of glissening pure white sand with seven palm trees announcing its existence.

At sunset, if you line up the infinity edge of the pool with the horizon, it gives you the appearance of the sun setting in the pool with you.

Huge private vessels drop anchor for the night in Crocus Bay Beach below and provide you with a continuous parade of multi-million dollar watercraft. Last New Year’s eve, our guests estimated there were over $2 Billion dollars of “ships” in the bay; what a sight!

Once you arrive at Grand Outlook Castle, you’ll find all the cooking, dining and entertaining amenities you’ll require. The gas grille with two burner stove out by the pool is VERY popular and you can bring your own meats from home for the perfect barbecue in the perfect location. “Honey, the filets are ready!”

It really is very simple and easy on Anguilla at Grand Outlook Castle. Many guests simply find little reason to leave the “castle” at all.

You can hike the trail down to Crocus Bay beach below or walk over to famous Little Bay Beach for some of the best snorkeling in the world. Remember to bring sturdy shoes as the trip down into Little Bay beach requires a rope climb or you can see Calvin down below in Crocus Bay Beach and he’ll motor you over and back for $12 each.

Grand Outlook Castle can be rented in either a 1,2,3 or 4 bedroom configuration to accomodate your party’s specifc requirements and still have full access to all the castle’s ammenities. Even if your party is just 2.

We can also accomodate honeymoon couples in a most romantic and intimate style. One honeymoon couple has already booked for their first anniversary return; keep the love breathtaking and intense!

Grand Outlook Castle has been described as one of the most romantic locations in all of the Caribbean. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to share this unrivaled experience with family and friends.

Insider Interview: Florida’s North Captiva & Boca Grande

3435492417_cd85059273_bIt’s no wonder Sarah Rapp loves what she does.  For the last 10 years she has worked as a Broker/Realtor and advertising agent for rental properties throughout Southwestern Florida.  As the owner of her own company, Beach Vacation4me, Sarah has worked for 8 years in North Captiva and 2 years in Boca Grande and owns a private residence in North Captiva…although she divides her time between Boca Grande and North Captiva.

And who wouldn’t love dividing their time between these gorgeous barrier islands?

Property ID#19623   Tropic Ten - Dunes Of Boca

Property ID#19623 Tropic Ten - Dunes Of Boca

Sarah recalls her first visit to North Captiva, “I loved the natural beauty – it’s still somewhat untouched and family oriented.”

And untouched they are – North Captiva is only accessible by boat and there are no cars on the island, vacationers instead opting to navigate around the island by golf cart, bicycle and boat.

Boca Grande has a land bridge making car travel an option, however many still choose to get around in golf carts or on bike.

“For some people, the fact that they have to be without their car in North Captiva is a bit too much,” says Sarah.  ”So Boca Grande is the next best fit.”

Peak season for both of these lush US islands runs from March through the first part of April.  However, both of these locals have great weather year-round, so go ahead and plan your trip for the off-season when you can enjoy warm weather and great rates on vacation rentals!  And if you’re concerned about hurricanes, they are no reason to miss out on a great tropical escape.  Sarah recommends getting travel insurance if you’re planning your trip anytime between August and November.

Once in Boca Grande, vacationers have many options of activities – one of Sarah’s favorites is to head out on one of the many bike paths that wind through the city.  Sarah has also found that Boca Grande has some of the best shelling of anywhere Sarah has been, saying  ”They’re magnificent”

Gasparilla Inn - photo courtest of Florida Trend

Gasparilla Inn - photo courtesy of Florida Trend

She also recommends stopping by the charming Gasparilla Inn & Club for dinner and drinks.  The club has a variety of dining options ranging from The Main Dining Room (open for breakfast and dinner daily), The Pink Elephant, or “The Pink” as many call it (a more casual option for lunch, dinner and drinks), or the popular BZ’s lounge where patrons can lounge on the sofas and chairs and sip one of the Inn’s signature drinks: Gaspartinis, Mojitos and Planter’s Punch.

North Captiva and Boca Grande are only about a 40 minute boat ride apart from eachother – close enough to plan a day trip from one to the other.

Sarah’s North Captiva Picks

A good catch on Dennis Realy's fishing charter!

A good catch on Dennis Realy's fishing charter!

Food:

  • The Boat House Restaurant and the Island Club – chef David Kivel serves up delicious surf & turf eats, making this a great restaurant to go for a romantic dinner or to celebrate a special occasion while on the island.
  • Mango’s Island Grill & General Store – a great place to stop by for breakfast or lunch, grab your food to go or enjoy it on Mango’s waterfront patio.
  • Andy’s Seafood Market – in Matlacha, an old fishing village on the mainland before you take a boat over to North Captiva Island, has great fresh fish for vacationers to buy and take with them to cook at their vacation rental house.

Activities:

  • Dennis Realy, owner of North Captiva Charters, is the island’s “Best Kept Secret” and a master fisherman.  According to Sarah, “He knows his stuff – red fish, tarpon, shark, whatever you want to catch, he will cast and then hand you the rod.  I’ve never fished and not caught something!”
  • Visit Boats and Fun run by father, Alberto Barbero, and son, Matias Barbero, who Sarah refers to as “Mr. Fun,” for jet ski, kayak, wakeboard and boat rentals, banana boat and inter-tube rides, and scuba & dolphin excursions.  ”Matias is always smiling, always happy,” says Sarah.  Boats and Fun “has really created a great shop – you can go by and ask them when the tide is, what’s going on around town, anything.”

Vacationers who stay at one of Sarah’s North Captiva rentals that is managed by the Island Club also get to enjoy a guest membership (and all of the amenities that come with it!) to the North Captiva Island Club Resort.  The club offers tennis courts, a huge pool, fitness equipment, day excursions, a pool bar that also serves up milkshakes for the kids and more.  The staff of the North Captiva Island Club will also help assist with groceries and luggage!

Travel Deal: Crystal Sands Villa On the Beach, Turks & Caicos

Last Minute Cancellation! Book your vacation for the week of November 28th – December 5 and SAVE $200!!!

Crystal Sands Villa is a HUGE 4200 square feet!! Each of the two Crystal Sands Villa suites has two master suites with king beds and ensuite baths. (One king is convertible to two twins.) Each master suite has a direct view of the beach! The rooms are large, open and airy. In the Beach Level Suite, a third nursery/children’s room has an extra twin bed! (villa sleeps 13)

Vacation comfort is a given, with the villa’s large living area with extra sofa bed and well planned baths, with large vanities, large walk in showers and fabulous storage! The balcony is magnificently 50 foot long and it is covered! Whether you choose 2BR/2baths or 4BR/4baths, comfort and luxury are assured!

Our fresh water swimming pool is nestled in a beautiful garden setting for privacy. The gardens feature dozens of tropical flowering plants and plenty of shady places to sit. Our palapas offers a restful setting for enjoying our hammocks.

Expect a fully equipped kitchen, linens, including beach towels, cable TV, CD/DVD, washer/dryer, ceiling fans, beautiful furnishings!

Crystal Sands Villa is located in the most exclusive residential area on Providenciales, on Sapodilla Bay Beach on the South side. It is peaceful, quiet and calm. Yet, it is only minutes away from the commercial area on Grace Bay Beach, from the restaurants throughout the island and from the many activities that Provo has to offer. It is truly the best of all worlds! Our ocean bay is serene….and the stars at night are so magnificent; it is just dark enough to really see the spectacular star scene! The sunsets at dusk are also spectacular; the view is unencumbered by tall buildings! The sand is pure crystal white!
The water is clear, sparkling aqua! Our guests have ALL indicated that the photos simply do not do justice to our spectacular villa! We have dozens of varieties of flowering plants which cascade throughout the garden. The pure white sand and crystal clear water are indescribable! The villa is perfectly set up for a truly elegant vacation with all the comforts of home!

Although tropical breezes keep the villa pleasant, air conditioning is available at extra charge for those who must have it! Please see our rates page for details.

Fodor’s has named our beach the best on Providenciales!

Insider Interview: Destin, Florida

John and Dawn Foy have been in the vacation rental business for 23 years – 10 years in Destin, Florida alone.  After vacationing in Destin for a couple of days, John and Dawn fell in love with what they have heard described as, “a Hawaii in the States,” moved a couple months later and still haven’t left.  Now they are the owners of 14 rental properties.  The Foy’s were some of Destin’s first property managers to recognize what exactly vacationers look for when choosing the perfect vacation rental.  ”The number one requirement is that the house have a private pool, so we added pools to our properties,” said Dawn.  ”At first, people thought we were crazy.  Now almost everyone is adding pools to their rental properties.”

“They also want King size beds,” Dawn adds, “and views.”  And if you’re vacationing in Destin, Florida, how could you not want views once you’ve seen Destin’s almost blindingly white sand in bright contrast against the clear turquoise ocean?

“Members of Destin’s Chamber of Commerce collect little bottles of sand from wherever they visit and Destin’s is the whitest,” explains Dawn.  ”It literally squeeks when you walk on it because it is so fine and powdery.”  It’s not just local bias that makes the sand seem so white and sparkeling.  The sand comes from the Appalachian Mountains, and is made of finely ground quartz crystal, which gives it the appearance of sugar.

But there is much more to Destin than the white sand and teal ocean.

One of Destins Jettys

One of Destin's Jettys

Destin is home to virtually every water sport and activity imaginable.  The water is consistently warm with temps reaching 86 degrees in October.  Vacationers can go boating, parasailing, jet skiing, or snorkel with some of the local marine life including manatees, dolphins and sea turtles.  You don’t even have to take a charter out of the harbor to find a great snorkeling location.  Dawn offers this local’s tip: snorkel on the jettys off of Gulf Shore Drive on Holiday Isle, where you can park for free and walk down to the water.

“The snorkeling here is amazing!” Dawn says.  ”We tell our vacationers to bring frozen peas or Cheerios to feed the fish.  You’ll see fish in all colors – bright yellow, royal blue, and black and white striped ones…they’re everywhere!”

For other activities, there are dozens of golf courses, the Big Kahuna waterpark, the Gulfarium (“A cute mom and pop type aquarium that is popular with kids and families” according to Dawn) or the Harbor Docks in downtown Destin, offering free parking and a variety of specialty shops, restaurants, ice cream parlors – a great place to rent boats and snorkeling equipment.

Destin is also known for its great dining and shopping.  On the East end of town there is the Silver Sands Outlet Mall, the largest designer outlet mall in the US, and in Mid-town Destin is the newly built Destin Commons, which is home to a Hard Rock Cafe as well as a 14 screen cinema and other retail shops.

The Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin, a bustling sub-community of Destin, has lots of shops and it is a great place to take the family or head out to for a night on the town.   At Christmas they even bring in an ice skating rink and put up lights!

Taken off of Dewey Destins dock

Taken off of Dewey Destin's dock

For food, here are Dawn’s picks:

  • The Back Porch – known for their fresh seafood and oysters
  • The Crab Trap – on Scenic 98, on the beach, has a bar, restaurant (inside and outside dining), play ground on the sand for kids, ice cream bar, regular bar and is part of James Lee Park which has a public bath house, picnic tables and plenty of parking for the public
  • Dewey Destin’s (the town was named after his family!) – located on the harbor and serving up large portions of great downhome cooking
  • Pompano Joes Restaurant – its right on the beach on Scenic 98, and also has outside as well as inside dining, casual entertainment and a casual beach bar
  • Captain Dave’s on the Gulf – has been around for over 30 years and is one of Destin’s favorite waterfront restaurants
  • Bonefish Grill – good service, consistently great food, and a nice, quiet ambiance – perfect for a romantic dinner or special occasion
  • Donut Hole – a popular locals spot that has been a staple since the towns conception  - makes a great keylime pie
  • Broken Egg – fresh and nutritional food, over 130 menu items, great for breakfast, brunch or lunch
  • Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ – great southern food made from scratch
  • Fudpuckers – perfect for the family, kids can feed alligators, play in the arcade, and there is a great souvenir shop with unique local gifts
  • Ciao Bellas – they have the best pizza!
  • Cafe Grazie’s – real Italian food, great kids menu

Destin’s peak season runs from the end of May through the first part of August but “the luckiest fishing village in the US” as Destin is also known, hosts one of its main annual events in October – the annual “Fishing Rodeo” where the person with the largest catch nets $100,000 in prize money!

Angler, Jeff Satterwhite from Niceville, Florida hooked this 108.8 lb. Yellowfin Tuna

Angler, Jeff Satterwhite from Niceville, Florida hooked this 108.8 lb. Yellowfin Tuna

What keeps people returning to Destin year after year for a great vacation spot?

Dawn thinks it is the “beauty of the water – it’s turquoise, clear and breathtaking.  People can’t believe it when they first pull up to the water.”

“It’s still family oriented,” describes Dawn.  ”A quaint town – no crowds or high-rises – and the people are down to earth…good ‘ol boy people.”

Destin has managed to maintain this small-town feel, yet is only 55 miles from the Spring Break-type of vacation one can find in either Pensacola, Florida and Panama City, Florida.

And the sluggish economy hasn’t hit Destin as hard as other popular vacation destinations – perhaps due to its central location on the Froida panhandle, making it easy to get to on not too much gasoline from southern Florida, and the neighboring states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.  Destin is about to get much more accessible thanks to the addition of an International Airport that is already in the works for Destin, set to be completed by Summer 2010.

Mountain Retreat Vacation House in Big Sky, Montana

The Big Sky Mountain Retreat House, also known as the original Montana Escape, is located directly in the center of Big Sky, Montana. In November 0f 2003 the home was selected to be featured on Fine Living TV’s 10 Perfect Winter Wonderlands. At that time the home was lacking a master tub and a bit more space. Over the years the owners have had the pleasure of working with Alan Roos of Coyote Creek Construction in expanding and enhancing the living space – all the while keeping within a reduced footprint and budget. The end product is 3700 square feet of a perfect Big Sky Mountain Retreat House that all guests will continue to appreciate.

Big Sky, Montana is considered one of the Coolest Mountain Towns and one of the top 10 ranked by the Mens Journal.  Is it that fact that there’s no waiting in long lift lines or the crisp and fresh thin mountain air? The views? The thousands of skiable acres? Whatever the reason, Big Sky Montana is a great place to live the high life.

Visitors come to Yellowstone National Park looking for wildlife. Many will have their first and only encouter with wildlife in their lifetime. The Mountain Retreat House sits in a prime wilderness zone in Yellowstone County. It’s far enough away from the summer crowds of The Park, but remarkably close to 5 star fine dining and world class sking. Visitors to the Mountain Retreat House and to Yellowstone may find wildlife such as moose just outside The Park, in Big Sky, Montana. When Yellowstone is the busiest, is also when the wildlife population of the villages of Big Sky, Montana increases.

This home’s location, nestled among old growth trees overlooking breathtaking views of Big Sky, was selected for the easy drive to the Gallatin River, Ousel Falls as well as the Ski Runs from the Yellowstone Club to Moonlight Basin. Its located in Aspen Grove, a development of one half to three acre home sites closest to the Town Center and both Big Sky Mountain and Meadow villages. When you are at the Mountain Retreat House, you’ll feel like you’re miles away from the rush of day-to-day life, yet it is conveniently located less than a hour from the Bozeman airport – It’s only a 40 minute flight from Salt Lake City!

Whether you and your family enjoy world class powder skiing or fishing for that trophy rainbow trout, Big Sky is the place and this is “The House”. It has 4 private suites, each with its own bath; one with a wet steam room and one with a huge soaker tub and a walk in shower. All bedrooms have mountain and forest views. The main master bedroom is steps from a private 5 person hot tub. Enjoy spectacular night views that include shooting stars and the milky way. The hot tub and steam shower are perfect after a long day of carving the ski slopes.

This little guy was born on the property just steps from the patio!

This little guy was born on the property just steps from the patio!

Hello, my name is Belize!

Traveling through Belize you will see the sign, “No Shirt, No Shoes…No Problem!” nearly everywhere you go. This relaxed approach to life is only part of what is attracting more and more visitors to Belize each year.

Caye Caulker Island, BelizeLocated between Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west and south and the Caribbean Sea to the east, Belize is a country of contrasts.  Belize may be the only country in Central America where English is the official language, but Belize has a diverse society, composed of many cultures and speaking many languages and, culturally, Belize considers itself to be both Caribbean and Central American.

Geographically Belize has a lot for travelers to take in as well.  The Caribbean coast is lined with a coral reef and some 450 islets and islands known locally as Cayes.  In total they comprise about 270 square miles of land and form the 200 mile long Belize Barrier Reef, the second longest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef.  Three of the four coral atolls in the Western Hemisphere are also located off the coast of Belize.

And, because over 40 of Belize’s mass is a protected national park, wildlife sanctuary or marine reserve, there is no shortage of wildlife.  Sharks, coral fish, dolphins and turtles troll the waters, and over 570 species of birds, including toucans, fly the skies.

Caye Caulker – one of the tiny islands off of the Belize coast – is a great place to observe the culture of Belize, while staying within a budget.  In fact, this island has been a stop for backpackers and college travelers for decades!  Many of the residents of Caye Caulker are fishermen, making the island a great place to get fresh spiny lobster and snapper.  There are no cars on Caye Caulker but there are plenty of beaches, friendly locals and delicious food.

Another must see while in Belize is Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, named after the cashew trees that inhabit the village.  For $8 you get access to the community that is actually home to 900 locals, of Creole descent, who have been farming and fishing the area for generations.  If you make it there in the morning, you’ll also get to see the amazing variety of birds that inhabit the area and make this one of the top birding destinations in the world.

After you’ve conquered Belize by land, venture seaward and see Belize’s Hol Chanand the Great Blue Hole.  Hol Chan, also known as “Shark-Ray Alley,” is an split in the reef where nurse sharks and sting rays among other marine life, make their home.  Besides being a prime destination for dive excursions, Hol Chan is also a marine reserve.

First made famous by Jacques Cousteau, the Great Blue Hole is a large underwater sinkhole that can be seen from space!  The world’s largest feature of its kind, the Hole  attracts divers looking to catch a glimpse of the nurse sharks, Caribbean reef sharks and Blacktip sharks that live in the area.  Dive trips to the Great Blue Hole are usually full-day trips, including a dive in the Blue Hole and two other dives in nearby reefs.

Whatever attracts you to Belize, the warmth of the local culture will make you feel you’ve found a second home.  Actually, many visitors have made it their second home – and when the owners are away, why not take advantage of the great deals to be had by renting a vacation house rather than paying a nightly rate for a hotel?

Where in the world is North Captiva Island?

Florida’s North Captiva Island, located in the Gulf of Mexico, is about as far away from the chaos of everyday life as you can get, while still staying within the United States.  I had heard it’s almost similar to Thailand or Indonesia in its exoticism, with the heat and humidity…and bugs.  But I went into my research with an open mind and now I’m trying to convince any of my friends and family to take a trip to explore the island with me.

North Captiva IslandAs you may expect, being as remote and as small as it is - 4 miles long and 1/2 mile wide at its widest point! - getting to North Captiva Island takes some planning as it is only accessible by water taxi or private charter boat.  The Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, Florida is the closest airport to North Captiva Island and most major airlines service this airport.  From there, take the Pine Island Taxi to Pineland Marina and board the Island Girl – the only scheduled ferry to North Captiva Island.

Sidebar:  Because the island is sosecluded, you have to either bring what you will need for your trip with you, plan ahead to make sure it will be there for you, or a combination of the two.  This applies to groceries, bottled water, basic first aid supplies (aspirin, bandaids, etc), bug repellent, and especially produce – be sure to check with your airlines and local customs on rules regarding bringing produce onto the island.  Most travelers opt to fax their order – at least 48 hours before you will arrive on the island – to Publix Santa Barbara grocery store, on the mainland (Pine Island Taxi will stop at Publix on the way to the marina).  They will take your grocery order and pack your items for easy transport.  There is a small grocery on the island, but it stocks mostly convenience items is ridiculously expensive.

Once on the island, be prepared to sloooooow down and take in the natural beauty that surrounds you.  There are no cars and no paved roads on North Captiva.  Bicycles and electric golf carts (a private golf cart and/or bicycles are included in most vacation rental, so be sure to inquire about this at the time of booking) are used to explore our sandy paths.

There are over 5 miles of beaches to explore.  Visitors report strolling for hours without seeing anyone else – you will, however, run into some local wildlife.  Two-thirds of the island’s 700 acres are a protected State of Florida wilderness park and wildlife sanctuary for manatees, loggerhead turtles and over one hundred species of migratory birds.

If your idea of a vacation is body shots and disco music, Captiva is notfor you.  The 50 or so year-round residents operate on “island time” and there are very few established businesses.  Island activities include shelling, snorkeling, charter sport-fishing, swimming, kayaking, boating, stargazing, bird watching, dining at one of the 2 restaurants and island hopping…Sanibel, Pine Island, Cayo Costa, and Useppa are all within minutes by boat.

So, despite that fact that every article and travel forum I read about North Captiva stressed the need for Deet-strength bug repellant, I’m not scared.  I’m harnessing my inner Robinson Crusoe, packing my spray (and maybe a mosquito net) and going to check out this beautiful and remote island for myself!  North Captiva Island is one of the few places left that has mastered the delicate balance between man and nature.  This unique island paradise is not for everybody – but as the locals will say, it was never intended to be!