See & Be Seen
Miami Beach, Florida
South Beach remains “the hottest in the country,” says Dr. Beach. But the billion-dollar renovation of the Fontainebleau hotel has drawn the pretty party people to the less-frenetic charms of Miami Beach’s midtown.
Stay: You’ll feel like a billion bucks at the 1954-vintage Fontainebleau (305/538-2000 or fontainebleau.com)—now so 21st-century it has an iMac in every room. Standard rooms start at $323. For beach houses and longer stays, try vacationrentals.com.
Eat: For fabulous Asian-inspired cuisine in a romantic outdoor setting, stop at Wish (305/674-9474 or wishrestaurant.com). Snack time? Check out Solo (305/674-4740), the Fontainebleau’s patisserie.
Shop: Trends spring from the local boutiques on Washington Avenue in South Beach.
Local secret: Española Way (305/531-0038 or miamiandbeaches.com/espanola_way.asp), tucked away in South Beach, feels like a Mediterranean village, with outdoor cafés and weekend street markets.
More Beaches With High Style
■ Alys Beach, Florida: This luxe, European-feel New Urbanist town takes full advantage of its gorgeous setting along white sands and emerald Gulf water (866/732-1760 or alysbeach.com). The new airport at nearby Panama City should boost its jet-set appeal.
■ Gold Coast, Barbados: So many celebrities now decorate the west coast beaches of graciously British Barbados that the nickname has inflated; it’s now usually the “Platinum Coast.” Whatever you call it, you can enjoy white sand, people-watching, and such beyond-lavish resorts as Sandy Lane (866/444-4080 or sandylane.com).
■ Main Beach, East Hampton, New York: It’s relatively uncrowded—because parking is a challenge—and surprisingly rustic, but with a high celeb quotient (631/324-0362 or
■ Zuma Beach, Malibu, California: Call this much-filmed beach (310/456-2489 or malibu.org) just “Zuma,” like the locals do. Watch or join the pickup volleyball games and beautiful people.
Perdido Key State Park, Pensacola, Florida
Perdido Key (850/492-1595 or floridastateparks.org/perdidokey) has “some of the finest, whitest sand in the world and emerald-green water,” says Dr. Beach. Aside from picnic tables and outdoor showers, that’s all you get here. But it’s plenty.
Eat: Locals love the royal red shrimp, gumbo, and weekend bluegrass at the ramshackle Original Point Restaurant (850/492-3577 or point-restaurant.com). The proudly ungenteel Flora-Bama Lounge (850/492-0611 or florabama.com), which straddles the Florida-Alabama line, serves good oysters.
Shop: Tallulah’s Treasures (251/981-6003) in nearby Orange Beach, Alabama, stocks local and regional arts and crafts—what the owner calls “girlfriend gifts.”
Local secret: Still-warm weather and water make the uncrowded months of September and October the best time to visit.
More Beaches To Go For A Swim
■ Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Florida: Emerald water, gentle surf, white coral sand, palm trees, and a climbable lighthouse (305/361-5811 or florida stateparks.org/capeflorida)
■ Carpinteria, California: Mild waves and no rip currents make it one of two claimants to the title of “world’s safest beach.” Great tide pooling, too (805/968-1033 or parks.ca.gov/?page_id=599).
■ Fort Myers Beach, Florida: Also promoted as “world’s safest” because it lacks rip currents, this white-sand beach slopes very gradually; you can walk a long way out into the warm, green-blue Gulf of Mexico (800/237-6444 or fortmyerssanibel.com).
■ Kiawah Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina: The Charleston area’s best beach, with dressing areas, showers, and seasonal lifeguards (843/768-9166 or kiawahisland.org)
■ Saona Island, Dominican Republic: Swim with the sea stars—hundreds of them—at this nature reserve off the southeastern Dominican mainland. You’ll share the shallow water with exotic wildlife and day-tripping tourists. Catalonia Gran Dominicus (888/774-0040 or cataloniagrandominicus.com) arranges excursions from nearby Bayahibe.