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Returning to Daytona Beach

May 15, 2010 by · Comments Off on Returning to Daytona Beach 

Daytona Beach as seen from my room in the Hilton.

Daytona Beach lies just 90 miles south of my home, yet my only previous visit dates back to 1960. That’s a long time ago, but childhood memories remain vivid. I can picture the one-story motel on the edge of a seemingly endless beach. My brothers and I frolicked on the firmly packed sand and splashed through the rolling surf. Thanks to Mom’s careful budgeting, our Florida vacation became a reality and demonstrates the profound and lasting impact of travel.

Back in 1960, coastal Highway Route # 1 brimmed with Mom and Pop motels, most of which we’d now consider tacky. Their cinder block construction stood maybe two stories high, with room entrances on the exterior. The advertised swimming pool measured about the size of a hot tub. But, Daytona boasted the widest beach we’d ever seen.  We were thrilled.

Recently, I rediscovered Daytona and can happily report the expansive world famous beach still struts her stuff.  It’s flat and broad with waves surging strong enough to attract surfers. She’s perfect for walking,  biking and even driving. The famous auto race began on the hard sand  in the 1940’s. In addition, I uncovered a vibrant downtown, one’s that’s opposite the  ocean side of the causeway, but strangely named Beach Street. The promenade edges a brick paved road lined with palms, upscale shopping, ethnic restaurants and a luscious chocolate factory.

Downtown Daytona -- Beach Street

Downtown Daytona -- Beach Street

For lodging, I chose the elegant high-rise Hilton Oceanfront Resort.  When I opened the room’s sliding glass door, a symphony of repetitive waves calmed my senses, yet the view of the boardwalk and breeze carried  hints of excitement. In the morning, I strolled along the salty shore, studying a lacy edge of foam rolling in. I bent over to pick up shells as exercisers jogged past.

Hurricanes Charlie, Frances and Jeanne rampaged the area in 2004, crumpling most of the old motels.  Many were abandoned while the newer, more substantial ones were rebuilt. Still, six years later, numerous empty lots dot the seaside. However, the county coffers prosper, thanks to the money spent by  hordes of visiting bikers and race fans. With generous tax revenues, Daytona County was able to purchase a few beachfront properties thus providing and protecting  public access and ocean views.

I also learned of  Daytona’s slower side during a kayak outing on  Cracker Creek. The stream barely flows, her water resembles day old cola, dark brown and  flat. Dip your paddle in and watch the wave motion gently travel to caress the languid lip. The Spruce Creek preserve is home to white ibis, egrets and sun worshiping turtles. Giant cypress trees, hundreds of years old, stretch their Spanish moss laden branches overhead, creating a shady canopy that humbles all. The cypress  knees (roots) protrude above water creating idyllic camouflage for critters.  And, there I spotted a gator hiding, not a big scary one, but not a baby either. I quietly paddled on the far side of the creek blessed to be in this thriving,  peaceful habitat.

Kayaking Cracker Creek

Kayaking Cracker Creek

Seeing the alligator once more flooded me with youthful flash backs. My brothers and I each selected stuffed taxidermy gators from a roadside stand, at the time our prized mementos from the trip. Today the highway is generally void of those kitschy Old Florida tourist stops. Currently travelers find yogurt emporiums and gift shops flaunting designer beach bags, over-sized towels and, of course, souvenir tees. Sorry, no more free Florida orange juice stands.

Returning to a cherished place after so many years is often fraught with anxiety and fear of  disappointment. But, I wasn’t disenchanted. Mother Nature continues to bless Daytona Beach with the gift of sunshine and sand. And the city today offers visitors much more variety: historic homes, a lighthouse,  museums and golf,  just to name a few. I found returning to my past lead to unexpected surprise and I will surely revisit again.  Next time, I won’t wait fifty years.

The World Famous Daytona Beach

The World Famous Daytona Beach

Beach at Sunrise

Beach at Sunrise

Enter a Photo Contest to Win a Trip to St Lucia

October 15, 2009 by · Comments Off on Enter a Photo Contest to Win a Trip to St Lucia 

Gazebo on the Beach at Coconut Bay Resort

Gazebo on the Beach at Coconut Bay Resort

I traveled to St Lucia about a year ago and believe me, this island offers more than you can imagine- read my article St. Lucia: Small Island, Big Adventure or about my zipline adventure at Zip Therapy.

All you have to do to win a family vacation at Coconut Bay Resort is send a photo to Caribbean Travel and Life magazine. To entice you I’ve included a few of my own photos taken during my wonderful stay at Coconut Bay.

Palm by the beach

Palm on the beach at Coconut Bay Resort, St Lucia

Just follow all the links below.

Win a 5-day/4-night all-inclusive stay at St. Lucia‘s Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa!

Think you have a winning Caribbean vacation photo? Send it to us and you just might find yourself on another Caribbean getaway courtesy of St. Lucia‘s Coconut Bay Beach Resort. The family-friendly resort is putting a 4-night stay on the line–including all of your meals, snacks, drinks and even resort taxes + gratuities for one lucky family of four–and all you have to do is share your favorite Caribbean snapshot!

It’s easy to enter in two simple steps: Just become a fan of Caribbean Travel + Life’s Facebook page–where you’ll enjoy daily Caribbean updates like travel news, hotel and airfare deals, contest announcements and more–then submit your favorite Caribbean travel photo to

Official Rules


Step 1: Click the link below to become a fan of our Facebook page…

Caribbean Travel + Life’s Facebook Page

Step 2: Email us your favorite Caribbean vacation photo at!

** Bonus: Become a fan of Coconut Bay Beach Resort’s Facebook page too–Then if you win, you’ll also get the VIP treatment with round trip airport transfers, a bottle of champagne and a fruit platter in your room!

The entry period for this contest is October 12th through November 8th, 2009, and winners will be announced by November 20th, 2009.

Official Rules

Your stay includes: four nights of all-inclusive accommodations at Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa in St. Lucia for two adults and up to two children (in same room); all meals, snacks and drinks at the resort; fully supervised children’s center; use of the resort’s water park attraction and other amenities; and all hotel taxes and gratuities.

** If you’re a fan of Coconut Bay Beach Resort’s Facebook page, your stay will also include round trip airport transfers from Hewanorra International Airport; a welcome bottle of champagne; and a VIP fruit platter on arrival.

Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa, located in St. Lucia’s exotic southern coast, is a 254-room, all-inclusive casual Caribbean resort that caters to couples and families alike. Mirrored after the island’s most famous landmarks, the twin Piton Mountains, Coconut Bay has its own set of twins, Harmony and Splash. “Harmony” is a tranquil adult-only oasis offering the perfect setting for a romantic escape with a palm-fringed pool, braided hammocks, intimate cabana beds and the oceanfront Kai Mer Spa, while “Splash” offers families a tropical playground featuring CocoLand Kidz Klub, a paintball facility, a watersports complex offering kitesurfing and the island’s largest water park.

View of the famous Gros Piton on St Lucia

View of the famous Gros Piton on St Lucia

Official Rules

Kayaking in St Lucia

Kayaking in St Lucia

View while hiking in St Lucia

View while hiking in St Lucia

St. Lucia: Small Island, Big Adventure

January 26, 2009 by · Comments Off on St. Lucia: Small Island, Big Adventure 

How many activities can one stuff into 5 days on an island only 3.5 times the size of Washington, DC? Well, I found enough on St Lucia to fill my plate, in fact there’s plenty more for super-sized appetites.

From Miami, connect directly to the Caribbean isle. All-inclusive resorts abound; my choice was Coconut Bay. You’ll arrive in time for a drink and a walk along the beach before dinner.

For starters, I decided to explore the island on an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV). Within a few minutes, I mastered the four-wheeled bike. I zoomed through grassy fields and up rocky ledges, peering at the Atlantic pounding the shore. I scooted onto sandy beaches where wild horses were grazing and then over to a banana plantation. Row after row of trees hung with bunches of green bananas. Having satisfied my taste buds, I returned my big-wheeled bouncing cycle.

For my entree, I spent the afternoon in one of the most glorious sites I’ve ever visited– Jalousie Beach. I snorkeled under the shadow of the pyramid-like Petite Piton, gazing up at its nearby twin, the Gros Piton. These famous mountains are St Lucia’s landmarks, rising like textbook drawings of volcanoes out of the sea. They blossom in lush foliage and are often shrouded in mist.

Scuba diving was an option, and St Lucia ranks with some of the world’s best. But the Caribbean shines so clear; you can see to great depths without the hassle of air tanks.

The next day I took the ultimate island challenge: a hike to the summit of Gros Piton, almost 3,000 feet. The trail of treacherous loose and moss covered rocks rises near vertical in places.  The UNESCO World Heritage site requires guides to safely lead groups through the climb.

View from hiking - half way up the Gros Piton

View from my hike - halfway up the Gros Piton

Stop at the halfway point. The view is as gorgeous as I imagine the Garden of Eden. Light crystals bounce off the water like shards of glass. The Pitons, in sharp contrast to the turquoise water, shine in ebony beauty. The arduous hike took five to six hours roundtrip. I returned to my hotel exhausted and aching, but wearing an “I Conquered” tee shirt.

On day four, I chose to kayak. Aah, tranquility is silently gliding by the mangroves in a sleek shell. The sapphire lake permitted clear visibility of the colorful tropical fish. My group stopped at Scorpion Island, and fortunately, we didn’t encounter any venomous arachnids. I did find a spectacular conch shell with a radiating fuchsia interior.

Returning once more to Coconut Bay, I rocketed down the water slides in their CocoLand Water Park, coming up with a big grin. To completely relax, I floated twice around the man-made Lazy River until massage time. Indulgence? You bet, but necessary! The Kai Mer Spa enveloped me in jasmine scents as my body soaked in the therapeutically applied oil.

On the last day I squeezed in my dessert: a morning excursion to the Tree Tops Zipline. Letting loose my inner child, I gleefully traversed the rainforest canopy over majestic rivers and plunging ravines. To soar like a parrot was an exhilarating way to end my island extravaganza.

Ziplining through the rainforest

Ziplining through the rainforest

By afternoon I boarded a plane and returned to Jacksonville at nightfall.

Some travelers vacation to escape life; others seek to engage the physical, mental or spiritual challenges. The tiny island of St Lucia offers a lavish banquet to satisfy both hungers. Her natural wonders are a menu in themselves. And, for those who want soup to nuts adventure, she offers a bountiful buffet of eco-friendly options. Fly away and feast on St Lucia.

Beach Resort & Spa:
Tree Top Adventures:
ATV & kayaking:
Coconut Bay Resort BeachFull Moon over Coconut Bay