Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
“I moved to Florida ten years ago and never stop marveling at all there is to do and see.” – Tricia Miller, president of Concierge Association of the Palm Beaches
More than a decade ago, I came to Florida when I attended an international coral reef symposium in Fort Lauderdale. I had the opportunity of going to the Biscayne National Park located south of Miami.
The second time was when I visited my friend Gregory Ira and his family, who was then living in Tallahassee. This capital city is home to Wakulla Springs, which was featured in several Tarzan movies.
In all those visits, I didn’t have the time to go to the beaches, which Florida is known for. And so, when I recently visited the state, I asked my sister, Marilou Eplite, to bring me to some beach resorts.
I was in for a big surprise when I learned that some Florida cities have the word “beach” in their names. Yes, it’s not just a resort or destination – just like Miami Beach – but a city in itself.
Take the case of Daytona Beach, where I landed when I flew all the way from New York. My sister and her Italian-American husband, David, live in Deltona.
The beaches in and around the city are sandy with a gentle slope – and that means they’re some of the best in the state on which to learn to surf. It is no wonder why qualified surfing instructors and surf camps are aplenty, to name a few: Daytona Beach Surfing School, Mimi Munro Surf Camps, and Surfari Surf Lessons and Camp.
Daytona Beach is not only known for its beaches, but it has one of the most famous race tracks in the United States. The most well-known and sought-after destinations are the Daytona International Speedway and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
The Daytona International Speedway complex, known as “The World Center of Racing,” occupies more than 200 hectares of land, making it very hard to miss. A recent $400 million upgrade added luxury suites, more-spacious seats, and new concessions for race fans.
It isn’t easy to narrow down the best surf spots from all that are found in this part of the state, but Ponce Inlet, located just south of Daytona Beach, is considered one of Florida’s best breaks.
New Smyrna Beach, a laid-back beach town just south of Ponce Inlet, is home to world-class waves and some surfing competitions. In July 2009, Surfer ranked New Smyrna Beach ranked number nine on its list of “best surf towns.” Three years later, the National Geographic recognized it as “one of the world’s top 20 surf towns.”
Michael Eplite, the father of David, lives in this city. So, I had a chance of going to this charming beach place rooted in the local culture, art, and a beautiful, white sandy shoreline.
Known for its coastal architecture and personality, the city is surrounded by intriguing history, artistic talents, one-of-a-kind boutiques, local eateries, and more than enough outdoor activities to fill your vacation days.
Aside from Miami and Orlando, another famous city is Palm Beach, touted to be the 27th wealthiest place in the United States. In March 2018, American singer Jon Bon Jovi – who is from New Jersey, reportedly purchased a home in this city, which reminds me of Tagum, the country’s palm city.
When my sister and her husband brought me to this city, we went directly to the CityPlace, an epitome of a New Urbanist mixed-use development shopping center. Most of its architecture is West European-inspired, with mainly Mediterranean and Venetian elements.
An added attraction is the Harriet Himmel Theater, a former Methodist church. Built in the 1926 in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, it has undergone a US$6-million restoration and serves today as a cultural center. Surrounding squares, arcades, and promenades feature 2,000-square-feet water fountains and lush landscaping.
Worth Avenue is an enchanting resort destination in Palm Beach, with European sophistication and inimitable style and grace. Perhaps one of the most beautiful shopping venues in the US, its romantic vias and celebrated boutiques offers the best of resort and designer fashion, gifts, art, antiques, jewelry, and fine and casual dining.
Whether you’re looking for quiet seclusion, a place to surf the waves, or an all-day party, it seems Florida beaches have them. Even during wintertime, when most Americans are wearing thick clothes, you can still have fun in Florida.
One travel magazine summed it all in these words: “The Sunshine State draws a diverse array of visitors from all over the world, eager to experience a spa-like experience in nature, with the soothing lullaby of waves, sea salt air, the soft song of seagulls and beautiful sunsets and sunrises casting beautiful colors against the sky. But not all are here for just mere beauty and serenity. Some like the quirky beach shops and bars, some crave sport fishing and snorkeling, while others like music, dancing, and the company of others late into the night.”