As you might have guessed, this U.S. beach vacation round up includes a few key places in Florida – we just can’t get enough of the sugar sand beaches around Pensacola and Daytona Beach. But it’s equally impossible to overlook the surprising length of sandy shoreline along Texas’s Galveston Island, nor can we pass up an opportunity to talk about Puerto Rico’s Flamenco Beach, which is often classified as one of the best beach in the world. 

Pensacola, Florida

Must see and do:

Visit PensacolaVisit Pensacola

Pensacola Beach

Pensacola Beach’s renowned sugar sands and gentle, crystal-clear waters make for the perfect seaside escape, no matter who you’re travelling with. Stroll the boardwalk and pop into souvenir shops, or grab a drink at one of the bars. You can soak up the tranquility of the Santa Rosa Sound, or opt for Pensacola Beach’s slightly busier Gulf side. Pack a book and some sunscreen; you’ll want to stay awhile.

 

Historic Pensacola Village

Historic Pensacola Village is a fun-filled, historic village chock-full of period homes and quaint churches. Guests can watch performers re-enact life in the early 19th century, including cooking, making candles, and even brewing Native American black tea. If you prefer a bit of solo exploration, take a self-guided tour through some of the museums, like the Julee Patton Cottage or the McMillen House. Address: 330 S. Jefferson St.
 

Pensacola Lighthouse

Visit PensacolaVisit Pensacola

For the best views of the Gulf Coast, climb the 177 steps to the top of the Pensacola Lighthouse. From there, you’ll get a perfect view of Pensacola Pass, as well as the nearby three historic forts and the old Navy Yard. This lighthouse was built in 1869, but the light actually still serves ships passing by. Trust us: The panoramic view is worth all that stair climbing! Address: 2081 Radford Blvd. 

Johnson Beach

We honestly can’t get enough of the beaches in Pensacola, and a must-see list wouldn’t be complete without Johnson Beach. Located in Perdido Key on the Gulf Islands National Seashore, this beach area has more to offer the adventurous traveller. Snorkel, swim, or kayak your way along the beachfront, or hit the boardwalk on the Discovery Nature Trail for a journey through dunes, pine forest, and salt marsh lookouts.


Downtown Pensacola

Visit PensacolaVisit Pensacola

Pensacola is a wonderfully laidback, chilled out town; its diverse culture and coastal lifestyle appeals to many. When you’re done with exploring Pensacola’s natural beauty, hit the downtown core around historic Palafox Street for boutique shopping, gourmet eats, and some lively local atmosphere.

 

Where to eat & drink in Pensacola: 

Visit PensacolaVisit Pensacola

The Fish House

Seafood fresh out of the ocean is served up here in this upscale restaurant overlooking Seville Harbor. Their signature dish is Grits a Ya Ya: smoked Gouda cheese grits covered in cream sauce, Gulf shrimp, spinach, Portobello mushroom, smoked bacon, and all the dressings. Address: 600 South Barracks St. fishhousepensacola.com

Jerry’s Drive In

Jerry’s is your go-to local spot food joint, famous for its carhop-style service and Original Bacon Cheeseburger. The diner itself is quirky, and covered in bumper stickers and graffiti—but some of the menu’s fried dishes really turn things up a notch. Gizzards and livers, anyone? Address: 2815 E Cervantes Street. 


Pensacola Bay Brewery

Beloved by locals and visitors alike, the Pensacola Bay Brewery serves up the best craft beer in the region. Riptide Amber and the Lighthouse Porter are two of the must-taste brews, but if you’re lucky to be there when the staff cracks open a special cask, you might be able to try a flavour available only for one night. Address: 225 E. Zaragoza Street.

 

Where to stay in Pensacola: 

The Pensacola Grand HotelThe Pensacola Grand Hotel

The Pensacola Grand Hotel

On the site of the historic L&N railroad passenger depot, the Pensacola Grand Hotel is Pensacola’s premier hotel. This restored building also has an outdoor pool and luxurious, large rooms. Address: 200 E. Gregory Street. 

Pensacola Victorian

A beautifully restored Queen Anne Victorian, this dream home once belonged to captain William Hazard Northup. It’s now a spacious, hospitable bed and breakfast complete with gleaming chandeliers and Victorian designs. 203 W. Gregory Street. pensacolavictorian.com

Lee House

A boutique hotel in Pensacola’s Historic District, the elegant furnishings combined with historical artifacts makes for a perfect overnight stay. Enjoy the porch-front view of Pensacola Bay. Address: 400 Bayfront Parkway. leehousepensacola.com

The Sole' Inn and Suites

Private cabanas and a free happy hour meet-and-greet for guests makes for a memorable stay at these suites. Its convenient location downtown means you’re within walking distance to shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. Address: 200 N. Palafox Street. soleinnandsuites.com 

Best Western Plus Blue Angel Inn

Next to Pensacola Beach, the Blue Angel Inn is a gorgeous newly renovated hotel with fun perks like a free pancake breakfast. Its location off Interstate 10 is a great hopping off point for exploring the area. 2390 W. Detroit Blvd. 


Pensacola's best-kept secrets:

Visit PensacolaVisit Pensacola

Wreck Diving

Snorkeling and diving enthusiasts will love a glimpse of the Pensacola Bay Area’s hidden underwater world. Opt for some exploratory wreck snorkeling close to shore, or try something a little more daring – like diving the world’s largest artificial reef, the USS Oriskany. Pensacola Beach has five important wreck dive sites along on the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Dive Trail, including the San Pablo, a freighter from Ireland. MBT Divers will show you to some of the best wrecks. 

Pensacola Symphony Orchestra

Despite its small city stature, Pensacola packs a powerful punch when it comes to the music scene. The Pensacola Symphony Orchestra has plenty of concerts and events for all ages and all listeners. If you want a small sampling of the Orchestra’s offerings, attend a dress rehearsal. Better yet, attend a special Beethoven and Blue Jeans event; no adhering to dress code required. Address: 205 E. Zaragoza Street. 

 

Pensacola Street Art

Visit PensacolaVisit Pensacola

A typical drive around Pensacola Bay gives way to some stunning street art, including elaborate and colourful murals painted all over the area. The Belmont-Devilliers wall murals were created to boost community pride, while places like Graffiti Bridge add a pop of colour to the landscape. Even something as plain as a parking garage is turned into a work of art, as the Jefferson Street Parking Garage demonstrates. Time your visit to coincide with Pensacola's many art festivals

Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park

You don’t have to be a botanist to appreciate the unique, extremely rare carnivorous pitcher plant species found along the Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park in Perdido Bay. Stroll the elevated boardwalk looking for these unique plants, or hit the 10-kilometre Perdido Bay trail for other spectacular views. Address: 12301 Gulf Beach Highway. 


 

Daytona Beach, Florida

Must see and do:

beach daytonaDaytona Beach CVB


Daytona International Speedway

Daytona International SpeedwayDaytona International Speedway

The excitement of the Daytona 500 is palpable as you step foot onto the Speedway, whether there’s a race happening or not. With a bird’s-eye view of the racetrack, it’s hard to believe NASCAR drivers master those 31-degree turns. Shop for NASCAR souvenirs, or let the kids run wild in the video game arcade. Address: 1801 W International Speedway Blvd. daytonainternationalspeedway.com

Ponce Inlet

Daytona Beach Area ponce lighthouseDaytona Beach Area CVB

Ponce Inlet is anything but a sleepy seaside retreat…although we won’t blame you for wanting to lounge your days away on the gorgeous sandy beach. The Inlet is full of dining options and fun watersport activities, like surfing and fishing. Tour the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and Museum, the tallest lighthouse in Florida, or check out the sea life at the Marine Science Center.

 

Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier

Daytona Beach boardwalkDaytona Beach Area CVB

Combine food and fun with a leisurely stroll along the Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier, pausing for the occasional slice of pizza or scoop of ice-cream. Here’s where vacation really begins: with a mojito and a basket of shrimp atop The Roof bar overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

 

The Art League of Daytona Beach

When you’re all beached out (we know--impossible), check out what’s on at the Art League. Founded in 1929, the league now has a membership of 400 artists. There are monthly exhibits, workshops, and even an art video library. Keep on top of the website’s calendar during your visit, and you may find an opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the area’s most prolific artists. Address: 433 S Palmetto Ave.
 

Bulow Creek State Park

sugar mill plantationDaytona Beach Area CVB

Combine history with big nature at this park, where the Bulow sugar mill plantation was destroyed during the Second Seminole War in the 1800s. Bulow Creek State Park also preserves one of the largest remaining stands of southern live oak forest in Florida. Amazingly, Fairchild Oak has been around for 400 years. Address: 3351 Old Dixie Highway. 


Where to stay in Daytona Beach:

The Villa Bed & BreakfastThe Villa Bed & Breakfast

The Villa Bed & Breakfast

A bedroom in a historic Spanish mansion inside a gated estate with a pool and spa—what’s not to love? Four blocks to the beach. 801 North Peninsula Drive. thevillabb.com

Coquina Inn Bed & Breakfast

Get to know your hosts (Steve and Rhonda) and their friendly dog (Godiva) at this cozy setting. Enjoy the outdoor Jacuzzi tub, a five-course breakfast, and evening turndown service. 544 South Palmetto Avenue. coquinainn.com

Casa Del Mar

A simple but elegant oceanfront hotel with a beautiful beachside pool deck. Take advantage of the golf and fishing packages onsite. 621 South Atlantic Avenue. 

Audrey’s Beach House

This two-bedroom home right on Daytona Beach comes with fun tropically furnished rooms and plenty of breathtaking ocean views. 2237 South Atlantic Avenue. audreysbeachhouse.com

Sea Shells Beach Club

A quaint setting with beautifully decorated rooms. You’ll have full access to all the perks here, like the fitness centre, oceanfront pool, and even beach bike cruisers. 1014 North Atlantic Avenue. seashellsbeachclub.com

 

Where to eat & drink in Daytona Beach: 

dining in daytona beachDaytona Beach Area CVB

The Half Wall

The Half Wall is an upscale craft beer house, serving 76 craft draft beers and over 100 bottled craft beers. The full menu also offers dishes like beer cheese soup and boom-boom shrimp; you won’t go hungry or thirsty. New Smyrna Beach. 
 

Dancing Avocado Kitchen

One of the most eclectic restaurants in Daytona, the menu comes with a large selection of farm-fresh options. There are ample vegetarian choices. 110 South Beach Street. dancingavocadokitchen.com

 

Tia Cori's Tacos

Home to $1.50 tacos and $5.00 margaritas, this joint is a local favourite for more reasons than just good prices. The tortillas are made from an Orlando tortilla bakery. 214 North Beach Street. tiacoristacos.com

Aunt Catfish’s on the Water

Traditional southern seafood is served up here on the Halifax River. Try the meaty clam chowder and finish off with a delicious sticky bun. 4009 Halifax Drive. auntcatfishontheriver.com

 

Daytona Beach's best-kept secrets:

 

The Sweetheart Trail

Running along the scenic Halifax River, the Sweetheart Trail is a pedestrian and cyclist route straight across from Daytona Beach’s historical downtown core. The trail itself offers shaded awnings and plenty of views of the busy riverfront.

Drive The Loop

Daytona Beach Area the loop drive scenicDaytona Beach Area CVB

As you might expect from a city so enamoured with driving, taking a lazy afternoon cruise is a popular pastime in Daytona. The most popular route is the Ormond Scenic Loop – or, “The Loop,” as the locals say. This 50-kilometre stretch has every Floridian view imaginable, including rivers, creeks, marshes, beaches, and lush forest hanging right over the road.

Mary McLeod Bethune Home & Gravesite

This National Historic Landmark is a beautiful tribute to former civil rights leader, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. Sitting on the lush grounds of Bethune-Cookman University (also founded by Bethune), this place has some fascinating relics and photos of famous visitors and U.S. presidents. You can take a guided tour 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday, or book by appointment on Saturdays. Address: 640 Dr Mary McLeod Bethune Blvd.
 

New Smyrna

New Smyrna DaytonaFlickr/Ryan McKee (CCbyND2.0)

New Smyrna is located near Daytona, and is known for its eccentricities as well as its mix of old and new. Antique shops and art galleries line Canal Street, and there’s an old-fashioned soda fountain inside the nostalgic Little Drug Company. New Smyrna Beach is perfect for beachcombers: when the tide goes out, 500 feet of exposed beach offer the perfect place to explore or simply stroll along, taking it all in.

 

Puerto Rico

Must see and do:

Condado, San Juan, Puerto RicoPhoto by Cristian Escobar 

Canadian Traveller is aware of the massive destruction and suffering currently plaguing Puerto Rico. If you’re interested in contributing to relief efforts, click here.

 

Mosquito Bay

Mosquito Bay is Vieques’s crown jewel, and is considered to be the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world.  Floating through this rare ecosystem in a kayak or pontoon is an otherworldly experience. Dip your paddle or hands into the bay, and watch the water light up in a spectacular glow of neon.
 

Vieques Wildlife National Park

Also in Vieques, the Wildlife National Park is the largest wildlife refuge in the Caribbean. It covers half the island! Spend your day hiking through lush trails, or beach hopping. The refuge is home to 190 bird species, so keep an eye out for the tri-coloured heron or a Caribbean coot.

Esperanza & Sunbay Beach

Esperanza is Vieques’s trendiest district and beachfront hangout, located right next to Sunbay public beach. Despite its popularity, you’ll find no clutter or chaos here. Locals revere Sunbay’s Blue Flag environmentally friendly status. There’s a lot to take in: paso fino horses grazing at ease, tall palm trees swaying in the breeze, and sailboats bobbing on the horizon.

 

Flamenco Beach

Cushioned between green rolling hills, Flamenco Beach in Culebra is easily one of Puerto Rico’s best beaches, and is regularly dubbed one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The turquoise waters against powder white sands make an ideal postcard, but it’s also an ideal spot for snorkeling.

 

Cayo Luis Peña Natural Reserve

The Culebra area is all about big nature, and you’ll find plenty of it at this Natural Reserve. Beaches, reefs, and natural keys make for some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the country. The coral reefs around the Carlos Rosario and Tamarindo beaches offer tons of diversity in marine life.

 

Where to stay in Puerto Rico: 

Malecon HouseMalecón House

Malecón House

This boutique hotel on a picturesque Caribbean boardwalk is next door to restaurants, boutiques, and island-style tours. 105 Calle Flamboyan. maleconhouse.com

 

Blue Horizon Boutique Resort

Climb into the stone infinity pool and take in the phenomenal ocean views at this quaint 10-room resort. Rooms are stylized with antiques and tropical furnishings, but with plenty of plush amenities. PR-996, Esperanza. bluehorizonboutiqueresort.com

Sea Gate Guest House

The hosts at this eccentric and comfortable guesthouse will help put you in touch with all the right people for horseback riding, snorkeling, Bio Bay tours, and more. Calle Uno, Barrio Fuerte. seagatehotel.com

Club Seabourne

Overlooking Fulladoza Bay, Club Seabourne has a dock and access to water sport facilities. Enjoy a signature rum cocktail at the bar, or relax outdoors in a hammock. Each room comes with a private deck. Rte. 250, Culebra. 

 

Where to eat in Puerto Rico: 

coconut drinks pina coladaBrenda Godinez 

Mamacita’s

Fishing has been a staple in Culebra since the Arawak Indians inhabited the island.  Try traditionally prepared seafood dishes with lobster, mahi-mahi, and more. 64 Castellar Street, Culebra. mamacitasguesthouse.com/restaurant

 

Dinghy Dock – Seafood and Grilled

A relaxed setting serving up creole-style seafood, like swordfish and yellowtail. After dinner, mingle with the locals in the open-air bar.

Susie’s Restaurant

Susie’s is a legenda in Culebra, and her home-style cooking is a favourite among visitors and locals alike. Las Delicias, Culebra. 

El Quenepo

Located on the Malecon in Esperanza, El Quenepo is a fine-dining open-air experience right on the beach. Don’t forget to sample a special passion fruit caipirinha with your meal. Calle Flamboyan, Vieques.  

Biekes Bistro

Flavours of the Caribbean and Argentina come together here at Biekes Bistro. They claim to have the best rice and beans you’ve ever tried, and their large wine menu is an added bonus. 340-01 Calle Antonio G. Mellado, Isabella II, Vieques. 

 

Puerto Rico's best-kept secrets:

jungle puerto ricoPhoto by Anahi Martinez  

Fuerte El Conde Mirasol

This is Vieques’s only fort, and over the years it has become a sort of cultural focal point. The fort was built in 1845 atop a hill in Isabel II, and the panoramic views are worth the trek. There’s also a beauty art gallery in-house.

The Ceiba Tree

Ceiba are silk cotton trees, and Vieques is full of them. But ask a local where the ceiba tree is, and they’ll lead you to the ancient 300-year-old behemoth next to Mosquito Pier. It might be hard to wrap your head around all this tree has witnessed for the past few centuries, but feel free to gaze in awe. 

Culebrita Island

This itty-bitty uninhabited island next to Culebra has tranquil beaches, a natural saltwater pool, and hiking trails that will lead you to the old lighthouse – the only manmade structure on the island. You can only get here by private boat hire from the main island.

Fortín Conde de Mirasol

Built in the mid 19th century, this fort is one of the best locations to learn about the history and traditions of Vieques. Now restored to its former glory, the fort is also home to the Vieques Museum of Art and History and the Vieques Historic Archive.          

                                               

Galveston, Texas

Must see & do:

galveston island beachesGalveston Island CVB

Beaches

Welcome to life on the sandy shores of…Texas? Believe it or not, some of the U.S.’s best beaches are found on Galveston Island. Over 50 kilometres of pristine coastline makes for year-round beachy fun, whether it’s surfing on Galveston Island State Park or strolling the boardwalk at East Beach. Fun fact: Unlike most of the other beaches in the area, East Beach allows alcohol. Margarita at sunset, anyone?

Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier

Pleasure Pier Galveston TexasGalveston Island CVB

The name says it all! Rides, midway games, food joints, and gorgeous Gulf Coast views await along the pier. If you have nerves of steel, try the Iron Shark roller coaster or the Cyclone. If you prefer a more relaxed experience, enjoy seafood, a cocktail, and some people watching on the beachfront balcony at Fish Talespleasurepier.com

 

East End Historic District

East End Historical District HomesGalveston Island CVB

The East End Historic District is best known for its stunning Victorian architecture, filled with sophisticated homes and historical buildings like the Bishop’s Palace and several impressive churches. Take your time strolling through here, because there are plenty of photo-worthy moments.

 

Seawall Urban Park

While strolling Galveston’s iconic seawall, be sure to spend some time in Seawall Urban Park. This newly developed stretch of sandy beach is ideal for anyone looking for some tranquility paired with a gorgeous setting. Take a surfing lesson, or rent a paddle board and hit the waves.

 

The Strand

The Strand downtown galveston texasGalveston Island CVB

Another of Galveston’s historic districts, The Strand is located downtown and provides endless opportunities for shopping, dining, gallery browsing, and more. Spend some time at the Galveston Island Railroad Museum before heading out to eat in one of the district’s restaurants.

 

Where to stay in Galveston:

Hotel Galvez Galveston Island CVBGalveston Island CVB Hotel Galvez

A luxurious spa hotel with a swim-up bar and a Sunday brunch worth getting up early for. Restored historic accents and ocean views in each room. 2024 Seawall Blvd. hotelgalvez.com

Victorian Inn B&B

This comfortable and beautiful bed and breakfast has been around since 1899, and has served a steady stream of happy visitors since then. 511 17th Street. Facebook.com/VictorianInnBedAndBreakfast

 

San Luis Resort

San Luis Resort Galveston TexasSan Luis Resort

Who needs to leave the hotel when you have 32 acres of beachfront and spa property on Galveston Island? Personalized service and high-end rooms. 5222 Seawall Blvd.  sanluisresort.com

 

West End Beach Home Rental (Sand N’ Sea Properties)

Choose from 150 vacation rental homes in Galveston’s West End. You’ll have your pick of anything from beach houses to cozy canal retreats. sandnsea.com

Tremont House

Tremont HouseGalveston CVB

Tremont House is all about sophistication and elegance in downtown Galveston. Being a sister property of Hotel Galvez, you can also enjoy the spa privileges and pool there. 2300 Ship Mechanic Row St.  

 

Where to eat and drink in Galveston: 

Gaido's oyster galvestonWynn Myers

Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant

Only the freshest seafood is prepared here, by hand. Gaido’s famous pecan pie (the official state pie of Texas) is worthy of a second order. 3828 Seawall Blvd. 

 

Farley Girls Café

Farley Girls CaféGalveston Island CVB

All sorts of American fare is served at Farley Girls, but the brunch steals all the glory here. Try the Texas Eggs Benedict or the chicken fried steak on a pancake. 801 Postoffice St. 

 

The Spot

Locally caught shrimp lightly fried and served on a homemade po-boy bun – drooling yet? Burgers, seafood, and special desserts are the stars of the menu here. 3204 Seawall Blvd. thespot.islandfamous.com

 

Waterman’s Restaurant

Waterman’s RestaurantGalveston Island CVB

Enjoy the low-key atmosphere of the outdoor seating area while chowing down on some wasabi tuna or fettuccini alfredo. 14302 Stewart Rd. waterman-galveston.com

Rudy & Paco

With Central and South American influences, the steak and seafood dishes here offer a unique blend of flavours. This restaurant has a dress code. 2028 Postoffice St. rudyandpaco.com

 

Galveston's best-kept secrets: 

 

Haunted Mayfield Manor

Galveston has no shortage of ghost stories and haunted buildings, including an 1867 building that once served as a morgue for 8,000 deceased Galveston residents during the aftermath of the 1900 Storm – the deadliest storm in U.S. history. The building is now home to the Haunted Mayfield Manor, a haunted house attraction that also delves into the area’s spooky history. Address: 2313 Harborside Dr.

The Bryan Museum

The Bryan MuseumGalveston Island CVB

History buffs will be thrilled to learn that the Bryan Museum houses the Bryan Collection – one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of artwork and historical artifacts relating to Texas. The entire thing actually spans more than 12,000 years and includes 20,000 rare books, 250 antique firearms, and several hundred spurs. Address: 1315 21st St. 

 

Pier 21 Dolphin Tours

Pier 21 has plenty of adventures, but getting up close and personal with dolphins is the main reason why visitors flock here every year. Hop on a BayWatch Dolphin Tour aboard 34-foot boat and tour the harbour while keeping a keen eye on the water for playful dolphins.
 

Kindness Project Mural

At the corner of 22nd and Postoffice Street, the Kindness Mural is a 100-foot long work of art and community project started by the Kids Helping Kids non-profit group. Artist Gabriel Prusmack began the mural’s designs, but now residents and visitors are welcome to contribute their own artwork depicting acts of kindness and goodwill. You’ll love the feel-good vibes here.

Insider tip: 

From Galveston Mayor James Yarbrough: “When I get a break in my schedule, one of my favorite things to do is to grab a Tiger Shark sandwich from Maceo’s and head over to Fort San Jacinto Historic Point and watch the ships go by.”

 

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