After a punishing year at home, don’t your travelers deserve a relaxing day at the beach?
Luxury beach destinations abound in the United States, from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic and down to the Gulf of Mexico. And group travelers in search of that perfect vacation spot shouldn’t rule out freshwater options when searching for pristine beaches and luxury accommodations.
Here are upscale beach destinations on oceanfronts and lakeshores around the country that make great getaways for groups.
La Jolla, California
La Jolla, an upscale neighborhood in the city of San Diego, sits on a gorgeous stretch of coastline peppered with bluffs that create little pockets of beach that give one a sense of seclusion and exclusivity. La Jolla Cove is one of the most popular beaches in the area, with cliffs and tide pools to explore. Further north, La Jolla Shores offers a wide and long expanse of white sand beach and palm trees, making it the quintessential southern California beach, said Candice Eley, a spokesperson for the San Diego Tourism Authority.
La Jolla’s famous sea lions are a major tourist attraction as they gather on Children’s Pool Beach to give birth to their pups. Visitors can watch them frolic and play from a nearby jetty.
Several upscale resorts dot the shoreline, including the Lodge at Torrey Pines, which is set on the world-famous Torrey Pines Golf Course and has stunning views of the cliffs and ocean; the Grande Colonial, a more-than-100-year-old historic resort that is a six-minute walk from La Jolla Cove; and the La Valencia Hotel, a luxury hotel that is sometimes called the Pink Lady because of its distinctive shade of pink.
Groups that would like to get out on the water can take surf lessons at Surf Diva Surf School or take a guided kayaking tour through the area’s sea caves. The Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is nearby and has eight trails for every skill level that take visitors past cliffs, mesas, beaches, canyons and wetlands.
Narragansett, Rhode Island
Narragansett, Rhode Island, is a beach lover’s paradise, with 20 public and several private beaches to enjoy. The area is known for its wildlife preserves, its bird-watching and its hiking and biking trails for people who would rather be in the woods than on the beach.
Narragansett Town Beach was where Rhode Island’s elite came to see and be seen at the turn of the 20th century. It is still a desirable beach destination today, with soft sand, great waves for surfing and boogie boarding, and resorts that hark back to a bygone era of service and luxury accommodations.
Nearby, the Towers, a Narragansett icon, is all that remains of the 1800s Narragansett Pier Casino, which burned down in 1900. It is open for tours and special events. A former late-1800s-era Coast Guard station overlooking Narragansett Bay is now a favorite brunch location with stunning views of the ocean.
The Break, a surfer-chic boutique hotel, is one of the coveted places to stay in Narragansett. It has a rooftop bar that overlooks the Atlantic, a heated outdoor pool and a wonderful on-site restaurant named Chair 5, after the lifeguard chair at Narragansett Town Beach.
The most luxurious waterfront hotel in the area is the Ocean House, a large, Victorian-style hotel in the Watch Hill historic district of Westerly, Rhode Island, which is just 20 miles down the road from Narragansett. It sits on a bluff overlooking Block Island Sound. Guests who stay in Watch Hill will appreciate the clean beaches, quaint village for dining and shopping and the historic Flying Horse Carousel, which is one of the oldest and longest continuously operating carousels of its kind in the country.
Groups should make a point of visiting Galilee, a nearby fishing village on Point Judith in Narragansett; organizing a whale-watching cruise; or taking a day trip to Block Island on the Block Island Ferry, which departs from Galilee.
Destin, Florida, got its start as a fishing village in 1845, and commercial fishing still plays a major role in the area today. But the city’s soft, sugar-white sand beaches and emerald-green waters make it a prime vacation destination. Several resorts in the area cater to a more upscale clientele.
The Henderson, a 170-room luxury resort, enjoys its own private beach next door to Henderson Beach State Park; it has a spa with 11 private treatment rooms, a wet area with experiential shower, whirlpool tub, a Himalayan Salt Suite, sun-lit relaxation spaces and a full-service salon. The Henderson Park Inn is a 36-room adults-only beachfront inn that also has access to the Henderson and its amenities.
The Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village is another exclusive waterfront resort next to HarborWalk Village, a hub of shopping, dining, and entertainment. All the rooms at the Emerald Grande have balconies, custom-crafted furnishings, lavish baths and first-class service.
Groups can charter boats for fishing expeditions, dolphin-watching or sunset cruises. Parasailing, snorkeling, kayaking, jet skiing, pirate ship excursions, free concerts on the village’s main stage, fireworks and parades are also available at the resort.
A Destin favorite is Crab Island, a former island that is now a sandbar on the south side of Choctawhatchee Bay where boaters, swimmers and paddlers like to congregate. The water is warm and shallow. During the summer months, food-and-beverage boats drift by selling their wares. Groups can book day trips to the island with a number of local outfitters and water taxis.
Traverse City, Michigan
Traverse City is a premier beach destination on the shores of Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, an offshoot of Lake Michigan. The city is on two peninsulas that jut out into the lake, creating a microclimate that is perfect for growing fruit, including cherries and grapes for wine. The largest beach in town is Clinch Park Beach, which has several hiking and biking trails, art installations, restaurants and a splash pad for children. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a must-visit. Visitors can climb the steep dunes, hike or bike along the many park trails or find a secluded spot on one of the Lakeshore’s many beaches.
Grand Traverse Resort and Spa is one of the top destination resorts in the area, with three championship golf courses, a 100,000-square-foot fitness and tennis center, an indoor water playground, four pools and the Den Entertainment Center, which has an arcade, a bowling center with shorter lanes and smaller pins, axe throwing, virtual reality and an escape room.
To explore the area’s many lakes and rivers, groups can take a day trip on the 47-foot Nauti-Cat; sign up for a cruise on the tall ship Manitou; or rent canoes, kayaks or stand-up paddleboards to explore on their own. There are five historic lighthouses in the area that are worth a visit. Or the more adventurous can don scuba or snorkeling gear to explore many of the area’s shipwrecks, some so close to the surface they can easily be explored with snorkel and fins.
Wine lovers have their pick of 45 vineyards and wine cellars in the area for wine tastings and tours. Some of the vineyards overlook the water.
The city of Galveston is on Galveston Island, off the coast of Texas. A popular spring break destination, Galveston also has its share of resorts that cater to groups with more refined tastes. The San Luis Resort, Spa and Conference Center, the Hotel Galvez and Spa, and the Tremont House hotel are top luxury destinations in the city.
The San Luis Resort has 248 guest rooms, beach access, a full-service spa, tennis courts, a fitness center and two outdoor pools. The Villas Galveston has eight private residences on the San Luis Resort property that have access to all of the resort’s amenities, as well as a personal hot tub, butler service and a private bar. The Hotel Galvez, built in 1911, is an older grand hotel that exudes Southern charm and is said to be haunted.
The Tremont House is planning a $20 million renovation. The luxury hotel is in the heart of Galveston’s historic downtown and has a desirable rooftop bar that overlooks the harbor. Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa and Convention Center has a golf course, an aquarium, a rainforest and a discovery center with rotating exhibits.
For fun, groups should visit the Galveston Pleasure Pier, which juts out over the Gulf of Mexico and has a supertall swing, a Ferris Wheel and midway games or take a historic harbor cruise and tour the Galveston Historic Seaport and the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa. The 1892 Bishop’s Palace, the Moody Mansion and the Bryan Museum are worth a visit or take a walking tour of the city to explore the city’s history, architecture and sculptures that were carved from oak trees destroyed by Hurricane Ike.