Nicaragua

My Favorite Quiet Beaches

On Saturday, I went toВ RockawayВ to get my beach time for the week. As much as I love being by the ocean, I’ll admit that I was feeling a little weary of crowds.

Most NYC-area beaches—Rockaway, Jones, Robert Moses, Long Beach, Coney Island—are pretty packed on the weekends. And for good reason! Everyone wants to get away, even if only for a few hours.

I do love seeing so many people escaping the city and enjoying the sand and surf. But the overall experience isn’t all that relaxing. You’re surrounded by others—and their conversations and music—at all times. While there, it’s hard to feel calm and peaceful when you can barely hear the waves over all the din.

I’ve been lucky to travel to beaches that have been both beautiful and deserted. This weekend, I was thinking about them and wishing I could transport myself back to:

Water Cay, Eleuthera, Bahamas

Last year, Mal, Peter, and two friends and I rented a house on Eleuthera. We stayed in a sparsely populated part of the island, and our house was set on a gorgeous, private beach:

Cotton Bay, Eleuthera

Each day we got to enjoy the soft sand and blue waters without seeing a soul.

OurВ rental also gave us access to the owner’s boat and a captain who could take us out. Of course, we had to take advantage of that! Our captain, Sidney, took us toВ Water Cay, a tiny islandВ off Eleuthera’s Caribbean coast. It was absolutely deserted, with calm, clear water and fine white sand.

Water Cay, Eleuthera

It was easily one of the most spectacular beaches I’ve seen in my life.

 

Big Corn Island, Nicaragua

Mal and I went to Big Corn Island in August 2009. The island, and its sister, Little Corn, are located about 40-miles off the coast of Nicaragua, in the Caribbean. They’re known for being remote and relatively undiscovered by tourists. At the time, that certainly proved true.

We flew to the island on a tiny prop plane, and as we descended, I could barely spot any signs of life. Big CornВ looked deserted. And once we got out of the plane, weВ saw that it basically was.

To be honest, I felt a bit uneasy at just how isolated the island felt. There had been a spate of armed robberies against travelers on the islands, right before we arrived. The first night, our hotelВ was a ghost town—just two or three other rooms were occupied. And the phones and internet were down. The sun set at 6 p.m. and plunged the island into pitch darkness.

But during the daytime, I was able to forget my misgivings a little, thanks to this amazing beach we had to ourselves:

Big Corn Island, Nicaragua

In case you’re wondering, I felt much safer on Big Corn, as the days passed. A small documentary film crew arrived at our hotel from the mainland, as did a few more Nicaraguan travelers. Mal and I had a great time chatting with them—it was just enough people to make the hotel feel less like a horror-movie-waiting-to-happen, but not nearly enough to make the place feel crowded. And the island was just so wild and beautiful, it was impossible not to feel affection for it.

 

Long Beach Island, NJ

New Jersey?! Yes, that’s correct! We rented a house on LBI in early June, before summer season really started—which meant that every day, the beaches looked like this:

setting up on the beach

Sure, LBI doesn’t haveВ fine white sand and crystal-clear water. But it was still a nice, deserted beach that we had all to ourselves for days. I’m so nostalgic for that!

What’s your favorite quiet beach?

A Moment to Breathe

Big Corn Island, Nicaragua

Has this month been insane for you? I feel like March is speeding by faster than I can process it! On one hand, I’m thrilled—adiosВ Long Slog! But on the other, I feel like I’ve been going non-stop for several weeks—which, if I’m not careful, could lead to a little burnout. (In the past few days, alone, I’ve had super-late ballet rehearsals and flew to and from Orlando in one day for work meetings. Hence, the lack of recent posts!)

Throughout all the craziness, I’ve been reminding myself to take a few moments to slow down and breathe. I’ve found that one of the easiest ways to do so is to literally take a mental vacation. As in, recalling a moment from a specific trip when I felt completely wonderful and at ease. I usually envision my favorite beaches—those that are wild and green with lots of palm trees, clear water and brilliant, sunny skies. Often, I think about being on Big Corn Island, Nicaragua (pictured above), with my sister, or the southeastern part of Hawaii’s Big Island. Just thinking about those places makes me feel as relaxed and happy as when I was actually there. I can almost feel the warmth of the sunshine and hear waves crashing and wind rustling the palm fronds.

Happy Friday! Hope you have a chillaxin’ weekend. 😉

What TripAdvisor Doesn’t Want You to Know

My sister and I are headed to Nicaragua for a weeklong vacation. We’ll be flying to Managua early Thursday morning, and traveling to the Corn Islands, Granada, and la Isla de Ometepe.

To plan our trip, we tapped many of the usual travel resources: recent magazine and news stories about Nicaragua, guidebooks, acquaintances who had been there, travel websites and forums. But during this research process, I stumbled upon something I found a bit unsettling.

I was trying to find recent information about safety on Little Corn Island, a tiny, remote, largely undeveloped island in the Caribbean. Moon and Lonely Planet both mentioned how the island has been the site of sporadic violence against tourists, and that women should take caution when traveling there. (The crimes are due to growing tourism coupled with a lack of police presence on the island. Until a few years ago, the island had no law enforcement. Now, it apparently has one police officer.)

On Lonely Planet’s and TripAdvisor’s forums, I found posts about a recent incident that occurred at a Little Corn hotel. According to the posts, two women from the UK were robbed at machete point in their casita, in the middle of the night. “Good to know,” I thought to myself. A few days later, when I tried to pull up the TripAdvisor post, I saw that it was gone. (The Lonely Planet post is still up.)

I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Two other Trip Advisor users commented about the post’s disappearance on a new thread. At that point, TripAdvisor responded with the following message:

“Tragic circumstances occur in every city of the world, including crimes that involve both tourists and locals. We close or remove topics that include graphic descriptions of violent crimes or accidental death and injury; the subject matter does not conform to our rules regarding family-friendly topics and our requirement that forum threads be travel-related discussions.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.”

That explanation didn’t sit well with me. First of all, I think every traveler knows that every destination comes with risks, and that crime can happen to anyone, at any place, at any time. Secondly, it was a travel-related post: It was an incident that could have been reported in a newspaper. I didn’t find the post “graphic” or overblown at all. Plus, I think it’s always good to learn as much about a destination as you can, whether the information is positive or negative. And when it comes to remote destinations that don’t get a lot of news coverage, other travelers can be an invaluable source of info. You can’t help but wonder how much information TripAdvisor is censoring — and what other topics are deemed not “travel-related” or not “family-friendly.”

Once again, others in the TripAdvisor community shared my sentiment. Several members vented their feelings on a new thread, questioning TripAdvisor’s interest in removing the post, and decrying it as a blow against the site’s credibilty.