Planning an exotic beach vacation can be as stress-free as your time spent on the sand. We asked pro wanderer and OneTravel Twitter chat co-host Jessie Festa of Jessie On a Journey to share her best summer packing tips, favorite exotic beaches, and the sand-loving bloggers you can’t afford NOT to follow.
And if you like what you see here, don’t forget to join @OneTravel and @JessonaJourney for a special Twitter party on exotic beach getaways (July 24th, 2014 at 2pm EST). It’ll be chock full of tips, tricks, and deals. Follow #OneTravelChat to participate. The sand, sun, and surf beckon!
What’s your favorite music to listen to/books to read while on the road/in-flight?
Typically when I’m on a plane I spend more time writing. I know you can purchase Wi-Fi on flights nowadays but it’s usually expensive, so I use the excuse to write without distractions and just let whatever thoughts I have flow from my mind to my fingertips. In terms of reading I typically find blog posts that sound interesting before my flight and download them onto my phone to read later. I have the Newsify App which I’ve loaded all my favorite travel and lifestyle sites onto and it turns them into a magazine format, so I can browse easily to find what might interest me. For music, I listen to what I normally would at home, which is everything from Pink Floyd to Maroon 5 to Armin van Buuren. It all depends on my mood.
When/why did you start blogging about travel and what has been your favorite post to date?
I started blogging in the summer of 2011, with Jessie on a Journey. Epicure & Culture came a few years later in winter of 2012. After graduating from the State University of New York at Albany with a BA/MA in Communication & Rhetoric, I realized I had no desire to work in an office. Throughout college I had studied abroad, taught English in Thailand and backpacked solo through Europe, and knew I couldn’t give up the travel lifestyle. I started reading other travel blogs and decided if I pursed it aggressively enough, I could make a living out of it. To date, my favorite posts are Going Against Societal Norms: Following My Dreams Instead Of The Crowd (Jessie on a Journey) and In Search Of Australia’s Quintessential Dish (Epicure & Culture).
Tell us about your first travel experience.
Growing up I always traveled with my family, doing road trips around North America to different theme parks and going on Caribbean cruises; however, it was when I studied abroad in Sydney, Australia, that I truly felt like a “traveler.” It was so exciting, not just visiting a place but being immersed in the culture, meeting the people and feeling the beat of the city. Before I was even back in New York I had a solo trip booked to Thailand.
Tell us about the beaches you’ve traveled to.
I grew up on Long Island, right outside of Manhattan in New York, so I’ve always been a beach person. My dad and brother each own a boat and go fishing, crabbing and clamming almost every day, and we have some beaches that have harbor seals and from where you can go whale watching. It always amazed me how accessible it was from NYC but how people didn’t know about it. While I obviously have a soft spot for Long Island, the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen in my life would have to either be Fakarava — a lesser-known island that has some of French Polynesia’s best diving — or The Exumas, an almost untouched part of the Bahamas. Both have the most translucent yet deep blue waters and soft golden sand I’ve ever seen.
What are your favorite exotic beaches and why?
The two mentioned above would be my favorite. I also traveled to Okinawa, Japan, last year and was amazed at the beautiful beaches. I really enjoyed the star sand beaches on Iriomote, made up of small fossils dating back 550 million years. This island is great for having an adventure-filled day and then relaxing on a unique strip of coast. On Taketomi Island you can immerse yourself in traditional culture and do the same.
What are some tips for packing properly for a beach trip?
If I know I’m going on a beach trip I typically pack less. It’s a great excuse, especially as a woman, for not packing makeup or hair appliances and just going au naturel. You’ll never need more than a carry-on with sunscreen (or you can buy that in your destination), a bathing suit, a hat, sandals, a few sundresses/shorts-and-t-shirt ensembles and you’re good to go.
Which beach attractions are worth it and which should you skip?
For me, when I go to a beach I want to get to know THAT beach. If there’s a beach known for windsurfing, do windsurfing. If there’s another beach that does cookouts and is littered with beach bars, order a cold brew and chow down. I love when beaches have nearby woodland or jungles so you can do a hike and then cool off in the waters of the beach. Each beach has its own “personality,” so go with the flow of where you’re at instead of trying to make the experience something else. For example, Tobago’s Pigeon Point is all about eco-friendly water adventures, so that’s what I spent the day doing. It was here that I actually learned to stand-up paddle board.
Are there Instagram accounts/island life bloggers we should follow before embarking on an exotic beach vacation?
I often blog about beaches on my Instagram as well as my sites, with some top posts including 6 Secret Beaches To Visit In Saint Lucia, Exuma Cays: The Galapagos Islands’ Quirky Sister? and Fraser Island: The Largest Sand Island In The World. Other bloggers and personalities that often cover beaches I recommend include Islands Magazine Blog, Alex in Wanderland, Uncommon Caribbean, @IslandPics, @Beaches_N_Resorts, @Wonderful_Places, @MrMattBell, @BestVacations, @MarginalBoundaries and @TravelingWithMJ.
Which little-known beaches should we add to our bucket list?
I think Japan is a place few people associate with beaches, but there are some many non-touristy and beautiful stretches of coastline in Okinawa. Kangaroo Island in South Australia also has some secret beaches worth exploring. The destination itself is remote and great for land and water safaris — not to mention wine tasting. Closer to the US, island-hopping in the Exumas will introduce you to a wide-array of interesting beaches — some with swimming pigs (Big Major Spot), nurse sharks (Compass Cay) and endangered Exuma Island iguanas (Bitter Guana Cay)!