Pining for the perfect post-lockdown getaway? The Paradise Coast is your answer. This slice of southwest Florida includes the town of Naples, a large portion of the Everglades, and Marco Island, plus more than 30mi (48km) of pristine beaches that flow into the Gulf of Mexico. Throw in incredible nature reserves, top-class resorts and adventure experiences, and you’ll see why this relatively unknown part of the Sunshine State makes for the ideal post-lockdown vacation.
Florida has always been a popular vacation destination for both domestic and international tourists. There are notable family attractions in Orlando and famous party spots such as Miami and Daytona Beach. That popularity, however, can also be a downfall, especially if you’re looking for a more cultural escape. Luckily, there’s a small spot just a two-hour drive from Miami that lets you escape the urban trappings. Culture Trip explores the appropriately named Paradise Coast, also known as the Last Paradise of Florida.
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Let’s start with those golden sandy beaches; inevitably, they draw in the most visitors. Naples Beach and Vanderbilt Beach are highlights close to downtown Naples – the bustling town also has a host of resorts and superb hotels if you want a base with a few frills.
Marco Island has a more expansive beachfront than Naples – not all surprising given that it’s the biggest of the Ten Thousand Islands archipelago. Relax on a welcoming public beach; alternatively, head to one of the more secluded private spots, most of which are attached to the big hotels in the region.
The Unesco-recognized Everglades National Park is another reason to consider a trip to the Paradise Coast. Nature-lovers have plenty of opportunities to explore the intense wetland and there’s just as much to see closer to the coast. Bird-watchers can find endangered species here and there are always alligators to spot in the area. If you’re really observant you might even see the rare ghost orchid, which is native to the region and a big reason to visit the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
If you want to stay close to the water, the Gulf of Mexico is great for snorkeling and fishing. Paddle-, body- and even kite-boarding are popular pastimes on the coast; they can also be combined with tours through nature reserves to give you a unique view of Floridian wildlife.
One surprising aspect to life on the Paradise Coast (and not something usually associated with Florida) is the prominence of general wellbeing and healthy living. Mindfulness and wellness activities are practiced frequently, resulting in the area being among the happiest and healthiest in the US. Indulge in sunshine yoga on the beach, or take a boat trip to private islands specializing in spa treatments. You can stretch your wallet as much as you extend your chakra.
Unofficially crowned as the stone crab capital of the world, the Paradise Coast hosts the annual Stone Crab Claw Harvest Festival at the historic Old Naples Waterfront every October. The weekend gives you live music and fresh-off-the-boat seafood, including locally harvested stone crab claws. The claws are the most coveted food source around; not only are they tasty, but stone crabs regrow them, meaning fishermen can return the animal to the ocean after every catch.
Once you’ve tucked into as much crab as you can stomach, a bike excursion is a good way of getting back into shape. The trails around the beachfront are scenic but not too taxing, so even beginners can get to grips with cycling around town. You can easily visit some of the best attractions, such as the nature reserves and parks, by bike if you want to leave your car behind. Again, that’s something of a rarity in Florida, where most destinations require you to drive.
To ensure the wellbeing and safety of all visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Paradise Pledge was launched in 2020. This initiative recognizes the impact of the global pandemic on both local businesses and potential visitors to the Paradise Coast, offering the highest standards of cleanliness and encouraging tourists to make the most of digital savings and discounts.
As international travel returns and domestic tourism continues throughout Florida, it’s worth considering a trip to this hidden piece of paradise on the coast.
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It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
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I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
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Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.