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7 Beach Destinations with Thriving Nightlife

Article by Mike MacEacheran 11.02.2018

Resort locations bring to mind azure blue waters, sandy beaches and sun-filled activities. But, happily, there are a number of resort towns that also come alive at night.

A night out away from the composed luxury of a beachfront resort — the very idea seems like a contradiction. But even if you’re not staying in thrill-a-minute Miami or Waikiki Beach, it’s easier than ever to slip out into the night for a never-forget tour of music venues, night markets and buzzy bars, even in places you’d least expect it.

 

Tenerife

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Teide Observatory in Tenerife.

Some Canary Islands stay the same as they age. Some don’t. The largest of the big four islands used to have a reputation for happy-hour sidewalk shenanigans — but not anymore. Nowhere casts a better after-dark spell than Teide Observatory (38205 San Cristóbal de la Laguna, iac.es), where the island’s clear, dark skies and high-powered telescopes create the perfect union for a dazzling night out in the company of the Milky Way and the odd meteor shower. Playa de las Américas is the tried-and-tested nightlife capital of the island, but dodge its punch bowl bars and crowds of clubbers by taking a taxi to the chi-chi Noria district in the city of Santa Cruz. To mix with a young, local crowd, check out Mojos y Mojitos (Calle Antonio Domínguez Alfonso 38) for tasty mint cocktails and spicy mojos (salt-dusted, doughnut-shaped potato balls).

 

Muscat

A view from the garden of the Royal Opera House in Muscat. Photography by Khalid Al Busaidi.

In stark contrast to splashy Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the Omani capital has a more laid-back approach to showing off its sparkle. At sunset, fragrant sheesha smoke wafts from cafés, white-capped locals saunter along the Corniche, and fishermen heed the call to prayer from mosques with olive-tinged minarets. In the middle of this scene is Al Muttrah Souk, a coral maze of pathways, flanked by merchants’ houses and spreading into torch-lit passageways. Haggle over an antique mandoos (wedding chest) or a silver khanjar (dagger) (tip: people-watching peaks after 6 p.m.), then glam up for a night at the Royal Opera House (Al Kharjiyah St. 103, rohmuscat.org.om). It’s an opulent example of Omani architecture, with enough marble and inlaid wood to make it worthy of any sheikh or sultan.

 

Sarasota

A dish at Kazu’s 2.0 in Sarasota.

Miami Beach has Art Basel, but Florida’s Gulf Coast easily rivals it for sheer art spectacle. Start at the Ringling Museum of Art (5401 Bay Shore Road, ringling.org), a ground zero for global masters but also for late-night jam sessions, plays, concerts and season kickoff parties. Time it right and you can sneak a peek at its 55,000-piece collection too (open late, Thursday only). For something entirely different, check out the atmospheric evening greyhound races at the Sarasota Kennel Club (7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturdays; 5400 Bradenton Road, sarasotakennelclub.com), or go all out for craft beer in the Gulf Gate neighborhood. Two to try are Kazu’s 2.0 (6566 Gateway Ave., kazus2srq.com), for rare Japanese ales and delicate sushi, or Mr. Beery’s (2645 Mall Drive, mrbeeryssrq.com), with 23 different taps to test your late-night resolve.

 

Phulay Bay

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Krabi’s Night Market in Phulay Bay.

Dimly lit, bamboo beach bars are de rigueur on Thailand’s Andaman Sea Coast. But there’s a different vibe at Chu-a-pa Beer Café, a speakeasy, of sorts, down a backstreet near Krabi’s Night Market (aka Walking Street). On first glance, it’s little more than an improvised bolt-hole, but the décor of beer keg tables and upcycled chairs belies the array of Thai craft beers on offer, the hipster clientele and the knowledgeable staff. Start here, then move to the Night Market proper. It’s a trove of paintings and home décor, street food noodle soups, fiery curries and halal kebabs, but also a makeshift theater for street gigs and handicraft demonstrations (tip: it opens from 6 p.m., but amps up the vibe later).

 

Santa Barbara

The Oaxacan Daiquiri at Santo Mezcal in Santa Barbara. Photography by Blake Bronstad and Santo Mezcal

Refreshingly free of Los Angeles’ foo-foo cocktail bars and club queues, Santa Barbara’s real joy can be found in its American riviera lifestyle, new-world wineries and tangle of colonial Spanish architecture. A tip from an entrenched Californian foodie is to begin in the Funk Zone, a district squeezed between Highway 101 and the lapping ocean with pinch-yourself tasting rooms, converted warehouse restaurants and after-dark galleries. Municipal Winemakers (22 Anacapa St., municipalwinemakers.com) is a riot of handmade wines, a Napa-style tasting room, DIY workshops and DJ nights. Farther afield, and jutting into the sea on a pier, is Deep Sea Tasting Room (217G Stearns Wharf, conwayfamilywines.com/Deep-Sea-Tasting-Room). Equally compelling for mezcal margaritas and Oaxacan-inspired cocktails is Santo Mezcal Restaurant (119 State St., santomezcalsb.com). Our advice? Come early, stay late.

 

Grand Cayman

Royal Palms Beach Club in Grand Cayman.

On all levels, this Caribbean island tugs at the marked tension between VIP tiki bar and sand-between-your-toes beach shack. The Wreck Bar (Rum Point, rumpointclub.com) is the place to start, with low-key, fancy-free cocktails and a castaway chic vibe. From here, all nights should end at Royal Palms Beach Club (537 West Bay Road, bestcayman.com) on dazzling Seven Mile Beach. It’s on a strip famed for private cabanas and bottle service, but its roster of pool parties, happy hours and DJ stints also delivers a one-two punch of what’s currently causing a fuss in the Caribbean.

 

Okinawa

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The city of Naha by night on the island of Okinawa.

After dark, the options on Japan’s Hawaiian-like paradise island reflect the diversity of the country. Built during reconstruction after World War II, Sakae Cho market in the city of Naha is an easygoing shopping zone by day and an insider’s go-to for izakayas (taverns) and beer bars after twilight. More than anything it is an assault on the senses: The streets swarm with vendors and barbecue masters selling delicacies such as pig’s heads, or chiragaa, and the local, rice-distilled firewater awamori (which packs a punch at 30 to 40 percent alcohol) demands your respect. In typical Japanese style, there is a succession of kitschy drinking spots too. One such must-see is the Dojo Bar (101 Asato, Naha, dojobarnaha.com), a homage to Okinawa’s history as the birthplace of karate. Feeling brave? Try the habushu, or snake venom sake.

 

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Plan Your Stay in these Destinations


  • Abama

    Location Tenerife, Spain

    Experience A beachside retreat where sea, land and resort blend seamlessly.

    • Overlooks the brilliantly blue Atlantic
    • 13 restaurants and bars to experience
    • A 72-par, Dave Thomas golf course
  • Muscat, Al Bustan Palace

    Location Muscat, Oman

    Experience A luxury resort overlooking the Sea of Oman.

    • Set on 200 lush, waterfront acres
    • Private, .62-mile beach
    • The only remaining palace in Oman
  • Sarasota

    Location Sarasota, Florida

    Experience A waterfront respite in downtown Sarasota.

    • Coastal cuisine and cocktails at Jack Dusty
    • Tom Fazio-designed championship golf course
    • Exclusive use of The Beach Club on Lido Key
  • Phulay Bay

    Location Krabi, Thailand

    Experience A luxurious spa sanctuary with an aura of serenity and surrender.

    • 5-day retreats led by wellness experts 
    • Full moon and candlelight yoga
    • Meditation & Pilates overlooking a lavish jungle
  • Santa Barbara

    Location Santa Barbara, California

    Experience An oceanfront resort for relaxation and adventure.

    • Oceanfront location with three pools
    • Expansive spa and wellness center
    • 70,000 square feet of event space
  • Grand Cayman

    Location Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

    Experience The natural beauty and soft sands of Seven Mile Beach.

    • Turquoise waters blend with a cerulean sky
    • Decadent seafood at Blue by Eric Ripert
    • Greg Norman-designed Ritz-Carlton Golf Club
  • Okinawa

    Location Okinawa, Japan

    Experience An island retreat surrounded by a championship golf course.

    • Embodies the friendship spirit, “Keion”
    • 18-hole golf course overlooks the ocean
    • Feel the power of nature at The Ritz-Carlton Spa Okinawa