2017-03-16 / Columns

Weather makes all the difference

Thor Challgren

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE—Beach or pool? Sometimes beach conditions may not permit swimming, so it’s smart to have a good backup plan—like this beachfront infinity pool at the Secrets Maroma resort in Rivera Maya, Mexico. WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE—Beach or pool? Sometimes beach conditions may not permit swimming, so it’s smart to have a good backup plan—like this beachfront infinity pool at the Secrets Maroma resort in Rivera Maya, Mexico. Imagine that you are a tourist from another country and you happened to be visiting Southern California during our recent stretch of thermostat-busting days of temps in the 80s and 90s.

You’d probably be thrilled to experience the dazzling scenery and warm climate that’s made La La Land a place many people from around the globe dream of visiting.

Now imagine you are that same traveler visiting in mid-February. You might have had dreams of dining beachfront at Gladstones in Malibu, feasting on seafood and sunshine. Instead, you would have faced temps in the 50s and buckets of rain. Such is the variability of weather and how it can affect our travel plans.

I myself experienced this unpredictability just last week.

I was in Cancun, Mexico, inspecting various resorts so that I could have firsthand, up-to-date knowledge of the properties. In all, I saw 13 different resorts in five days.

While they were all different in significant aspects like property size and guest appeal, most had one thing in common: the weather.

During my tour, Cancun was experiencing consistently strong breezes like the trade winds you might find on the windward side of the Hawaiian Islands. The effect of this wind was that most of the hotels had red-flag warnings on their beaches, meaning swimming was not permitted.

Honestly, I’ve seen way bigger surf on an average day at Zuma. But I understand that resort management does not want to take any chances with guest safety. And despite the red flags, a handful of vacationers still waded into the aqua-hued ocean.

One other thing I noticed at these properties was the sand condition at the beach. Some resorts had beachfronts more diminished than at other times of year and even some rocky conditions. In talking to resort managers, they said this can be a seasonal issue.

For example, from November to April, the local ocean currents may carry out some of the sand, leaving a smaller beach or exposing rocks that you might not see in May to October. This can also happen on beaches in Hawaii.

The resorts that didn’t have this issue tended to have a significant reef that breaks the surf farther offshore, which allows a gentler wave break on the beach.

There were also some properties where the geographic layout protected the beach from surf, or the original resort developer may have built breakwaters that created a lagoon-style area with gentle surf.

A perfect example of this would be in Waikiki, on the stretch of Kuhio beach opposite the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort. There is a 5-foot-high breakwater that shields the more tranquil lagoon from the heavier surf, thus making this a popular area for families with young children or vacationers looking to float lazily in the sun on an inflatable raft.

So if you’re a traveler and a pristine stretch of sand is a necessity for your ideal beach vacation, what can you do to increase the chances your dream will come true?

First, research what experiences others have had at a given property during the season you plan to visit. You can do this online with sites like TripAdvisor. I would add my normal caveat to this, which is that I take all online reviews with a huge grain of salt. Look for general observations and discount the single outlier opinions.

Of course, a travel professional or friends who’ve actually been to the destination can be helpful as well. Many destination guidebooks can also be good resources.

Even after doing all that research, you may still encounter the unexpected storm or cold snap that makes the beach less desirable. For those instances, I try to make sure the resort has an inviting pool option as a backup.

And then sometimes, you just have to take what Mother Nature gives you—whether it’s real sunshine or the liquid kind, whether it’s the beach or a pool—and make the best of your trip, no matter the conditions. After all, you’re on vacation.

Thor Challgren is a travel consultant who lives in Thousand Oaks. For more info and resources on this story, visit www.loveyourvacation.com/acorn. Email questions to thor@theacorn.com.

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