PROMISE

When a beach isn’t really a beach, and other travel disappointments

Alan Kraft/Shutterstock
Alan Kraft/Shutterstock
To call Smathers Beach in Key West, Fla., a beach might be a little stretch.

The sand is imported from the Bahamas. On a recent windy day when I visited, there were no waves. Mostly, this island’s signature beach doesn’t have the scene you’d expect from a tropical resort, such as a boardwalk with concession stands.

So when a reader on Washington Post Travel section’s online chat recently asked if I could recommend a beach in Key West, I said not really. The natural shoreline in the Keys is dotted with coral rocks and mangroves that are beautiful in their own right. Tourists don’t come to this island for its beaches, and if they did, they’d be disappointed.

The complaints came in almost as soon as my response was published in the paper. Coincidentally, the answer appeared on Labor Day weekend, just as Diana Nyad finished her record swim from Cuba to Key West. And right there, on live television, readers saw Nyad coming ashore at Smathers Beach, which looked real enough on camera.

How could I say that Key West didn’t have beaches?
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