"A Local's Guide to the Palm Beaches" West Palm Beach by alloquisha
West Palm Beach Travel Guide: 132 reviews and 187 photos
West Palm Beach is a place that many people have heard of, but few know a lot about it. Confusingly, it's on the east coast of Florida, not the west--this is because it is west of Palm Beach Island, a place with a completely different character and personality. The city is old by Florida standards and has a small, pedestrian-friendly downtown that is walkable from the train station (both commuter rail and AmTrak stop here).
If you're looking for big city excitement, keep going south - Miami is about 1.5 hours away and will fit that bill. West Palm Beach is more laid back. There is a substantial retiree population here, though it's not as overwhelming as other places in South Florida. Still, it's not a young town and to say it's livey would be...an exaggeration most of the year. The exception would be during the big festivals, such as SunFest (typically held in late April or early May) and the Boat Show.
Activities are pretty much limited to enjoying the outdoors, eating seafood, and getting out on the water. That being said, there's plenty to do for a relaxing weekend. Some highlights include checking out the amazing mansions and wealth on Palm Beach Island; the Norton Museum of Art; lunch at a tiki bar; and snorkeling/swimming at Peanut Island. If you are willing to explore beyond West Palm Beach and experience the rest of the Palm Beach County, you'll be rewarded with a pretty diverse experience.
This page is meant to be a guide to the greater West Palm Beach area, ranging from Jupiter in the north down to Delray Beach in the south. A car is crucial to getting around here.
As you start to go north of West Palm Beach, the first city you reach is Rivieria Beach. This is largely perceived to be the most dangerous place in the County, and there is some truth to it. Compared to big city's though, it's not bad--just don't be walking around late at night and you'll be fine. One of my favorite places in the whole area is the marina and tiki bar in Riveria Beach--a true local place filled with lots of characters, great atmopshere, and surprisingly good food. From the tiki bar you can also see Peanut Island (see tips), which is fun for a half-day excursion to snorkel, lay on the beach, party with the locals, or check out an odd historic site. If you don't have time to go to the island, you can get a good view of the happenings on the bridge over the Intracoastal from Blue Heron Boulevard.
Continuing north you will go through smaller places such as Lake Park, which are typical South Florida communities. Palm Beach Gardens is a newer city, and probably the "youngest" in terms of population--this is where most of the area's young people hang out on the weekends at the bars and clubs scattered in the strip malls. Highlights here include the Cruzan Rum Bar, watching the Boat Parade during Christmas time, good shopping at Downtown at the Gardens, and kayaking at MacArthur State Park.
The last major stops in the county are Juno Beach and Jupiter. Juno Beach as a town doesn't have much to offer--there's no central downtown for instance--but there are some great little seafood restaurants along US1 and the beach is spectacular. It is especially popular with kite-boarders. Jupiter is the norternmost town in the County, and is similar to Juno Beach with the exception of some history at the Jupiter Lighthouse. Jupiter has one of the most famous tiki bars in the area (the Square Grouper), great kayaking in the Inlet and access to the Loxahatchee River, and a hidden gem of a natural area at Blowing Rocks Nature Preserve. If you go way west (west of the Turnpike even), you'll find yourself in a totally different environment of farmlands; in a random little shopping you will find the most authentic English pub in all of Florida. Food is pricey and not worth it, but the atmosphere is fun and worth the trek.
One interesting aspect of Florida is that the further south you go--with the exception of the Keys--the more "northern" it gets. This rule applies to Palm Beach County as well. South Florida is a very popular place for retirees, and many wealthy northerners make their winter homes here...popular places include Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, and to an extent, Delray Beach. You're more likely to hear a New York or Boston accent down here than anything else.
The first major town south of West Palm Beach is Lake Worth, seen by some to be the County's "up and comer" destination--I have to agree. There are two main drags (Lake and Lucerne) lined with a number of shops, restaurants, and bars. The atmopshere is decidedly more relaxed and beachy here than in West Palm, and there is a large population of Latinos in this area.
Further south is Boynton Beach. I've never found this to be a particularly compelling place to visit, but it's a popular place to live and some decent restaurants and bars. Still, nothing worth going out of your for. After Lake Worth the next stop is Delray Beach, which gets my vote for the most charming town in the County. It's main street is Atlantic Avenue, which stretches a few miles from I-95 to the ocean and is lined with all sorts of shops, parks, restaurants, and bars. Delray also has a very interesting history, and is a success story for community revitalization--just 15 years ago it was a rundown town dominated by bikers and drug activity...and now it's a walkable, pretty, and lively town full of culture and plenty of festivals. Definitely a great place to spend a day! Please see my page on this area for more information.
The last major stop before getting into Broward County--home to Fort Lauderdale--is Boca Raton. Admittedly, it's not a place that has struck my fancy but if you want high-end shopping this is a good place to come. Otherwise, attractions are pretty thin on the ground.
- Pros:weather, water, seafood, boats, tiki bars
- Cons:lack of young people, need a car
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