Video by Shore Me Some More
Day One: Arrival at OceanWatch Villas at Grande Dunes in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
I think when I agreed to write these vacation articles or blogs my mind was thinking about many great trips, but especially Myrtle Beach. I love this area and the beach here. In my mind, it is a mental toss-up between the beaches here and the 7-mile beach in the Grand Caymans or a beach in Hawaii for my favorite beach in the world.
Now Myrtle Beach is not in an exotic tropical location. Some people will think that is a little crazy, but let me explain why.
Myrtle Beach is a very wide sandy beach. Even on the satellite images on Google, you can see that it is a nice wide stretch of beach. This means even with the 14 million visitors the area gets in an average year, you can find a spot even on the busiest day. There are also about 60 miles of beaches here. Next, the sunrises in Myrtle Beach are amazing. They rival those in the Keys.
Then I also love Myrtle Beach because of all the things you can do here beyond the amazing beach. That is really what separates this location from all the others. There is more to do in Myrtle Beach than in the majority of locations.
The food is great; the prices do not make you want to cry when you get home with the credit card, knowing you will have to take months to pay off the debts. I remember the first time I took a cruise I was in my early twenties and I ran up a few thousand in credit card debt. This was back when I made no money. It felt like it took forever to pay that off.
So, Myrtle Beach is amazing for more than the beach. It is great for all the things together. It is no wonder that 14 million people come back here every summer and most of those are returning visitors.
Arriving at the resort, I knew this would be one amazing trip. Your accommodations do matter on a trip. If you read these blogs, you will find I have been to Myrtle Beach with TZort many times now. (Yes, I feel spoiled). This resort is one of the most impressive as you drive up to it. I can not wait to tour the amenities.
The site is located at 8550 Costa Verde Dr., Myrtle Beach, SC 29572. When you look this up on Google Maps make sure you go into satellite mode to check this place out. Each one of the towers is set around amazing pools with the majority of rooms having a great pool and ocean views. I had the power of TZort behind my booking, which meant I was able to get a room that had both great pool and ocean views.
The views were dreamlike. When you enter the grand dunes resort area, you will go left to register and check in to the villas. On the right is the hotel which is nice but not the same situation.
The villas here are broken down into four categories. Oceanfront, Oceanside, Oceanview, and Garden View. For some people who have not been before, you may want to treat yourself to Oceanfront. Those views are amazing. But I really liked my room when I checked in to the Oceanside room because you got the best of both worlds. Great beach views but also a neat resort view to take in the location, and people-watch.
Sometimes the people watching are fun and energizing in a way. This is not Miami beach, so you do not have to worry about guys with mouths dropping open and jaws on the floor. It is not that kind of people-watching. The resort is just amazing itself with the pools and tropical-like feel. Seeing people moving and happy will get you moving and happy. It is infectious.
Just look at the views from the rooms on their website to see for yourself. I think you will see what I am talking about and understand.
The villas here are all two bedrooms and finished to look and feel upscale. This has that true five-star resort feeling to it. Everything is finished well, and even the paint on the walls looks expensive. The kitchen and bathroom counters are all granite.
Each room has everything you would need or want.
- Cable TV
- Coffee Maker
- DVD Player
- Ice Maker
- Iron/Ironing Board
- Whirlpool Bath
Then the resort itself offers all of these options.
- Activities Center
- BBQ Grills
- Activities Desk
- Beach Access
- Concierge Services
- Fitness Room
- Hot Tub
- Internet Access
- Kid’s Activities
- Gift Shop
- Pool Bar
- Many Outdoor Pools
Sometimes it is the simple things that some resorts leave out or forgets. That is not the case with these villas. At nearly 1100 Square feet, these are also roomy and a very nice size. They invested in the space needed to separate the interior spaces in this villa. You do not realize the difference that makes until you stay in a place that has that extra feature. The villa just seems more homelike and finished.
After being wowed by the room, it was time to take in the pools and full resort for me. It was the first week in July so the place was very active and everything they have was open for the season. So, there was a great deal to take in.
Here there were several restaurants on site. The sand dollar pool bar, the sand dollar grille, and the Woodsy Grill & Pool Bar. Sand Dunes also has a Marketplace Express, which is like a quick convenience store or a large hotel shop with snacks and Starbucks coffee.
For the active, this resort has it all. A very nice fitness center with cardio and weights. This one is something you would join as a gym; it has that level of equipment and is that nice. At some resorts, the fitness centers seem like an afterthought. “Wait guys, we have to put in a fitness center for the exercise addicted, why not in this empty spot over here?” No, this one was clearly designed, built, and a key part of their plan.
What is truly impressive at grand dunes are the pools. When you go to the fitness section on the website. Stop and click on the one image of the pool at the top of the page. It opens many great photos and shows much of the resort for you.
You also can see the playground for kids. Basketball courts and so much more. You could come to this resort and never leave and have one heck of a vacation.
If you are considering a trip to Myrtle Beach, this is a tremendous location. You can certainly check availability for this resort, if you can get in I would put this high on your list.
After my tour of the facilities and grounds. I wanted to head back to one of my favorite local restaurants for some Italian food. When you are staying here, you are only about 3 miles away from a great local Italian restaurant. Ciao is a great location for real Italian food at its best. For the level of their meal, it is also not expensive. The food here rivals that of some better Italian restaurants that charge double or more for similar dishes. Tonight, I chose the Veal Lemone which was a thinly pounded veal cutlet breaded in a light batter and covered with a lemon sauce. It was so delicate and light because of the chef’s talent that it felt like it melted in your mouth. It made me instantly think of the first time I had this dish in a little Italian restaurant in New York at 17 when I was on a school trip. Isn’t it amazing how smell, taste, or even music can transport you through time into your past?
Most of the year you will want to make a reservation here. But especially in July. I had been just a month earlier in June of this year and had to wait about 30 minutes for a table. So, it pays to have the reservation, especially for a family-sized table.
Oh wait, I have not told you about dessert! They have several amazing desserts they do not mention on their menu on the main website. Not sure why, because they are great. My desert today was Crème brûlée Cheesecake traditional cheesecake with a crunch of caramelized sugar crème brûlée topping. The topping was amazing, I wanted to ask for a full serving of the crème brûlée but the cheesecake was great and I was full.
After that stellar meal, I headed back to the resort for a nighttime walk on the beach.
I have not told you, but I was back in Myrtle Beach with a friend again. This time one of my buddies had had a rough year and needed a break. I am not a huge people person who does a good job of maintaining personal relationships. I kind of love doing my own thing and am so used to living solo that I do not always stop to make time for others. Which at times I think is a shame because I enjoy it when I do so.
This trip I hoped was going to help my friend get some space from work problems, and earlier in the year a loss in his family. This resort I think will be good for his soul because of the great location and the many amazing things he has not done before.
My buddy has had a good career, but when he has had money and been working, he has never really taken many vacations. His parents were hard workers, but like many in my family, they did not make enough money for a great deal of travel. So, this was my chance to show my friend the fun of travel. I was down here in part for business, not only to write this and share it with you but to meet with a few business owners about their marketing needs while I was in town. I thought this would give my pal time to himself to get to know the beach.
Do not worry I am not going to tell you about the boring business things I do in the next few days, we will focus on the fun in the sun.
Day Two at OceanWatch Villas at Grande Dunes
I woke before my buddy because I wanted to catch the sunrise and I asked him the night before if he did and he looked at me like I was crazy.
With the separate bedrooms here and their location, it was easy to be an early riser without waking everyone else up. That is not the case at many resorts. Often thinner doors and walls may mean any sound, and you wake the whole group. Here you did not hear each other, or ever hear anything from the other guest unless you went on the balcony. It must have been the soundproof windows and the construction of the building.
I do not often drink coffee but today the idea of some coffee reading the news on my tablet and sitting on the balcony with the morning air being about 77 degrees just sounded perfect to me so I made it happen.
Sunrise comes early in July in Myrtle Beach SC. Today it was just a little after 6 AM. I am sure my friend sleeping was happy with staying asleep, but only because he has never seen a sunrise here. The beach is the perfect setting to get a clear view of one of Mother Nature’s best shows. A sunrise here would make a Vampire weep. Having not seen the sun since they were turned (as they often share in movies and books) they would weep at its beauty and the immense natural scene in front of them. I think if you were solo on the beach and really got into it, this could almost be a spiritual experience for some.
After viewing what pictures and even videos could never capture, I thought about painting a sunrise here. The next time I come I would bring a small easel and some paint. I do not do that often enough and with the new collapsible easels, they can easily fit in your small suitcase.
Less than an hour and a half later, my buddy finally got up and started moving. I picked on him for being a slowpoke. He just smiled, laughed a little, and said he would be ready to go in a few minutes.
We are two big guys who like to eat, so I knew a breakfast buffet was in our future. My pal is not as large as I am these days, but he is still a big guy. So, when we hit the door and the buffet, I feel like someone goes and warns the kitchen. In reality, I know that is not the case, but we joke about it as we hit the door of a great buffet.
I had been to Magnolias on my last trip and and another friend had enjoyed it, so that is where we chose again today. With their food choices and price, it is hard to go wrong with this spot. It was Saturday, so this was more than just breakfast, it was a brunch buffet. At less than $12 a person for the brunch these days that is a steal.
We spent the next hour trying to make them warn the kitchen about the big guys eating out front. After trying our best, we surrendered to the fact that it was not how much we could eat in one meal that made us big guys, it was how many meals, and less exercise out our age now.
The food was good and the gal that kept filling up my sweet tea was so nice that I ended up tipping her more than the meal. I do not do that often, especially at a buffet but she was just as sweet as the tea and always very attentive. Even being so nice as to laugh at some of my jokes. It is times when I meet an angel like that I catch my mind wondering about relationships for about 40 seconds until my memories kick in of my bad ones.
At least as a waitress goes, she was more age-appropriate than most. Likely just ten years or so younger than me. Not the 30 or more that I normally interact with lol.
Years ago, I waited tables and I know how hard the work can be. I also thought that while she had many tables, she likely did not get many decent tips just because she was clearing plates and bringing drinks. So people often do not tip as well for that versus full-service waiting.
This was a vacation town, so I made sure to put the tip in her hand just for safety and thanked her for the great service. She lit up like a Christmas tree when she realized the bills I snuck into her hand. That felt good to be able to “hook someone up” with a nice tip to recognize her effort and attitude.
As vacation towns go, Myrtle Beach has a very safe feel and reputation. Still, you do not want to leave money on tables, your wallet or purse somewhere, or generally, just make poor choices. Even in the best vacation towns, petty thieves do get drawn to the scent of traveler’s money. I do not think you would ever feel uncomfortable in Myrtle Beach, and that sense of ease is what some with light fingers might count on.
Tonight was going to be a home game for the Pelicans, and I love catching those games here when I can. But we had many hours to check out the area and see things before the game at 7:05 PM tonight.
I wanted to spend some time doing some childlike things. Walking down that favorite road of mine “memory lane” we went to the Broadway at the Beach area. To visit and enjoy some attractions. I wanted to convince my pal to bring his wife and kids down here sometime. It would be a big trip for them, and I thought for sure if he had fun he would get excited and make the investment later to bring the kids down, maybe in August. (I would later let him know how he could stay in the same resort and save a fortune by booking through TZort.)
Looking back now, writing this, I should have gotten a photo done at the old-time portraits of me and my buddy. We joked about it at the time, but it would have been great for this blog. At some point, I am going to get a better camera and start to take photos on these trips.
We went on a beach rider jet boat ride. I jokingly introduced my pal to the captain as my counterweight for the boat. He looked at the two of us and laughed politely, they sat us in the back row. His eyes said something then like “Oh boy with that much weight in the boat, I can do something special and crazy on this trip.” I know you think I am just reading too much into his look, but you had to be there. Then you had to be on that jet boat ride. Wow!
I love the water, and I like speed, but this thing could move. As a jet boat, it can also turn and spin on a dime. So that makes the ride very dynamic. Check the video out on their website for yourself. Then just imagine being in the boat on a brunch full stomach.
I was proud of both of us for not losing any brunch the hard way lol.
This is the review of a few customers on their take on the jet boats.
Went to Broadway at the Beach and heard this loud noise entering the complex. Went on the bridge and watched this ride going on, then decided to check it out. Simply put, this ride is so cool and an experience you will not forget. We all had an amazing time. Captain Lee gave one hell of a boat ride… Do it. You won’t regret it and will leave with a smile… We did it twice.
It’s a blast! We always look forward to this jet boat experience. The staff is helpful and courteous.
It is amazing what these boats can do!
Next, I would have done the Helicopter tour, but both of us exceeded the weight restrictions. Before gaining the last bit of weight years ago I did this tour it is neat to see the beach and oceanfront from the air and if you have not been in a helicopter before that is a very cool thing to do. Not telling on either one of us, but the weight limit is 300 lbs.
They offer flights from as low as $20, a person for one that is just a 2-mile flight to $179 for a very long flight. You pick what is right for you and your budget. After looking up the weight limit on the site and joking with my friend about it, he admitted he was a little afraid of heights.
This instantly had me thinking about the Skywheel and how it is a nice almost 200-foot drop, I mean point of view from the top. So guess where we are headed next? Yep, the Skywheel. I enjoy the Skywheel and it is funny seeing a buddy turn a little green or go pale.
We did not go VIP for this trip one it was not a date and two the VIP gondola has a see-through glass bottom and I did not want my buddy to have a heart attack, just wanted to mess with him some.
After the Skywheel, I recovered from my laughter at his expense and we went to the beach for a while to girl-watch and play in the water.
Next thing you know it was time for the ball game, so off we went to Pelican park. The game was great, and I had my personally mandatory hot dog and beer. I was still full from earlier, so I did not also get the peanuts.
Day Three at the
I guess I had pestered or talked to my friend enough about the sunrise to get him out of bed for it and down to the beach.
He is not much of a nature guy, but even he got it. It is so powerful here on a clear summer morning that it is nearly spiritual. This one was so impressive that a few families near us cheered for the sunrise. That was a first. It was like being in the movie theater for a hit that everyone liked so much it started clapping and a cheer afterward.
Yesterday we jammed a lot into our experience. So today I just wanted to walk on the beach some more after checking out and then look around town some more. There is just so much to see and do in Myrtle Beach. Before leaving the resort, I stopped by one of the bars and got some soft-serve ice cream. I do not know why, but that was what I wanted at that moment. It was already hitting 80 by 9:30 AM, so ice cream just felt like the right thing to have.
The beach was great and they make check out easy. It was nice to have a simple check-out. Thanks to TZort it is a breeze.
The next thing we chose to do was book a moving Tiki Bar for 2 hours of drinks and fun. It was neat, and I had first seen this sometime back and always wanted to try one out. Basically, some clever guys designed a tiki bar set on pontoons with a motor and plenty of bar space.
The Tiki Bar comes equipped with everything but food and drink. It is your set up to bring your own and they provide the coolers, ice, glasses, and the killer Tiki Bar and captain. So, there is no concern about drinking and operating the boat. This is good because that can be even more foolish than driving after drinking on land.
This was neat to try out, and if I was in town for a birthday or something with friends or family, it would be a great thing to do. You could even take someone you cared about on a trip and have a picnic out on the water. If I was younger, I could see owning a small fleet of these and running this business here. It would be a great thing to do during the good weather summer months.
Since I would be driving soon, I only had like 1 drink an hour but my pal took advantage and kept a more impressive pace. If we had more time today, I would have suggested we go fishing since there are many charter and fishing options nearby.
This was a great trip and fun to see my friend get a real (if short) taste of a beach vacation that he had never had. We had fun joking around and visiting so many neat spots. You can not go wrong traveling to Myrtle Beach and traveling with TZort.