Cheap Thrill: Kayaking in MacArthur Beach State Park

Nothing feels better than donating to a good cause, especially when such altruism rewards you with free stuff. That's why you should become a friend of John D. MacArthur Beach State Park.

Over the years, New Times has shown a lot of love to this Juno Beach gem. We've rated it the best place to kayak and snorkel, and the best park in Palm Beach.It deserves all those accolades. When you're paddling past the mangroves, admiring the blue herons, the breeze, and the uninterrupted chorus of insects -- no traffic, no sirens, just you and the jumping fish -- you'll start to understand. Then when you stop to picnic on the sand of Munyan Island, or sunbathe on the blessedly tourist-free beach, you won't ever want to leave.

So how would you like to enjoy all this at a deeply discounted price? For just $40 a year, you get free entrance to the park (normally $5 per vehicle) and free kayak rentals (which are usually $10 an hour or $25 for a half day). That means after just two kayaking visits, you'll make your money back. And it's for such a great cause.

As a friend of the park, your membership fee helps pay for things like day camps for kids at the park, special events such as monthly moonlight concerts, and a capital campaign to build a new Natural Science Education and Welcome Center. Currently, the park has about 1,600 members, says Cheryl Houghtelin, director of community relations.

Houghtelin cautions that the membership doesn't guarantee you'll be able to rent a kayak every time you come -- they're released on a first come, first serve basis. But if you arrive early in the morning, you have a good chance of beating the crowds. For more information, check out the park's website.

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