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Island nature: the allure of coconut palms on a tropical beach

Does anything say "tropical beach" or "island runaway" more than coconut palm trees? With their slim, graceful grey trunks and languid palm fronds, these beautiful specimens of nature grace islands from Tahiti to Martinique. But did you know that the palms don't actually produce a nut, but a "drupe"? (Other drupes, or stone fruits, include mangos and olives.) The palm trees themselves can grow up to 98 feet tall!

tropical beach

(One attraction of any tropical beach. Photo by Laura Albritton.)

Have you ever picked up a coconut? They can actually feel fairly heavy. That's because a coconut weighs on average about 3.2 pounds or 1.44 kilograms. They're pretty sizeable things, too: the coconut I measured below grew to approximately 10 1/2 or 11 inches.


(Measuring a coconut. Photo by Laura Albritton.)

It's natural that tourists often love to lounge under coconut trees, because they're simply beautiful. That's not, however, always the best idea. Can you guess why?

Island Runaways

(Coconuts visible on the palm trees. Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)

As you study the photo above, which was taken on a Florida island, you'll notice that the palm closest to the foreground has several coconuts just waiting to drop. And drop they will! If you happen to be lying underneath it? Well, let's just say that a falling coconut can do some damage. In fact, falling coconuts do kill people in the tropics. (Imagine a 60 feet tree dropping a 3 pound coconut on your head, and you get the picture.)

Punta Cana beach

(Tall coconut palms on a Punta Cana beach. Photo by Laura Albritton.)

Since resorts and hotels don't want their guests injured, some of them have the coconuts clipped from the trees, like this Bavaro property in the photo just above. That doesn't mean the coconut goes to waste. Immature coconuts or "jelly-fruits" contain a lot of coconut water, which people in the tropics know is pretty healthy to drink; coconut water contains modest amounts of potassium, calcium, sodium, and magnesium. As you've probably noticed in recent years, coconut water has become a popular sports drink, and you can buy brands like Zico in many grocery stores.

sunset in the tropics

(The quintessential sunset in the tropics, with a coconut palm. Photo by Laura Albritton.)

Then there's coconut cream, which can be used to make piña coladas and shredded coconut for tropical desserts! Delicious coconut layer cake springs to mind, as do Jamaican "grater cakes," which are just shredded coconut with copious amounts of sugar. Usually, one section of the grater cake is dyed bright pink! But still, one of my favorite ways to enjoy coconut is just to hack off -- or drill a hole in -- the top, insert a straw, and sip. Another great idea? Put your coconut in the refrigerator first, so it gets really chilled. Then make a hole and drink the water. On a hot day in the tropics, there's nothing better.

Do you have a fabulous coconut cocktail or other coconut recipe? If so, share it on our Guest Island Experts page. Cheers, fellow Island Runaways!

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