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Florida tourism officials offer high-tech tools for helping visitors plan beach vacations

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MIAMI - With 825 miles of Florida beaches to plant your beach umbrella on, picking just the right spot for you and your family can be daunting. Do you want adventure or laid-back beaches? Family friendly or romantic setting?

On Monday, Visit Florida, the state's tourism and marketing arm, launched some high-tech tools to help visitors find just the right beach for their summer vacation.

The Florida Beach Finder allows travellers to virtually walk hundreds of miles of beaches — from legendary locations such as Miami's South Beach to lesser-known sanctuaries like Cayo Costa off the west coast of Florida. It's like Spotify, but for your beach vacation. Here's how it works:

Go to www.VISITFLORIDA.com and click on Florida Beach Finder. Then "tune" your preferences by moving four dials (red-dot sliders) up and down to adjust your beach personality, with preferences ranging from action-packed to secluded and somewhere in between. The beach finder displays different pictures that best match your preferences, and the visual options change with every tweak of the tuner.

You can also virtually walk the beaches with Street View imagery in Google Maps. Last summer, Google spent four months photographing Florida beaches to create panoramic views of every beach in the state. It was Google's first large-scale beach-mapping project and now all of those images — Google Beach View — are available on Visit Florida's site.

Nearly 95 million people visited the Sunshine State in 2013. With tourism being the state's top industry, these high-tech tools will allow future visitors "to dig their virtual toes into any of Florida's beaches and find their dream beach before them come," said Susannah Costello, a vice-president of Visit Florida. "For Florida, it's an opportunity to showcase that we have the greatest variety of beach experiences in the world."

And to remember that fabulous beach vacation, Visit Florida is also launching a tool called Floridagrams where visitors can make a mini-movie of their trip. Users can upload up to five pictures of their beach vacation into the website, pick a story with an audio narration, and then email it to friends and family.

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Online: www.VISITFLORIDA.com

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Follow Suzette Laboy on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SuzetteLaboy

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