Why You Should Go: Simply put, Hossegor is the best of France, the U.S. East Coast, and California—all in one place.
The Town: Forty minutes north of the fancier, more famous Biarritz, Hossegor is the heartland of European surfing in terms of waves and industry. With sand dunes snug against its coastal road, this dreamy town has a lake behind the hopping town centre, miles of bike trails, and a picturesque harbour.
“As far as beach breaks go, there isn’t much on the continent that compares,” says Nicolas Leroy, European Media Manager for the World Surf League. “The variety of beaches and the frequency of swell and offshore winds makes it epic—from one-foot for longboarding to the eight-to-20-foot faces at La Graviere.”
When: Summer’s best for a lively holiday with smaller conditions, while fall boasts better waves and fewer crowds.
Learn: Chipiron is owned by a husband-wife team and has water-safety certified instructors.
Eat: Hossegor is packed with culinary pleasures, from Le Touring, where meat on a hot stone is a specialty, to CJ Sushi, where its owners are behind the counter, and Le Mango Tree, with smoothie bowls as delicious as they are exquisite.
Stay: A special hideaway is the three-year-old Lake Loft, a rustic house restyled in a modern chic style by architect Luc Germain.
Play: Hit the local farmers market in Capbreton after your morning surf, try Basque ball games pala and cesta punta, and enjoy a snack on the beach.
Local Tip: “Park in the dune somewhere north of Seignosse, bring a cooler and cold beers, head out a couple hours before sunset for a surf and enjoy,” says Leroy.
PHOTOGRAPH BY REUTERS/ALAMY
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
Why You Should Go: Apart from paddling out in a region packed with history and religious significance, Tel Aviv is a cosmopolitan city where the party never stops—literally.
The Town: “Israel is known for a few things,” explains Yossi Zamir, CEO of the Israeli Surf Association. “First of all, obviously, the historical places.” Amid the ancient buildings, however, is a vibrant beach scene, with waves on tap year-round. In the summer, the sand is packed with pop-up bars, bronzed babes, and parties that don’t start until long after sunset. “They call Tel Aviv a 24-hour city,” says Zamir. “You can walk outside 4 a.m. and have a haircut, some food, or find a bar or club. It’s never closed.”
All of which might compromise a surf trip for the hard core, but morning offshores make early wakeups worth it.
When: November to March
Learn: The Kontiki Surf Club in nearby Netanya was started by Australians eight years ago. It’s now a local institution.
Eat: In Netanya, the Rhythm Bar is the place to be.
Play: Get your fill of falafel, hummus, and pita by going on your own food tour of Tel Aviv.
Stay: Stay in style at the boutique Hotel Montefiore in the heart of the city.
Local Tip: If you plan to hit the clubs, don’t go out too early. Start at dinner, then go to the bars, and begin thinking about dance floors around midnight.
PHOTOGRAPH BY JUSTIN FOSTER , ALAMY
HAINAN ISLAND, CHINA
Why You Should Go: Filled with high-quality, empty waves, Hainan is a surfer’s paradise—if you don’t mind standing out as one of the few wave-riders in the water.
The Town: An island at the southernmost tip of China, Hainan could best be described as nascent. Because of the weather and wind patterns over the South China Sea, it has some of the most consistent waves in the region. Hainan’s local surfers are dedicated, passionate, and welcoming—if you can find them. Surfing is not yet popular in China, and the surf culture here is still emerging.
But for those for whom this is more of a siren’s call than a deal breaker, the rewards will be the waves: From reefs to points to beach breaks, Hainan has it all.
When: November to April
Learn: The Sanya Surf Club is both a surf school and a beachside restaurant.
Eat: Go local. You’ll find culinary treasures at food carts and kitchen front shops.
Play: Sanya is also the nightlife hub of Hainan. You can dance until dawn, unless you’re too surfed out.
Stay: Hainan is like the Waikiki of China, with endless hotels. The bigger ones tend to have English-speaking staff.
Local Tip: You’ll need a VPN and a phone that can be used with Chinese networks to post on social media.
PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN SEATON CALLAHAN, AURORA
BUKIT, BALI, INDONESIA
Why You Should Go: You’ll want to spend as much time exploring the beautiful, temple-studded hills as surfing the world-class breaks.
The Town: If you want to rub shoulders with the best surfers in the world, head to Bali. Unlike its more touristy cousin, Kuta Beach, the Bukit Peninsula is a rural outpost of limestone cliffs, pristine beaches, treacherous reef breaks, and hilltop temples.
Beginner and intermediate surfers should try beach breaks such as Dreamland. More experienced surfers need to take a crack at two of the most famous spots in the world—Uluwatu and Padang Padang. For Padang Padang, be sure to bring plenty of antiseptic for the occasional run-in with the reef.
When: May to September
Learn: Try out Quiksilver Bali Surf School, which is co-owned by Holly Monkman, a longtime Roxy team manager, Bali transplant, and skilled coach.
Eat: Traditional Indonesian cafés, or warungs, line the beaches and offer safe, local fare for good prices. Stop at Made’s Warung in Kuta, which began as a roadside warung and is now a popular restaurant serving Indonesian and international cuisine.
Stay: Mick’s Place sits on the cliffs of Bingin Beach overlooking some of the best waves in Bali and offers yoga sessions for a post-surf stretch.
Play: A visit to the Uluwatu Temple is a must, and, once you’re there, be sure to stay for the nightly Kecak dance performance at sunset.
Local Tip: Learning to ride a motorbike while holding a surfboard is a rite of passage. It’s worth it to learn the challenging endeavour on side streets first.
PHOTOGRAPH BY JS CALLAHAN, ALAMY
MARESIAS, SÃO SEBASTIÃN, BRAZIL
Why You Should Go: The birthplace of Brazil’s first World Champion of surf, Maresias is best known for its mix of powerful, barreling waves and red-hot nightlife.
The Town: Located about 100 miles east of São Paulo, Maresias became a holiday destination for Brazilians in the 1990s, two decades after a road was cut through the rainforest to connect the cities.
The thick jungle that previously made it less accessible, however, is also one of its selling points. “Maresias is hugged by the rainforest, which has an amazing landscape and fauna,” said Igor Morais, a local surf brand team manager.
Maresias is best for intermediate and expert surfers, but beginners aren’t left high and dry. According to Morais, Maresias Beach’s left-hand corner offers mellower conditions.
When: March to May and August to October, when warm water and ideal wind and swell directions are on tap.
Learn: “I recommend the North Shore Riders Surf School,” said Morais. “The teachers are really good surfers and educated.”
Eat: Badauê and Os Alemão, with ocean views, are among Morais’ favourites. To taste Prato Feito, the most popular meal in Brazil, head to Restaurante Terral.
Stay: For backpackers, there’s Che Lagarto. For some beachside luxury, try the Maui Maresias.
Play: Pack your dancing shoes, because Maresias is teeming with venues like Sirena that play all-night DJ sets.
Local Tip: Avoid Friday nights and holidays for your drive; as a popular destination for city-swelling Paulistas (or São Paulo residents), the typically two-to-three-hour trip could take up to five if the weather is good.
PHOTOGRAPH BY RICK NEVES, GETTY IMAGES
THE ALGARVE, PORTUGAL
Why You Should Go: Blessed with waves to the west and the south, plus a pulsing party scene in the summer, the Algarve is ever ripe for adventure.
The Town: Get ready for some of the best waves of your life, and the most fun finding them—that is, if you get out of bed before noon. “A lot of families and older people come to the Algarve,” says Ilonka Spronk, who runs TSE The Surf Experience, a villa and guide company. “But in summer Lagos turns into a party town.”
Perched at the south of Portugal, the Algarve’s seductive mix attracts two kinds of surfers. “The more social ones, who love to hang out with other people, surf a bit, enjoy a beer, but mainly enjoy the lifestyle. The other ... comes purely for the waves,” explains Spronk.
When: The social type? Summer. Salty surfer type? Any other time.
Learn: “Of course TSE The Surf Experience!” exclaims Spronk. “We have surfers that just join us for lessons and guests that stay and surf with us.”
Eat: Go local with Portuguese cafés and restaurants for fresh fish, boiled potatoes, and salad, along with bifana, or pork sandwiches.
Stay: Situated outside of Lagos—a healthy distance from the party scene, but close enough for ride to the action—TSE The Surf Experience has all-inclusive villas and options for self-catering as well.
Play: Daytime options abound, like visiting Sagres, known as “the end of the world” for its remote nature.
Local Tip: “Going for a surf here doesn’t mean just jumping into the car and going to the beach,” says Spronk. “You need to know about the spots and their characteristics—and get there early to park.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY PAWEL KAZMIERCZAK, ALAMY
Why You Should Go: With endless, unintimidating waves, a wide swath of beach, and lights bright enough to surf past dark, Waikiki is everything pop culture references promise it will be.
The Town: “Modern-day surfing as we know it today was born in Waikiki,” said Lauren Rolland, media and communications manager for the World Surf League, Hawaii/Tahiti Nui. “Duke Kahanamoku's bronze immortalization, beach boys surfing outrigger canoes, umbrellas blooming on white sand and tropical libations served up in coconuts—are all alive and well here.”
Despite the bad rap the “town” gets from surfing’s hard-core, the delight of Waikiki’s long, slow-breaking waves and abundant nightlife make it a must for any surfer, from the neophyte to the seasoned professional.
When: May and June or September and October
Learn: Faith Surf School is owned and operated by the Moniz family, which has deep roots in professional surfing.
Eat: Get a meal at Bills Sydney. “The name doesn't scream Hawaii,” says Rolland, “but the food infusions and flavours are a great reflection of Hawaii's Pacific Rim melting pot, with artisanal dishes, a tropically modern open-air ambience and reasonable prices.”
Stay: “Off the strip but still close enough to walk with board to the beach is the mid-century modern Surfjack, which transports you to an era of luxe-leisure straight out of Mad Men,” Rolland says.
Play: If the surf is flat, take a hike.
Local Tip: Every Friday night you can roll up to a Waikiki bar—or pack a picnic and hit the sand—for fireworks. “If you're feeling adventurous,” says Rolland, “grab your board and paddle out for the best seat in Waikiki.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY ROOM/ALAMY
Why You Should Go: This destination, where old meets new, offers an exuberant surf scene, cobblestone streets, and dramatic, seaside cliffs.
The Town: A peninsula on the southwestern tip of England, Cornwall is comprised of hamlets that have mostly retained their original architecture, but are infused with youthful energy, creative enterprises, and a burgeoning surf culture.
And the surf itself? Cornwall has it all (if you don’t mind wearing a wetsuit). “Because it’s a long finger of land with both south and north coasts it holds swell and wind of nearly any strength, size, and direction,” says Peony Knight, a British pro-surfer. “Also significant is the huge tidal swing! Some beaches have low-tide breaks, mid-tide breaks, and high-tide breaks.”
When: The period from September to February has the best swells, while summer is best for learning, as well as partying at some of the area’s big surf and music festivals.
Learn: Knight recommends Surf South West in Croyde, and also researching schools that are registered by Surfing England.
Eat: Organic, locally produced food rules here, but one standout is Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall, which employs at-risk youth.
Play: Coasteering—a kind of safari-meets-seafaring tour—is big in Cornwall; companies like Xtreme Coasteering lead the way.
Stay: Try The Thatch in Croyde, which has a fun pub with live music, or the luxurious Headland Hotel in Fistral.
Local Tip: Along with having nearly every type of wave, Cornwall is home to almost every kind of cold-water surf hazard—rocks, rips, and currents. Make sure you surf at beaches with lifeguards.
PHOTOGRAPH BY PAUL HARRIS, AURORA
MARGARET RIVER, AUSTRALIA
Why You Should Go: With high-quality, open-ocean surf, local wineries, a rugged landscape, and endless, untouched coastline, Margaret River is begging to be explored.
The Town: Tucked away in Western Australia’s south-west corner, Margaret River is a quaint town down the coast from Perth, the biggest city on the country’s west coast.
Despite its dreamy aesthetic, surfing here is not for the faint of heart. “The waves are generally pretty raw and powerful reef breaks, with a spattering of beach breaks thrown in the mix,” says Dave Macaulay, a shaper, former pro-surfer, and Margaret River native. There are only a handful of waves suitable for beginners, but watching from the sand isn’t much of a chore. Humans here share the lineup with pods of dolphins and the occasional whale.
When: Autumn, namely March to May, and spring
Learn: Get a lesson at the Josh Palmateer Surf Academy, or ask for recommendations at Beach Life Surf Shop in Margaret River town.
Eat: Macaulay’s picks are Woody Nook Winery and Olio Bello, both of which are reasonably priced and have good food and ambience.
Play: If the surf is blown out, stroll part of the Cape to Cape walk or visit the Lake Cave.
Stay: “I'm biased, but renting a house in Gracetown is awesome—on the beach or in Gnarabup, Yallingup, or Dunsborough,” says Macaulay. “There's a caravan park at Prevelly, too—and secluded houses in the bush.”
Local Tip: “Know your ability in the surf and respect the local surfers,” Macaulay says. “They're generally very friendly.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL WILLIS, ALAMY
MUIZENBERG, SOUTH AFRICA
Why You Should Go: Beginners looking for an inviting environment to get their feet wet can find one here, along with a vibrant cosmopolitan town.
The Town: In a country known for cold-water, heavy waves, and sharks, Muizenberg, South Africa, is an oasis of gentle rollers, friendly locals, and beachside cafés—not to mention the local wineries. “Muizenberg is the best learn-to-surf beach in the world,” said Tim Conibear, founder of Waves for Change, a Cape Town organisation that provides “surf therapy” to kids from low-income neighbourhoods.
“The attitude in the water is also super mellow, with a general acceptance of all watercrafts and abilities. Shark spotters keep you safe, so you don't need to worry. For heavier waves, head toward Kalk Bay, where there's a serious reef.”
Learn: Conibear recommends Lifestyle Surf Shop for all your surf needs, including lessons and board and wetsuit rentals. The shop even shapes their own boards.
Eat: Kalk Bay is known for its nightlife and food, especially from Olympia Café, which Conibear describes as “a must.”
Stay: The Chartfield Guesthouse in neighbouring Kalk Bay has great ocean views and is a short walk to restaurants and bars.
Play: Head to Table Mountain National Park for unparalleled views, or spend a day volunteering with Waves for Change.
Local Tip: The air temperatures may be hot in the South African summer, but the water temperatures can be cold, so make sure to bring or rent the right wetsuit.
PHOTOGRAPH BY BLAINE HARRINGTON III, ALAMY
LAS SALINAS, NICARAGUA
Why You Should Go: With offshore winds almost every day of the year, all day long, Las Salinas has some of the most consistent surfing conditions in the world.
When: March to September and November to December
The Town: From Popoyo beach to nearby reef breaks, the ocean here is your oyster (so to speak). Sometimes described as being like Costa Rica 20 years ago, Nicaragua is still developing as a tourist destination. It has a long and rocky relationship with the U.S., and the ravages of political tumult are still palpable.
Learn: Two Brothers Surf, a school and resort on a hilltop in Las Salinas, offer lessons for newbies and boat trips for surfers who’d like to catch waves and spot wildlife on the same trip.
Eat: For a post-dawn patrol Nicaraguan breakfast—boasting tropical delights like fresh fruit juice and plantains—try the El Toro restaurant at the Hotel Popoyo. (It's so good you'll be back for dinner.)
Stay: Two Brothers offers accommodations, as does Surfari Charters, run by Lance and Kristin Moss, who take guests fishing as well as surfing.
Play: Explore some of Nicaragua’s interior at the Mombacho Volcano and nature reserve, where there’s hiking for visitors at every fitness level.
Local Tip: It’s best to go with a guide who knows which wave is working and when. Without guidance, says Two Brothers’ Robert Gregory, “If you’re coming to surf, you might miss it.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY MARIANNA DAY MASSEY, ZUMA/ALAMY
SAN CLEMENTE, CALIFORNIA
Why You Should Go: From the world-class waves to the pros who have made it their home—plus surf-inspired decor in places across the city—San Clemente is a must for anyone who eats, dreams, and sleeps surf.
The Town: Nestled between Los Angeles and San Diego, with breaks for every skill-level, this little town is a wave-lover’s mecca. It’s long been the heart of Southern California’s surf industry, where numerous magazines, shapers, and brands have set up shop. You’ll have to work harder to get waves, but you could also rub salty elbows with the stars while grabbing a post-surf beer.
What makes this town extra-special is the vast stretch of land that’s protected from development but open for recreation. Apart from the San Onofre Beach Campground, which provides beach access and camping to military personnel, just about every inch of coastline is accessible.
Learn: The Paskowitz Surf Camp is among the oldest in town, and the brainchild of Dorian Paskowitz, a doctor who gave up his medical practice to celebrate a life of surfing with his wife and children. His family now runs the surf school and camp and works to maintain his welcoming Aloha-centered ethos.
Eat: Hapa J’s is a local favourite, with Hawaiian-fusion food, poke bowls, and the famously decadent “man fries,” which make nachos look like diet food.
Stay: For the full surf experience—complete with a surf-themed bar upstairs—stay downtown at the newly opened Nomads Hotel.
Play: Unless your body’s had it from a long surf session, set aside time to enjoy some of San Clemente’s hiking and mountain biking trails.
Local Tip: San Clemente can be crowded and full of professionals. Beginners should stay at San Onofre, where dozens of peaks provide plenty of room to play.
PHOTOGRAPH BY BENJAMIN GINSBERG, ALAMY
QUEENS, NEW YORK
Why You Should Go: Proximity to the city is this spot’s biggest allure, along with a distinct local surf culture born of battles with the elements.
The Town: Waves in the Rockaways can change hour to hour, depending on swell, wind, and weather. But that only adds to its charm, says Tyler Breuer, a longtime local surfer and founder of S.M.A.S.H. Productions. It also makes the community more committed. “You have a passionate group of surfers here, partly because it’s feast or famine. You have these long stretches in between, so you devour anything that has to do with surf.”
Rockaway Beach has also faced profound loss, after Hurricane Sandy ravaged it in 2012. But, with characteristic New York grit, they rebuilt the boardwalk, drawing businesses and surfers back.
When: Winter is best for enthusiastic surfers who wants to feel hard core. Fall is for hurricane swell. Summer is when, Breuer said, “it’s hot as balls in the city and you need to cool down.”
Learn: Take a lesson from Mike and Mike of Locals Surf School and Skudin Surf.
Eat: Rockaway Beach Surf Club is a one-stop shop for food, booze, and the all-important post-surf taco at their seasonal stand, Tacoway Beach.
Stay: “Airbnb is going to be your best bet—best value and easy,” says Breuer.
Play: A summer ferry ride to South Street Seaport will take you past Governor’s Island and the Statue of Liberty. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge promises bird-watching and hiking.
Local Tip: “Look for ‘kook camouflage.’ You’ll think it’s really crowded, but then you get there and realise most don’t know how to surf.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAL BESSER, ALAMY
RAGLAN, NEW ZEALAND
Why You Should Go: A mecca for outdoor activities, Raglan has a throwback surf vibe and grassroots cultural scene, along with craft stores and a farm-to-table culinary ethos.
The Town: The surfing world first learned about Raglan when its empty left-hand point breaks appeared in Bruce Brown’s iconic surfing film, The Endless Summer. These days you can expect more of a crowd in the lineup, but the community spirit still is alive and well, according to Charlie Young, director of the Raglan Surfing School.
Low-pressure systems generated in the Roaring Forties (an area between latitude 40° and 50° S that produces some of the strongest and most consistent swells in the world) sends waves to setups that include the beginner-to intermediate-friendly Ngarunui Beach and the more advanced Manu Bay.
When: Go from November to February, during New Zealand’s summer, to enjoy the subtropical air temperatures.
Learn: Take a lesson at Raglan Surfing School. This pioneering surf school also rents wetsuits if you don’t feel like packing yours.
Stay: Sleeping Lady Lodges overlooks Whale Bay, so you can check the waves without even leaving your room.
Eat: “The Raglan Bakery does homemade meat pies that are amazing,” said Young, and dinner at the Orca Restaurant and Bar boasts local lamb and live music.
Play: Take a day trip to the Waikato Museum in Hamilton, where you can learn about the mixing of European and Maori cultures that produced modern Kiwi culture.
Local Tip: New Zealand is still sparsely populated outside its cities, so if the crowds at one surf spot get too hectic, hop in a car and find another.
PHOTOGRAPH BY HEMIS/ALAMY
SAN SEBASTIÁN, SPAIN
Why You Should Go: Spend the nights enjoying excellent bars and world-class restaurants in a charming, walkable city, and spend the afternoons surfing off your hangover.
The Town: San Sebastián is the cultural capital of Spain’s vibrant Basque country. Though not as renowned for waves as the nearby hotspots in south-west France, it more than makes up for its low-key reputation by being a hub for music, cinema, and molecular gastronomy.
“You can surf at Zurriola Beach then walk over to the old part of the city for a few pintxos (or small snacks) and a couple glasses of beer,” said local surfer and city tourism official Jokin Arroyo Uriarte. In short: It’s easy to fall hard for the historic town.
When: June to November. The San Sebastián International Film Festival takes place in September.
Learn: Zurriola Surf Eskola is one of San Sebastián’s newer surf schools. It offers great equipment and has a young, dedicated staff.
Eat: A gastronomic wonderland, the old part of the city is filled with pintxo (small plate) restaurants that double as bars. For a sit-down meal, head to the Michelin-rated Arzak.
Play: Hike up Mount Urgull for great views of the Bahía de la Concha, or visit a Sidrería, where the Basques make some of their famous hard ciders.
Local Tip: “Drop by the surf club and chat with some locals,” said Arroyo Uriarte. “If you’re lucky, someone might invite you to a private dinner in one of the gastronomic societies, which are temples of Basque gastronomy.” And speaking a little Basque goes a long way: kaixo means “hello” and agur means “see you later.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY AINARA GARCIA, ALAMY
NARRAGANSETT, RHODE ISLAND
Why You Should Go: Experience the picturesque beauty of the fancier, more famous Newport, Rhode Island, with none of the attitudes.
The Town: Much beloved among New England surfers, Narragansett can get some of the best waves of the region, because it has both point breaks and beach breaks. That range is what made Peter Pan, a local legend and owner of Narragansett Surf & Skate, a lifer. “I surf by myself 99 percent of the time,” he said—a rarity in the modern surf era.
Along with the secret spots, however, is a beginner’s playground at the town beach. According to Pan, the shallow sandbars stretching far from shore generate waves all the time, no matter how fickle the swell.
When: Fall and spring are the most consistent. Summer brings the type of small waves that are perfect for learning.
Learn: Narragansett Surf & Skate is one of the few schools that teach lessons year-round. They also rent winter-weight wetsuits for men and women of all sizes.
Eat: For a “hard-core” breakfast, head to Old Mountain Lanes in South Kingston, where the dining room is part of—you guessed it—a bowling alley.
Stay: Overlooking Point Judith is The Break, “the coolest hotel in Narragansett,” according to Pan. It offers fantastic views and a new restaurant and bar, but also “New York rates.”
Play: The nine-mile Narrow River flows into Town Beach, and Narrow River Kayaks can set you up to explore it.
Local Tip: If a sign says don’t park there, don’t do it.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CATE BROWN, AURORA
Why You Should Go: Tropical air, inviting waves, walkability, and a rich street culture—not to mention incredible food at every turn—make this town a rare gem.
The Town: Alive with street vendors, over-tanned surfers, and the golf carts that locals use to get around, Sayulita is teeming—and that’s just on land. The beach’s lineup is a mix of first-timers at the sandbar, longboarders at the rock-bottom point, and the occasional local professionals when the waves are good.
Sayulita is a fishing town that quickly evolved to accommodate an influx of Canadian tourists. Along with the Mexican families that settled there, it’s now home to a mash-up of global transplants. Surfers have a wealth of wave to choose from, while foodies can graze from the taco stands, smoothie counters, and open-air spots to sip a margarita (or six).
When: Summer is the most consistent, but also the hottest, time of the year.
Learn: Located at the south end of the town beach, Lunazul Surf School is friendly and convenient. Plus it helpfully provides both lockers in the store and a shower on the beach.
Eat: The lively La Rustica is locally owned, with unparalleled the food and service.
Play: Break out your boat shoes and join Ally Cat Sailing for a day trip to the Marietas Islands.
Stay: Petit Hotel Hafa is simple, elegant, and owned by the lovely Mignots, a couple with pro-surfing children.
Local Tip: Arrange a car service from the airport to wade through the sea of drivers shouting for your business.
PHOTOGRAPH BY LISA SEAMAN, AURORA
Why You Should Go: Explore labyrinthine corridors of some of the world’s oldest cities, then ride some of the best waves of your life.
The Town: Taghazout, Morocco, is a surfing oasis in the middle of a long, rugged coastline. This ancient Berber encampment became an outpost for European adventurers trekking into Morocco in the 1960s. And throughout that same period, surfers happened upon the region and set up shop in Taghazout. Today that unique mix still exists in what feels like a frontier town at the edge of the desert. The waves are almost always long-period ground swells—which means great shape and plenty of power—and the winds consistently blow offshore.
Learn: Surf Rider Camp is run by one of Morocco’s best surfers, Yassine Ramdani.
Eat/Drink: “Don’t leave without trying a tagine, a traditional stew cooked in a large clay pot,” said Ramdani. You can get great traditional food at Restaurant Florida, he says.
Stay: Located on the water’s edge, Surf Maroc’s Taghazout Villa is a surfing clubhouse and outfitter for anything you might want to do in Taghazout and the surrounding area.
Play: Head to Agadir’s central market, Souk El Had, to pick up bottles of argan oil, a local panacea that is said to be good for everything from cooking to hair conditioning, or treat yourself to a hammam, a local tradition of Turkish-style steam bathing.
Local Tip: If you go exploring for waves, be sure to have a 4WD vehicle and plenty of water.
PHOTOGRAPH BY SIOEN GERARD, AURORA
TOFINO, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Why You Should Go: Surf travellers who want to trade the surfer dude vibe for something more earthy … and don’t mind wearing a bit of neoprene.
The Town: California may be a North American surfing epicentre, but one of the most wave-rich towns on the continent’s West Coast is further north. Tofino, British Columbia, is an old fur trading and logging town that’s full of wildlife and beauty. Winters can be harsh, but spring and summer bring warmer air and nonstop activities.
Tofino also happens to have plenty of waves.
“All of our beaches are beginner friendly, especially in the summer,” said local Peter Devries. “There is the odd exception where the banks can change and get powerful and hollow, but there is always somewhere for beginners.”
When: March to September. The biggest waves arrive in the winter, along with freezing air temperatures and heavy storm surf.
Learn: Tofino Surf School owner Jeff Hasse is a local institution, while Storm Surf Shop can supply all your gear needs.
Stay: If enjoying the scenery from the comfort of your double-soaker tub is your idea of rustic, try the Wickaninnish Inn.
Eat: “For a small town, Tofino is blessed with a lot of good food,” said Devries. “My favourite restaurant is SoBo—everything on the menu is amazing!”
Play: From March through October, head to sea to spot Gray Whales swim in the waters off Tofino. If you time your trip carefully, you can witness one of the ocean’s great migrations as the whales swim from Baja, Mexico, to the Bering Sea.
Local Tip: With a summer sun that rises around 5 a.m. and doesn’t set until around 9:30 p.m., you can pack all kinds of adventure into one day. Take advantage of the extra daylight by surfing at dawn and getting in a hike before lunch.
PHOTOGRAPH BY DAN RAFLA, AURORA
ST. BARTHÉLEMY, CARIBBEAN
Why You Should Go: A posh European enclave in the Caribbean, this well-manicured island has waves, culture, and beauty for the most refined tastes, without the pretension.
The Town: St.-Barts is better known for visiting yacht owners like Jay-Z than world-class waves, but its reef breaks make it a magnifique destination for surfers too. There’s a pleasant mix here of high and low. Yes, there are parties into the night, but there is also peace and quiet.
If you aren’t distracted by the sugar-fine sand, topless beachgoers, or smell of money, two of the main surfing beaches are Toiny, at the south-east end, and Lorient, to the north. Windswell here is a fact of life, but so are the occasional, peeling sets and A-Frames at the more advanced spot, The Ledge.
Learn: The Reefer Surf Club is a hub for surfers on the island, with lessons and workshops.
Eat: For a casual, healthy bite at the beach, Maya’s To Go is your bikini-friendly go-to.
Play: On this island paradise, you could snorkel, dive, surf, sail, and swim your way through your trip. Or you could indulge and get a massage.
Stay: Hotel Emeraude Plage offers luxury without veering into the ridiculous and sits on a quiet beach that’s six minutes from Lorient.
Local Tip: If you’ve made it to St.-Barts, you don’t need any tips.
PHOTOGRAPH BY HEMIS/ALAMY