Grab a bunch friends and hit the waves for the ultimate surfing holiday. We explore world-class breaks and stays. ￼
Margaret River, Australia
Sometimes you only need to look in your own backyard to find paradise; specifically, in Western Australia’s Margaret River region, which boasts some 75 surf breaks along more than 130 kilometres of unspoilt coast. It’s worth hiring a car to explore the area but the reputable Margaret River Main Break is one of the country’s most reliable big-wave destinations. While the swell can reach 20 feet (six metres), the break is at its peak around six feet, when a reef half a kilometre out to sea helps it develop into a long, clean left-hander. North Point, in Gracetown, is another star attraction. Situated inside Cowaramup Bay, it’s a pretty brutal shallow right-hand reef break best tackled by those with genuine surfing chops.
Around 30 minutes’ drive north of Margaret River, Yallingup’s Injidup Spa Retreat is the ideal place to unwind. With 10 ocean-facing villas high on a bluff, it’s close to vineyards and hiking trails so you can make the most of this premier wine region.
The Hawaiian archipelago is famous for the big-wave scene of Oahu’s North Shore but there are impressive breaks throughout the islands, including Hanalei Bay in the northern part of Kauai, aka the Garden Isle. Depending on swell conditions, Hanalei is suitable for both beginners and kamikaze pros. Other spots nearby include: Tunnels, a powerful reef break suited to experienced surfers; epic Kalihiwai, a fast right-hand point break; and Cannons, a classic left-hand reef break that pumps out a hollow wave shape and raw power.
Make your way to the heavenly St Regis Princeville, a 15-minute drive from Hanalei Bay, and relax by the pool with views of the impossibly blue ocean and towering Mount Namolokama in the distance.
California, United States
Surfing became a thing on America’s west coast when a Hawaiian named George Freeth was appointed California’s first unofficial lifeguard in 1907. But the real boom came in the 1950s when the proliferation of cars enabled surfers to traverse the coastline. The culture is now firmly entrenched, with incredible breaks stretching north of Los Angeles to San Francisco and beyond. Classic spots can be found in Malibu, then heading north along the Ventura County Coast up to Santa Barbara, an archetypal surf town between the Pacific Ocean and Santa Ynez mountains that’s often likened to the French Riviera. Three-time world champion Tom Curren made his name at Rincon Point , a long, near-perfect right-hander dubbed the “Queen of the Coast”. The break, off Highway 101, consists of three amazing and distinct locations: Indicator, Rivermouth and The Cove.
Nestled amid nine hectares of gardens, the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara offers customised surfing expeditions led by, yes, Tom Curren.
This is a close-to-home mecca for warm water and relatively uncrowded surf trips. For those looking to tackle some of the wildest waves in northern Fiji, Qamea Resort & Spa on the islet of Qamea, just east of Taveuni island, has partnered with Tropicsurf to access some of the South Pacific’s hitherto untapped breaks. Between November and April, take a 15-minute boat ride to Maqai, a superb right-hander consisting of three sections spanning a shallow reef. Ask your guide to help you explore other hidden breaks around the region.
Qamea Resort & Spa is surrounded by 40 hectares of tropical gardens and accommodates only 34 guests. If the swell dies down, an on-site PADI-accredited dive shop means you can explore life beneath the waves.
Raglan, New Zealand
The surfing scene across the Tasman is a little harder to find but that’s part of its charm. Some of the most elegant breakscan be found around Raglan, just west of Hamilton on New Zealand’s North Island. Intermediate or more advanced surfers should hit up Manu Bay, a stunning left-hand point break that featured in the 1966 cult film The Endless Summer. Beginners will love the long, flat expanse of Ngarunui Beach, a year-round left-hand wave that breaks off a striking black-sand beach.
Perched above the ocean in Whale Bay amid native bushland, Waoku Lodge offers four apartments, each with its own private deck, spa and ocean views. It’s a tranquil escape about a 10-minute drive to the township of Raglan, a hub of boutique galleries and cafés with a creative air.
North Malé Atoll, The Maldives
The chain of 26 atolls that make up this Indian Ocean paradise produce some of the most consistent swells on the planet. Not necessarily known for their power, the waves here can produce long, rideable barrels – especially between April and October – thanks to offshore winds and storm cells in the Maldives’ deep south. North Malé Atoll has the highest concentration of quality waves. Pasta Point, on the eastern side of the atoll, produces four- to six-foot left-handers on a shallow reef. It cranks between May and August. Other top spots include the nearby Sultans (a right-hand-breaking wave) and Honky’s (a sublime left-hander just south).
There are loads of lavish resorts but chartering a yacht means you can take your hotel to the swell. Among the slickest is Azalea, which combines state-of-the-art design with an expert crew delivering insider tips on the best breaks.
Bali has long been one of the most popular surfing destinations for Australians but if you’re looking for a more offbeat and pristine place that’s not as well known, consider Nihiwatu, about an hour’s flight from Bali on Sumba’s southern shore. The island is home to Occy’s Left (named after Australian surfing champion Mark Occhilupo), a classic barrelling left-hand reef break that’s now one of the world’s most sought-after waves. Although the swell season runs from April to October, go during July and August for the best conditions. There are other breaks for the less experienced.
Nihiwatu is a seriously plush retreat with 2.5 kilometres of spotless sand on its doorstep. Just a 45-minute drive away, you can trek through the Wanukaka valley to the Blue Waterfall, a cascade with a sublime lagoon at its base. Or you can practise yoga and meditation, ride a horse or go spearfishing for mahi-mahi, wahoo and rainbow runner. ￼
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