We’ve picked five favorite surf spots from the Maldives to Montauk. Here’s what to know and where to stay.
Kuda Huraa, Maldives
The Maldives’ reputation as a haven for divers is well documented. But surfers also flock to these picturesque islands for some serious wave action. Programs range from beginner classes that teach basic skills in calm lagoons to exotic seaplane surf safaris that fly more experienced riders to the day’s best waves in outer atolls. Last week marked the area’s yearly championship, with Australia’s Dave “Rasta” Rastovich taking the trophy.
Stay: Four Seasons Kuda Huraa is pricey but spectacular and caters equally well to families and honeymooners. Overwater bungalows are best for families with older children (i.e. not the kind likely to fall into the water accidentally), while the beach bungalows give the toddler crowd direct access to the sand.
Montauk, New York
The Hamptons crowd has edged into Montauk’s surfer population, but Ditch Plains still offers some of the most consistent waves on the East Coast. Plus, the family-friendly vibe makes the beach a good option for those who want to build sand castles and watch surfing versus riding the waves themselves. Be aware that weekend crowds grow dramatically during the summer, and wetsuits are recommended year-round. For more advanced territory, head to Turtles under the Montauk Point Lighthouse. Pick up breakfast tacos and fresh juices at La Brisa.
Stay: Most Montauk regulars rent houses, but there are a few hotels worth trying. Sole East is a former motel revamped with modern interiors and two locations, one on the beach and one by Fort Bay Pond. The trendy crowd flocks to the Surf Lodge and Ruschmeyer's, though some families stay as well. The Montauk Yacht Club, a former private club turned hotel, sits on Lake Montauk.
Around 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita’s funky shops, mellow restaurants and cool locals feel a million miles away from the spring break crowd down south. This popular surf spot draws a crowd year-round (and several Mexican national champions live in the area), but off-season is a great time to visit when the water isn’t crowded. Be sure to recharge after a long day at ChocoBanana in the main square. These frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut might be the best treat we’ve found anywhere.
Stay: Families who like a more traditional resort with a kids’ club should check into the St. Regis or the Four Seasons Punta Mita. Those looking for something a bit different will love Imanta, an Aman-style resort with eleven huge suites spread through separate casitas tucked into the jungle by a pristine Pacific beach.
Santa Cruz, California
Coastal California has no shortage of great surf towns, but an especially good base for families is Santa Cruz. The area’s beaches include everything from beginner breaks to the legendary Mavericks, located an hour north of Santa Cruz and a place to watch the pros catch some of California’s most impressive waves. Other fun activities include riding the gondola over the Santa Cruz boardwalk to checking out the small surf museum and picking up pizzas from La Posta.
Stay: Santa Cruz (thankfully) lacks any big resorts, and families check into Dream Inn, a 1960s ten-story hotel transformed into a retro-chic beach resort that’s high on style and low on attitude. All rooms have private outdoor space, perfect for a glass of local wine after the kids are asleep.
When it comes to surfing, France’s west coast is its best coast. Biarritz not only has excellent breakers (Quiksilver runs a surf school here) but there’s also excellent food and easy access to exploring the Basque Country. San Sebastian is an easy day trip and another surfing hotspot. Don’t miss Biarritz's Cité de l'Océan, an architecturally striking museum dedicated the study of the sea. Architect Steven Holl is a surfer himself, and the building takes the shape of a curving wave. (Hint: there’s also a skate bowl, so bring your board.)
Stay: The grand Hotel du Palais has hosted Biarritz’s high life since 1893, but its modern incarnation is fully family friendly. In addition to a children’s pool and playground, the hotel runs summer camps and children under 10 stay for free in their parents’ room.