Escapes

The 10 Best Surf Lodges in North America

And they're not all in Hawaii

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Surfers reflection     Photo: Cabezonication/Thinkstock

There might be no better vacation than a surfing holiday. Water, sun, waves, and a cold one at the end of the day sound A-OK to us. Luxury hotels are increasingly beginning to feel the same way—and not just in Hawaii. If you're an East Coaster or don't have the time to make the hop to Honolulu International, you're far from out of luck. Excellent surf lodges are popping up all over the place. We sought out the very best, keeping geographical diversity in mind. We dare you to read this without daydreaming about booking a flight.

The St. Regis Princeville Resort

  Photo: Christian Arballo/Flickr

Kauai, Hawaii
For a nice change of pace from the crowded, aggro scene on Oahu's North Shore, check out the St. Regis Princeville, situated directly on Hanalei Bay. The island's premier luxury hotel offers full spa services, a world-class Robert Trent Jones Jr.–designed golf course, and multiple top-notch restaurants that run the gamut from laid-back bar food to near-Michelin-star-worthy dining at the Kauai Grill.

Even better, the hotel is just a few minutes up the road from Hanalei, arguably the best little surf town in the world. Head there in the evening for poke (aka Hawaiian sushi) at the Dolphin's outdoor bar, then walk down the street to the divey Tahiti Nui for one of its famously stiff mai tais.

Hanalei Bay, home to the late, great Andy Irons and big-wave legend Laird Hamilton, offers multiple surf spots, many of which are just a short paddle from the throngs of honeymooners on the St. Regis's private beach. The waves range from sandy-bottomed beginner breaks to expert-only bombs where you'd be wise to respect both the ocean and the locals. When you're done for the day, paddle back to the hotel to watch one of the most awe-inspiring sunsets you'll likely ever see.

From $490 per night.


The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

  Photo: Angry JulieMonday/Flickr

Dana Point, California
Located on a 150-foot bluff overlooking Salt Creek Beach in surf-crazy Dana Point, California, the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is perhaps the country's preeminent hotel when it comes to mixing luxury with a love of surfing. However, that wasn't always the case. "For years, the Ritz-Carlton tried to hide the Salt Creek surf break from its customers; they thought it was just the riffraff out there surfing, and they put up walls and stuff to block the view," explains Matt Thomson, founder of Wavecation.com. "But then a few years ago, they realized what an incredible amenity those waves were, and they set it up so the hotel has great views of the waves, and they run surf camps, and rent boards, and do family lessons and stuff. If you're a surfer, it's truly an awesome place to stay."

The hotel offers all the lux amenities and services you'd expect from a Ritz-Carlton property, including a full spa, a fitness center overlooking the Pacific, and a bevy of restaurants highlighted by Chef Richard Sandoval's Raya, which serves up fresh California seafood with pan-Latin flare.

Salt Creek is a powerful and technical break that attracts the pros when it's really going off. For the rest of us, the Ritz recommends making the five-minute trip to Doheny State Beach, where mushier waves are ideal for longboarders, groms, and other beginners.

Deluxe rooms from $595 per night.


Blockade Runner Beach Resort

  Photo: teresaphillips1965/Flickr

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
The tiny island of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, has an unusually rabid surf culture owing to its consistent swells, clear water, and surprisingly high-profile contingent of surfers—such as Ben Bourgeois and the Hobgood brothers—who either call the area home or never pass up a visit there.

Swells are best during the autumn hurricane season and into the bitterly cold winter, but a beach that faces south-southeast helps ensure that tasty East Coast breakers pepper the shoreline year round.

The Blockade Runner Beach Resort is a short walk from the Wrightsville bar scene, which stays hopping thanks to tourists, thirsty locals, and college kids from nearby UNC-Wilmington. For the flat days, the hotel offers paddleboard rentals and SUP yoga classes, as well as in-room massages to keep you loose for when the swell picks back up.

From $300 per night (peak season); from $95 per night (off season).


Vintage Surfari Wagons

  Photo: Kylie Turley/Flickr

California Coast
Based in Los Angeles, Vintage Surfari Wagons collects and refurbishes iconic Volkswagen Westfalia Campers and then rents them out to nostalgic adventurers, many of whom use the VWs to cruise the Pacific Coast Highway and chase their own endless summer. The campers are ideal for two, though proprietor Bill Staggs points out that the berths are big enough for two couples "as long as everybody's getting along great."

The world's your oyster when you rent a Surfari Wagon. You can cruise from Trestles to Steamer Lane if you want, stopping anywhere and everywhere in between. And though the VW Westfalia is a legendarily finicky vehicle, thanks in no small part to an underpowered engine and a decidedly nonaerodynamic shape, have no fear. Vintage Surfari Wagons has an army of mechanic friends up and down the coast who specialize in Volkswagens, and the company is dedicated to making sure you have the best surfari possible.

From $1050 per week, seven day minimum.


Cabo Surf Hotel

  Photo: Peter Giordano/Flickr

Los Cabos, Mexico
For south-of-the-border action on the wave-rich Baja coast, Wavecation.com's Thomson wholeheartedly recommends Cabo Surf Hotel in Los Cabos, Mexico. "This is just a classic, classic surf lodge," he says. "There's an incredible pool with a restaurant and bar right above the surf break. Your wife could be at the bar sipping a margarita, and you could be out in the lineup and wave to her."

The hotel has its own board-rental shop and hosts the Mike Doyle Surf School, which offers group, semiprivate, and one-on-one instruction. Three different breaks are in the immediate vicinity, including Old Man's, recommended for beginners and longboarders, and La Roca and Zippers, which are a bit more advanced. Prime surf season runs from March to November, but the hotel's beaches see waves suitable for beginners all year long.

From $265 per night.


Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore

Santa Barbara, California
Cradled between Butterfly Beach on the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, the Spanish Colonial–style Four Seasons doesn't fool around when it comes to catering to the surf-hungry crowd. For $1,500 a day, you can hang with local boy and three-time world champ Tom Curren, who will personally pick you up, scope out the local surf spots—including world-class point break Rincon—and spend the day surfin' USA with you, provided you can keep up.

Refuel poolside at the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, which dates from 1937. Try a local wine; Santa Barbara is knowm for its pinot noir.

From $545 per night.


Tatchu Adventures Eco Surf Village

  Photo: Magalie L'Abbé/Flickr

Vancouver Island, Canada
If you're allergic to crowded lineups, amenable to cold water, and don't necessarily want five-star treatment back at the lodge, Tatchu Adventures Eco Surf Village on Vancouver Island might be the place for you. Billing itself as "the only wilderness surf camp in Canada," the resort consists of 5,000 feet of boardwalk that wind around treehouses, a sauna, biomass outhouses, and a main lodge.

Be warned, this ain't exactly the Four Seasons—the village's website boasts electricity as an amenity—but it is a bona fide adventure, complete with rainforest hikes, slabby storm waves, gentler point and beach breaks, and the truly awesome natural surroundings of the Canadian west coast. Boards and wetsuits are provided, as are the services of surf guide Raphael Bruhwiler, who will make sure you get the most out of the occasionally tricky tidal waters surrounding the island.

From $1,185 for three nights.


Surf Studio Beach Resort

  Photo: mj*laflaca/Flickr

Cocoa Beach, Florida
The Florida surf scene is defined by often-mushy waves that ironically produce some of the best surfers in the world—the most famous of whom is, of course, Kelly Slater. The 11-time ASP World Tour champ hails from Cocoa Beach, one of the best places in the state to paddle out. The Surf Studio Beach Resort is perhaps the best place in town for Sunshine State surfers to stay. The low-key, family-owned, beachfront hotel is right on the water and offers board rentals. The most quality surfing is found by the Cocoa Beach Pier, which fares best during southeasterly wind chops or nor'easters.

Other Cocoa Beach surf attractions include Ron Jon's, currently the largest surf shop in the world. The Cocoa Beach Surf Museum documents the history of East Coast surfing, and of course Slater himself, who still lives there. Just don't be surprised if he snakes your wave. He's earned it.

From $115 per night.


The Cottages at Cape Kiwanda

  Photo: Andy Pixel/Flickr

Pacific City, Oregon 
Although it's not always mentioned as a surfing hotspot, the rugged and majestic Oregon coastline has some of the best waves you'll find on the mainland. The beaches of Pacific City are some of the most accessible in the state and feature two surf spots: the consistent, mellow, year-round rollers at Kiwanda Cove, and the faster, more powerful waves at ominously named Kiwanda Gas Chambers. 

The best place to stay in Pacific City is the Cottages at Cape Kiwanda, a collection of two- and three-bedroom oceanfront suites that rival five-star hotels with their amenities. Each cottage features a private deck with a grill and ocean views, heated tile floors, and a fireplace. The kitchens are outfitted with the very best cooking gear, so after you surf, you can whip up a feast of that famous Oregonian seafood without leaving the privacy of your own pad. Even better, some of the cottages are pet friendly, so you won't have to send Fido to the slammer for the weekend. Everybody wins. 

From $329 per night.


The Surf Lodge

  Photo: Lauren Craig/Flickr

Montauk, New York
Montauk has always been an East Coast surfing hotspot, thanks mostly to Ditch Plains, a classic rock-bottomed longboarding break that occasionally serves up as fast and hollow a wave as you'll find in the region. In recent years, the sleepy fishing town has undergone a bit of a renaissance and emerged as a vacation destination on par with its glitzier cousins to the west, the Hamptons.

At the forefront of this resurgence is a handful of chic hotels, perhaps the best of which is the Surf Lodge. New York City nightlife impresario Jayma Cardoso reopened the faux-divey hotel in 2012, offering all the energy of a typical Manhattan bottle-service club but with a beachy twist. The bar scene can get wild during the summer, so if you're looking for meditative peace and quiet, try elsewhere—but if you want to shred all day and party all night with the young and beautiful, the Surf Lodge is hard to beat. A parade of well-known indie bands keeps the back deck jumping while Byron, an on-site Australian-themed restaurant serves up seafood specialties such as steamed fluke and diver-caught scallops. Your seat overlooks Fort Pond Bay, where you can paddle all the way to downtown on one of the hotel's complimentary stand-up paddleboards.

From $295 per night.

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