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While California and Hawaii are well-known for outstanding surfing, there are many other places to ride some waves in the United States and in Central America both for beginners and experienced surfers. Several hotels cater to travelers on a surfing vacation with board storage, prime waterfront settings, and surfing camps, or are conveniently located near surfs shops that offer lessons and rentals. From Oregon and New Hampshire to Nicaragua and El Salvador, here are 10 top hotels that make a great base for a surf getaway.
Best Location: Dream Inn (California)
As Santa Cruz’s only beachfront hotel, The Dream Inn offers a killer location next to the historic boardwalk and just a short walk to the shops and restaurants. Surfing lessons are offered right in front of the hotel, or if you’ve got your own board, the hotel offers free storage. The 165-room Dream Inn has a retro-chic style with modern amenities such as iPod docking stations, bathrobes, Keurig coffeemakers and private patios. Guests can mingle around the fire pits and hot tub, grab a drink at the pool bar, or dine in one of two restaurants that serve up fresh organic, local cuisine and craft beer.
Best Budget: Surf Studio Beach Resort (Florida)
Set right on the sand in Cocoa Beach, Florida, the “surf capital of the East Coast,” the Surf Studio Beach Resort offers some affordable prices for oceanfront lodging. Family-owned since the 1940s, the 11 rooms are a simple throwback to a bygone era, but have kitchenettes or full kitchens and flat-screen televisions, plus an array of amenities. Guests can utilize the barbecue grills, borrow beach gear, take a dip in the outdoor pool or relax at the sundeck and picnic area. Cocoa Beach has several surf shops and schools less than two miles from the hotel – making it easy to catch some waves. TripAdvisor members enjoyed watching the sunrise from the hotel and the old-fashioned, mom-and-pop feel of the place.
Best for Friends: Mal Pais Surf Camp Resort (Costa Rica)
For friends looking to surf some gnarly waves, Mal Pais Surf Camp Resort has a number of accommodation options and a chilled out, community vibe. The most budget-friendly options are the communal rooms, but there are also private cabins, poolside villas and entire houses for rent. Founded in 1990, the hotel was one of the first to crop up in the surfing hotspot, and is steps away from the Playa Carmen beach break or (and if you want bigger waves, Santa Teresa isn’t far away). The hotel also has a massage area, book exchange, surf lessons, a pool and ping pong table, as well as an on-site bar and restaurant that’s ideal for meeting other travelers.
Best for Families: Surfsand Resort (Oregon)
Located right next door to the Cannon Beach Surf, an established shop that offers lessons, rentals and gear, the Surfsand Resort makes the perfect family-friendly base for a surf getaway on Oregon’s north coast. The 95-room hotel is 12 steps to the beach and offers numerous kid-friendly amenities such unlimited cookies, a dedicated kids' club with arts and crafts and beach toys and free dining at the on-site restaurant (with an adult). Spacious, pet-friendly rooms have beach views and fireplaces, and massage treatments are also available for adults to unwind. TripAdvisor members loved the community bonfire each evening with a bucket of s’more supplies provided by the staff. The surf at Cannon Beach itself tends to be smaller (great for kids to try), but just outside town are larger waves.
Best for Beginners: The Winds Resort Beach Club (North Carolina)
The small waves at Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina are perfect for beginners and a number of surf camps are offered for all ages to learn the sport (including special camps for the ladies). Several camps are held on the sand by The Winds Resort Beach Club, a family-owned oceanfront hotel with two pools, a Tiki bar, restaurant and plenty of fun beach amenities. Try your luck at cornhole, cook some burgers on the grills, play shuffleboard, borrow bikes or relax in the whirlpool spas. For surfers who want to practice on their own, several surf shops offer rentals within two miles of the 86-room hotel. TripAdvisor members recommend booking the ocean suites for fantastic views.
Best Views: Las Flores Resort (El Salvador)
Lesser-visited El Salvador is no secret to surfers, and the luxurious Las Flores Resort offers some great waves, fabulous food and jaw-dropping views. Many rooms are perched on the hillside and the yoga platform faces the ocean for amazing scenery while exercising. All seven rooms are individually decorated and have terraces or private balconies. The surf club offers rentals and lessons with top-tier waves just in front of the hotel. After riding some waves, unwind in the spa or grab a bite at the restaurant and bar. TripAdvisor members noted that the hotel is ideal for surfing and healthy lifestyles – but is not a good choice if you’re looking for nightlife.
Best for Experts: Hotel Santa Catalina (Panama)
The surf in the small town of Santa Catalina, Panama is some of the best; with massive waves (usually more than six feet) and prime surfing conditions year-round that is ideal for expert surfers. Nearby is Isla Coiba National Park and excellent scuba diving sites – making this a place where adventurers can hole up for a while. Hotel Santa Catalina is set right in front of the surf break and features spacious private rooms with memory foam mattresses, plus extra single beds or bunks – also making it ideal for friends. Other amenities include free skateboard or bike rentals, an oceanfront swimming pool with stunning views and a restaurant that serves healthy, fresh meals and local seafood dishes.
Best Splurge: Four Seasons Resort Maui (Hawaii)
If you’re a surfer who wants to be pampered after a day on the ocean, book a room or suite at the Four Seasons Resort in Maui. With some of the largest guestrooms on the island, living areas that extend out onto a lanai and spa-style bathrooms, the 76-room hotel has everything you'd want in a luxurious escape. Located on Maui’s south shore, the resort features three restaurants and bars, three beautiful pools, including an infinity pool or waterfall pool with cabanas, and lounge attendants delivering cucumbers, cool towels and cocktails. A number of fitness and wellness programs are available, and there's also a lavish spa with 13 treatment rooms and outdoor thatched huts. SUP yoga, outrigger canoes and surf lessons or rentals are all available through the hotel.
Best for Romance: Soma Surf Resort (Nicaragua)
If you and your sweetheart are both surfers, the Soma Surf Resort in Nicaragua can make for a romantic getaway. Private, air conditioned bungalows have locally-made furniture, pillow-top mattresses and cathedral ceilings. Dine in the authentic, farm-to-table restaurant that is also known for its fabulous mojitos, and melt stress away with a relaxing massage treatment – perfect after a day on the water. The resort frequently hosts surf or yoga retreats, as well as tours of the local area, plus soothing natural hot springs are less than 10 minutes away. For active travelers, there’s also horseback riding, swimming in tidal pools and nature hikes. As for the surf; there are 16 world-class waves within a five to 15-minute drive from Soma.
Best Historic: The Ashworth by the Sea (New Hampshire)
Surfing in the Northeast is limited, but Hampton, New Hampshire is one of the more well-known areas and is a charming beach town that comes to life in the summer. For an iconic getaway, the Ashworth first opened in 1912 and remains the only full-service oceanfront hotel in Hampton. Several surf shops and rental agencies can be found within two miles of the historic, 107-room hotel. Room options range from standard queens with modern furnishings to ocean views with private balconies. The Ashworth has two dining venues for seafood and American fare, a rooftop bar, sundeck and an indoor pool. Parking is additional, but shops and restaurants are within walking distance.