Best Coastal Towns for Surfing
There’s a reason surfing’s a popular American pastime; few travel pleasures beat finding a cool surf town that fosters a like-minded sense of community. The beauty of great surf towns is that they combine the best waves with a laid-back beach vibe. Dozens of surf towns dot America’s coasts, but only a few can truly lay claim to being terrific surf spots. Grab your surfboard and head to one of these coastal towns known for great surfing, a welcoming beachside community, great hotels and magical waves.
1. Montauk, New York
Manhattan-based surfers drive into town in packs, taking over this affluent fishing community to ride some terrific waves, especially at Ditch Plains Beach and Turtle Cove. The water is cold here, perhaps only proving the dedication of hardcore surfers. Most out-of-towners shack up at the Surf Lodge, a lifestyle-driven boutique hotel that hosts outdoor concerts and surf events.
2. Malibu, California
Malibu is also where the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps protect oceans, waves and beaches, was founded in 1984. Stay at the oceanfront Malibu Beach Inn, one of few hotels in the area right on Carbon Beach.
3. Encinitas, California
Many residents of Encinitas have adapted to the surf lifestyle (you'll be hard-pressed to find a garage in town that doesn't have a surfboard out front). Check into Rancho Valencia, a 5-star resort just 20 minutes from Del Mar beaches that offers surf lessons; the executive chef is a surfer himself who lives in Encinitas.
4. Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
Take a break from the waves and visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial, the site of the world's first controlled-powered flights. Outer Banks Beach Club Resort is a comfortable resort with 1- to 3-bedroom suites, fully furnished kitchens and 2 pools, indoor and outdoor.
5. Paia, Hawaii
While kitesurfing and windsurfing are the beach’s claim to fame, board surfing gets an A-plus for the beach break waves and miles of reef—and, of course, the community’s signature leftist, liberal attitude really amps up the character here. The hip and stylish Paia Inn boutique hotel is the surfer’s preferred crashpad.
6. Santa Cruz, California
Meanwhile, great beachside restaurants that are popular with the surf crowd include The Crow's Nest, where you’ll find vintage surfboards and surf memorabilia on the walls. Surfer's shack up at Dream Inn, a 163-room boutique right on the beach with great views of Monterey Bay.