haveseen / Getty Images
haveseen / Getty Images

Fun in the Sun on Sandy Shores

Imagine sugar-white sands and shimmering turquoise waves lapping at your toes. Sound divine? Whether you choose to frolic in the brilliant green sea along Florida's Emerald Coast or prefer to unwind in an exotic island locale such as Thailand or the Philippines, read on for beach vacation inspiration.

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surfers in Biarritz, France
Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

With friendly locals, groovy cafes and far more enthusiasm about wave reports than Parisian fashion, Biarritz has been called “the California of France” more than once. And now, in a special program funded by the regional Olympic committee, Biarritz doctors are prescribing surfing and other ocean sports as remedies for health problems. The 12-week surfing program is luring more and more people to the waves to heal what ails them.  960 1280

John Harper  

Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

With this healthy respect for the surfing life, Biarritz is a great choice for newbie surfers. Try Surf Training school; the ultra-experienced surf coach Philippe Beudin will have you catching waves right in to the soft sands of the Cote des Basques beach in no time. 960 1280

Guillaume CHANSON  

Nosara, Costa Rica

Nosara, Costa Rica

Thanks to its warm and consistent waves, the dusty surfing outpost of Nosara is a dreamy locale for beginners to first feel the thrill of riding a wave. With a friendly scene, top-rated surf instructors and rental shops aplenty, Nosara sets you up to succeed. Check out the Safari Surf School; with both day lessons and longer camps, it is a favorite in town. After hours in the water, work out your paddle-weary muscles at one of the many yoga schools in town and sip a smoothie at the boho Harmony Hotel. Wind down your day with a cold Imperial beer on Playa Pelada, the perfect place to watch the sun sink into the ocean. 960 1280

Matteo Colombo  

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Nicaragua’s beaches, generally less populated than Costa Rica’s, are the latest surf hangouts of Central America. San Juan del Sur, a village on the Pacific coast, is surrounded by remote beaches with waves workable for all levels; Remansa, which means “extra calm” in Spanish, is the perfect spot for beginners. Just ask Javier Baldovinos, former coach of the Nicaragua Surf Team, veteran instructor and one of the most respected coaches in town; he’ll hook you up with a board and teach you the basics in one day. Or opt for an awesome all-inclusive surf camp, like Nicaragua Surf Report; here you sleep, eat, and surf with your surf gang for days. The women-only Chica Brava surf camp offers yoga, healthy food and an epic surf adventure. 960 1280

Matthew Micah Wright  

Encinitas, California

Encinitas, California

Encinitas is the dream So-Cal surf town, brah; it’s mellow and friendly, with a lot less of the “locals only” attitude you might find up or down the coast. While you can marvel at the pros out carving on the hardcore beaches like Swamis or Seaside Reef, there are quieter spots further afield for beginners, like the north end of Moonlight Beach. 960 1280

Gabe LHeureux  

Encinitas, California

Encinitas, California

For a thoroughly uplifting first surf experience, check in with Jason Weber at Encinitas Surf Lessons. Weber is a believer in the healing power of the surf, and his Surfing for Empowerment classes are designed to help everyone get in touch with their inner flow. 960 1280

Ashok Sinha  

Maui, Hawaii

Maui, Hawaii

Just because Hawaii is home to killer big waves like the Pipeline doesn’t mean beginners should shy away from the Aloha state. With its warm electric blue waters (no wetsuit needed!), Maui has waves enough for every level. 960 1280

tropicalpix  

Maui, Hawaii

Maui, Hawaii

Although some beaches may have a locals-first rap, that’s no deterrent – you just need an in-the-know resident surfer to lead the way. Zack Howard, a 25-year-veteran of the sport, runs one of the most respected surf schools in Maui and is also a guide to the secret spots that most visitors would miss. 960 1280

Vacclav  

Maui, Hawaii

Maui, Hawaii

The long established Maui Surf Girls, with both daily lessons and camps, is not just for girls; they empower everyone – men, children, grandparents and even dogs included – to get up and feel the power of the wave. 960 1280

Ron Dahlquist  

South Padre, Texas

South Padre, Texas

Texas doesn’t have a reputation for great surf, but there is one place where almost everyone can catch a wave. Down in South Padre, just on the tip of the Texas Coast near Mexico, husband and wife team Rachel and Gene Gore run the South Padre Surf Company where the motto is: “It’s not about how good you are; it’s about how much fun you have.” In a jetty-side beach protected from unpredictable Gulf winds, they teach first timers on foam-topped boards that make everyone feel steady and safe. Standing beside you in the water, they push you out into the wave at just the right moment, and, voila, next thing you know you are floating on water. Exhilarating.  960 1280

Wade Dunkin  

Bakio, Spain

Bakio, Spain

If you want to surf in Spain, set your compass north to the Bay of Biscay in the Basque Country. Mundaka, 23 miles northeast of Bilbao, may be regarded as a surf capital of Spain, but beginners may want try their luck at the lesser known nearby town of Bakio. With few tourists and only a handful of laid-back hotels and restaurants, Bakio has the low-key vibe and regular waves that make the beginner feel welcome. You will want to check out Lokal Surf School, where the fun-loving instructors can teach in Spanish, English or Basque. When you are out in the cool blue water catching your first wave, you’ll be happy beyond words, no matter which language you speak.  960 1280

Mimadeo  

marianela and paul
marianela and paul

marianela and paul

Marianela explores the park with Paul Reps of Point Lobos State Reserve. 960 1280

  

Monterey Cypress

Monterey Cypress

This Monterey Cypress growing from a cliff offers a dramatic view. 960 1280

  

marianela poses

marianela poses

Marianela poses in front of the enchanting 350-year-old Monterey Cypress. 960 1280

  

spectacular coast

spectacular coast

Marianela and Paul observe the coast’s spectacular beauty. 960 1280

  

picture perfect

picture perfect

She can’t get over the picture-perfect view. 960 1280

  

nature's masterpiece

nature's masterpiece

Marianela calls the reserves “nature’s masterpiece.” 960 1280

  

crown jewel

crown jewel

Visitors are reminded to protect the “crown jewel” of the state park system. 960 1280

  

artists inspriation

artists inspriation

It’s easy to see why artists come here for inspiration. 960 1280

  

nature's guests

nature's guests

Marianela has never seen anything like it. “We are nature’s guests,” she says. 960 1280

  

california coast

california coast

Marianela snaps a photo of the stunning California coast. 960 1280

  

california ground squirrel

california ground squirrel

They make a new friend -- the California Ground Squirrel. 960 1280

  

close and personal with nature

close and personal with nature

Marianela gets up close and personal with nature, getting a better look at the wildlife. 960 1280

  

birds gliding

birds gliding

Two birds glide overhead. The Reserve protects over 250 species of animals. 960 1280

  

nettles

nettles

They check out these unique-looking nettles. 960 1280

  

sea lion point

sea lion point

Sea lions sunbathe on the rocks at Sea Lion Point. 960 1280

  

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