Sayulita, Mexico- Photograph: Alamy
Boy surfing in ocean Sayulita Photograph: Sollina Images/Getty Images/Blend Images
Lush tropical jungle meets eminently ridable waves for all levels in this former fishing village turned artsy surf town just 40 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s central Pacific coast. Colourful cafes and bars, and galleries peddling local Huichol tribal art, are plentiful and street food vendors sell original takes on the taco. Lunazul is a family-run surf school, where lessons start at $40pp including equipment, and they’re so confident of their teaching that anyone who doesn’t stand up on their first lesson doesn’t pay. Lunazul also rents high- quality shortboards, longboards and softboards for beginners, and runs trips to nearby secret spots.
A decade ago, Canggu was just a black-sand beach with one food shack, rice paddies as far as the eye could see and a fantastic reef break for intermediate surfers wanting to take their skill to the next level. The wave is unchanged, though a little more crowded in peak season and there’s now a vibrant cafe scene and some hip places to stay, though it’s kept a laid-back, wellness-crowd vibe with none of the brashness of Kuta or swankiness of Seminyak. The Shady Shack is a great new spot for juices, low-alcohol coolers and tasty vegan food. Canteen Café, where vintage surf and skateboards adorn the walls, does excellent coffee and brunch. The Chillhouse (doubles from €110 B&B) also offers surf lessons from €49, including board hire and a ratio of one coach to two guests. Yoga classes cost €9.
Sennen Cove, Cornwall
If Newquay is the loud, beating heart of the UK surf scene, Sennen Cove is its more peaceful and reflective soul. It takes another hour to get there, almost as far as Land’s End, but it’s worth every minute. The waves are some of the most consistent in the country, with a beach break that works left and right and will suit most abilities, but is far less crowded than many Cornish surf spots. The location feels wild and unspoiled with clear ocean, rolling grassy hills and craggy cliffs. The Sennen Surfing Centre offers lessons from £30, and board and wetsuit can be hired on the beach from £14. Yurt accommodation costs £19pp a night at Whitesands Lodge just inland from the beach. Ben Tunnicliffe’s Sennen Cove family-friendly restaurant is worth a visit for fresh, unfussy seasonal cooking, or a guest ale with a view of the waves at its wooden outdoor bar, the Surf Den.
Photograph: Hallvard Kolltveit/Lapointcamps.com
Thanks to recent advances in wetsuit technology, surfing in the icy waters off Norway is not just possible but wholly enjoyable. There are zero crowds and the beaches are wild and rugged – in natural amphitheatres with steep majestic mountains all around. The cliffs also protect the waves from the wind and the swell is remarkably consistent, with breaks to suit all levels. Lapoint Surf Camps runs packages in the fishing village of Hoddevik for beginner and intermediate surfers, including accommodation for seven nights, small-group lessons, board and wetsuit hire and use of the house kitchen from €577.
Photograph: Warren Bolster/Getty Images
California may be the obvious capital of surfing in the US, but Hawaii, where the sport originated, is its spiritual home. Waikiki, the beachfront neighbourhood of Honolulu, is a great place to learn to surf, as the water is warm, the waves roll in gently and the rides are long, so when you do stand up you really get to enjoy it. With its high-rise backdrop, Waikiki is often dismissed as a tourist trap but it’s now finding fresh favour among visitors wanting a tropical beach holiday with some urban benefits, such as good food and decent coffee. Affordable hotels aren’t easy to come by but Maile Sky Court has doubles from $105. Star Beachboys runs group surf lessons for $40pp.
In the south-west corner of the Algarve, Lagos is well-placed to pick up swells from every direction; it has breaks for all levels of surfer within easy reach. The town beach, Meia Praia, is a good beginner’s wave, while Zavial, 20 minutes’ drive west, is a world-class point break for experienced surfers. The attractive old fishing town boasts great sea-themed restaurants such as Escondidinho (Rua do Cemitério 38) and The Blue Door (Rua dos Ferreiros 17), but a big part of the Lagos sell has always been that it is a good place to party. Mellow Loco, run by pro surfers Marlon and Melvin Lipke, is the wildest spot, and Stevie Ray’s has popular live funk and soul nights. Health-conscious surfers will love new juice and salad bar Bora, healthy breakfast gem Fresca and the health store and restaurant Mar D’Estorias.The oldest surf camp provider in town, Surf Experience, is introducing a Girl Fitness Surf Week () by sports coach and surfer Sophie Everard from 24 September-1 October. It costs £800 and includes meals, surfing, yoga, trail running, mountain biking, outdoor fitness classes, accommodation and transfers from Faro airport; flights are not included. Lagos Surf Rentals rents boards from €15 a day.
El Paredón, Guatemala
A growing band of travellers are converging on the small fishing village of El Paredón, which offers Guatemala’s most consistent surf at a beach break that never gets crowded and can accommodate most levels of surfer, depending on the tide. Turtles nest on the black sand beach, and mangrove forests grow all around. At Paredón Surf House private surf lessons cost about £12, board hire starts at £10 a day, and dorm beds £8 a night. The surf house supports a social enterprise, La Choza Chula, which has built a secondary school and library in the village, and provides English lessons for children.
When the swell is pumping, Hossegor’s pounding beach breaks are not for the faint-hearted, but experienced and strong intermediates revel in some of the best waves in the world, and some of the warmest sea temperatures in the Atlantic. La Sud, at the southern end, is a calmer, more sheltered spot for beginners and improvers. With world-class waves come world-class surfers, and as a result there’s no shortage of relaxed places to hang out and party. Lou Cabana on the naturist Plage des Culs Nus has a tasty daily menu and great music and vibes at sunset. Meg’s Café is the place for coffee and Tante Jeanne the ultimate ice-cream spot. Collective Soul is good for vintage furniture, art and clothes. Local surf shaper Chipiron makes custom boards, offers surf lessons from €38 a day and rents good quality boards from €10. The rental cost is taken off the price for anyone who later buys a board. Hostel h2O Holidays does B&B from €30pp.
Tofo Beach, Mozambique
From a wave-riding point of view, Mozambique is relatively unexplored, yet much of its 2,500km coastline is surfable, with tropical blue waters washing on to palm-fronted white sandy beaches. Tofo, on the Ponta da Barra peninsula, is a pretty beach town with a central market that sells bright sarongs as well as fruit, veg and fish. Small, clean waves are protected by a headland and a reef, so it’s a good place for learners and improvers, though more advanced surfers won’t have to travel far to find challenging reef breaks, and the world-class, right-hand point breaks at nearby Tofinho beach. Errant Surf offers seven nights in a shared house from £78pp, surf lessons from £12 and board hire from £13 a day.
San Vicente de la Barquera, Spain
Photograph: Markus Gebauer Photography/Getty Images
On the coast of Cantabria, amid the meadows, dunes, forests, cliffs and beaches of the Oyambre natural park, sits the estuarine village of San Vicente de la Barquera. Merón is its main beach, with great conditions for learning and more difficult peaks for more advanced surfers. San Vicente has many excellent seafood restaurants, such as Boga-Boga, which has been running for 50 years and has a great nautical-themed interior, but the region is also famed for its ham, wine and cheeses. Nácar, an offshoot of the Michelin-starred Annua, does tasty and reasonably priced tapas. Dream Surf Camp offers a week’s accommodation plus full board and surf kit in both normal and glamping tents from €229pp. Ten hours’ lessons costs €95. Yoga, mountain biking and massages are available, and there’s an on site bar with musical instruments to borrow.