From Andy Warhol’s surfboards to Blake Lively’s boarding adventures, there’s no doubt that surfing is having yet another moment. But for the beginner, the prospect of hanging ten can seem intimidating at best, death-defying at worst. What’s an amateur to do? Here’s what: Plan a surfing vacation centered around one of the most beginner-friendly surf schools on the planet. And on the off chance that the sport doesn’t turn out to be your cup of tea, make sure the setting is travel-worthy in and of itself. A few suggestions:
Surf spots for beginners
1 / 10
The Class: Surfworld Bundoran, a 25-year-old surf shop and school run by famed Irish big-wave surfer Richie Fitzgerald and his family.
The Beach: Tullan Strand, a nearly two-mile-long stretch where great waves are consistent (and friendly to beginners or the advanced) year-round.
The Hotel: Lough Eske Castle Hotel & Spa, a five-star property located 30 minutes down the road from Bundoran on the beautiful small lake Lough Eske.
The Restaurant: Waves Surf Café for a pre-surf coffee or a post-surf sandwich.
Photo: Courtesy of Helen O’Reilly / @helliz
2 / 10
The Class: Newquay Activity Centre, which offers family, group, and private surf lessons taught by British surf coaches Rob Barber and Johnny Fryer.
The Beach: Fistral Beach, a broad and wide beach known for great surfing.
The Hotel: The Headland hotel with four-star rooms and five-star cottages, many with beautiful sea views.
The Restaurant: The Fish House, a seasonally focused, Gordon Ramsay–endorsed seafood spot on the beach.
Photo: Courtesy of Anna Legesse / @annalegesse
3 / 10
Byron Bay, Australia
The Class: Black Dog Surf School, which has a one-to-seven instructor-to-student ratio and a friendly canine mascot, George, who surfs (backward!) on his own board.
The Beach: Clarkes Beach, a gentle beach where a sandy bottom and calm waves make conditions perfect for beginners.
The Hotel: The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa, a breezy and beautiful suite hotel situated in a rainforest.
The Restaurant: St. Elmo Dining Room & Bar for dinner; Naked Treaties for lunch.
Photo: Courtesy of Sunshine Coast / @thehealthyphysio
4 / 10
Vancouver Island, Canada
The Class: Tofino Surf School, which stays open year-round (don’t worry, they provide five-millimeter wetsuits in the winter).
The Beach: Cox Bay, where you can walk out quite a ways before the water gets deep.
The Hotel: Pacific Sands Beach Resort Hotel, a homey hotel right on the water at Cox Bay.
The Meal: Fresh and casual Japanese comfort food at Kuma Tofino.
Photo: Courtesy of Kuma Tofino / @kumatofino
5 / 10
San Sebastián, Spain
The Class: Pukas Surf Eskola, Spain’s longest-running surf school, which also offers stand-up paddleboarding.
The Beach: Zurriola Beach, known for its warm water and moderate waves.
The Hotel: Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra, a century-old four-star hotel on the beach.
The Meal: La Cuchara de San Telmo, known for some of the best pintxos in San Sebastián.
Photo: Courtesy of Daryn Boyers / @themeatmissile
6 / 10
The Class: Banana Surf School, where beginners can learn anytime except monsoon season, when swells make things more challenging.
The Beach: Utorda Beach, a clean, uncrowded beach with soft sand and clear water.
The Hotel: Park Hyatt Goa and Spa, a five-star resort set on 45 acres of gardens and lagoons.
The Restaurant: Zeebop by the Sea, a relaxed seafood spot on the water.
Photo: Courtesy of @k3in3
7 / 10
Cape Town, South Africa
The Class: Stoked School of Surf, a “mobile” surfing academy that picks clients up and takes them to the beach with the best conditions that day.
The Beach: Big Bay or Muizenberg—depending on the time of year, the Stoked team selects the more beginner-friendly side of the peninsula.
The Hotel: The Bay Hotel, a romantic and relaxing property with four pools and a highly regarded spa in the exclusive neighborhood of Camps Bay.
The Restaurant: Paranga, a modern ocean-view restaurant where the seafood platter is not to be missed.
Photo: Courtesy of Liza Mcpherson / @lizamcpherson
8 / 10
San Diego, California
The Class: San Diego Surfing Academy, run by Pat Weber, who teaches all levels and runs a yearly surf camp in Costa Rica.
The Beach: Harbor Beach, in Oceanside, where the sandy bottom makes for softer landings than the rocky floors of other area waters.
The Hotel: Wyndham Oceanside Pier—what it lacks in style it makes up for in comfort and convenience to the beach.
The Restaurant: Lighthouse Oyster Bar & Grill, an unpretentious spot with a view of the yachts and sailboats in Oceanside Harbor.
Photo: Courtesy of Lighthouse Oyster Bar & Grill / @lighthouseoceanside
9 / 10
The Class: L’école de Surf Hastea, which has been providing lessons since 1995—hastea is Basque for “to begin.”
The Beach: Côte des Basques, with its stunningly clear water and shallow, sandy bottom.
The Hotel: Hôtel du Palais, a classic, uber-luxurious historical Biarritz stronghold.
The Restaurant: Bar Jean for Basque-style tapas.
Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Bartlett / @quaintrellebyab
10 / 10
The Class: Nancy Emerson School of Surfing, the first surfing institution on Maui and Oahu, run by veteran surf instructor Emerson, who has been teaching since 1973.
The Beach: The Classic Waikiki beach, of course—teeming with both tourists and old-school surf-town charm.
The Hotel: Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, which has comfortable rooms, live music, and a solid spa.
The Restaurant: Amazingly fresh sushi in a low-key setting at Doraku.
Photo: Courtesy of Maui Surf Clinics / @mauisurfclinics