The i-escape blog / Lucy Richardson

By Lucy Richardson

We’re crossing oceans to take you to the world’s best surfing spots – each with a cool place to stay nearby. Whether beginner or pro, these destinations will have you cresting the waves in no time. So wax down those boards, and get set for a surfin’ safari!

Silver Coast, Portugal

You’ve probably seen those spine-tingling videos of daring souls cutting across monstrous waves in Portugal. That’s here, on the country’s Silver Coast, which stretches between Lisbon and Porto. Nazare is the most famous spot, but this whole coastline is exposed to strong Atlantic swells, so the surf is world-class.

But the waves aren’t always as terrifyingly tall as buildings; this is one of few surf destinations that can simultaneously cater to pros and beginners alike.

Down near Lisbon, there’s Ericeira, which is Europe’s first designated World Surfing Reserve thanks to seven different wave varieties for all abilities. Further up the coast is Peniche, which juts out on a headland prone to strong Atlantic swells from different directions. This brings sand bottom breaks for beginners, A-frames for intermediates, and reef breaks for experts. Pros can also ride Supertubos, Europe’s greatest barrelling wave.

Stay at: Noah Surf House, a boho hideaway with vintage vibes, positioned bang on the beach in the village of Santa Cruz, mid-way between Ericeira and Peniche. You can rent equipment and book surf lessons for all abilities at the hotel.

North Devon, UK

North Devon has just been designated a World Surfing Reserve, one of only a dozen to make the cut.

Along this 30km stretch of coastline, you get reliable surf breaks caused by varying swell and wind directions – plus a string of stunning golden bays to lay a towel on. Croyde is popular with pro wave riders and offers some of the world’s best surf breaks (left- and right-handers). Just down the coast from here, the sweeping 3km-wide curve of Saunton Sands is good for beginners, thanks to its gently sloping beach.

There’s a strong surf scene in the villages up and down the North Devon coast, with dozens of surf schools and rental shops offering boards. In summer, Woolacombe hosts the Wavelength Spring Classic, a four-day surf and music festival which takes place on its beach. Move over, Malibu, we’ve got our own trendy surfing mecca right here in the UK!

Stay at: With far-reaching views across Saunton Sands, The Chalet Saunton offers seven luxuriously minimalist self-catering apartments (each sleeps 2-6). It’s just 5 mins’ walk down a sandy path to the beach. Here you can book a lesson with British surf champion Sarah Whiteley and her superb team at Walking on the Waves surf school.

Galle, Sri Lanka

The only thing more exhilarating than riding waves is doing it in paradise. We’re talking sun-kissed seas and a background of coconut palms crowding a tropical shore.

In the island’s south-west corner, around Galle, is a coastline carved by curved bays, where surf breaks peak from November through to April. Though far from gentle, the waves here aren’t as forceful as those that hit the coasts of Indonesia, so it’s a great beginner’s surf spot. Good beaches for new surfers are Unawatuna or Weligama, which are sheltered from the heaviest swells.

When you’re ready to progress, graduate to the reef breaks at Ahangama or Midigama. Try Rajith Point, which has been used for local surf competitions, or Ram’s Right, a short, fast and hollow break that’s not for the fainthearted. If you chicken out, pop to a café on the beach to watch the pros get barrelled, while you sip from fresh coconuts and revel in the good life.

Stay at: Abode Ahangama, a stylish little hotel tucked away in a quiet corner of Ahangama, 30 mins along the coast from Galle Fort (worth a day trip). Palm-dotted bays, warm seas, and plenty of cool little restaurants and bars await, plus the hotel can help arrange surfing kit hire, guides and lessons.

Bukit Peninsula, Bali

The more advanced among you can drop south to Bali, a long-time favourite with surfing pros because, let’s face it, there are few places more idyllic for wave riding. Warm water, tropical island vibes, low cost of living, hip beach bars, it’s got the lot.

The island’s southern tip, the Bukit Peninsula, is a swell magnet and gets the gnarliest breaks. Most are reef breaks, which means fast and forceful waves. Uluwatu is perhaps the most famous among them but beware of the current. Just up from here is Impossibles Beach, which gets an enormously long left-hander that outruns many that ride it. Beginners can try Dreamland or Jimbaran, the only two sand breaks on the peninsula. Padang-Padang Rights is good for intermediates as it breaks over a seaweed-covered reef, which slows the wave.

For cooler, dryer weather and perfect surfing conditions, May to August are the best months to visit.

Stay at: The ramshackle Bingin Beach Hideaway is poised directly above the Impossibles surf break. Linked by terraces and decks, stone steps and cliff-side walkways, the rambling split-level house has three bedrooms and is set in blissful seclusion, with nothing but sea views ahead.

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Everyone knows about the legendary Pacific breakers off the west coast USA, but what about those that hit further south? Cast your eyes down to Costa Rica, where the jungle-clad Nicoya Peninsula gets battered by long, rolling beauties.

Head down to the peninsula’s southern tip for the best surf. The remoteness of these wild and beautiful beaches (think Robinson Crusoe) means you don’t get mega crowds, though the area’s reputation is growing. Playa Hermosa and Playa Carmen have calmer waters making them good beaches for beginners; Santa Teresa tends to have bigger, more powerful, and very reliable waves that will suit intermediates. Summer (May-Aug) is the best time to come.

The slow pace of life and the friendly hippie-surfer locals in Santa Teresa area will catapult you into holiday mode from the moment you bounce into town along the one unpaved road. There are dozens of surf schools, and myriad chilled bars and vegan eateries for soaking up the hippie atmos.

Stay at: Beautiful Florblanca, a cool little surf, yoga and spa retreat in an utterly dreamy setting among jungly gardens and a pristine beach – with wild surf, white sands and overhanging palms. Surf boards are available to borrow, and staff can arrange private lessons.