What are the ideal surfing conditions? Ask 20 surfers and you’ll probably get at least 15 different answers. Factors such as who are you with, your skill level and mood are as important as wind, swell, seafloor and waves.
But what about the après-surf scene?
The cool surf towns on this list vary, depending on whether they are best for family vacations, adventurous surfers, enjoying local culture or just soaking up the good vibes.
You will notice a few popular spots, like Santa Cruz in California, but you may surprised to find that a city in the Middle East also made the cut.
Coolest Surf Towns
The Middle East these days is known for civil war and political instability. But if you look beyond that, you will a find a few unexplored surfing gems. The long stretch of coast along Oman has ideal conditions for big and long breaks. Joe's Point is the place to go. Temperatures stay around 80-85 degrees. See some of the area's amazingly well-preserved castles and forts and enjoy some of the best food in the country.
While places like the Great Wall are better known, the vast country has a few secret gems that are perfect for surfing. Hainan, a gigantic island province and the nation's southernmost point, is one. Crowds are practically non-existent. Local surfers go to Riyuewan Bay. Everything else you would expect to see in a small Chinese town, you will in Sanya. Eat fresh fish, visit ancient temples, enjoy parks and take the family on a trip to the Yanoda tropical forest.
Peru has more than 1,500 miles of coastline so you can expect great waves somewhere along it. Lima, the capital, is a popular destination. If you have never been to South America but want to brush up on your surfing skills at the same time, you will find some great waves -- 3 ft. and higher -- here. It's like Hawaii minus huge crowds. When you're surfing, visit the historic Aliaga House, the unique Larco Museum and Pucllana Temple to see remnants of Peru's ancient civilizations.
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
California and Hawaii are the first states that come to mind when people think about surfing. But North Carolina, and especially Kill Devil Hills, ranks just as high. Don't pay attention to the name, this is a peaceful town. If you like slow pace, this is the place to be. The best surf spots are Avalon Pier, S-Turns and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The summer is the time to go in this Southern town as everything seems to wake up and revive.
San Sebastian, Spain
Food in this romantic small town on the Bay of Biscay is equally as important as great waves for surfing. Enjoy great bars, nightlife and restaurants after the beach. The best time to go for awesome breaks is between June and November. In addition, you get to enjoy many music festivals in the summer and playing soccer on the beach.
If you like surfing and drinking good wine, head out to Biarritz. The historic city is often thought of the place where European surfing was born. There is definitely a French high culture vibe. When the Big Beach gets crowded, people go to La Côtes des Basques and Guethary. Les 100 Marches is a typical French stylish cafe that serves champagne with your baguette. The small villages near Biarritz offer an authentic taste of rural France.
Santa Cruz, California
If you call yourself a surfer but haven't been to Santa Cruz, you should book a trip right now. Other than amazing big-wave rides, you get to ride roller coasters for $1 on Monday and Tuesday nights, have fun at the more than a century old seaside amusement park, and bike and skate along picturesque West Cliff Drive. Visit the Surfing Museum or go hiking in 2,000-year-old redwood forests in Big Basin Redwood State Park.
Tofino, British Columbia
B.C. has more than one season and offers some of the world's best skiing. The quality of the waves in Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, is world-class as well. In addition to the shores ... watch hockey where locals do, the bar at Shelter Restaurant. Camp in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, enjoy hot springs in Maquinna Marie Provincial Park, take boat tour for dolphin and whale watching and try Tofino Brewing's delicious selection.
Byron Bay, Australia
The water sports in this sandy paradise are endless ... The ever-present swells at Wategos and The Pass make for good-quality waves. The atmosphere in this small community is beyond friendly; everybody is welcome. When you want a break from surfing, hike to the lighthouse at The Pass for stunning worth-your-time views, try new things at the impressive Stone and Wood Brewery, and get a massage at one of the many spa centers in town.
Nosara, Costa Rica
Tourists are lucky to get long pristine beaches and copious wildlife in addition to awesome waves for surfing. Playa Guiones (Nosara Beach) is where most surfers go. Wind and kitesurfing are also available. Other attractions include Ostional Beach where olive ridley sea turtles crawl ashore once a month to lay their eggs. The ecology enthusiast in you will enjoy the Biological Reserve which has hundreds of birds, monkeys, and other friendly animals.