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Learn to surf in luxury surrounds

Helen Alexander

Senior Contributor

From tropical reefs to palm-fringed beaches, surfers have access to some of the world’s most scenic spots. It doesn’t matter if you are struggling to stand up or can confidently cruise through big-wave breaks, these lodges will take your board skills to the next level.

Jump into a playground full of activities

With so many excursions and adventures on offer, the area where New South Wales meets Queensland gives surfers the opportunity to experience two very different sides of Australia. There’s the laidback beauty of Byron Bay, which is perfect for horse rides on the beach or paragliding over the Pacific Ocean shoreline, and then there’s the glitz and glamour of the Gold Coast with its bars, restaurants and 35-mile stretch of white-sand surf beaches.


Sitting in between the two on Cabarita Beach, Halycon House is a former surf motel that’s been given a boutique makeover by two sisters who fell in love with the property a few years ago. In fact, they’ve done such a good job of decorating this Instagram-worthy place, guests might find it difficult to drag themselves away. Vintage pieces and bespoke furniture, blue-and-white stripe sun loungers by the beachfront pool, and fine dining restaurant Paper Daisy provide plenty of eye candy. When you aren’t reaching for your camera, you can grab a McTavish surfboard and attend a lesson, go kayaking, take part in some early morning yoga, glide above Mt Warning in a hot-air balloon and explore the area by bike.


While the Maldives might have a reputation for rest and relaxation, you’ll find plenty to do at one its most popular surf spots. People travel from around the world to experience one of the most famous waves in the world – Yin Yang – which breaks just offshore on the outer reef of the island of Hithadhoo. In order to prepare for this iconic surf spot, attend the school at Six Senses resort on the nearby island of Laamu. Whatever your skill level, eco-friendly Timbertek boards and specialist coaches from Aussie surf company Tropicsurf make riding the waves effortlessly easy. And while the Maldives is the perfect place to go scuba diving, snorkelling and sunbathing, the activities are just as plentiful when the sun goes down. From reclining in front of the outdoor cinema to a lobster barbecue on the beach followed by a star-gazing session with the in-house astronomer. 

Halcyon House

Credit: Kara Rosenlund

From water to wildlife – get up close to nature

Improve your swimming skills by learning a thing or two from the underwater inhabitants of the Indian Ocean. Sentidos Beach Retreat in Mozambique offers guests access to one of the world’s foremost dive spots, as well as an incredible chance to get up close to marine life. Snorkel alongside whale sharks and manta rays on an Ocean Safari and, from June to August, spot humpback whales and their calves during migration season. Meanwhile a clear-bottom kayak tour of the lagoon and surrounding mangroves offers an excellent opportunity to spot local birdlife, including pastel-pink flocks of flamingos. PADI open water dive courses, as well as surf and stand-up paddle board lessons and rental services means you’ll be spending as much time in the tropical water as possible.


Spend your days surfing and your nights sleeping in some seriously stylish surrounds, all while knowing your holiday is helping the local wildlife on Mexico’s Playa del Carmen. At Hotel la Semilla a percentage of the room rate is donated to a conservation group that’s dedicated to the preservation of the nearby Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, where you can snorkel among dolphins, marine turtles and up to 500 species of fish. The area is also home to some stunning Mayan ruins.


Talking of heritage, the hotel is a celebration of local design – like the vintage furniture that’s been sourced from flea markets and haciendas across the Yucatan region. The owners wanted to create a boutique yet bohemian atmosphere, something they call ‘rough luxe’, and they have achieved just that. When you are done with the waves, walk along the soft Caribbean sands towards your suite for a soak in its outdoor bath before eating with new-found friends at the Cocina Loft restaurant

Sentidos Beach Retreat, Mozambique

Perfect your surfboard pose

Up for a challenge? Situated between the ocean and Peru’s vast coastal desert, Puerto Chicama is home to the longest wave that it’s possible to surf in the world. That might sound daunting, but it’s actually very accessible, so paddle out with one of the surf instructors at Chicama Boutique Hotel and do something you can brag about to your friends when you get home – that’s in between impressing them with Peruvian dishes thanks to the hotel’s cookery classes.


For another iconic surfing experience, make your way to the off-the-beaten-path Indonesian island of Sumba and the world-famous surfing break known as God’s Left or Occy’s Left (after Aussie surfer Mark Occhilupo). Constantly changing conditions means it can be a challenging ride even for experienced surfers, but the team at Nihi Sumba will accompany and instruct small groups of novice surfers depending on the swell. Nearby Coconut Cove is home to calmer waters, where first-time surfers can practice. It’s really a place to immerse yourself in nature, like the treehouse suites where guests wake up in their canopy bed to the sound of exotic birds and waves breaking on the beach.


You don’t need to be a professional to surf in Iceland, but you do need to be passionate – it can be cold! Immerse yourself in a winter wonderland at Deplar Farm and explore the remote Troll Peninsula with a local pro surfer, Heiðar Logi. For less experienced surfers, Sandvik’s black sand beach is home to perfect beginner surfing conditions. The lodge started life as a sheep farm, but the only wool you’ll see here today are the luxurious rugs and throws that ensure this adventure retreat stays cosy yet chic whatever the weather. After a day in the water, you can warm up in the on-site thermal pools. Gaze up towards the snow-topped mountains and you might just see the elusive Northern Lights. 

Chicama Boutique Hotel, Peru

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