When it comes to healthy travel, the perfect vacation formula might look a little something like: a gorgeous change of scenery + trying something you’ve never done before + plenty of time for working out + naps on demand.
And luckily, TropicSurf has perfected the art of an adventure vacation. Founded 25 years ago by an Australian master surf instructor, the company became the first in the niche of trip-of-a-lifetime surf vacations for grown-ups, taking novice and experienced surfers to the absolute best, more remote surf spots (within well-known regions) with a minimum of fuss, inconvenience, or pesky other people around.
Unlike other surf schools that have more of a beach shack vibe, TropicSurf’s schools are at luxury hotels around the world—closest to home are Mukul in Nicaragua, One&Only Palmilla in Cabo, and the Four Seasons resorts in Costa Rica and Punta Mita, Mexico. So, you know, beachy vacation heaven.
Yes, a vacation spent on chaise lounge is super restorative. But on a TropicSurf trip, you’ll walk away with more than just a well-rested glow: actual surfing skills.
It’s not cheap. “Some people balk at the price,” says Scott Gillies, TropicSurf’s Punta Mita manager. (It starts at $675 a night for a double-occupancy room, plus $165 for a 90-minute lesson.) “But you get what you pay for.”
Starting with amazing instruction and a boatload of amenities. Here’s what I learned on my Mexican surfing soujourn:
1. It’s perfect for beginners. If you’re a newbie, don’t stress: some 85 percent of the clientele are beginners. They cater to the novice crew in a myriad of ways. TropicSurf’s manager in Punta Mita, Scott Gillies, said they would never do more than 4-to-1 student to teacher ratio, and even that’s rare. It’s more often one couple or one person with an instructor, or even—for me briefly, at least—one student with two instructors in the water.
2. You don’t have to carry tons of gear. TropicSurf provides rash guards, reef booties, and surf hats, and makes surfing kind of a just-add-water experience you’d expect from luxury travel. You won’t have to carry your board into or out of the water, you won’t have to paddle if you’d rather be towed, and you won’t have to catch any waves without a push from the instructor, unless you want to. They don’t take off the training wheels until you’re ready—but with this kind of instruction, that’s sooner than you think.
3. There’s a full-service feel (and incredible instructors). All the staff are lifelong surfers who came to the organization with above-industry-standard teaching credentials, and their instruction is clear, helpful, and encouraging. TropicSurf’s roving trainers visit regularly for continuing education, and in their off seasons, instructors head off to surf at other TS properties and learn from the guides there. I found this incredibly reassuring.
4. You don’t have to love surfing. You also get a whole lot of time to not surf, if you’re just starting out and aren’t fully committed to riding waves the whole time. Because the locations are within other properties, you can round out your regimen with daily yoga, Pilates, or fitness classes at the expansive spa, or other aquatic adventures like kayak tours and fly-boarding.
5. (Really) secluded breaks. The most nerve-wracking thing about learning to surf (no, not sharks) is sharing the ocean with other surfers—some of whom look like they’d rather mow you down than lose their wave. TropicSurf’s resort locations offer private beaches that aren’t easily accessible to mainstream surfers (or learners). During my beginner lessons in Punta Mita, Gillies and I were the only people in the water off of one of the resort’s two virtually private beaches. For more experienced surfers looking to just let loose, guides ferry you out to offshore breaks where no one else is around. Ahhhh, paradise. —Ann Abel
For more information, visit TropicSurf at Four Seasons Punta Mita, www.fourseasons.com/puntamita