The Caribbean’s best surfing spots
Everyone knows that the Caribbean has some of the world’s best beaches but, with 4,000 miles of uninterrupted run-up across the ocean, it also delivers superb waves and constant winds. November to May is the best time to catch Atlantic swells, and here are five of the best spots to catch them in…
Take off to
In Barbados, the further south and east you go, the livelier the sea. From Silver Sands at the southern point, where sun-baked beach groupies lounge on the sand and whistle across the water under their kites, you pass the hidden coves of the southeast, whose surreal turquoise sea kicks up perfectly for body boarding. You eventually come to the Atlantic coast, where the waves barrel off the ocean and break in thunderous rolls – just the ticket for full-on surfing. Bathsheba is the best-known spot: a windswept beach where house-sized stacks of coral rock stand marooned on the sand. Stop by Dina’s Bar to check out the conditions and then head out into the Soup Bowl, a right break that builds to a glassy green wall and dissolves into the foamy surf from which it takes its name.
Puerto Rico, part of the USA for a century, mingles salsa music with the Stars and Stripes, Latino swagger with love rock and kioskos with KFC. Some of the Caribbean’s best surf rolls in on to the island’s northwestern corner. Isabela is low key – Jobos beach is lined with bars and restaurants and the rich blue waves are passable, but at Middles beach they are big enough to hold pro competitions, so for advanced surfers only. Aguadilla has sweeps of sand with waves for all, including the delightfully named Crash Boat beach, whose right-hand break gathers green over a submerged reef. And at Rincón you can carve and chase a left break suitable for all levels at Sandy Beach, or step up to the thunderous Tres Palmas, site of the Caribbean’s most famous big wave, which arrives when the swell is up. Puerto Rico is great for beginners, too, as it has good options for learning to surf, with a great variety of levels and courses to perfect your skill.
Take off to
Trinidad is best known for its city life and culture in Port of Spain: its steel bands, calypso singing and, of course, carnival, the week-long bacchanal in the streets. But once the dancing is done, where should you go to relax? Many head north to Maracas Bay, with its slender palms and ‘shark and bake’ (seasoned shark meat in a flatbread bun), but the most determined ‘limers’ (it’s a Caribbean word for chilling out) join the surfers and head for the northeast, to Blanchisseuse and Grande Riviere, set in coves scalloped out of the distant reaches of the northern range. With weather from the north, swell rises off the Atlantic deep and culminates in clean breaks where you can carve a turn and scream along the face of the wave. Grande Riviere has a clutch of the island’s coolest, offbeat places to stay offering all you need: a hammock with a view.
Take off to St
In days of yore, the Caribbean trade winds brought merchants and ships of the line reliably across the ocean. Now their uninterrupted approach over the Atlantic delivers the finest and most consistent winds to windsurfers and kitesurfers alike. In the south of St Lucia, the favoured spot is Anse de Sables, a broad, sand-rimmed bay enclosed by a reef, with a cool vibe. Watch for a while at the Reef Beach Café (instruction sand kit rental available), and then surge off on the clean cross-shore winds. When chop makes it into the bay, strongest in March to May, there is enough bump to make some jumps. If you would like to stay closer to the beach action and bars in the north of the island, then there’s a second option at Cas-en-Bas, a deep, broad bay with constant onshore winds and waves that break on an offshore reef.
Take off to the Dominican
Cabarete is the coolest town on the north coast of Dominican Republic, set on a hook in 100 miles of continuous sand. The crescent beach is lined with cafés and bars, with tables and chairs all set looking out to sea and a cerulean sky criss-crossed with fluorescent kites. Cabarete’s cross-shore winds are good for beginners, but on the high seas the wind and thermals are strong enough for international competitions, with waves to jump and carry you up and away. Winds strengthen across the day and calm off in the afternoon, just in time to head back to your chair for the sunset and Cabarete’s other speciality – lively evening action.
Surf, sleep, repeat
Where to stay on your surfing trip
Jade Mountain, St Lucia
Jade Mountain’s organic architecture has a ‘lost city’ vibe, and guests stay in sanctuaries that offer mesmerising views of the Piton mountains as well as utter, decadent privacy. Apart from your front door (at the end of an Escher-esque bridge), there are no boundaries – not even to the loo (coy honeymooners need not apply). And you’re open to the outdoors (beds are framed by nets, while overhead fans keep things cool), so the solitary vastness – and a vast, glittering infinity pool – are all yours. Doze off to tree frogs chattering away, awake into a sunrise, then plan a day of exceptional dining, lounging on a private beach, snorkelling on the house reef, joining a chocolate-making or cookery class, or perhaps luxuriating in an in-room massage.
The Coral Reef Club, Barbados
Just as important as finding the right waves to ride is having the perfect spot in which to relax and unwind after a hard day on the ocean. Enter the Coral Reef Club, a family-run five-star luxury resort just 30 minutes from the airport and the same again from Bathsheba. Retire in one of the hotel’s plush private suites or cottages (be sure to splash out on a Superior Suite so you can enjoy a soak in its generous bathtub), and make time to experience a Caribbean Calm massage at the on-site spa that’ll drain all the tension bought on by the day’s exertions. Fancy heading out in the evening? Enjoy a drink at the hotel’s open-air bar before taking a wander down the coast to historic Holetown, just a 15-minute walk from the hotel and offering an array of local nightlife.