There’s simply nothing sweeter than rewarding your body after surfing your brains out. And the closer those frosty beverages and that fresh, flavorful food are to the break, the better. So, we’ve searched out the finest restaurants near the world’s best surfing beaches. And we don’t just mean pricey joints with celebrity chefs—there are homespun offerings, too. From tacos in California to foie gras in France, here are the top places to ride the waves and reward your appetite.
5. Hookipa Beach Park and Mama’s Fish House, Maui, Hawaii
Ride the waves: Hookipa is the Hawaiian word for hospitality, but don’t take the inviting surf break at Hookipa Beach Park on Maui’s legendary north shore for granted. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it can be decidedly unwelcoming. Deep water, tricky riptides, and rogue eight-foot waves mixed in with consistent six-footers make this a playground for advanced surfers only—just paddling out takes guts. But as long as you handle yourself and respect the order of the lineup, the locals are fair if not friendly. On land, there’s ample parking, facilities, lifeguards, and a strip of sand for spectators.
Tide your appetite: At Mama’s Fish House, the seafood is so fresh that the menu includes the name of the boat your meal came in on that morning. Ocean views framed by swaying palm trees complete the Polynesian decor. It’s impossible to miss: The sign, a fishing boat beached at the side of the Hana Highway, is less than a mile from the break, though the restaurant’s reputation has been known to attract foodies from much farther afield. Raw ono marinated in lime and coconut milk, uku ceviche sprinkled with Maui chile pepper, or mahimahi with sides of poi, purple sweet potato, and kalua-style pork will hit the spot regardless of whether you spent the day hanging ten or hanging out with your camera.
Mama’s Fish House
799 Poho Place
Paia, Maui, Hawaii
Tel: 808 579 8488
Dinner entrees $18–$38
4. Cowell’s Beach and Taqueria La Cabaña, Santa Cruz, California
Ride the waves: Santa Cruz locals boast that it was here, in the 1930s, that surfing was first introduced to the continental United States. This classic California surf city is also home to the world’s first official surfing museum (sorry, Australia, yours came later). Speaking of beginnings, Cowell’s Beach, in the center of town, is ground zero for first-timers. The long, gentle sandbar wave rolls in year-round, and there’s no attitude in the water—most everyone else is learning to stand up, too. Water temps tend to be chilly, so rent a wet suit with your board.
Tide your appetite: Despite an influx of trendier digs, Taqueria La Cabaña, a family-run institution opened in 2003, endures. The dazzling array of tacos includes fried snapper, nopales (that’s cactus), pork with chile verde, salmon, and spinach, all under $3 each. Tempted as you may be to order four when you reach the counter, three will more than do you. The California-style super burrito loaded with french fries is a good bet if you’re really hungry. At peak mealtimes, call in advance to place your order (the menu is online), or be prepared to appease your growling stomach with free chips and salsa until your food arrives.
Taqueria La Cabñna
2332 Mission Street
Santa Cruz, California
Tel: 831 425 7261
3. Teahupoo and Snack Maui, Tahiti, French Polynesia
Ride the waves: Between April and September, the surf at Teahupoo can rise to 40 feet tall and 40 feet wide before breaking onto dry reef (all of the water is sucked up into the wave). Just watching daredevil experts tangle with the most dangerous wave in the world will get your blood pumping. On the drive out to this sleepy village on the southwest corner of Tahiti Iti, watch out for dogs, goats, and local children playing in the middle of the road—this isn’t the Tahiti of private island resorts and overwater bungalows.
Tide your appetite: French Polynesia’s fast-food joints, or “snacks,” are a delicious, belly-filling way to beat the brutal exchange rate with the French Polynesian franc. Snack Maui, on the white sands of Plage de Maui in the village of Vairoa (ten minutes by car from Teahupoo), serves fresh seafood such as Tahitian fish ceviche marinated in coconut milk and lime and mahimahi in a salty, aromatic vanilla sauce with a generous dollop of rice. Add a cold Hinano beer and you’ve got a vastly satisfying, uniquely French Polynesian meal that just might be the highlight of your honeymoon.
Snack Maui (a.k.a. La Plage de Maui)
PK 6, South Coastal Road
Vairoa, Tahiti, French Polynesia
Tel: 689 74 71 74
2. Domes Beach and Casa Islena Tapas Bar, Rincon, Puerto Rico
Ride the waves: Rincon, near the northwest corner of Puerto Rico, is the best surf spot in the Caribbean. Happily, wave-deprived East Coasters can hop direct morning flights from New York or Miami and be paddling out in the afternoon. There are beginner spots in Rincon, but Domes is not one of them. This big, spectator-friendly beach gets its name from a curved metal structure nearby (a nuclear plant decommissioned decades ago). Its reputation comes from the challenging six- to eight-foot waves that roll in all year. It’s a great spot for working on your front-face carves, but be warned: If you wipe out, you’re falling on reef and a good number of spiky sea urchins.
Tide your appetite: Located less than two miles from Domes Beach, the oceanfront Casa Isleña is the Spanish-style villa you wish you built for yourself 20 years ago when real estate in Rincon was a steal. It’s a modest place with a bohemian vibe, nine guest rooms, a waterfront pool, and surprisingly, a tapas bar that serves tasty Thai-Rican treats, such as green papaya salad, chorizo with Manchego cheese, char-grilled octopus on white bean salad, and wahoo skewers in spicy coconut broth. These are small plates, so order a few (maybe even one of everything). A habañero Bloody Mary will help you toast any moments of glory you had out on the water.
Barrio Puntas, Rincon, Puerto Rico
Carretera Interior 413, Km 4.8
Tel: 787 823 1525
Tapas plates $4–$14
1. La Grande Plage and Villa Eugénie, Biarritz, France
Ride the waves: Parisians have been summering in Biarritz in droves since the 18th century, but for the surfer set, October through April is high season. Even though wet suits are a must ten months of the year, don’t expect to have this surf spot to yourself. Six beaches, spread out along nearly four miles of coastline, offer prime waves for every skill level. It’s always fun to find surf in the city, and the beach breaks at La Grande Plage (best for advanced beginners) are right off Biarritz’s main casino-lined strip—think of it as Waikiki for Francophiles.
Tide your appetite: Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, built the gothic Hôtel du Palais in 1854. And, yes, to dine in her white-tablecloth, crystal-chandeliered, Michelin-starred namesake restaurant, Villa Eugénie, you’ll have to swap your swimsuit for something a little less revealing (jackets are required). The kitchen’s classic French masterpieces, perhaps spider crab velouté or Pyrenean suckling lamb, are well worth the sartorial effort. Plus, the views of La Grande Plage through the floor-to-ceiling French doors will whet your appetite for tomorrow’s surf.
Hôtel du Palais
1 Avenue de l’Impératrice
Tel: 33 5 5941 6400
Dinner entrees $47—$98