Mention Peru, and most people think of Machu Picchu. But the country’s northern Pacific coast beaches are becoming hot spots for surfers and sun-worshippers. Many congregate at this new hotel from architect Jordi Puig. In the main building's stacked wooden cubes, floor-to-ceiling glass walls bring light and views of the vibrant landscape in to stark white modernist rooms. Steps lead down to a 90-foot infinity pool stretching toward the ocean.
Big Sur is California’s most beautiful and unspoiled stretch of coastline, with the legendary Highway One running between the central coast’s dramatic cliffs and the vast, protected swath of Los Padres National Forest. The 59-room Ventana Big Sur resort blends effortlessly into the rolling coastal hills, bluffs, and redwood groves, channeling New Age spirituality with luxury amenities like outdoor Japanese hot baths, daily guided walks of the 243-acre property, and programs that focus on HoloSync, Quartz Bowl, and Drum Circle music therapy. Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, diving, and windsurfing are among the many options when you’re ready to explore. Book it here: Ventana Big Sur.
Girls who grew up loving horses will be in heaven in Del Mar, California, a San Diego suburb that’s home to the exquisitely beautiful Del Mar Race Track, the Del Mar Horse Park (a mecca for riding events), and the Fairmont Grand Del Mar resort, which has its own equestrian center and stable of horses reserved for guests. Racing and riding stays can be built around golf outings, spa treatments, surf lessons, dining at the hotel’s Relais & Chateaux Addison restaurant, and late-night dancing at Club M. The Del Mar racing season only runs a few precious weeks each year, but visit anytime to enjoy miles of riding and hiking in the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, located just outside the windows of your luxury Fairmont suite. Book it here: Fairmont Grand Del Mar.
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Husband-and-wife sheep farmers converted this windswept curve of the Norwegian coast into an architectural landmark. Domes light underground bunkers carved into the landscape, each decorated with modern and vintage pieces, hand-painted murals, and art installations. Floor-to-ceiling glass entrances look out on Hosnasand Beach and the distant Halten lighthouse. And most days end with a soak in the barrel-like, wood-heated hot tubs.
Though technically this border city sits in France, it’s more accurately described as Basque Country, home to that unique enclave on the Spanish-French border. Hendaye Beach sits wedged between the Pyrenees and the Atlantic, and while an afternoon enjoying the sun is great, the old city at the top of the hill is definitely worth a visit. It’s an old Basque city with fascinating architecture and sweeping views out over the Bay of Chingoudy. A short drive or bus ride gets you to San Sebastian, one of the smallest foodie capitals on the planet.
Located in the heart of Cape Cod, Dennis Port is the perfect spot to enjoy the wind and waves while catching up on a little culture in between. Take a break from the surf with a scenic afternoon drive along Route 6A, a highway dotted with renowned art galleries, or cap off a sunny beach day with a theatrical performance at the Cape Playhouse. Watch for “Free Fun Fridays” at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, a summer event offering complimentary activities for kids including face-painting and pottery-making.
A popular spring break destination, South Padre Island can be touristy, but it’s not without its charms. Snag a table on the patio at The Café on the Beach to tuck into fresh shrimp tacos, crab cakes, grilled snapper and tortilla soup, or opt for a grab-and-go meal at Ceviche Ceviche (the mahi mahi with fresh mango and avocado is to-die-for). When you want to venture outdoors, there’s the boardwalk along the Laguna Madre Nature Trail, the beachfront Isla Blanca Park (a popular picnic spot), and the 70-mile Padre Island National Seashore, the world’s longest undeveloped barrier island, just three hours away. The Hilton Garden Inn South Padre Island is steps from the beach and offers spacious rooms from $130/night.
For summer R&R that includes gallery hopping, wine sipping and spa going, this upscale beach community located about 90 minutes north of San Diego is ideal. Several large resorts — Montage Laguna Beach, The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel and Surf & Sand Resort among them — are set along the area's picturesque cliffs and are perfect for a romantic couple's escape or a girlfriends' getaway. The town is a longtime art colony (with more than 100 galleries), so it's easy to find a one-of-a-kind souvenir, while the region's focus on healthy California cuisine means you'll eat well, too.
Surf City is the cultural center of Topsail Island, a long barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. For visitors looking to surf in the aptly named city, there are plenty of sporting goods stores to suit your needs. The larger area is known for its organic blueberry farms, with some farms allowing guests to come out and pick their own fresh pesticide-free blueberries. Guests can unwind in Surf City’s cozy bed and breakfast spot overlooking the ocean waves. For the outdoorsy types, the area has an array of campgrounds where visitors can pitch a tent or park their RV.
This pretty South Carolina barrier island offers ten miles of rolling sand dunes and sea grasses, not to mention pristine and mercifully quiet golf courses. One of the best beach vacations for families, Kiawah Island is kid-friendly but not overrun—just what you need to chill. Try Kiawah Beachwalker Park where you can walk through pine trees and yucca plants before emerging onto the sands.