4 super swell surf towns (even if you don't surf)
In a vicarious show of camaraderie, and to keep office depression at bay while the rest of the world has fun, we got involved in the only way we can: writing about places we'd rather be.
These four surf towns landed on our latest list of destinations for their good mix of crowds, food, nightlife and, of course, surf breaks most of us wouldn't go near with a ten-foot board.
Your favorite surf town not listed? Tell us about it in the comments!
Crowd: Ecuadorian bohemians and 20-something Jack Johnson listeners.
Claim to fame: Home of the longest right break in Ecuador and best monthly full moon party on South America's left coast.
Savvy surfers know all about the Ecuadorian coast, which is loaded with at least 50 quality surf breaks between Manta and Salinas.
The best is the tiny village of Montañita.
There’s no friendlier place in the world to ride waves and eat chocolate banana empanadas. High season is between December and April, when waves can push three meters (10 feet) and the water is warm. But the party continues year-round.
You can book surfing packages through U.S.-based Waterways Travel or take lessons with local operator Casa Del Sol Surf Camp,which runs surf tours in and around town for novices and experienced boarders.
Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
Crowd: Eco-tourists, discriminating scuba divers, Brazilian soap opera stars, surfers with money
Claim to fame: The place is known as South America's offshore Shangri-La.
Take the beaches of the Seychelles, wildlife draws of the Galapagos, star power of Anguilla, curls of California, add Bluebeard and Alcatraz, stick it on a desolate, 21-island archipelago way out in the Southern Atlantic and you've got Fernando de Noronha.
Created in 1988, Brazil's first national marine park did time as a pirate lair and an inescapable offshore prison in centuries past before mesmerizing conservationists, eco-travelers, scuba divers and wave runners alike with what many consider to be one of the most beautiful tropical outposts on earth.
Fewer than 500 visitors are permitted at any one time on the chain's namesake isle, Fernando de Noronha, where regular flights arrive from Recife, Natal, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo.
Accommodations range from luxury resorts like Pousada Maravilha, which draws Brazil's rich and famous, to simpler family-run hotels.
During surfing season (December-March), 4.5-meter (15 feet) swells aren't uncommon on Cacimba do Padre, the island's most famous break, among several other board-friendly coves lining the island's sheltered west shore.
Other must-dos include a morning visit to Baia dos Golfinhos, where giant congregations of spinner dolphins gather daily; exploring the technicolor reefs (home to 230 species of fish) with a scuba tank or snorkel; checking out the island's protected population of sea turtles laying their eggs right on the sand (December-May); and enjoying the catch of the day at Restaurante Ecologikus, an off-the-charts seafood restaurant.
More on CNN: World's 50 best beaches
Crowd: European second home owners, travelers who've already “done” Spain and Greece, Portuguese fishermen and international surf champs.
Claim to fame: One of Europe's top surfing destinations and a regular host of the World Surf Championship.
Half an hour from Lisbon, the cobblestone streets and sun-bleached homes of this traditional fishing village border one of the sweetest, wave-battered beachfronts on either side of the Atlantic.
Ericeira isn't exactly a secret these days -- especially during July and August when a decent portion of Europe's forever-young crowd congregates here to work on their tan, gorge on fresh lobster, party at Ouriço (Portugal's second-oldest disco) and catch waves.
Above all, squeezing into this oceanside town (or coming a little earlier or later in the warm season) lets you experience the perfect barrels of Ribeira d'Ilhas Beach, the area's best known break, just north of town, which hosts 3.6-meter (12 feet) swells and international surfing championships.
Novices can head about a mile south of town to Foz de Lizandro Beach for a milder break, where local outfitters like Rapture Surf Camp offer lessons.
Most upscale seaside hotels in the area are downcoast in nearby Cascais and Estoril, but a scenic exception in town is Vila Gale Ericeira, located on a rise above Ericeira Beach and equipped with the town's best spa.
After a day on these waves, you may need one.
Crowd: Longboarders, shortboarders, yoga retreaters and Ixtapa vacationers venturing beyond high-rise resortland.
Claim to fame: One of the best one-stop, nonstop surf zones on the North American coast. Quality year-round surf for all board types and levels.
Remember that final scene at the end of “The Shawshank Redemption,” when Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins reunite on that gorgeously empty beach in that mysteriously exotic utopia called Zihuatanejo?
Well, things are a little different these days from that tranquil Hollywood image, but head about 45 minutes up the coast from Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo's international airport to sleepy Troncones (population 600) and you'll find a far less frenzied, three-mile stretch of surf-pounded golden sand that time has treated more gently.
A year-round surfing magnet loaded with consistently good beach and point breaks (including its best known pair of left-handers, La Saladita and The Ranch), Troncones and its neighboring village of Majahua is what every surf community south of Malibu wishes it was.
An ocean playground with the requisite seafood joints, sports bars and taco stands that welcomes every type and level of surfer, but manages to stay pretty low-key.
The biggest waves are in summer when most breaks close out over three meters (10 feet).
Troncones-based surfing outfitter, ISA Mexico offers week-long surf camps, walk-in lessons and everything in between, with equipment and video analysis included.
More on CNN: World’s 50 best surf spots
Have your own favorite surf towns? Tell us about them below