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Get Some Sun

Where to find the emptiest dunes, the wildest beach bars, and the finest surf breaks from Florida to Nicaragua.


The Samaná Peninsula, Dominican Republic.  

Alicante, Spain
Four nights + perfect beach + grilled-pork bun = $235 for a long weekend.
For a fraction of a typical stay on the French or Italian Riviera, you can catch a tan on one of Spain’s nicer beaches, Playa de Arenales del Sol, located eight miles south of gloriously cheap Alicante. Before hopping on one of the hourly coaches from the bus station just south of the city center, buy a bunch of Valencia oranges ($6)—they taste like Spain itself—at the modernista-style Mercado Central. After a siesta on Arenales, squeeze into the tiled tapas bar El Cisne de Oro (Calle César Elguezábal 23) and munch on tiny sloppy buns of grilled pork ($3). Spend the night at the quirkily decorated Les Monges Palace (from $58; 34-965-215-046 or lesmonges.net), named for a nearby convent, but not nearly as chaste—the noisy bars of the Barrio del Carmen are just down the street.

Sebastian Inlet, Florida
Two nights camping + sirloin-tip sub + surf rental = $70 for a two-nighter.
It’s been three decades since surfers first started doing aerials off Florida’s sleepy Space Coast, yet somehow the waves still aren’t that crowded. Set up camp with the Jimmy Buffett crowd at Sebastian Inlet State Park ($23 a night; reserveamerica.com) and break through the swells at First Peak, next to the north jetty. If you’re feeling daring, paddle a third of a mile to Monster Hole, one of the longer waves on the East Coast. Refuel on sirloin-tip steak subs ($8.75) at the Long Point Café (longpointcafe.com). Wake up at dawn to reapply wax or rent boards (from $15 a day) at Ron Jon Surf Shop (ronjons.com), open 24 hours a day.

Tofino, British Columbia
Four nights + free wellies + fish tacos = $1,125 for a long weekend.
In summer, Tofino’s surfer-filled Chesterman Beach is Canada’s answer to Laguna (albeit with Sarah McLachlan sightings instead of Lauren Conrad). But in winter, it’s the coast-pummeling storms that are the main draw. From Vancouver, ferry to Vancouver Island, then drive through the old-growth forests of Pacific Rim National Park to the Wickaninnish Inn (from $280; wickinn.com), which slashes its peak-season rates to lure in hardy souls who pre-reserve window seats at the Pointe restaurant so they can watch winter storms make landfall. When you want to leave your picture window and get soaked, grab the free rain gear from your room and ask the front desk for Wellies. Once you’re good and wet (and hungry), drive up the road to SoBo (sobo.ca), a former takeout truck with a killer fish taco (it’s literally called that: the Killer Fish Taco; $5). The fancy new digs have great views of the Clayoquot Sound.

Samaná Peninsula, Dominican Republic
Three nights + palm groves + whale colony = $1,758 for a long weekend.
Drive two hours along the newly built highway from Santo Domingo to the Samaná Peninsula, where the year-old Peninsula House is easily one of the nicest hotels on the island (thepeninsulahouse.com). The room rates, from $520, are slightly more reasonable if you book a three-night package ($1,700) that includes full breakfasts, a dinner for two, and a pair of poolside massages. Sip your wake-up espresso in one of the guesthouse’s six airy suites—request one of two that face the ocean—then sit poolside and survey the surrounding palm plantations and mangroves. Lunch is at the Beach restaurant, plopped right on a long arc of sand that you might have to share with, say, one other couple walking their dog. If you arrive between January and March, head out to sea on a Whale Samaná motorboat (from $58; 809-538-2494) to gape at the hundreds of humpbacks that winter in Samaná Bay. Swap whale tales over mojitos ($4) at El Mosquito Art Bar in Las Terrenas’ Fishermen’s Village; the string of beach shacks have been restored, largely by French expats, into loungey, laid-back nightspots.

San Sebastián, Puerto Rico
Two nights + pick- your-own coffee beans + omelettes = $298 for a two-nighter.
The lush hillsides surrounding the Hacienda El Jibarito (from $129; haciendaeljibarito.com) don’t just provide a pretty view. They’re also the source for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A unique agro-tourism lodge (the name means, roughly, “House of the Hillbilly”) two hours west of San Juan, Jibarito lets visitors pick eggs from the on-site chicken farm, then deliver them to the kitchen to be whipped into omelettes. Request one of the freestanding wooden villas, some of which have views of roaming Brahman cows. For $40, you can tour two nearby coffee plantations, pick your own beans, bring them back to the hacienda to roast, and then bestow them on coffee drinkers back home as holiday gifts.


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