In many ways South Florida serves as a sort of makeshift mecca for seemingly any population: bikers, models, pro athletes, retirees, whoever, they all flock here for their own reasons. For surfers, it's in large part due to a heralded break in West Palm Beach called Reef Road. With medium-sized left-breaking waves that produce long barrels, this zen spot – the more humble neighbor to ritzy Palm Beach proper – is worth the pilgrimage. Thanks to northeast swells, the waves are fickle, which makes them immense fun for accomplished surfers and a nice challenge for intermediates. The rides aren't speedy but they can last the length of a football field, and you experience some big gut-wrenching drops near the jetty. You'll also paddle through some of America's clearest, balmiest water, the intricacies of which you can learn more about from the proprietors at Ground Swell surf shop.

It's tough to find nearby parking at Reef Road, and the community of weathered locals who hold sway over this spot can get a little ornery – especially when the lineup gets busy on big wave days. But if you leave the attitude and pricey new gear at home and show a little deference – maybe even give up a set to the others – you'll be treated to a cool community vibe in warm tides at one of the best surf spots on the East Coast.

For lodging, the tony waterfront Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach is a no-brainer. It sits on seven acres of tropical gardens and boasts private balconies, Frette linens, tennis courts, and luxury resort staples (and yet rooms start at just $199). If you're up for fine dining, our favorite is Charley's Crab for freshly caught stone crab and equally delectable ocean views. Our go-to joint, though, is the storied Cuban food at Havana, in the up-and-coming nabe the locals call SoSo (short for South of Southern Blvd.).