Manasquan Inlet, New Jersey
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No Situation jokes: Manasquan Inlet's big, left-to-right-breaking waves near Point Pleasant Beach can get very crowded. But the party's usually filled with experienced surfers who worship the long and fast rides – and for people closer to a beginner level, there's a less-intense, but consistent, left-to-right break closer to the area's jetty. The culture among the surfers here can be a little more aggro than that of San Diego's easy-going types – ride defensively – but there are plenty of soul surfers who love this break, even if the water can be choppy and cold. There is also some pride for the riders that have come back in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

On days that you want to avoid fist-pumping parties, you can get yourself situated on one of the fishing fleets that come in and out of Point Pleasant Beach and catch bluefish (the area's specialty), if not a striper or fluke (a solid charter service is Queen Mary boats and Ken's Landing). Sea- and surf-kayaking is also popular in these waters, and the outfitter Yakkity Yaks will bring boats right to the beach – or, for the more adventurous, take you on guided tours of the wildlife preserve around the nearby Sedge Islands, New Jersey's first marine conservation zone.

More local and adrenaline-inducing is parasailing in Point Pleasant with the help of outfitter Point Pleasant Parasail, which also offers banana boat rides. Stay in nearby, artsy Red Bank (about 30 minutes from the beach), in a suite at the boutique Oyster Point Hotel, which presents just the right amount of comfort (e.g., Duxiana beds) after a day in salty water. Red, a restaurant on the town's main drag, Broad Street, wins votes as the most popular New American bistro in the area. Beach House Classic, near the beach, can supply you with a board, duds, and a bit of beginner advice.