Baleal, Portugal
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Baleal, Portugal

Because of Baleal's unique position on a tiny, windswept peninsula, it has every type of beach one could ask for: The famed "supertubo" barrel is a regular stop on the pro surf tour, but there are also plenty of slow rollers that are great to learn on. There are bays that are perfect for an SUP but also coves so calm they're like giant kiddie pools.

Baleal itself is an old whaling village where you can wander along the top of limestone cliffs softened by the epochs or just sit back and watch fishermen suiting up, spears in hand. A short boat ride away is the Berlengas archipelago, a UNESCO preserve with some of Europe's best diving. Or sign up for surf lessons with the 20-year-old Baleal Surf Camp, and once the ocean puts a chill in your bones, warm up at one of the beachside bars with an espresso and a pastel de nata (a highly addictive egg-custard tart).

When the sun sets, die-hards crawl into surf vans to rest up for dawn patrol. Don't have a van? Stay at the 100-year-old Casa das Marés, where your windows swing open onto the Atlantic roiling loudly below. Got a noise complaint? File it with Mother Nature.

More information: The fastest way to Baleal is via Lisbon, reachable on direct TAP Portugal flights from New York JFK and Newark. The beach is 90 kilometers and a scenic drive north. Another option is to fly into scenic Porto and take the train to Lisbon.