While surfing is clearly a visible part of the local culture, it wasn’t until recently that a surf-centric hotel planted its roots in the seaside town.
Founded in 2015, Nomads Hotel is the brainchild of Sean Rowland and Jeff Gourley.
Gourley opened Nomads Canteen in 2012 and after a few successful years of serving “surfer soul food” to local surfers and travelers, he bought out the space below the restaurant to open a boutique hotel.
After years of working as a freelance and surf photographer for the World Surf League, Rowland was ready to leave his nomadic lifestyle behind and create a home away from home for traveling surfers.
Not only did Gourley and Rowland want to create a surf-themed hotel to pair with the already successful canteen but they also wanted to offer all-inclusive surf packages – something that didn’t seem to exist in southern California quite yet. And so, Nomads Hotel was born.
The hotel is located in downtown San Clemente and features six themed rooms and a bunkhouse, each inspired by famous surf destinations across the globe. While simply booking a room for the night is an option, Nomads offers unique surf packages that have every detail of your surf stay taken care of.
Upon stepping through the doors, you’ll be greeted by fun, bright colors, the subtle aroma of surf wax, and complimentary drink coupons for the neighboring canteen.
The room is surfed-themed at every turn: copies of Surfer’s Journal on the bookshelf, surf racks against the back wall, Hawaiian Tropic shampoo/soap, reusable cups courtesy of the Surfrider Foundation, and photos from Rowland’s travels round out the décor.
The hotel caters to travelers of every configuration, with each room featuring a different setup and a bunkroom designed for solo or budget-conscious travelers with individual beds available for purchase.
If you opt for the all-inclusive option, you’ll receive pickup at the local train station, a surf lesson, board/wetsuit rentals, three meals daily (breakfast at The Grill and lunch/dinner at Nomads Canteen), and a guided surf session each day, transportation included.
If you choose the a la carte room option, the surf shuttle is still included with your stay and lessons, meals, and rentals are available for an additional cost.
Surf guides are well-versed in all the local breaks and are happy to share their knowledge and direct guests to the surf spot best suited to their needs. Beginners and longboarders are typically shuttled to Doheny State Beach or San Onofre State Beach, both of which offer long, slow waves, perfect for learning or honing in skills. More experienced surfers typically visit Lowers, Uppers, or T Street for more advanced waves.
Nomads is conveniently located in downtown San Clemente, within walking distance to local shops, bars, and restaurants, as well as the pier. When you’re taking a break from the surf, drop by Hobie Surf Shop, indulge in a hand-dipped ice cream from South Swell, take a walk down the beach trail, or partake in an art class at Canvas, Paint and Wine, Oh My! With so much to see and do, San Clemente has something for everyone.
All-inclusive surf camps and packages are popping up right and left in surf destinations around the world, but, until now, have been missing from California. Nomads aims to change that and offer surfers from every corner of the globe the chance to eat, sleep, and play in the oasis that is Southern California. Cozy rooms, tasty eats, and waves on tap … count us in!
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