Surfing may be a sport that’s been popular for more than a half-century, but the concept of surf real estate — that is, buying a home specifically for its locale in a surfing destination — has only gained traction in the last several years, according to Philip A. White Jr., the president and chief executive of Sotheby’s International Realty.
The company’s latest Luxury Outlook report found that consumers, especially millennials, are increasingly gravitating toward homes in locations that align with their active and entertainment-focused interests.
“While surfing doesn’t offer the same real estate draw as golf communities, the sport does have a fervent following, so it’s not surprising to see that the appetite for surf real estate is growing,” Mr. White said.
The renowned surfer Peter Townend, a former world surfing champion and currently a consultant for the surfing industry, agreed: “Surfers used to hop around the world and stay in different surf lodges, but now they’re loyalists to particular places and buying homes there as a result to establish a base.”
Following are four destinations with growing surf real estate markets.
On England’s southwest coast about a five-hour drive from London, Cornwall is a county set along the Atlantic Ocean and regarded as a premier surfing destination among both locals and an international crowd.
Mr. Townend said that the waves were consistent throughout the year while Christopher Bailey, the head of national waterfront sales for the London-based real estate company Knight Frank, added that the numerous shallow sandy beaches had the advantage of facing multiple directions. “If strong winds are coming in from the wrong direction, which is going to make surfing difficult, you have the option of driving a half-hour to another beach facing a different direction where the surfing conditions will be much better,” he said.
Numerous surfing competitions take place in Cornwall, and the lifestyle is relaxed and very family-friendly. “You can surf before breakfast and be at your home office working by 9, which is a pattern we’ve seen more consistently in the last year with many people moving to the area full time,” Mr. Bailey said.
Further to his point, Cornwall has become significantly more popular as a place to live in the wake of the pandemic, with buyers from England as well as from countries such as Spain, Portugal and Morocco.
Although many towns dot the coast, Mawgan Porth, Sennan Cove, Carbis Bay and Newquay offer the best waves for surfers. Buyers will find a mix of single-family homes, townhouses and apartments in low-rise buildings. With a budget of $1 million, Mr. Bailey said, it is possible to find a four-bedroom beachfront house with views. For half that budget, expect a two- or three-bedroom apartment on or near the beach.
Attractions in Cornwall in addition to surfing include sailing and a flourishing culinary scene. Rick Stein, for one, is the chef behind The Seafood Restaurant, highly regarded for its dishes serving locally caught seafood.
Guanacaste, Costa Rica
The surfing culture in Guanacaste, a province on Costa Rica’s northwest Pacific coast, dates from the mid-1960s with the release of the surf documentary “The Endless Summer,” which included scenes from the area.
“The movie put Guanacaste on the map, and it’s been known as a surf destination ever since,” said Lisa Simmons, a real estate agent at Re/Max Ocean Surf & Sun Realty in Costa Rica.
Both Ms. Simmons and Mr. Townend said that the region’s entire coastline was lined with surfing beach after surfing beach.
“You get some of the best waves and surfing conditions in the world here,” Mr. Townend said. “The water is also warm year-round so you’re not limited by season, which makes it a highly desirable place to own a property.”
There are two main surfing towns in Guanacaste, known for its wide sandy beaches: Playa Grande, also a nesting site for leatherback sea turtles, offers towering waves that are best for experienced surfers, while Tamarindo, just to the south, has tamer swells.
Ms. Simmons said that surf shops and schools offering surf lessons abounded in both towns. “Some even guarantee that you’ll be riding a wave by the end of your first lesson or get your money back,” she said.
Playa Avellanas, about a 30-minute drive south of Tamarindo, is a surfing town that has recently become more popular and has been dubbed “Little Hawaii” because of its favorable surfing conditions. There, surfers gather at Lola’s, a beachfront restaurant, and enjoy fish tacos, ceviche and chilled beers in between riding the waves.
Given that it is emerging, Playa Avellanas is a relatively affordable spot to buy a home: A two-bedroom new construction home that is walking distance from the beach starts at about $220,000, Ms. Simmons said. A similar property in Tamarindo and Playa Grande would cost upward of $500,000. Tamarindo is the busier of the two and offers more condominiums than homes; prices for the former start around $240,000 for a two-bedroom property that is walking distance from the beach. Playa Grande is more secluded and has few condominiums to speak of.
The Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo is north of Playa Grande. Its 64 residences are among the most upscale in the province; prices for three-bedroom ocean-view residences start at $2 million. The development offers residents SurfX, an in-house surf outfitter, that arranges surfing excursions and lessons.
Glamour meets surfing in Biarritz, an upscale town on France’s southwestern coast, near the Spanish border. Mr. Townend described it as the surfing capital of Europe. “It opens to the Atlantic Ocean and gets these incredible wild waves,” he said.
There are several prime surfing spots in or near Biarritz, according to Thibaut Longuefosse, owner of the real estate agency myBiarritz Property and an avid surfer himself.
La Côte des Basques is the best known and has a beach with swells that are consistently high no matter the time of year — finding a wave you can ride is almost a given. The seafront promenade there is lively with its many pedestrians, seafood restaurants and surf shops.
About a 10-minute drive south, there’s Belharra, a legendary reef that attracts surfers from all over the world for its towering, strong waves.
“Belharra is super famous but meant for surfers who are very skilled,” Mr. Longuefosse said. “And even if you don’t get out into the water, it’s still a show to come and watch the surfers who do.”
Anglet, just five minutes north of La Côte des Basques, is another surfing go-to and has more than a half-dozen beaches.
Mr. Longuefosse said that Biarritz had been a staple vacation destination for the French and other Europeans for several decades, but that the pandemic had brought in an increasing number of home buyers.
“Before, people used to check into a hotel, but now they want to own a home,” he said.
Many of these newcomers are from the United States, England and Switzerland, and they appreciate that Biarritz has an international airport that offers flights to London, Paris, Geneva and other European cities.
Options for properties in the area range from apartments in low-rise buildings to townhouses to impressive villas. Prices start at around $12,000 per square meter and climb to more than $20,000 for a home with sea views.
“If you’re looking to buy a single-family home, expect to spend well over $1 million,” Mr. Longuefosse said.
Biarritz’s real estate might be expensive, but it is a safe and photogenic place with a charming feel, excellent restaurants and shopping, and a food market, Les Halles, that is full of stalls serving local specialties at affordable prices.
Located about a half-hour north of Lisbon on the Estoril Coast, Cascais is a town that is a favorite getaway spot for Portuguese because of its scenic setting of white sand beaches framed by the Sintra Mountains.
Surfing is a staple sport in the area, according to Miguel Neves, the director for Berkshire Hathaway Portugal Property on the Lisbon coast and a surfer for more than 25 years.
“The mix of waves for beginners and experienced surfers on most days make for good surfing conditions regardless of your level,” he said. “Temperatures are also mild during the winter so it’s possible to enjoy surfing at any time.”
Cascais has a handful of beaches that are ideal for surfing: Guincho has bigger waves, and Carcavelos has smaller ones and is where beginners learn the sport, while Parede is less crowded and offers the best and most consistent waves during the winter, especially in January.
Mr. Neves said that home prices in the area ranged from $5,000 per square meter to more than $10,000. In upscale neighborhoods such as Quinta da Marinha, Birre and Quinta da Bicuda, properties are easily over $3 million.
Cascais itself was a fishing village and a desirable place to own a home; the streets are narrow and winding, and the historic fishermen’s homes have been restored with modern amenities. The small mountain town of Biscaia is another coveted spot for its large homes with ample outdoor space and water views.
International home buyers, who Mr. Neves says are increasing each year, are primarily from Brazil, France and England.
“Cascais is very cosmopolitan and has a diversity of ethnic restaurants,” he said. “And it offers diversions besides surfing like golfing, biking and horseback riding.”