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Orbitz CEO Barney Harford catches a wave in Mexico

Orbitz CEO Barney Harford catches a wave in Ventura, CA


Orbitz knows vacation—it’s our business. But it’s our pleasure, too. And our jet-fueled passion for travel goes straight to the top, to our adventure-seeking CEO who loves to pick up a board and hit the waves whenever he can. Here, Orbitz frontman Barney Harford shares his seven favorite surf spots around the world, in no particular order, plus one secret spot that’s just too good to reveal.


Lahaina Beach, Hawaii

Lahaina Beach, Hawaii

1. Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing—Maui’s got it all for the adventurous ocean lover. “The nice thing about Maui is that in the morning you could be surfing one beach and enjoying the clean waves of a gentle offshore, and then in the afternoon you can drive around the island to another beach with a strong side shore wind for kitesurfing,” Barney says. “The breaks around Lahaina are very family-friendly, great if you’ve got friends who are new to surfing.”


Barney in Tofino, British Columbia, Canada

Barney in Tofino, British Columbia, Canada

2. Tofino, British Columbia, Canada

This Pacific spot is known as “Canada’s surfing capital” and it’s no wonder with more than 20 miles of beach break. Water temperatures hover around 50 degrees, but for Barney it’s worth suiting up for—and that means 5mm wetsuit, booties and hoody. “It’s just an amazingly beautiful area—it’s remote, very wild,” he says. “And it’s a great place for storm watching; they’ve created a new season around this.” The idea is that winter storm-seekers can gear up and experience the fury of the lashing waves up close, or watch from the warm comfort of a waterfront hotel such as the Wickaninnish. In milder weather, Barney recommends exploring the elevated walkways that wind through the nearby rainforest.


Indian Beach, Oregon

Indian Beach, Oregon ©City of Seaside

3. Indian Beach, Oregon

Barney recommends this friendly surf spot on the Oregon Coast as a great summer destination for the whole family, though he warns that even then you can expect chilly water. The spot’s part of the verdant Ecola State Park, near the charming towns of Seaside and Cannon Beach where you’ll find plenty of accommodation options. “It’s a beautiful place for the family,” Barney says of Indian Beach. “There’s a nice cove, well protected, and there’s just a great vibe.”



Beach in Ventura County, California

4. Topanga Point, California

When he visits friends in the area, Barney enjoys hitting up Topanga Point, a few miles north of Los Angeles. “That stretch going from Malibu all the way up to Ventura—it’s classic,” he says, noting the string of famous surf spots that dot scenic Highway 1. If you go as far as Ventura, where solid points are the big draw, keep an eye out for locally raised surf talents like Timmy Curran, Dane Reynolds and Nick Rozsa.


Del Mar Beach, California

Del Mar Beach, California

5. Del Mar, California

This spot near La Jolla beckons with perfect weather year-round. “We had an Orbitz partner summit there once and stayed at a great hotel, the <ahref=”–CA/Del_Mar/Villa_L%27Auberge.h867241/?WT.tsrc=orbitzBlog&GCID=78142″ target=”_blank”>L’Auberge del Mar,” Barney recalls. “Del Mar is a charming little town, and there’s a great beach break just down from the hotel—it’s not too crowded and the locals are very friendly.” It’s a great spot for wildlife, too. “You can often see the seals and dolphins while out surfing,” he notes.



Pier at Hanalei, Hawaii

6. Hanalei Bay, Kauaʻi, Hawaii

This pristine bay on the north shore of Kauaʻi lures surfers with two miles of beach and spectacular mountain views. “It’s a beautiful, beautiful bay,” Barney says. The Orbitz exec says he surfs Hanalei to experience the sheer force of nature. “It’s fantastic, with quite a powerful wave.”


Beach near Ixtapa, Mexico

Beach near Ixtapa, Mexico

7. La Saladita, Mexico

While this Pacific beach near Ixtapa Zihuatenejo is famous for its killer left point break, Barney’s best memories of it are, surprisingly, not wave related. “I drove an Orbitz rental car—a Hertz rental car—into a ditch trying to find the Ranch [a nearby break],” Barney recalls, fondly. The local Hertz general manager showed up a couple of hours later—on what was a Saturday evening—with his wife, in a mini van, to rescue Barney and the vehicle. “He’s got a big knife; he’s just cutting away greenery, digging stuff out; he’s got planks,” Barney remembers. “He gets the car out and says, ‘OK, enjoy the rest of your trip.’ I think, Wow, this guy’s just amazing!” A call to a fellow exec at Hertz earned the manager unexpected accolades.


Secret spot in Baja, Mexico

Secret spot in Baja, Mexico

8. Mystery spot, Baja, Mexico

This is Barney’s favorite surf spot. It’s in Baja, but that’s all he’s willing to say. There aren’t any hotels nearby, so those in the know drive in and camp!

Tagged: California, Hawaii, Mexico, Top 10 Lists

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Martina Sheehan

Martina Sheehan

Martina is a Chicago-based travel writer and editor who has written for the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Budget Travel, Forbes Travel Guides, and Time Out Chicago, among other publications. You can find her at