Paradis Plage Perfect for Solo Travel on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast

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Photo by Paradis Plage

The third stop on my November beach hop along the Moroccan Atlantic Coast was Paradis Plage Surf and Spa Resort.  Owners take pride in being the first  hotel in Morocco to combine yoga and surfing—a dynamic duo since yoga  prepares and repairs the body after surfing.  The property invites guests to ride waves, climb camels, or salute the sun as it rises and sets. Here couples, families, friends, and solo travelers enjoy over 100 suites with terraces or balconies opening to pool or sea.  Recreation varies from four area golf courses and an outdoor cinema.  Located 30 minutes from Agadir and 50 minutes from an international airport connecting to European capitals via 3-hour flights, the resort is where westerners love to play.

Started by Kabbage Abbes, one of first investors in Agadir hotels,  who teamed with Francois Payot, head of Rip Curl Europe, the resort is a work of art  run by  Abbes’ daughter, Naima, and her husband, Vincent. Furnishings were created by locals and  the gorgeous green spaces and gardens are by  Spanish landscaper, Sergio Castaneda Beltran.

 

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Photo by Paradis Plage

Excited to learn more about surfing and to practice yoga, I was shown to a gorgeous oceanfront suite. At the Surf House beach bar while sipping my Flag (local beer) and waiting for a Mexican burger (rare in this region), I saw horses and camels waiting patiently on the sand while cats lounged in the sun. Later, everyone returned for the golden orange sunset.  See highlights of my stay below.

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Simo, instructor here and in video above, is from Rabat.  He has taught in Hawaii and on the US East Coast.  He guarantees by the end of the first lesson every student will be up on their boards.

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In partnership with Rip Curl, legendary Australian brand, Tarik Wahbi, surf pro from Tétouan, is ranked one of Morocco’s Top Ten surfers.  Manager of the  surf program, he leads a team of gregarious guys who hook up guests with equipment, instruction and guides to the best waves.

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Photo by Pardis Plage

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Photo by Paradis Plage

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Paradis Plage nurtures total wellness that fits the unique needs of each guest.  Surf and Yoga packages are available for two or five days.    Surf School Packages are available for 5 days—2 sessions per day.

Yoga and Spa packages range from two days (daily yoga course, a sensory hammam, and a massage) to five days (yoga course, two hammams, one body scrub, and two massages).

The resort shares with clients the secrets of Moroccan women’s beauty.  All cosmetics are 100% natural Taroudant Argan oil, essential oils from Marrakech gardens, pebbles from Imi Ouaddar’s beach, facial treatments using Sous Massa prickly pip, Taliouine saffron or roses of Dades Valley.

Traditional Hammams consist of a black soap scrub, Atlas ghassoul wrap, Atlantic Coast seaweed wrap, Imouzzer honey, and spice scrub.  Sensory Hammams fuse fragrances of in orange blossom and eucalyptus to relax and rejuvenate.  Managing massages and other spa services is Marie France Riera.

Important Tip:  Schedule spa services, especially massages, and yoga classes before you arrive or at check in because appointments and classes fill fast.

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Photo by Paradis Plage
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Photo by Paradis Plage

Yoga group classes, the highlight of my getaway, are offered three times daily:

8-9:15 Sunrise Yoga (for all levels)—breathing, flexibility, strength, muscle toning, body opening

11-12:15 Easy Yoga (all levels but especially great for beginners) Asanas postures and poses; precision of body alignment, rhythm, balance

5:30-7 Sunset  Yoga (all levels)–  detoxification, relaxing based on Vinyasa flow systems

Also available are classes in Yin Yoga Therapy (gentle practice using blocks, pillows, restorative and relaxing to relieve tension in muscles and joints, relax spine and pelvis), Aerial Yoga (hammock used for suspension), Prenatal, Power Flow (ultimate workout for athletes), and 108 Greetings.  Custom sessions can be arranged by Karim Fadali.

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Photo by Paradis Plage

Classes are typically held in the Yoga Shala which consists of two beach studios connected by a lotus pond and facing the sea.  Groups may rent the space for private retreats as they did during my stay so guests met in an open air space (see below).  Sara, our excellent German instructor, lives in Cairo.  Like the best teachers, she is creative, kind, soulful, and a learner herself.  She was excited about taking her first surf lesson after our yoga class.  My classmates were European as well– some there with partners and others solo. We “sent love to the flies”–pests in the  Taghazout region at times– but packing insect repellent might also be a good idea.  The small community made it possible to meet other guests in classes and connect with them at the poolside buffets or bars later.

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Photo by Paradis Plage

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I left feeling refreshed and restored by the beauty of nature and yoga.  I loved seeing smiles on surfers’ faces when they did what we all must do to navigate and enjoy life– conquer fear, be flexible and strong, and stand tall as we ride the waves.

Thanks to Paradis Plage for a restful retreat.  As always, the opinions are my own.

 

 

Surf Berbere an Endless Summer Camp for Adults

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A brilliant beam lasers through the blue wooden shutter. Now awake, I push open the window to catch the sun rising slowly, then bursting boldly from behind buildings on the beach. I’m singing Cat Stevens. He loved the Moroccan coast as I do.

Morning has broken like the first morning…

Mine is the sunlight, 
Mine is the morning,
Born of the one light Eden saw play.
Praise with elation, praise ev’ry morning,
God’s recreation of the new day.

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The afternoon before, I’d been picked up at the bus station in Agadir and driven along the coast to Taghazout. The stretch reminded me of the route my kids and I took one summer in a convertible from Santa Monica to Malibu. We’d stopped to watch surfers at Zuma Beach. This time my destination was Surf Berbere to practice yoga, learn about surfing, and live in community with the people who do it.

As we rolled into town I smelled fish sizzling. Minutes later at reception I met a friendly blond girl the age of my daughter. She, like everyone, was dressed in shorts and a tee shirt and radiated sunshine. In Marrakech it was sweater and boots weather, but here, just three hours south, it was summer (my favorite season) again. Since moving to Morocco I’d gotten serious about yoga, and when my instructor spoke of retreats on the coast, I added another destination to my Bucket List.  I’d wanted a fertile climate where my inner flower child could bloom. Here banana trees abound, the sun shines 300 days a year, and people relax.  Seemed I’d found the place.

She led me to the Vista Apartment all shiny clean and spacious. Flinging my suitcase on the bed, I turned and was stunned by the sight of nothing-but-sea out my window.

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As on my first beach solo trip to Costa Rica, I felt broken by beauty.   I’d planned to rest or write before yoga class and dinner, but thoughts began churning within like the waves without.

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Reliving our California trip had made me again miss my children in Nashville. Simultaneously experiencing this amazing Moroccan place made me again realize how much I’ll miss this country one day. My thoughts were like the tide mightily pushing and pulling me in two directions. How can I live abroad much longer so far from people I love across this ocean? How will I go back after all I’ve seen and felt here? How will I give up the beauty and adventure of this place? 

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Thankfully, by morning future fears robbing me of the present had washed out to sea, leaving diamonds—not smoke– sparkling on the water. The night waves pounding the shore below my balcony had somehow soothed my soul as nature and its creator always does. I woke rested and ready.

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As the campers of Surf Berbere had gathered around burgers on the rooftop grill the night before, we shuffled toward breakfast from our apartments to the café terraces that morning. Under clear, blue skies, fat cats chilled and a cute puppy begged as beginners and intermediates wondered which beach our instructors would choose for the day. The pros—many who had lived there for months—mapped their route for chasing waves as well. Van Morrison sang “Into the Mystic” as I finished my coffee.

I’d loved summer camp when I was a teen, so much so I became a counselor. I’d learned to ski on Kentucky Lake as many learn to surf on Hash Point. Nights at both places we circled up to tell tales of days on the water. Here some seemed to be old friends, but most campers were traveling solo and had only recently met. It seemed they, too, had decided to stop waiting for someone else to rock their gypsy souls and had shown up confident they’d find what they were seeking with strangers who’d bond over shared passions for sea, surf, and yoga.

By nine we were grabbing boards and suits at the surf shop, then bouncing on Taghazout’s main street (really only street) toward Anza Bay. In our van the campers were as eclectic as the playlist. Two girls from Cologne, Germany and another from London—aged 27-31—were excited for their first lesson.  A guy from Ghent, Belgium had surfed the Great Barrier Reef. New friends from Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland were in the other van. All were on holiday from careers or retired from public service, as was the man I met from the same area of Wales as my grandmother’s family. All identified me as the only American but were surprised I now live in Marrakech—a city all travelers described as too intense and frenetic.

Later that afternoon two experienced surfers traded stories of battle scars–one a West Australian travel blogger whose fin sliced open his butt. Though it still hadn’t healed completely, he had recently gone swimming in the Nile.

“So you have a gnarly scar!” laughed the UK girl who’d been in wine sales, moved to Surf Berbere, then Sri Lanka, now Surf Berbere where she is taking the surf instructor’s course. She’d had a friend whose board rope wound so tightly around the tip of his finger, it popped the joint off. Both were energized rather than afraid of injuries, but when he said he was traveling a year, she sighed and said the same words another woman spoke at lunch the day before: “I don’t know if I can ever go back again to the western world.”

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The Moroccan surf instructors, Imad and Rashid were patient, skilled, and fun. After warm ups and the lesson, they stayed in the water for one-on-one coaching throughout the day. I quickly understood the close relationship between surfing and yoga. Upper body strength, flexibility, and balance are key.  Like dancing, surfing can be graceful and beautiful once techniques are learned and practiced.  Like life, it’s about being in the moment rather than over thinking.  It’s about catching the wave when it comes and riding it out.

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Fueling us was Chef Mohamed who served huge portions of home cooking including the best burgers and spaghetti (packed for lunch) I’ve had in Morocco. Friday I enjoyed the international fusion of favorites– traditional cous cous with apple crumble for dessert. Managing with Hamza and Beth for James, the warm and welcoming London owner, is Marie. Like many creative campers I met, she is a travel blogger from Frankfurt (where I’ll go next month as well as to Cologne thanks to the girls who said the Christmas markets in their hometown are must -sees). When Marie  isn’t custom planning each guest’s daily schedule, she’s writing her Masters thesis in Brand Management.  She gave me a sneak peak of her  uber-cool line of surfing tights. You won’t see her without a smile.

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Marie (front) and Clare (back)

As for all the campers, they were tenaciously teachable, grateful, and kind. Truly some of the nicest people I’ve met in one place.   Wherever I am living a year from now, I’ll remember beginning yoga with sun salutations that were literal goodnights to the golden orb as it turned orange and melted into the sea. I’ll remember ending class with Savasana under a navy-black sky of stars above.  And I hope I (and single empty nesters like me) remember the words of the instructor: “It’s not selfish to take care of yourself.  It’s not selfish to love yourself. It’s necessary.”

Check out pricing and book here.  Apartment rentals are here.

Thank you to Surf Berbere for an amazing retreat.  As always, the opinions are my own.

And thank you, Marie, for my first Christmas card of the season.  Peace to all from another traveler, Odysseus:

“Come, my friends, It is not too late to seek a better world.”–Tennyson

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