Nomads Hotel offers surf travelers international family-style experience

The Commune Bunk Room is ideal for a visiting team of grom surfers or singles traveling together on a budget. Photo: Sean Rowland
The Commune Bunk Room is ideal for a visiting team of grom surfers or singles traveling together on a budget. Photo: Sean Rowland

By Andrea Swayne

With more than three decades of world traveling combined, local hotel owners Jeff and Renee Gourley and Sean Rowland often encountered a style of hospitality unavailable in the United States. With the official opening of Nomads Hotel, on April 21, they have brought this “aloha/pura vida” experience to San Clemente.

Nomads is a boutique surf hotel targeted at ocean-minded travelers, from professional and amateur surf contest competitors and staff to adventure seekers looking to experience the best breaks Southern California has to offer.

“I spent 25 years traveling the globe teaching diving, and when I came back I noticed the U.S. didn’t really didn’t have the same type of accommodations I enjoyed around the world,” Jeff Gourley said of the all-inclusive, personalized hospitality he found in surf and diving destinations. “The only place in the world you can’t do that is in the U.S. and we wanted to make sure that an all-inclusive, surf camp-type vibe is available here.”

The Bali Room features two queen beds and a large bathroom with double sinks. Photo: Sean Rowland
The Bali Room features two queen beds and a large bathroom with double sinks. Photo: Sean Rowland

Originally from Arizona, Gourley grew up surfing the West Coast and spent 10 years based in Florida as a mixed gas and closed-circuit rebreather diving instructor. He and his wife moved to San Clemente and opened their restaurant, Nomads Canteen, in October 2012, featuring favorite cuisines from across the globe. The restaurant was the first step in a plan to eventually add a hotel in the same location, 101 Avenida Serra, behind and below the restaurant.

Nomads Canteen. Photo: Sean Rowland
Nomads Canteen. Photo: Sean Rowland
Nomads Canteen. Photo: Sean Rowland
Nomads Canteen. Photo: Sean Rowland
Nomads Canteen. Photo: Sean Rowland
Nomads Canteen. Photo: Sean Rowland

After a year and a half of wrangling with building permits, the opening of the hotel has completed the dream.

Rowland did the design work and he and Gourley built everything in the seven-room hotel by hand.

Rowland, an ASP World Tour surf photographer and photo editor, has traveled the world as a photog and a surfer and said that, like Gourley, he was also enamored of the smaller surfer-friendly places he’s stayed and that he still keeps in touch with his hosts from all over the world—Bali, Tahiti and Costa Rica, to name just a few.

The California Room at Nomads offers a luxury experience. Photo: Sean Rowland
The California Room at Nomads offers a luxury experience. Photo: Sean Rowland

“In the U.S. they just throw you the key and say ‘Have a nice trip,'” Rowland said. “At Nomads we take guests to the best breaks, the best restaurants—of course including Nomads Canteen—show them where to hang out, share a dinner or a beer with them. We want to personally guide guests through their vacations.”

The hotel’s themed rooms are colorfully decorated and feature surf art, photography and an exotic island feel. The selection includes something for every type of traveler, from a couple looking for luxury accommodations to a surf team full of groms, or as is the case this week, surf contest judges in town for the Surfing America USA Championship at Lower Trestles.

The Bali room—with two queen beds, a kitchenette, wet bar and dual vanities—as well as the California Room—with a  California king bed and private patio—are at the luxury end of the spectrum. The Commune Bunk House sleeps up to seven and the Boat Room is ideal for a single traveler.

At present, all prices are based on single occupancy with the Boat Room at $69 and four other rooms from $125 to $199, with each additional guest at $30. Bunk Room beds are $39. The package deal includes three meals a day, transportation to and from the beach, twice a day; a day of surfing off of a 28-foot panga boat at remote breaks; lessons, board and wetsuit rentals for beginners; a beach barbecue and more.

“We have created a place where travelers arrive as our guests and leave as a part of the family (ohana),” Rowland said. “We want to welcome our guests into our group of friends.”

More information about the hotel can be found online at www.stayatnomads.com or by calling 949.492.6000. Summer specials will also be posted on the hotel’s Facebook page, Rowland said.

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