The best surfing beaches draw both experts and novices, really anyone looking to catch a wave and ride away from the ordinary. No matter the season, there’s a beach somewhere in the world where the wind, waves, and other conditions are ideal for riding the breaks. Some travelers wrap their entire vacations around the ideal surfing beach, while others enjoy some surfing as part of a well-rounded itinerary. No matter your skills or style, there’s a surfing beach out there for you. From the coast of California and the Hawaiian Islands to Australia’s Gold Coast and Bali’s beaches, there are many great beaches where surfing conditions are ideal. Here’s a look at the cream of the crop, the best of the best.
North America Image: Quasic (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0
The old advice to “go West, young man,” applies to surfing. California is where the surf culture really took off, even if it’s not where it began. From Humboldt County in Northern California, down to San Diego, there are hundreds of great beaches where surfers gather for their favorite spot. Few are more legendary than La Jolla, known for its gentle waves, and Half Moon Bay jetty, less than hour south of San Fransisco. Farther north, the Pacific waves lap against the western shores of Vancouver Island in Tofino, Canada’s surfing capital.
Even further to the west, Hawaii continues its history with every paddler and every wave. Surfing is so closely linked to Hawaiian culture, that it’s a snap to find it at beaches all through the island chain. In the wintertime, the best waves are found on the west of Oahu at Makaha Beach or Wimea Bay to the north. Between November and the beginning of the year, Oahu’s north shore hosts some of the top-tier surfing tournaments. It’s quite a thrill to surf those same beaches.
While the bulk of the best surfing beaches are located along the Pacific Ocean, it’s not the only place in North America to surf. Florida and its great beaches also draw the attention of surfing pros and novices, with 1,300-plus miles of beaches and favorable weather. Along the Atlantic Coast, the Jacksonville Pier is the launching point for responsive swells. Way to the south, the cruise ships departing from Miami create some great waves. On the Gulf Coast, Sarasota’s North Jetty Park has some great swells to conquer.
Australia Image: m.maddo (flickr)
The surfer’s paradise known as the Gold Coast lies to the south of Brisbane along the Pacific coast. The city boasts a long string of beaches where the breaks are ideal. Most of the time, the best surfing beaches have one-to-two-foot swells, although the occasional four-feet swells always draw a crowd. Many mornings, the wind blows in just right and brings the swells from the at, making for ideal conditions for surfing and boogie boarding. You’ll also find top-notch surfing beaches along the Indian Ocean along the west coast in places like Perth and Margaret River. The Limestone Coast to the south has great surfing, as do the Yorke and Eyre peninsulas along the Southern Ocean.
South Africa Image: derekadk (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0
If you’re looking for the best surfing beaches in South Africa, look to the south, to Cape Town specifically. Located at the souther tip of the continent, the cosmopolitan city is rimmed by Atlantic and the Indian oceans, with beaches along the way. Kommetjie Beach is a favorite of surfers, thanks to its warm Atlantic waters surrounded by kelp. Another favorite, Bloubergstrand, offers surfing and kite surfing in view of Table Mountain. Jefferys Bay, with its warm Indian Ocean water, is a favorite place for year-round surfing.
Central & South America
Central & South America Image: dakine kane (flickr)
Along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Central and South America, you’ll find many choices for great surfing. With cost-friendly surf camps and laid-back beach towns, it’s easy to lose yourself along the coast. In Brazil, there’s a wide variety of waves and conditions that will suit all kinds of surfers. When the low-pressure systems sweep through between April and October, the conditions are idea for surfing. Costa Rica is another draw for surfers, especially the beaches of Tamarindo on the Pacific Coast—Playa Negra and Witches Rock. Many surf camps have pooped up here, which offer lessons by the day and all-inclusive packages.
South Pacific Image: tboothhk (flickr)
Surfing began in this region of the world, so there’s no surprise that the South Pacific remains a surfing haven. Dozens of Bali’s beaches, especially those clustered on the south coast, are well suited for surfing. Between November and April, the rainy season, conditions are perfect for surfing Sanur Beach. The rest of the year, surfers flock to Kuta Reef. The locals can take you out in small boats to the place where the reefs are the best. Surfing is also popular in Samoa, but the beaches aren’t as crowded as you’d find in Hawaii or Bali. Beaches like Salani and Aganoa have a variety of waves for all levels of surfing.