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The Top 10 Surfing Spots in the World

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For the ultimate in adrenaline sports, surfing is hard to beat. Just you, your board, and the raw power of nature in a thrilling test of skill, balance, composure, and strength. Few pastimes can compete for the feeling surfing gives you for connecting with Mother Earth.

Humans have been riding the waves for thousands of years, with surfing roots originating in South America, Africa, and French Polynesia in Oceania.

Originally used as a form of fishing, it would not have taken wave riders long to realize how exciting recreational surfing can be.

Fast forward to today, and modern surfing takes many forms, including bodyboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, and long and shortboarding. It was officially added to the roster of Olympic sports in 2016, with the first competition in 2020 in Japan.

Man Surfing on Padang Beach, Bali
Hagen Production / Adobe Stock

Meanwhile, surf culture has grown from strength to strength. As amateur and seasoned surfers have scoured the planet looking for the perfect surf spot with the biggest waves, surfing vacation towns have sprung up at the top destinations.

For the very best surfing in the world, here are 10 of the most famous waves for your next surf trip. Maybe the next Kelly Slater or Stephanie Gilmore will read this and be inspired. And in the words of Keanu Reeves in Point Break; Vaya con Dios!

Best Surfing Spots in the World

1. North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii

People have been riding the waves in Polynesia for centuries, and Hawaii is arguably the cradle of the sport. One of the world’s top surf destinations, these islands attract amateur and pro surfers alike, all keen to ride the famous waves that crash on Hawaii’s beautiful beaches.

Oahu’s north shore is known for its big breaks, and if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, Waimea Bay, Pipeline, and Banzai Pipeline are the places to be.

The legendary surf at Sunset Beach will seriously test your skills. Even if you’re not a surfer, watching the waves here is one of the best things to do in Oahu.

These fantastic waves can reach heights of 30 feet or more, and they’re not for the faint of heart. But if you are an experienced surfer looking for a challenge, this surf spot should be on your bucket list. Check out some of the surf videos in this region if you’re still unconvinced.

How to Get There

Fly into Honolulu International Airport and pick up a rental car to drive the 25 miles to the North Shore. Avoid getting gouged on car rental by booking the car well before your trip.

When to Visit

The best time to visit this surf destination is during the winter months, from November through February. The waves are the biggest and most consistent during this time; the weather is mild with warm water.

Places to Stay

  • The Turtle Bay Resort is one of the most luxurious resorts on the island, with amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. It’s also home to two championship golf courses.
  • For a more budget-friendly option, try Howzit Hostels. It features a selection of room options, from privates to dormitories, and is just a short walk from some of the best surf spots on the island.

2. Popoyo, Nicaragua

Surfer Walking into Ocean at Sunset in Nicaragua
worldroadtrip / Adobe Stock

Nicaragua is one of Central America’s best surfing spots, and Popoyo offers the country’s most consistent breaks. Located on the Pacific coast, this beach town is known for its offshore winds and reliable swells that you can ride from morning until night.

There are two main attractions for adrenaline junkies in these parts. The first is the Main Reef, which offers beach breaks of up to 20 feet during all tides. The second is the challenging Outer Reef, which should only be attempted by expert surfers.

The aptly named Beginner Bay is just a few moments away at the south end of the beach and is a great spot to hone your skills. You’ll be in good company, as Popoyo is a surf capital, and most people you meet here will be on a surfing or beach holiday.

How to Get There

To get to Popoyo, you must fly to the international airport in Managua. You can take a taxi to Rivas, about an hour from Popoyo. Once in Rivas, you can take a bus or taxi to Popoyo.

When to Visit

The best time to visit Popoyo is from December to April. The waves are the biggest, and the weather is most pleasant during these months.

Places to Stay

  • Nicawaves Hotel is a surf camp just a few minutes from the beach and offers other activities, including horseriding and fishing. It’s a budget-friendly option with an outdoor pool that’s perfect for relaxing.
  • For a family-friendly option, try Hotel Kraken, just steps from Popoyo Beach. It features a children’s playground, a kids club, and large, comfortable rooms.

3. Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Queensland’s iconic Gold Coast first came to the attention of the wider surfing world thanks to the classic ’60s surfing movie “Endless Summer.” The waves are consistent all year round, which is why many international surf competitions are held here, and the beaches on this part of the East Coast are some of the best in the country.

Located on the East Coast, this is where you will find the Superbank, one of the finest beach breaks on the planet. Here, you can experience tubes and walls that serve up the ride of a lifetime.

With 43 miles of perfect beaches and a nearly continuous party atmosphere, there is a reason why this region is home to Surfer’s Paradise. One of the most legendary surf towns on Earth, this Gold Coast suburb is famous for its surf culture, surf schools, and world-class waves.

How to Get There

Fly into the international airport at Brisbane, then take an 80-minute train ride to Surfer’s Paradise.

When to Visit

The Gold Coast is a great place to surf all year round, but the waves are the biggest and best from December to February.

Places to Stay

4. Bundoran, Ireland

Aerial view of Tullan Strand and surfers in Bundoran, Ireland
MNStudio / Adobe Stock

You might be surprised to see Ireland on our list of epic surf spots in the world. But with waves that can reach 50 feet and average around the 10-foot range, Bundoran is one of the best surf spots in Europe. Washed by the waters of Donegal Bay, there are several beaches to choose from.

The pros love the rolling waves and flat rocky reefs, and Bundoran has hosted the European Surfing Championships three times. For novices, there are four surfing schools in the town where you can get beginner to intermediate instruction.

Sure, it’s not a tropical paradise, and the wild Atlantic swells are colder than you might like. Wear a wetsuit and warm up later with an evening in a cozy Irish pub. Try Maddens Bridge Bar which offers views of “The Peak,” one of the most challenging waves in Ireland.

How to Get There

Fly into Dublin International Airport, then you have a few options. You can rent a car in Dublin and make the three-hour drive yourself. Take a bus, or book a connecting flight into Sligo and hire a cab to complete the 30-minute trip to Bundoran.

When to Visit

Year-round surfing is possible in Bundoran, but you’ll find the most reliable time is during the winter months, from December to February. April is excellent, too, but remember, the water will still be freezing.

Places to Stay

  • The Great Northern Hotel offers four-star accommodation close to Tullan Strand – one of the finest surf beaches in Ireland. Set in 130 acres of parkland, it overlooks Donegal Bay and is perfect for adventurous couples who enjoy outdoor activities.
  • One of the more crowded spots for surfing is The Peak, located on the south end of Bundoran Beach. These waves are for pros only, and you can stay at this cozy vacation rental just five minutes’ walk away.

See Related: Best Coastal Towns in Ireland You Need to See

5. Jeffreys Bay, South Africa

Surfers in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa
Louis / Adobe Stock

Jeffrey’s Bay is in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, where the Atlantic meets the Indian Ocean. Known locally and in surfing circles as J-Bay, this is where you’ll find Supertubes, a legendary wall of water that’s been heaven and hell for surfers for years.

J-Bay is notorious for its unique right-hand point break and long, fast barrels. The waves here are some of the most epic in the world, and this surfing capital attracts the top professional surfers for annual competitions. But you can try private surfing lessons if you’re a complete beginner.

Aside from surfing, there’s plenty to see and do in the area, with stunning scenery, exotic wildlife, and a dramatic coastline. The locals are a friendly bunch, too, and will ensure your surfing vacation is memorable if you visit Jeffrey’s Bay.

How to Get There

Fly into Capetown International Airport. Make a connecting flight to Port Elizabeth Airport, just an hour from J-bay. Book a seat on one of the many shuttles from Port Elizabeth, or take a taxi to Jeffreys Bay.

When to Visit

The World Surf League hosts the J-Bay Open every July, so this is the ideal time to visit if you want to see the top pros in action. It’s also when you can experience one of the finest right-hand point breaks on the planet.

Places to Stay

  • Mere meters from the famous beach of the same name, Supertubes Guest House is the perfect place to stay for surfers. With views of the breaking waves, it also offers secure surfboard storage and outdoor showers.
  • Surf Lodge is another region’s top surfing destination, with beach access, private rooms and dormitories, and an outdoor pool and hot tub. Surfing lessons are also available on request.

6. Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

Surfers in Mentawai Islands, Indonesia
Ben Thomasian / Adobe Stock

For some of the most legendary waves worldwide combined with an exotic and unspoiled location, make the long trip to the Mentawai Islands. Here, you’ll find all the natural beauty of better-known spots like Bali without tourists.

There are 70 islands in the Mentawai chain with around 50 known breaks. Head to Masokut, North and South Pagai, Sipura, and Siberut for the most consistent waves. You’ll find a tropical beach paradise on each with palm trees, golden sands, and azure blue waters.

Advanced and intermediate surfers should try Bank Vaults, Ebay, Rifles, and Macaronis for legendary breaks. Lance’s Right off Sipura is one of the finest reef breaks anywhere. Beginners will be happy with Burger World and Pitstops – just a few in the region.

How to Get There

Start by flying to the international airport in either Jakarta or Singapore. From there, fly to Padang, Sumatra.

Once in Padang, you’ll take a charter boat to your destination. Some Mentawai Island resorts have ferries and offer pickup and dropoff services in Padang.

When to Visit

The best time to visit is during the dry season, from April to October. Come during May and September for a chance to ride world-class barrels. Wet-season surfing is still possible (November-March), and you might have some decent swells with empty waves.

Places to Stay

  • Check out the all-inclusive Masokut Surf Camp, with easy access to some of the breaks mentioned above. With breakfast, lunch, and dinner included, you’ll always be fueled and ready to go.
  • Alternatively, Sipura is the most developed of the Mentawai Islands and has some of the best waves across the archipelago. Many surfers stay on yachts, but try the Katiet Beach Resort close to Lance’s Right.

7. Teahupoo, Tahiti

Surfer in Teahupoo, Tahiti

As one of the best surf destinations around the world, Teahupoo is known for its huge, glassy waves that can reach up to 30 feet. It’s located on the south coast of Tahiti, French Polynesia, which is about as remote as it gets for a surf trip.

One of the bonafide “must surf” surf spots on earth, Teahupoo is a breathtaking destination. I won’t labor the point, check out this epic video that was taken during the annual Billabong Pro tournament.

However, Teahupoo is frequently included in lists of the deadliest waves in the world. It’s certainly considered the “heaviest,” while fatalities are rare, advanced surfers should only attempt these swells.

How to Get There

You must fly to Fa’a’ā International Airport in Tahiti, which will take around eight hours from Los Angeles, or 12 hours from Sydney. From there, you can rent a car or take the bus. The latter is cheaper but will take nearly two hours to reach Teahupoo.

When to Visit

Surfing is possible all year round in this popular spot, but for an XXL swell, you should try visiting during the winter season, which runs from April until October.

Places to Stay

  • There are a few resorts located in Teahupoo, but for the most part, this quiet fishing village is undeveloped. Many dedicated surfers camp on the beach, while vacation rentals and lodges are available.
  • Try Venira Lodge which has some of the best ratings, and is a 15-minute walk from the surfing action. A little further away, this hillside villa offers outstanding views.

8. Uluwatu, Indonesia

Surfers in a Rocky Spot, Uluwatu
luengo_ua / Adobe Stock

Uluwatu is one of the most popular surf destinations in the world, located on the island of Bali, Indonesia. Here, you’ll find five famous reef breaks and a developed tourist infrastructure that ensures it’s recognized as a top surf spot.

Take your pick from Temples, The Bombie, Outside Corner, The Peak, and Racetrack. Each break offers something a little different, depending on the conditions and your experience.

Uluwatu has several excellent surfing schools and camps, so it’s an ideal place to become acquainted with the waves. Try these surf classes which are great if you’re a beginner or intermediate surfer, and check out this complete packing list for Bali for some more top tips if you visit these shores.

How to Get There

You can reach Uluwatu by driving or taxi from Denpasar, the capital of Bali. It’s also possible to take a bus from Kuta, the most popular tourist area on the island.

When To Visit

The dry season (April-October) is the ideal time to head to Uluwatu for surfing. You’ll have the best chance of big waves and optimum surfing conditions. November is also surfable, with mellower waves and fewer boards.

Places to Stay

  • The luxurious Uluwatu Surf Villas is a clifftop retreat that offers guests a spiritual surfing experience. They’re not cheap but a serious upgrade from slumming it in a sandy beach tent.
  • Tregge Surf Camp is a more budget-friendly option, in an excellent location not far from the main beaches. And while you’re close by, don’t miss the famous Uluwatu Temple Fire Dance, which is a must-see when you’re not riding the waves.

9. Malibu, California

Man Surfing at Sunset

Some of the best beaches in the US are found on the West Coast, and we could have included any number of top surfing locations here. But as the first ever World Surfing Reserve, Malibu is legendary and recognized as where ancient surfing gave birth to modern.

The Golden State has world-famous surf spots, and Southern California arguably has the best. Of these, Malibu Lagoon State Beach offers some of the finest surfing in the region. Otherwise known as Surfrider Beach, this historic surf spot is as iconic as they come.

Try this fun surfing tour in a classic VW camper van, and get into the spirit of Californian surfing culture. And for more information on World Surfing Reserves, visit the excellent Save the Waves Coalition.

When To Visit

Plan to be there during winter for clean waves off the Malibu coast. November is peak surfing season, but don’t expect uncrowded waves; it is an easy day trip from Los Angeles.

Places to Stay

  • While you’re seriously spoilt for choice when it comes to Malibu accommodations, they’re not going to be cheap. This is a playground of the rich and famous, after all. The Surfrider Hotel at least offers complimentary surfboards.
  • These Malibu Private Beach apartments are reasonably priced, considering their location. It doesn’t get much better than waking up to that view from your living room.

10. Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Man holding Surfboard in the Sunset of Tamarindo

Costa Rica is a paradise for thrill seekers, nature lovers, romantics, beach breaks, and everything. It might be one of the finest countries on earth for any kind of vacation you could wish for, and Tamarindo is the place to go for surfers.

Located on the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific coast, Tamarindo is a party surf town for people looking for a good time. With a wide variety of breaks within walking distance, it’s ideal for beginners looking to learn the ropes in a relaxed atmosphere and tropical surroundings.

Just north of Tamarindo, you’ll find Playa Hermosa, another of the World Surfing Reserves. Surf lessons are just one of the many things to do in Tamarindo, and you can use the town as a base to explore this exciting and activity-filled region of Costa Rica.

When to Visit

Visiting Tamarindo from June to September offers the highest chance of surfing epic waves. But come in the shoulder seasons for fewer crowds.

Places to Stay

Comparison of Top Picks

Rank Location Best Time To Visit
1 Pipeline, Oahu, Hawaii October to March
2 Supertubes, Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa June to September
3 Teahupo’o, Tahiti May to August
4 Uluwatu and Kuta, Bali, Indonesia April to November
5 Maverick’s, California November to March

FAQs

What are the most famous surf breaks?

There are many famous surf spots around the world with some top breaks. Hawaii, French Polynesia, Indonesia, Australia, and California are some of the most well-known.

What are reef breaks?

A reef break is a shallow surf that runs parallel to the shore, usually near rocks or shallow water. These breaks are good for experienced surfers because they can maneuver their boards quickly through reefs, obstacles, and shallows while remaining close to the shore and other surfers in the area.

What are point breaks?

A point break is a wave that breaks at a single point instead of along a reef or shoreline. These waves are typically more challenging to surf, but they offer a unique experience that can’t be found elsewhere.

What are beach breaks?

A beach break is a surfable wave that breaks on a beach, typically with a sandy bottom. Or a much-needed vacation by the sea.

What makes a good surf break?

A good surf break has consistent waves, is not too crowded, and is easy to get to.

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