Trying to determine the world’s best surf spots is akin to asking a child what his or her favourite ice cream flavour is, often resulting in a resounding “All of them!” Those who love riding the waves can easily find hundreds of great places around the globe to do so. And each region has a prime season, so intrepid surfers must keep on the move to find the “endless wave.”
See our picks below for the best places to hang ten, and then share your own in the comments section below.
North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
This has long been considered one of the best surfing destinations in the United States, and it’s high time to dismiss the qualifier. Oahu’s North Shore also ranks among the premier surf destinations in the world, thanks to 7 miles (11 kilometres) of pristine beach and astonishingly diverse conditions. The island’s swells both delight and challenge year round, though the time between November and February is big-wave season. Ehukai Beach (home of the Banzai Pipeline), Waimea Bay and the fabled Sunset Beach should be on any serious surfer’s bucket list.
Huntington Beach, California
There’s a reason this coastal town is known as “Surf City.” The 3.5-mile (5.6-kilometre) stretch of shoreline draws millions of visitors each year with its challenging swells, which are easy to catch off the city’s famous pier. Visit in the warmer months for sunny California weather and to see some of the sport’s top contenders (think Kelly Slater) compete at the U.S. Open of Surfing.
Some surfers have a tendency to exaggerate their accomplishments and abilities. This Indonesian jewel is not the place to do either, unless you’re ready for a healthy serving of humble pie. Bali’s enticing Uluwatu waves have earned a reputation for scolding the uninitiated and rewarding the accomplished. If you find you’ve bitten off too much, chill on the beautiful beaches until the surf calms down, or visit the nearby Uluwatu Temple, a historic site with a magnificent cliff-top location.
Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Diehard surfers in the know have heard of this Central American shoreline, sandwiched between two national parks, where the Tamarindo River meets the Pacific Ocean. Variety is king at Tamarindo Beach in Costa Rica, where experts and neophytes alike will find consistently splendid weather, warm waters and alluring waves. The beach, popularized by the surf film The Endless Summer II, draws throngs of surfers with its daring breaks at Playa Grande, Ollie’s Point and Witch’s Rock. Mid-December to April is peak season, but outstanding swells can be had through July.
Gold Coast, Australia
This gem Down Under offers 70 kilometres (40 miles) of inviting beaches and mighty impressive wave sets throughout the year. Surfers Paradise beach in Queensland deserves a “truth in advertising” award for its moniker and exceptional variety (as well as its nightlife). The shark nets installed along the Gold Coast might alarm first-time visitors, but they also offer peace of mind. Cyclone season, which lasts from November to April, boasts the best waves, while the three months before and after have the best weather.
Jeffreys Bay, South Africa
Referred to as “J-Bay,” Jeffreys Bay offers some of the world’s most challenging waves, especially from May to September. J-Bay’s roaring walls, which can easily reach 3.6 metres (12 feet), are a true test for all skill levels, and a variety of breaks—formed by curving reefs and jagged outcrops—make each ride an adventure. Locals flock to Boneyards for a challenge, but the waves at Point promise a longer ride.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
For a surf destination that has it all, head to Rio de Janeiro. Brazil’s vibrant former capital boasts an abundance of superb surf spots against a backdrop of resplendent white sand, year-round sunshine and 24-hour parties. Barra da Tijuca’s famously consistent swells have attracted many top competitions, and it’s rumoured that surfing in Brazil began at Praia da Arpoador’s famous left-hand break. You’ll also find numerous surf camps in Rio, as well as the prestigious ASP World Tour, which the city began hosting in 2011.
There’s no better place to test the Pacific waters than this 250-kilometre (155-mile) stretch along the coast of Peru. The best swells hit Lima’s shores from May to August. La Herradura and Punta Hermosa, a quieter spot, draw riders in with unexplored beaches, and keep them there with exceptional surfing created by uneven reefs in the pristine water.
Your Journey Begins Here
Select a destination and start exploring