By: Mikael Uusitalo
By: Mikael Uusitalo
22 minute read
Last updated January 6, 2020
Did you know that there are nearly 620,000 kilometers of coastline around the world? This massive number makes it pretty obvious that there’s no shortage of surfing destinations to choose from. Not all 620,000 kilometers are surfable, but surfing travelers certainly aren’t limited when it comes to deciding on a trip to one of the best surf spots in the world.
This insider’s guide on the world’s best surf spots is here to help you decide on where to book your next plane ticket. So pack your bags and board, slather on some zinc, and zip up your wetsuit as you embark on the surfing adventure of a lifetime.
Sri Lanka still remains to be an under-the-radar surfing destination, but this island country to the south of India has gained a lot of attention within the past decade. The best surfing in the country is located in the South, specifically in a spot called Weligama.
The literal translation of Weligama is the sandy village, which is extremely fitting since the beach here is a long stretch of shallow sand. This makes it the perfect spot for beginner surfers heading to Sri Lanka. Check out highly-rated Weligama surf schools like Freedom, Kumara, and Elsewhere Surf Camp.
The Canaries are a Spanish island chain, often known as a place of endless summer. There are 7 major islands here, all of which offer consistent surf around the clock. There are over 100 different waves to choose from lining the Canary coastline, and nearly just as many surf camps and schools. This area is also great for kitesurfing, windsurfing, and SUP.
Out of all the best surf destinations in the world, Oahu ranks high on our list. Not only is Oahu the gateway to the entire Hawaiian island chain, but it is also famed for its massive waves, powerful swells, and crescent-shaped beaches. Just be careful if you’re a beginner; a lot of the Oahu coastline, specifically near Honolulu, is strictly for advanced surfers, like the Banzai Pipeline.
We’re not saying that beginners aren’t welcome to take on some waves here, though. There is a handful of easy waves to ride if you’re in the market to learn. Advanced and intermediate surfers can test their skills in Honolulu, but beginners tend to gravitate to Oahu surf spots like White Plains Beach, Chun’s Reef, and Old Man’s.
South Africa’s capital city is known for many things, and surfing is one of them. The waters surrounding Cape Town range from gentle swells to giant reef breaks, so staying aware of your skill level is a must before you paddle out. The ideal time to travel to Cape Town for a surf vacay is between June and August, and this goes for both beginners and advanced.
Beginners heading to Cape Town should spend time learning on the easy waves at False Bay, also called Surfer’s Corner. There’s no need to book a surf camp ahead of time, just head to False Bay and visit one of the many surf schools lining the beach. More advanced surfers spend most of their time at Glen Beach, Scarborough Beach, and Dungeons Beach found off Hout Bay.
North Malé Atoll is the best region for surfing in the Maldives, mainly because there’s a unique range of left and right reef breaks. The climate here is hot and humid, with fairly consistent waves running from March to October. The only thing keeping many avid surfers from booking a trip here is the high cost of travel. But if you have the money to spend, by all means, spend it.
It’s no surprise that a surfing destination in Portugal has made this list. The real question is which Portuguese surfing spot is the most deserving of a mention. It’s a toss-up between Ericeira, Nazare, and Peniche, but Peniche takes the cake in more aspects than one. This is an amazing spot to learn the basics and hone in on improving your skills to get to the next level.
Peniche is home to one of the best beach breaks in Europe, possibly even the world: Supertubos. Supertubos delivers gnarly barrels that are super fast, super heavy, and super fun. This is the most challenging wave in the area, though, so beginners should steer clear. Instead, head to Baleal Peninsula, Almagreira, and Prainha.
A lot of people feel that surfing in Bali is a bit overrated, but we don’t feel this way at all, especially when it comes to Uluwatu. Uluwatu is on the southwestern tip of Bali’s Bukit Peninsula, home to an endless list of surf camps and resorts. The waves of Uluwatu do tend to get crowded, but nowhere near the crowds that you’ll find lining the waves of Canggu and Seminyak to the north.
Australia’s Newcastle is located slightly north of Sydney, about 2.5 hours from the city. If you look up a map of Newcastle’s surf spots, you’ll see a clump of little red dots on the map, all within a few kilometers of each other. There’s everything from right point breaks to left beach breaks, so just take your pick based on your comfort and skill level.
Newcastle Beach is the main attraction in the area, and not just for surfers. If you need a few lessons, hit up Newcastle Surf School or Surffest Surf School. This area is great for beginners, but for something more challenging, you’ll want to check out the nearby Mereweather Beach.
This tropical island paradise of the Philippines is known for one thing and one thing only: surfing. Siargao one small island among over 7,000 in the Filipino island chain, but it packs a powerful punch when it comes to surfing. Some of the best Siargao breaks include big names like Cloud 9, Quicksilver, Rock Island, Daku Reef, and Cemetery.
Basque Country runs along the northern coast of Spain, offering up excellent swells throughout the year. This region is one of the best European surfing destinations, especially when you focus on the city of Bilbao. Making Bilbao your home base, renting a car, and visiting a different nearby surf spot every day is something that traveling surfers have been doing for decades.
Visiting the best Bibao beaches lining the Basque Country coast will keep you busy for a while. A must-visit beach is Mundaka, a dedicated UNESCO spot located within the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve. Mundaka is a charming little town, but the waves are far from charming and little. To give you an idea of their sheer power, Mundaka hosts the annual Billabong Pro surf competition.
There’s a lot of debate on whether Morocco’s best surfing is in Taghazout or Tamraght. Both locations offer similar surfing conditions since they’re just a few kilometers apart, but the towns themselves are like two different worlds. Many surfers prefer Tamraght to Taghazout since the vibes are way more chill, but the surf is just as thrilling.
Popoyo, Nicaragua has some of the most consistent waves in all of Central America. The main surf spot in Popoyo has both left and right walls that break over a rock shelf – it’s not a surf spot to take lightly. Intermediate and advanced surfers love the fact that it breaks on all tides and all sizes, not to mention it receives offshore winds nearly 300 days of the year.
Popoyo Beach is by far the most popular surfing spot in the area. No matter your surfing level, you can find a wave that suits you here. The southern end of Popoyo Beach is called Beginner Bay, and at the northern end, there’s La Piedrita, which is more fitting for higher skill levels.
Byron Bay is an iconic surfing destination and is notorious for being one of the best surf spots in the world. Australians and foreigners alike flock here for its challenging right-hand point breaks and breathtaking backdrop. Out of all Byron Bay beaches, the ones to add to your list are Belongil Beach (good for beginners), The Wrecks, Clarkes Beach, and The Pass.
Who knew a trip to Ireland could be about more than visiting castles and eating fish and chips? The northwestern region of Ireland is filled to the brim, not just with castles, but challenging surf spots that deserve a standing ovation. Bundoran in Donegal is referred to as the surf capital of Ireland, and you’ll understand why as soon as you start exploring the beaches here.
Puerto Escondido in the Mexican state of Oaxaca is all about good vibes and great surf. If you follow surfing at all, you’ve probably heard of the Mexican Pipeline, more commonly known as Zicatela. This beast of a wave has caused many broken boards, even broken bones, but it is still an all-time favorite for advanced surfers.
If you’re not up for the intensity of Zicatela, another option in Puerto Escondido is La Punta. The point break here is much softer, but it’s still not considered a beginner-friendly spot. One of the best spots for beginners is Beach Cardisarillo, a mellow lefthand point that’s great for learning.
France isn’t often a destination that comes to mind among the traveling surfers of the world. But trust us when we say that the fast, hollow waves of Hossegor are a must-not-miss attraction. This is one of France’s most consistent surf spots, but the time of year has a huge impact on the conditions. Many surfers argue that the best time of year is from September to October, but the biggest waves are undeniably from November to April.
Surfing in Puerto Rico has always been centered around Rincon. The streets here are lined with surf schools and resorts, so you can definitely expect some crowds if you visit during high season. The good news is that the island of Puerto Rico is not short on surf spots. The heavy Rincon crowds can be avoided if you opt for beaches like Kikita or Cibuco instead.
New Zealand has always been famous for being the “adrenaline junkie” capital of the world. Surfing is just one of the many adrenaline-inducing activities that New Zealanders and visitors take part in, specifically in Raglan. One of the most well-known surf spots here is Whale Bay, but it’s not for the faint of heart.
Looking for something more beginner-friendly? About 5 kilometers near Raglan there’s a surf spot called Ngarunui Beach. This beach is much more laid-back than Whale Bay, so you won’t have to step out of your comfort level if you want to take it easy. Manu Bay is another popular spot, but mainly because it made an appearance in the film Endless Summer.
Because of its remote location, Fiji isn’t a destination that many people get the chance to visit. If you’re lucky enough to make it to this South Pacific island chain, be sure to check out Tavarua. Tavarua is a small island with a big heart, but more importantly, it’s home to world-class breaks and surrounded by pristine natural beauty.
Costa Rica’s Tamarindo is certainly not a best-kept-secret when it comes to the best surf spots in the world, but it still deserves a spot on this list. The tourists of Tamarindo aren’t shy when it comes to partying, but that’s not what Tamarindo is all about. Mixed with the party vibes, you’ll also get a taste of the laid-back Pura Vida vibes that make this such a popular surfing destination.
But enough about vibes, let’s talk about Tamarindo’s waves. Beginner surfers gravitate towards Playa Grande when the conditions are right. More advanced surfers prefer Witch’s Rock, which poses challenges for even the best surfers. For thrilling barrels, try to visit the Rock between mid to high tide.