Surfer’s Paradise: The 7 Best Places to Surf in the World

Jörg Matzdorff
Jörg Matzdorff

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Crystal clear water, perfect waves, long blonde beach waves flying through the air and sun-kissed faces with zinc paint around donning bright smiles. A vision promising days of captivating beauty and exhilarating experiences.

Sounds too good to be true? Not at all! From the heart-pounding barrels of Central America to the sun-drenched shores of Bali, we’re about to unveil the ultimate countdown of the 7 best surf spots that every wave enthusiast dreams of riding. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a rookie rider, join us on this virtual journey as we explore the iconic breaks, picturesque landscapes, and undeniable allure of these surfers’ paradises.

In this article, you will get answers to the following questions:

  • What makes a surf spot a good surf spot?
  • Which places to surf are best for beginners?
  • Where to find the best places to surf barrels?
  • And where are the best places to surf in the world?

More than just Waves – Essential Traits of a Premier Surf Spot

A good surf spot is not only a very subjective definition, depending on the personal skill level, but also objectively requires more than just a pretty beach. Various key factors like wave consistency, accessibility and safety add up to make a beach offer the best surfing in the world. 

Consistent waves: Surfing trips are often limited by time. Like little children, denying their cold blue lips, we surfers don’t give up easily. But lying in the ocean for hours, waiting for a surfable wave, can take its toll. How fortunate that some beaches offer exactly what we need – a predictable and steady pattern of waves.

Wave quality: Not only the rhythm, but the shape of a wave as well, do matter. We want clean breaking and well-defined waves to even our ride and create a stage for various maneuvers and tricks.  

Direction and size of the waves: Both, wave height and wave direction, are to be chosen individually. While some surfers prefer left-breakers, others can perform better on right-breakers. The main thing is: consistency!

Safety: A good surf spot has a manageable current, minimal hazards like rocks or reefs, and a suitable depth that allows surfers to comfortably ride waves without endangering themselves. 

Weather conditions: Unlike kite surfers or windsurfers, wave surfers prefer windless weather conditions with minimal tide interferences. 

Scenery and atmosphere: Cultural flair, a magical surf spirit and all set in the majestic landscapes the oceans create all around the world. Aesthetics isn’t all, but… who could deny it plays a big role when selecting a surf spot?! 

Accessibility: Last but not least, a big plus for any surf place is when you have easy entry points to the water, well-maintained paths and a spot to relax during the sessions.

Culture and community: Whether it is about a certain dress code, based on religions or local surf rules. Considering the surf culture and etiquette of each place can help to prevent misunderstandings.

Ultimately, a good surf place is a balanced combination of all those factors. A predictable mixture of safety and fun. So, now that we know what we want, where do we find those convenient paradises?

The Best Places to Surf

When it comes to putting theory into practice, we quickly learn, that mother nature is not always as predictable as we wish it was. Nevertheless, surfers all around the world tried, failed, collected and shared their knowledge and gathered a long list of the best places to surf.

If you want to know which places you should definitely add to your surf vacation list, stay tuned as we dive right in with an old time classic.

Top 7: Waikiki, Hawaii

Surfing in the beautiful capital of Hawaii – do we need to say more? White sand beaches, gently rolling waves and all in front of the picturesque setting of the Diamond Head crater. 

Countless surf schools along the coastline and the soft and consistent waves make it an ideal spot for beginners and intermediate surfers. Only naming a few beaches in Waikiki, Canoes, Queens and Pops definitely deserve a spot in our ranking. 

Canoes is considered a beach break, where the waves break over a sandy bottom. This type of break tends to produce waves that are suitable for learners and less experienced surfers.

It’s named after the iconic Duke Kahanamoku Canoe Club, which has played a significant role in promoting water sports and surfing in the area. 

The consistent nature of the waves at Canoes is one of its main attractions. This predictability makes it a great spot for practicing and improving surfing skills. The waves tend to be relatively slow and easy to ride, providing an ideal environment for building confidence and mastering the basics.

Canoes is situated just west of the famous Queen’s Beach in Waikiki. Its central location makes it easily accessible from various hotels and accommodations in the area.

Queen’s Beach holds historical importance as one of the earliest surfing locations in Waikiki. It gained popularity during the early 20th century, when surfing was reintroduced to the world by figures like Duke Kahanamoku. The beach is named after Queen Liliʻuokalani, the last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Due to its reputation as a beginner-friendly spot and its central location in Waikiki, Queen’s Beach can get quite crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons. The crowd mix often includes surf school students, first-time surfers, and locals enjoying the waves.

The Beach is equipped with showers, restrooms and picknick spots, making it ideal for a day spent by the beach. 

The break at Queen’s Beach is a relatively slow, mellow, and rolling wave that is well-suited for longboarders and novice surfers. This type of wave allows for longer rides and a more relaxed surfing experience.

Pop’s is situated right between Queen’s and Canoes, and just as those two beaches, impresses with perfectly consistent and easily rideable waves. 

Pops features a sandy bottom and typically offers a slower, longer-breaking wave that is well-suited for longboarding. This makes it a great spot for surfers who enjoy riding bigger boards and taking long, graceful rides.

As with many spots in Waikiki, Pops can get crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons and favorable conditions. Restrooms showers and surf shops nearby make it extremely attractive.

However, the friendly and welcoming atmosphere usually prevails, creating a positive environment for surfers of all levels.

If you ask, where this great place to surf gets its name from, the opinions are divided. Some will tell you, since it is such a popular spot, the name is just the short form of exactly this trait. 

Others will say, George “Pops” Kakazu, a local surfer and canoe racer who was a well-respected figure in the Waikiki surfing community, was honored by naming the beach after him.

But we are not here to tell you about the most popular places to surf. Of course, great surf spots attract a lot of people and not only surfers, but restaurants, bars, surf schools and accommodations. 

Yet, if you are up for a little adventure, to get to the next candidate in our little contest of the best places to surf, you might get rewarded with privacy, great waves and a stunning view.

+ stunning surrounding – crowded

+ beach break – comparatively expensive

+ consistent waves

+ facilities

Top 6: Hong Kong – China’s Unexpected Surf Adventure

Surfing in Hong Kong – Unexpected? Not in the slightest! Surfing is far from new in the land of skyscrapers and neon letters. 

In the 1980s, British and American travelers and expats ignored the strict rules, that once prevented anyone from setting a foot on the typhoon-battled beaches and discovered some of the great waves they’ve ever ridden.

Nowadays, it is not only legal to surf there, but even a handful of surf schools found their way to this incredible place. Yet, it is nothing for beginners or softies. Rumors about sharks should not impact you if you want to surf there.

Just two kilometers north of Shek O Beach—where amenities like showers and lockers await—you’ll stumble upon the secluded expanse of Big Wave Bay. If the name intrigues you, you might just be in the right place.

Barely known outside the surfing community, you need to follow a road out of town, passing a little Golf & Country Club, and will eventually find your destination right at the end of the road.

For those envisioning a dreary and tempestuous beach, the reality is far from it.  Beautiful turquoise water, yellow sand and all surrounded by green trees and  aesthetically placed rocks make this place definitely worth a visit.

While the waves here might not be as constant or towering as those found in more renowned surfing meccas like Hawaii or Bali, when wind and water align, they transform into something extraordinary.

For everyday surfing, the conditions are welcoming for beginners—knee-high, direct southwest-facing swell, and the winter influence from the Pacific all in your favor. Yet, on occasion, this haven metamorphoses into a paradise for even the most seasoned riders.

Six-foot waves, beautiful and strong. Whoever got to catch one of these waves, will probably not ever stop dreaming about it.

+ no crowds – shark rumors 

+ adventure – inconsistent waves

+ beach break

+ facilities nearby

Top 5: Greece – One of Europe’s Best Hidden Places to Surf   

Places to surf are no rarity in Europe. The crowded waves of the south of France or even Italy are no secret. Yet, Greece’s coastline has retained its sense of seclusion for quite some time. Only in recent decades have an increasing number of surf enthusiasts chosen Greece’s stunning shores for more than just beachside cocktails.

In summer, small but steady waves, clear skies and the warm embrace of the Mediterranean Sea create the perfect conditions for beginners. Especially, the beach of Kolymbithra offers an excellent entry into the world of surfing.

To cultivate the perfect atmosphere, a charming VW Bus doubles as a surf school and beach bar, offering beginners and intermediate riders everything they require.

From September to January, more sizeable waves, potent currents, and increased privacy await experienced surfers, painting a different experience on these pristine Greek waters.

+ beautiful location

+ facilities

+ beach break

+ rarely crowded

Top 4: Costa Rica – Caribbean flair and waves for every skill level

Amidst the vibrant green of nature and the deep blue ocean, ivory beaches confirm the richness, Costa Rica promises with its name. Besides the breathtaking nature, the coastline offers a wide range of prime waves. Whether Reef break, sand-bottom, seasoned pro or surf rookie – in Costa Rica anybody will find their little surf paradise.

Perfect temperatures all year long have attracted lots of surf infrastructure. Restaurants with local food, facilities and surf schools make it as easy as possible to take your board into the waves of the Caribbean or the Pacific Ocean – merely 100 kilometers apart at their closest point.

The probably most famous wave in Costa Rica is located at the south pacific coast – Pavones. During the rainy season, a strong south swell molds the ocean into one never ending swell. Up to three minutes, this never-ending ride can last.

The only downside is the easy entry attracts lots of like-minded souls. But would that keep you from giving this diamond in the treasure of the best places to surf a chance to shine?

+ 3 min rides – can get crowded

+ exotic flora and fauna

+ facilities and accommodations

+ rental shops

Top 3: Namibia – Now or (maybe) Never

Thanks to the Surfing Magazine’s call to find great breaks via satellite images, the coastline of Namibia was discovered as one of the best places to surf. Following the hint of one of the readers, Skeleton Bay was unveiled.

A few months later, American professional surfer Cory Lopez triumphed over what is still regarded as the longest wave ever ridden on a sandy ocean floor. For more than a minute, he cruised through a flawless tube.

Ever since, adventurers, pro surfers and any daring individuals willing to embrace the challenging journey through the desert and share the waters with great white sharks, tried to recreate this remarkable experience.

Namibia not only lacks other surf spots but also faces the uncertainty of Skeleton Bay’s continued existence. Roughly two decades ago, a shift in the prevailing wind direction birthed this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Its duration remains indefinite.

Thus, every July to September, the globe’s finest surfers converge here, seeking the ultimate left-breaking waves, driven by the understanding that these conditions may be ephemeral.

+ consistent waves – zero public transport

+ great tubes – sharks

+ beach break – nothing for rookies

Top 2: Australia – White Sand and Countless Places to Surf

Merely an-hour drive from Brisbane, the Gold Coast combines the diverse surf culture with all facilities and infrastructure any surfer’s heart might yearn for. Nestled within Queensland’s heart, an expansive man-made sandbank plays host to one of the world’s longest wave rides.

On favorable days the entire way from Snapper’s Rock to Greenmount Beach, one uninterrupted wave can follow another.

Besides these two, places to surf like Noosa Heads or the famously known Bondi Beach are must-visit surf spots. While around Snapper’s Rock, typically more advanced riders dominate, the amount of surf schools lining the coastline of Bohemian havens like Byron Bay speaks for itself.

+ almost endless beach options – possibly crowded

+ great infrastructure

+ surfing year-round

Top 1: Bali – Real life Surf Paradise

Since the island was discovered as a world-class tourist destination, the Hindu paradise has become more and more overrun by party seeking tourists, co-working spaces and tattoo studios.

… at least if you don’t know the right places!

Even during the winter, when it is rainy season in Indonesia, the warm ocean, green palms, the thrill of renting a motorbike, clipping your board on the side of it and riding to one of the hundreds of great places to surf, Bali is a true surfers’ paradise.

You can find surf schools and massage places for the relaxation after your surf session on basically every corner. Quality food and accommodations are cheap and if you avoid the overrun beaches of Canggu you will understand what makes Bali have one of the best, if not even THE best places to surf.

While beginners might gravitate toward the Kuta coastline, where constant waves with a modest swell ease you into a wonderful surfing journey, the beaches along the east coast present picturesque vistas and waves that embody the term “Dreams wave.”

During the dry season of summer, the water cools a bit, but a wetsuit is hardly necessary here. By consulting wave forecasts and selecting spots with optimal conditions, the wait for a new wave should remain short.

Among the plethora of extraordinary surf spots along the southern coastline, allow us to introduce Padang Padang, The Impossibles and Uluwatu a bit closer.

With robust swells, Padang Padang delivers flawless barrels with a steep drop. On more subdued days, the Baby Padang section offers knee-high waves, ideal for beginners and intermediates.

The Impossibles get their name from the “impossible” challenge of taking each and every section in one day. The 4–6 feet swell around a beautiful cliff brings on good days one great wave after the other.

Uluwatu is the main attraction on the island. Super consistent swells, wave sections for every surf level and all located in a breathtaking scenery. To get to the lineup, a path will lead you through a cave out into the open ocean. Truly magical!

+ stunning scenery – potentially crowded

+ excellent infrastructure

+ numerous surf spots

+ warm weather and water

+ thriving surf community

+ well provided area information

Now you know some incredible surf places, but you need the right surfboard and how to wax a surfboard.

Conclusion: Best Surfing in the World

From the azure coasts of Australia to the rugged shores of Hawaii, the best places to surf are as diverse as the cultures that embrace this age-old art. Discovering the best places to surf in the world is akin to an endless treasure quest.

Just better! Because luckily, unlike pirates, the surf community loves to share, and if it’s not the wave, then the surf spot. As swells ebb and flow, winds shift, and even satellite image sleuthing becomes part of the equation, the ongoing exploring brings fresh water to the steadily growing surf culture. So, wax your board, don your wetsuit, and set forth on an odyssey that transcends continents and generations, all in pursuit of that perfect wave.

FAQ – Most asked questions about the best surf places

Jörg Matzdorff
Jörg Matzdorff

Outdoor and surfing enthusiast.