The World’s Best Surf Spots
Where to catch a wave, from Australia to Hawaii to Germany (yes, Germany).
Few activities immediately conjure up images of sunny beaches and breezy weather better than surfing. It’s a sport that, somehow, manages to look completely intense but utterly relaxing at the same time. There are thousands of places around the world where surfers can take their boards and find a good time — they will literally try it anywhere that waves can be found. But only a few spots have achieved mythical status.
We’ve looked all around the world, in expected and unexpected places, to find the world’s best surfing spots. Our selections are based on factors including weather, wave patterns, notoriety and overall beauty. Whether you’re a kook or a legend, these are places you should aspire to catch a wave.
#30 — Punta Hermosa (Lima Province, Peru)
Located in the south of Peru, Punta Hermosa is regarded as one of the best surfing regions in all of South America. With waters typically in the high 60s, this spot doesn’t provide the warmest conditions on our list, but the waves are brilliant all year. This is also one of the cheapest areas to stay among the locations on our list, so if you’re trying to take a surf trip on a budget, this could be your pick.
#29 — Tamarindo Beach (Tamarindo, Costa Rica)
Costa Rica is already known for its beautiful vistas, and you’ll see some of its best at this spot on the country’s west coast. It’s especially stunning at night (seriously, just Google “Tamarindo sunset” and you’ll be ready to change your phone’s background).
Tamarindo Beach is one of Costa Rica’s most popular surf spots, with consistent breaks that are at their best in the dead of summer. This spot is especially good for beginners, as expert surfers may get annoyed by the constant crowds and overall lack of difficulty.
#28 — Byron Bay (New South Wales, Australia)
Hippies and surfers alike — demographics that have been known to cross over — have sworn by Australia’s Byron Bay for decades. Water temperatures pretty much stay in the 70s year round, which is similar to the air temperature. You’ll see plenty of beautiful views, as well as some dolphins, while you catch waves in the clear water off the east coast of Australia.
The surf at Byron Bay isn’t known for its difficulty but it’s perfect for anyone looking to learn and take about a million envy-inspiring Instagram shots.
#27 — Domes Beach (Rincón, Puerto Rico)
If you’re looking to go south for winter and do some serious surfing, the beach town of Rincón, Puerto Rico is a perfect option. There are several beaches in this small area on the northwest side of Puerto Rico and all are great for surfers. Domes Beach is one of the most notable because of the massive waves it’s known to see in the winter months. From October to February, the water temperature around Rincón typically ranges from 77 to 84 degrees on any given day.
#26 — Tofino (Vancouver Island, Canada)
Surfing doesn’t always mean you’ll be feeling nice and toasty! For people who are into cold-water surfing, the popular area of Tofino on southwestern Canada’s Vancouver Island is the ideal spot. The water — and climate in general — doesn’t get warmer than the mid-50s, even in the summer months when tourists descend on Tofino. The natural beauty of the area is a perfect fit for surfers who also love a good hike; just be sure to pack a good wetsuit.
#25 — Thorli (Thorlákshöfn, Iceland)
Speaking of natural beauty and chilly waters, Iceland has become a booming cold-water surfing destination in recent years. As long as you don’t mind waters that hover between the 40s and 50s, Thorli is a spot all adventurous surfers should check out. The surfing experts at MagicSeaweed.com call it the most-surfed place in Iceland because of its deep paddling channel and lack of crowds. And if you’re freezing after your surf, take a dip in one of the country’s many hot springs!
#24 — Severn Bore (Gloucestershire, United Kingdom)
The first river-surfing spot on our list, the Severn Bore inspires flocks of surfers every time it gets intense. This natural phenomenon sees massive, lengthy waves rush through the U.K.’s River Severn at various times throughout the year.
The waters are obviously chilly, typically in the 40s or 50s, but skilled surfers can ride the waves for what seems like an eternity. In 2006, one man broke the Guinness record for the longest continuous surf ride by staying on a Severn Bore wave for more than 7 miles, which meant more than an hour coasting on a single wave!
#23 — Punta de Lobos (Pichilemu, Chile)
The rock formations that dart from the water around Chile’s Punta de Lobos are as iconic as the waves themselves. In recognizing this central Chilean spot as one of its World Surfing Reserves, the nonprofit Save the Waves Coalition called Punta de Lobos “the lynchpin of surf culture in Chile.” The water here is typically in the 50s and 60s, so dress accordingly — but the experts at BookSurfCamps.com call it the best surf spot in Chile and one of the best in South America.
#22 — Zicatela Beach (Puerto Escondido, Mexico)
In the south of Mexico, the destination town of Puerto Escondido, whose name means “Hidden Port,” remains just under the radar enough for a relaxing surf on Zicatela Beach. The waves at Zicatela Beach can be very intense — which means this spot is mostly a no-go for swimmers, leaving surfers to dominate. Then, when you’re looking to unwind at night, you can swim in the area’s naturally bioluminescent waters nearby for a truly a one-of-a-kind experience.
#21 — Joaquina Beach (Florianópolis, Brazil)
If you’re looking for a one-stop destination that features plenty of surf in a small area, the south Brazilian city of Florianópolis has you covered. No matter what skill level you may be, there is a beach — and a swell — for you to tackle. Mole Beach is another great option for surfing in this area but Joaquina Beach is hard to beat because of its amenities. You can typically expect a crowd but its tough to argue with water temperatures near 80 degrees in January and February.
#20 — Lombok Island (Indonesia)
The surf culture of Indonesia is renowned for many reasons. Water and weather that are in the low 80s year round? Check. Fantastic waves of all difficulties? Check. Stunning views? No question.
We’ll get to Bali in a bit but Indonesia’s lesser-known surf spot, Lombok Island, is almost as good as its more famous neighbor. Lombok’s waves are mostly regarded as more friendly for novice surfers even if the island itself is less touristy than Bali, making it a great destination for savvy travelers.
#19 — Anchor Point (Taghazout, Morocco)
One of the best up-and-coming tourist destinations in Africa is Morocco’s Taghazout. This fishing village is home to one of North Africa’s most popular surfing spots, Anchor Point. The water typically hovers in the 60s, so don’t expect bathwater temperatures. But you’ll get a consistent swell all year, waves that are suitable for all levels of skill and plenty of uncrowded waters.
#18 — Pointe des Almadies (Dakar, Senegal)
The westernmost point in all of Africa is home to some of the continent’s best surfing. Pointe des Almadies is a peninsula that is home to its best waves during the winter and spring months. In those periods, the water can get a little chilly, dipping into the low 60s, as compared to the downright hot water, in the low 80s, that you’ll find in the summer months. The seemingly infinite waves at Pointe des Almadies were even used in filming the classic 1966 surf movie, “The Endless Summer.”
#17 — The Eisbach (Munich, Germany)
Arguably the premier spot for river surfing in the entire world, the Eisbach in Munich, Germany offers a unique test for experienced surfers. This river features an infinite, standing wave that allow surfers to see how long they can last before falling into the chilly water (Eisbach means “ice brook,” after all). Surfers have been trying their luck on this unique wave since the 1970s and it remains popular today.
#16 — Steamer Lane (Santa Cruz, California)
The waters in this Northern California landmark typically never get out of the 50s, which is what led local surfing legend Jack O’Neill to help pioneer the original wetsuit. As long as you’ve got one of your own, you’ll love digging into Steamer Lane, which features some of the most reliable breaks in North America. Santa Cruz’s waves offer challenges for all skill levels, making it a great place to learn the skill without putting yourself in too much danger.
#15 — Black’s Beach (La Jolla, California)
More than 400 miles south of Steamer Lane, you’ll find Black’s Beach. If you’re thinking of picturesque, sunny surfing in California, this place is likely the image you’re conjuring. But, be aware, this spot in Southern California is recommended only for advanced surfers because the waves can get dangerous in a hurry.
In the summer, water temperatures typically get into the low 70s, making it more palatable for many than Northern California’s waters. Our own writer and surfing enthusiast, Brittany Anas, suggests wearing a pair of Chacos for the rough terrain and being in solid shape, because you’ll do a fair amount of paddling out before reaching the waves.
#14 — Tullan Strand (Bundoran, Ireland)
One of the premier surfing destinations in Europe is on the northeast coast of Ireland. Bundoran, which is located in County Donegal, features some downright frigid waters and fantastic waves. Bundoran and its Tullan Strand beach have become so renowned as surf meccas that the experts at MagicSeaweed.com list overcrowding as one of the spot’s only flaws. The floor is very rocky so make sure you’ve got the right footwear and be aware of your neighbors before dropping in.
#13 — Hikkaduwa Beach (Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka)
It’s hard to find better weather anywhere in the world than in the South Asian island nation of Sri Lanka. If you make your way there on a surfing expedition, you’re going to want to hit Hikkaduwa Beach. This tourist destination is on the south side of the island and sees its best waves in the summer months, when swells hit heights of about 7 feet on average. Catching waves in Hikkaduwa is kind of like surfing in a hot tub, as the water is almost never cooler than the low 80s.
#12 — Sunset Beach (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
There aren’t many places that combine excellent surfing, scorching weather and a stunning urban backdrop like Dubai’s Sunset Beach. It’s pretty breathtaking to catch waves in near 90-degree waters with some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers just a stone’s throw away. If you run into a crowd, there are plenty of other great surf spots on the Persian Gulf, like Al Khan Beach in nearby Sharjah. If you’re a surfer who prefers the city to the wild, Sunset Beach should be at the top of your list.
#11 — Kata Beach (Phuket, Thailand)
If you’re worried about harsh weather ruining your dream surf trip, the island of Phuket in southern Thailand is where you need to schedule a stay. This area has some of the best surfing weather in the world and boasts some of the warmest ocean water you’ll find anywhere, with water temperatures sitting in the mid-80s nearly all year long, on average. This is also one of the best places for novice surfers to learn the sport, as it’s not renowned for challenging swells.
#10 — Skeleton Bay (Skeleton Coast, Namibia)
As jarring as surfing in front of a hulking city may be, surfing against the backdrop of an African desert may be even more surprising. Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, named so because of its long history of shipwrecks and washed-up whale carcasses, has become a serious surfing destination in the past decade. The waves at its Skeleton Bay are described as massive and unforgiving, with Travel News Namibia warning that they can easily snap thinner boards. The waters along this African coastline, located near the southern tip of the continent, can be quite chilly. Sounds like an adventure for the brave!
#9 — Soorts-Hossegor (Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France)
The best surfing in Europe can be found in the southwest of France, in the waters around the town of Hossegor. This destination has been attracting surfers for decades and continues to satisfy people of all skill levels. Surfer magazine has said that Hossegor “had it all,” when it comes to a premier surfing spot — including rich culture, a bumping social scene and great waves. Water temperatures range from the mid-50s in winter to the low 70s in summer, on average.
#8 — Raglan (Waikato, New Zealand)
Few countries on Earth are as known for their natural beauty as New Zealand, and the beachside town of Raglan is a great place to see its full splendor. Located on the northern part of the island, Raglan has black sand beaches, stunning hills and, most importantly, great waves. This is another surf spot that was first made famous in the 1966 movie, “The Endless Summer,” and it’s been a destination for the sport ever since. Don’t expect tropical weather or warm water, though.
#7 —Kirra Point (Queensland, Australia)
Surfing in Australia’s Gold Coast is legendary for a reason — and Kirra Point represents the best the area has to offer. The breaks here are super-consistent and are not recommended for novice surfers, making this a great place for those with skill. MagicSeaweed.com says Kirra has “probably the world’s best righthand point that breaks over sand,” which is extreme praise. But they do knock it slightly for being crowded with hundreds of surfers pretty much every day.
#6 — Waikiki Beach (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Hawaii is probably the first place that comes to mind when you think of great surfing and Waikiki Beach is basically the granddaddy of all surf destinations. People have been riding the waves here since the 1800s and it remains an immensely popular spot today.
From the statue of legendary Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku on the beach to the nearby pineapple soft-serve, Waikiki Beach is extremely friendly for anyone looking to get into surfing. Our own resident surfer, Brittany Anas, calls it “super approachable” because of the low cost to rent surfboards and says it’s great for beginners because the waves are easy to catch and there are instructors all over.
#5 — Uluwatu Beach (Bali, Indonesia)
Bali is a surfer’s paradise, right up there with Hawaii. The air and water stay at about 80 degrees year round and the swells are as consistent as any in the world. Of all the places you can surf in Bali, Uluwatu Beach is widely regarded as the best. There’s virtually endless coastline, which means that even if the surf is totally packed (which it probably will be), there is plenty of room for everyone. Padang Padang is another great choice if you’re looking to catch waves in Bali.
#4 — Jeffrey’s Bay (Eastern Cape, South Africa)
South Africa has some of the world’s best surfing, exemplified most by the action at Jeffrey’s Bay. This iconic spot has been a must-try destination for surfers going back decades and it’s easy to see why. There are several well-known breaks to try in Jeffrey’s Bay but Supertubes is the one most surfers swear by. Water temperatures don’t make it out of the 60s either way so bring a wetsuit — but the swells are incredibly consistent, peaking at about 12 feet high in the summer months.
#3 — Bondi Beach (Sydney, Australia)
Located on Australia’s southeast side, Sydney’s Bondi Beach is a pioneer of surf-friendly tourist destinations. This spot has something for all skill levels, provided they are fine with waters that rarely get much warmer than the 60s. If you can get over the temperatures, Bondi Beach has great surfing for novices in its northern area and steep challenges and rips in its southern area for experts. There’s a reason it remains one of Australia’s most popular spots.
#2 — Cloudbreak (Tavarua, Fiji)
The island resort of Tavarua, on the South Pacific island of Fiji, is home to some of the best surfing in the entire world. The swells typically range from 4 to 6 feet tall all year but the wave known as Cloudbreak is called a legitimate challenge for even the most skilled surfers. Water temperatures hover at around 80 degrees all the time, so when you do inevitably wipe out, you’ll be nice and comfortable — as long as you don’t hit a reef.
#1 — Banzai Beach (Pupukea, Hawaii)
It simply doesn’t get any better than the Banzai Pipeline. Hawaii’s legacy as the world’s surfing destination is well earned and the Pipeline shows exactly why. The break here causes massive waves, especially in the winter months, when swells average at 10 to 12 feet high. Water temperatures are nearly always in the mid-to-high 70s, so you’ll always be comfortable going for a surf in Oahu, provided you have the skills to not get destroyed by Banzai’s waves.