North America is blessed with some of the best surf spots in the world. With two oceans, multiple gulfs, and millions of kilometers of coastlines, there’s bound to be a surf spot that’s perfect for a surfer of any skill level. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that surfing was actually born on this continent.
With hundreds of surf spots to choose from, you’re going to be spoiled for choice and may find it hard to decide where to go next, or where to go first.
Time to Chase Some Waves
If you’re an avid surfer looking for your next surfing destination, here are our top 9 picks for the best places to surf in North America. Each pick can easily be the best so we haven’t arranged them according to any ranking system.
1. O’AHU, HAWAII
O’ahu is a U.S island in the Central Pacific and part of the Hawaiian chain of islands. There are two places to go surfing in Oahu: the North Shore or the South Shore.
The North Shore has been touted to be “the holy land” for surfers. It’s so sacred in some surfing circles that it’s recommended you visit it at least once before you die. Maybe you want to test yourself in Pipeline or experience the reefs that the ancient royals rode long ago in Sunset.
The South Shore is usually overshadowed by its more famous counterpart. However, that’s not to say that there isn’t fun to be had there — especially during summertime.
2. HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIFORNIA
Located in Orange County, California, Huntington Beach is touted as the official surf city in the USA. A classic beach break, Huntington Beach catches any swell even if other spots remain flat. You can visit any time but the best swells usually come out in winter, which is also when the summer crowds are absent.
The 10-mile coastline is a public beach just off the highway. You can find a lot of parking options perpendicular to the road.
You can also visit the Huntington Beach International Surf Museum located on Olive Street when it’s flat. This is a great place to stay while you’re waiting for some swells or waves.
3. MAUI, HAWAII
When talking about surfing in Hawaii, you may mostly hear about the legendary Oahu North Shore and Waikiki. However, there are other places where you can practice the “sport of kings” — this is where Maui comes in.
Maui offers big wave surfing in Hookipa Beach near Lower Paia during winter and Peahi, also known as “Jaws”, which is Maui’s most famous surf spot for big wave surfing. You can also check out the pros in action at Honolua Beach.
Newer surfers can check out the surfing schools in Kaanapali, Lahaina, and Kihei which are less intimidating surf spots.
4. SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA
Another top surfing spot in California is Santa Cruz. Located just 85 minutes from San Francisco, the city features a beautiful Pacific-facing coastline that’s great for visitors — especially surfers.
Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point often get mentioned when talking about Santa Cruz.
While advanced surfers will find Santa Cruz more than adequate, this contender for the name “Surf City” is a great spot for beginner surfers as well. Just north of Steamer Lane is Cowell’s Beach. There you’ll find several surf schools with lots of beginners so it’s a perfect place to start surfing.
5. MALIBU, CALIFORNIA
California seems to have been made for surfing because this next entry is yet another awesome California surfing spot.
Touted as one of the most sought-after surfing spots in Los Angeles, the Malibu waves see huge traffic every year, even in all of North America.
Whether you’re a beginner starting in Surfrider Beach, looking to do some bodyboarding at Zuma, or simply want to experience what surfing was like in the 60s at Leo Carrillo, Malibu is never the wrong choice.
6. PLAYA HERMOSA, COSTA RICA
When the surf at Dominical is getting too big or simply closing out, you may want to head over to Playa Hermosa.
Located in Costa Rica, Playa Hermosa is usually trafficked by surfers from around Costa Ballena. If you’re an intermediate-expert surfer looking for a good spot or a beginner looking to challenge yourself, Playa Hermosa is the right way to go.
Take note, though:
There are two Playa Hermosas in Costa Rica. One is near Jaco and the other one is about a 10-minute drive from Bodhi Surf + Yoga, between Dominical and Uvita. It’s the latter that we’re talking about here.
7. SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
A veritable surfing paradise, San Diego is famous for its dozens of awesome waves on offer. Surfers of whatever skill level are sure to find a spot that’s perfect for them.
Looking for gentler waves to practice on? Pacific Beach is the spot for you. Taking a tumble here is a lot more forgiving due to its sand bottom break.
Ocean Beach is another good choice if you’re looking for a beginner-friendly spot. This spot always has surf and every wave is pretty mellow.
We can’t mention beginner-friendly spots without talking about La Jolla. This spot is known for its abundance of parking spots, quality waves, and predictable lineup.
8. TOFINO, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Tofino has been called the surf capital of Canada for a reason. This coastal town offers some of the best waves that are great for both beginners and seasoned surfers alike. If there’s one thing Tofino is known for, though, it would definitely be cold water surfing.
You’ll usually find the best swells during the winter months in Cox Bay, North Chesterman Beach, and Long Beach when temperatures are at their lowest.
Cox Bay is known as the number 1 surf beach in Canada. It has the largest area and caters to surfers all year round. During the winter months, expect to sit things out and storm watch as waves become too washed out to surf.
North Chesterman Beach offers gentler waves. It offers flatter waves during the summer and more shapely waves during the winter.
Long Beach is located just 20 minutes outside of Toronto. This historical place is credited for being the birthplace of Tofino’s surf culture. Long Beach is better visited during summer when it captures the best south swells.
9. WAIKIKI, HAWAII
You can’t talk about surfing as a whole without mentioning Waikiki. Yes, Hawaiians did invent the sport of surfing but did you know that the legendary Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern-day surfing himself, was a Waikiki native and introduced surfing to the world.
You can expect to find the biggest and best waves during the summer months from June to September. However, that’s not to say that you can’t surf in Waikiki any time of the year. This legendary place offers swells suited to surfers of any skill level and background (longboarder or shortboarder).
Great waves are plentiful in Waikiki. From Ala Moana Bowls, Fours, Threes, Canoes, and many more, it’s no wonder surfers from all over the world seek out Waikiki, Hawaii.