20 Places To Go Surfing In Hawaii

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Hawaii is a surfer’s paradise that is a magnet to professional surfers attracted to its legendary breaks. But you don’t need to be an expert to have a fantastic time surfing in Hawaii. There’s more to it than huge waves. Experiencing Hawaii’s surfing culture is a big part of the experience because surfing is woven into the fabric of Hawaiian culture.

Surfing was once known as the sport of kings and only the ali’i (Hawaiian royalty) were allowed to surf. It was opened to everyone after King Kamehameha II abolished the Hawaiian kapu (taboo) system in 1819 to modernise Hawaiian society. From Kaui’s serene swells to the towering waves of the Banzai Pipeline and Maui’s Peahi to the lesser-known spots in Molokai, Hawaii is one of the best places to surf. So, grab your board, slap on sunscreen and hit the waves. Here is everything you need to know about surfing in Hawaii.

20 Places To Go Surfing in Hawaii

Oahu

Oahu is the hub of surfing culture, and you won’t need to venture far to encounter world-famous breaks.

Elite surfers flock to the North Shore in winter to ride the mighty swell of the Banzai Pipeline while beginners enjoy the gentle waves of Waikiki.

The good thing about Oahu is that you can enjoy the island’s stunning landscapes with plenty of other things to do when you’re not riding the waves.

Malaekahana Beach

Malaekahana Beach is a great spot for a quintessential Hawaiian surfing vacation.

You can camp on the beach, so you won’t have to go far to catch the waves.

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The surf breaks are only a short paddle away and suitable for all skill levels, including family-friendly, gentler waves for surf schools.

Winter is the best time to surf at Malaekahana, and there are waves in the summer, too.

The camping area is shrouded by lush greenery and there are picnic tables and toilets.

Sunset Beach

Rainbow Over The Popular Surfing Place Sunset Beach
Sunset Beach is a popular place to go surfing in Hawaii’s Oahu.

Sunset Beach hosts some of the world’s most prestigious surfing competitions, such as the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

It’s a popular place on the North Shore for anyone who is obsessed about riding the waves.

The local name for this two-mile stretch of beach is “Paumalū”.

In winter, the waves at Sunset Beach reach impressive heights making it a great place to see world-class surfers riding the monster breaks.

Ehukai Beach

If you are a serious surfer, test your skills at Ehukai, where you’ll find the world-famous Banzai pipeline. (Note: do not attempt this if you’re an amateur, as the swell can be very dangerous.)

As you hit the beach, the Pipeline is on the left.

You’re likely to experience a mix of shifting westerly peaks and eastern wind swell wraps.

Ehukai is an excellent place for beginners to learn from watching the pros, so keep an eye out for the likes of Tom Curren doing a perfect 360!

Water adventure companies run excellent adrenaline tours from the beach, and there are lovely eateries where you can grab a burger or some seafood.

Makaha Beach

On the island’s west side, Makaha Beach has a rich surfing legacy and impressive waves.

In the 1950s, it was the birthplace of big-wave surfing thanks to legendary surfers such as Greg Noll and Buffalo Keaulana.

Due to its challenging size and nature, riding the swell is not recommended for inexperienced surfers here.

However, it’s a great spot to marvel at how the pros tackle them, especially during the annual Makaha Surfing Championships.

Pipeline Beach

Beach At The Banzai Pipeline
Pipeline beach is one of the best surfing beaches in Hawaii.

On the North Shore of Oahu, Pipeline Beach is world-famous for its massive waves and is one of the most challenging surf spots on the planet.

Unlike many other beach breaks, Pipeline’s waves break over a sharp and shallow reef instead of over sandbars.

The reef’s topography combined with the location facing the powerful swells of the Pacific Ocean, creates large, hollow, tubular waves that are incredibly beautiful and extremely dangerous.

With waves shooting up 20 feet or more during the winter months, experienced surfers flock here to test their skills.

The Banzai Pipeline is the place for thrilling tube rides, but it demands respect due to its powerful and sometimes dangerous conditions.

Kewalos

Kewalos is a great little surf spot between Ala Moana Beach Park and Point Panic, known for its playful waves.

This place is great because it has a reef break with both left and right-hand waves, providing surfers with plenty of options.

The surf culture at Kewalos is vibrant, making it a great spot to meet fellow surf enthusiasts.

It is also just a few minutes away from downtown Honolulu, which is a real bonus.

Waikiki Beach

Surfer Woman Surfing On Waikiki Beach Hawaii
Waikiki Beach is a great spot to go surfing in Hawaii for beginners.

Fancy following in the footsteps of the famous Waikiki Beach Boys?

The great Duke Kahanamoku rode the waves all along the glorious two-mile stretch of Waikiki back in the 1920s, and there are several places between Diamond Head and Fort DeRussy Park where you can do the same.

One of the best ones to check out is Rockpiles, a good spot for short and longboarding.

Kaiser’s is usually full of local short boarders, while Publics is another excellent spot between Queen’s Beach and the Waikiki Aquarium.

Many consider Queen’s Surf Break the best on the island for those wanting to challenge themselves.

Diamond Head Beach

Aerial View Of Surfer Carrying Surfboard Into Water
Diamond Head Beach offers some of the best beginner surfing in Hawaii.

Waves at Diamond Head can be hit-and-miss, but you can get some quality reef breaks to brush up on your hacks and turns.

Generally speaking, the eastern and southern exposures will provide the most consistency.

When south swells pass by, they bring larger waves than at other southern breaks and the spot also picks up east wind swells.

The best winds for Diamond Head are in spring and early fall.

Surfing before 10 am and after 3 pm to avoid stronger winds.

Access to the breaks involves a long walk and paddle.

Maui

Summer Vacation, Workout Or Water Sports Hobby In Hawaii
You can take surfing lessons in Hawaii.

Maui is famous for being a surfer’s paradise.

The island’s stunning coastline, warm waters, and vibrant surf culture make it an idyllic destination for riding the waves and escaping the pressures of life.

Honolua Bay

Honolua Bay is one of Maui’s best snorkelling and diving spots if you’re looking for somewhere to take the whole family.

It’s also a terrific place to surf in the winter when the storms bring excellent swells and attract surfers.

At this time, the water is too rough for snorkelling and diving, and even surfing is only recommended for seasoned wave riders.

The gorgeous bay is enveloped by lush greenery and coral reefs, which makes it a terrific place to watch these guys in action.

Head to the overlook on the eastern cliff for a great vantage point.

Jaws (Peahi)

If you want an adrenaline rush, head to Jaws on Maui’s north shore. Known colloquially as ‘Peahi’, the area is famous for its massive waves reaching up to 60 nerve-shredding feet high.

This tow-in surfing destination attracts top-level surfers from all over the world who showcase their courage and skills as they ride the colossal swells.

Due to its extreme conditions, Jaws is not for the faint-hearted, so it is best left to those who know what they are doing!

Baldwin Beach Park

Baldwin Beach Park is a popular spot on Maui’s north shore, featuring long stretches of sandy beach and consistent waves.

Overall, it’s a terrific place for surfers of all skill levels due to the versatile breaks and the beautiful West Maui Mountains, which provide a scenic backdrop.

Launiupoko State Wayside Park

Launiupoko is a quaint surf spot on the western side of Maui. Its sandy bottom and dependable swell attract families.

The rolling waves make Launiupoko suitable for beginners and longboarders, while the park provides picnic and play areas and plenty of shade.

Maalaea Bay

Maalaea Bay is home to one of the fastest and longest-rideable waves in the world – the famous Maalaea Freight Train.

This powerful right-hand break occurs due to the unique underwater topography of the area.

It provides surfers with an excellent opportunity to ride the wave for very long distances.

Experienced surfies can expect consistent swells, particularly during winter, making it an ideal spot for those seeking speed and an adrenaline rush.

Kauai

Hawaii Surfers People Relaxing On Waikiki Beach
Surfing in Hawaii is a fantastic activity for couples.

Kauai, aka the Garden Isle, offers a unique surfing experience thanks to its scenic beauty and breaks that test all surfing abilities.

Top Tour: Kauai: Surfing at Kalapaki Beach

Pine Trees

Pine Trees is a terrific place to surf on Kauai’s north shore. As it is flanked by ironwood, it’s not difficult to see how the place got its name.

If you have your heart set on surfing, though, you’ll find the break here offers both left and right-hand waves that should provide enough of a challenge for keen surfers.

Away from the water, it is a lovely place to come for a picnic or just to relax in nature.

Hanalei Bay

Aerial Drone Shot Of Hanalei Bay And Beach On The North Shore
Hanalei Bay is another beach for beginner surfing in Hawaii.

If you find yourself on Kauai’s north shore, check out Hanalei Bay, the region’s largest bay.

This stunning spot is surrounded by lush mountains and cascading waterfalls, which gives the area a paradise-like feeling.

The bay’s consistent sandy bottom makes it ideal for surfers of all skill levels, while the long, peeling waves create an inviting atmosphere for both longboarders and shortboarders.

Once you have finished surfing, check out the cafes and shops in Hanalei, which is midway across the bay.

Big Island

Surfer Bikini Girl On Hawaii Beach Holding Surf Board
Ke’ei Beach has some of the best surfing in Hawaii for beginners.

Hawaii’s largest island presents a diverse surfing landscape for surfers of all skill levels. Surrounded by volcanic landscapes, Big Island’s surf scene combines thrilling rides with unique backdrops, making it a must-visit destination for those looking for their next rush.

Kahaluu Beach

Kahaluu Beach Park is a well-known surfing destination on the Big Island that accommodates vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life.

This bay is ideal for beginners and intermediate surfers due to its manageable waves.

When you’ve finished surfing, the crystal-clear waters also offer excellent visibility for snorkelling, which adds to the overall appeal of this family-friendly surf spot.

Ke’ei Beach

Ke’ei Beach is an uncrowded place, a little off the tourist radar.

Locals love it due to its lush greenery, stunning lava rock formations and quiet atmosphere, creating a delightful background to surf.

Thanks to the offshore reefs, the swell is pretty decent here, and it’s suitable for surfers of all abilities.

Pohoiki

Pohoiki (or Isaac Hale Beach Park) made headlines in 2018 when nature created a black-sand beach from the lava flow of the Kilauea volcano’s eruption.

Once things settled down, this new area attracted scores of local surfers eager to explore the fresh breaks they previously had no access to.

The waves here can be mighty powerful and it’s one for experienced surfers.

Drive to Pohoiki Beach on Hwy 130 and make your way towards the coast until you reach the end of it. Then take a left onto Hwy 137.

Hapuna Beach

On the Kohala Coast, Hapuna Beach is famous for its white sandy beaches and deep blue waters, which regularly rank it as one of the best beaches in the world.

The waves provide a relatively gentle break for surfing, so while it won’t challenge the more seasoned board riders, it shouldn’t cause the novices too many problems.

Molokai

Surfer Riding Huge Wave That Chases Him At Sunset
Surfing competitions in Hawaii are great to watch.

Molokai is one of the more serene and less-visited Hawaiian islands, so it follows that surfing here is a more secluded and intimate experience.

Kalaupapa

As Kalaupapa can only be reached by boat or mule ride, it is the place to go for surfers wanting a remote and secluded experience.

Surrounded by sea cliffs, there is a good chance you will be riding the waves on your own here, so you will need to be careful as they can be quite challenging.

Bring along plenty of supplies as there are no amenities.

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Spencer Samaroo
Spencer is a freelance travel writer with over 20 years experience producing written content for tourism-related businesses. A thalassophile who was afflicted with wanderlust from a young age, he has visited over 40 countries in the world. An ex-pat Brit who now lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, he cites Miami Beach in the USA and Palm Cove in Australia as his favourite travel destinations. Specialising in writing about beach destinations around the world, he would probably bleed sand if you cut his arm open