Top 10 Surfing Destinations in the World
Last Updated: 22 June 2021
Google “world’s top surf spots”, “top 10 surfing beaches” or any similar query and you’re going to get a pretty varied lists. The reason why a beach may be considered as one of the best places in the world to surf will different for each surfer based on that person’s specific tastes, experiences and criteria. For example, an area containing one incredible surf spot is not necessarily enough to put an entire destination at the top. Yet, towns like Ericeira in Portugal are full of great breaks and in close proximity of countless others which makes it a great spot for surfing for anyone looking to explore more than one location. Furthermore, a list may include Bali, an undisputed surfing paradise, as one “destination”, while another will rank individual towns, beaches or areas that comprise several entries from one country or state, based on their own merit. Others, like this list, take a looser approach.
Our 10 best places in the world to surf, is a list of 10 surfing destinations that are expansive areas providing easy access to multiple surf spots, eliminating the need for lengthy car rides between them.
Apart from being famous for their quality of waves, these places also feature in our list of best places in the world to surf even for other several factors, like infrastructure (town, accommodation, restaurants), natural beauty and non-surfing activities — so you can do other things when you are not surfing.
We’re looking for a bit of variety as well as simply an elite 10. The world of surfing is ever-evolving, with new spots continually emerging, while others fade into obscurity due to issues such as overcrowding and excessive development.
In no particular order, here’s our list of the top surfing destinations in the world!
1. Gold Coast, Australia
Australia’s 6th largest city, Queensland’s surf Mecca is known for its many right-hand point breaks, long beach breaks and a new artificial reef at Narrow Neck. Dry winters, a mild subtropical climate and a massive hinterland of forested, mountainous national parks make this city of nearly 600,000 a pleasant combination of natural beauty with all the perks and conveniences of a urban surfing destination.
Best Time to go Surfing at Gold Coast: December to April
Not to be Missed: Straddie, Snapper (Superbank), The Spit, Main Beach, Greenmount (Coolangatta beach), Surfers Paradise, Currumbin (The Alley), Burleigh, Miami, Duranbah, Broadbeachand Mermaid Beach, Palm Beach, Tugun, Bilinga, and Kirra.
2. Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa
Home to Supertubes, the longest and world’s best right-hander, according to many experts, “J-Bay” provides a choice of 10 different sections and is popular with high-level surfers, intermediates and longboarders alike. Be careful of the currents, be sure to wear booties and have a strong board.
Best Time to go Surfing at Jeffrey’s Bay: May to September
Not to be Missed: Besides the pro-level Supertubes, Jefferey’s Bay’s other sections are comprised of The Point, Magnatubes, Kitchen Windows, Impossibles, Salad Bowls, Boneyards, Coins, Albatross, and Tubes.
3. Bukit Peninsula, Bali, Indonesia
Eat, pray, surf! An amazing cluster of top-level breaks, the northwest coast of the “Bukit” boasts of some of Bali’s best beaches and Asia’s premier surf spots with a selection of waves suitable for all levels from absolute beginner (Padang Padang Right) to expert and pro (Uluwatu, Padang Padang Left). Besides surfing, check out the divine beauty of the Uluwatu temple, which overlooks the world-class surf break of the same name. The Bukit is worth exploring, taking in the gorgeous natural scenery along the coast and finding which break is best for you.
Best Time to go Surfing at Bukit Peninsula: March to November
Not to be Missed: Other world-famous surf spots on the Bukit include Bingin, Dreamland, Impossibles, and Balangan.
4. Malibu, California, USA
Home to the first dedicated World Surfing Reserve, this emblematic corner of Californian culture is famous not only for its waves, but also for appearances in Hollywood films and television series. A great location for beginners and expert surfers alike, Malibu’s proximity to Los Angeles and other SoCal landmarks makes it a perfect surf spot for those in search of a classic adventure on the West Coast of the US. Malibu’s Surfrider Beach is a perfect spot for long boarders and novices, but can be very crowded. In general, California means up to 300 days of fantastic surfing conditions per year. Visiting Malibu is to take pilgrimage to the birth of modern surf culture and the first place surfing took hold outside of its Polynesian birthplace.
Best Time to go Surfing at Malibu: August and September
Not to be Missed: Topanga Beach, Surfrider Beach, Zuma Beach and County Line
5. Oahu, Hawaii, USA
Here is where we make an exception and name an entire island as one of our top destinations. In truth it would be a crime to leave Oahu out of any surfing-related top 10 list. CNN named Oahu’s Pipeline as the world’s number 1 surf spot, though only experts will be able to ride these legendary 6-meter waves. Fortunately, there are also plenty of other breaks located on the island that is the birthplace of modern surfing.
Best Time to go Surfing at Oahu: November to March
Not to be Missed: The famous North Shore is 7 miles of spots including Backdoor, Waimea Bay, Ka’ena Point, Sunset Beach, Pupukea Beach, and Kahuku Point. Learners can also take advantage of the calmer waves at Waikiki.
6. Ericeira, Portugal
Home of the ASP World Tour Surf Championship at Ribeira d’Ilhas beach, Ericeira is a spectacular surfing destination by any standard. Due to its 9 top surfing beaches and high environmental standards, in 2011 Ericeira was made Europe’s first World Surfing Reserve. It is also in close proximity to over 30 other surf spots in the region and a short drive to the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, which is more than worth a few day trips. Ericeira’s 8 miles (5 km) of coastline includes a variety of breaks ranging from those suitable for beginners (Foz do Lizandro, São Julião and Praia do Sul) to experienced and expert surfers (Ribeira, Coxos, Cave, São Lorenzo). Besides waves, Ericeira offers the authentic charms of a traditional Portuguese fishing village and the abundant natural scenery the region is famous for.
Best Time to go Surfing at Ericeira: May to Occtober
Not to be Missed: Ericeira’s 8 miles (5 km) of coastline includes a variety of breaks ranging from those suitable for beginners (Foz do Lizandro, São Julião and Praia do Sul) to experienced and expert surfers (Ribeira, Coxos, Cave, São Lorenzo).
7. Hossegor, France
Another center for European surfing, Hossegor, situated on southwestern France’s coast of Landes, boasts miles of beautiful beach breaks and some impressive pro-level tubes that are reminiscent of Hawaii’s best offerings. Though mansions dot the coastline, there are plenty of campsites for budget-minded surfers.
Best Time to go Surfing at Hossegor: May to November. Each year in September, pros compete at the Quicksilver Pro France at Hossegor.
Not to be Missed: Les Culs Nus, Hossegor Plage Central, La Graviere, Les Estagnots, Le Penon, and Les Bourdaines.
8. Santa Cruz, California, USA
Ranked number 1 by Alex Wade in the London Times, this center of NorCal surfing has everything for every level of surfer and is a living piece of surf history. Beginners will find a home on Cowell’s gentler waves, while experts can test themselves at Steamer Lane’s right-hand point break. For those in between there are a pair of right-handers called Pleasure Point and The Hook. Santa Cruz is also a sizeable town with a nice shopping and restaurant area, summertime boardwalk and a seedier underbelly. The proximity of San Francisco also facilitates day trips to this fantastic city.
Best Time to go Surfing at Santa Cruz: All year-round
Not to be Missed: The Hook, Capitola Beach, Cowell’s, Steamer Lane, Monterey, and Manresa Beach
9. Puerto Escondido, Mexico
Looking for top quality barrels, nice beginner waves, great food and beautiful scenery on a budget? Head for Puerto Escondido, the “Mexican Pipeline” on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca State and home to one of the world’s best beach breaks. Hire a cheap beach bungalow and get ready for a great and thrifty surfing holiday. It’s also recommended to drive to different surf spots up and down the coast, using Puerto Escondido as your base.
The Point, Zicatela Beach and Kiddie Break.
Best Time to go Surfing at Puerto Escondido: March to December
Not to be Missed: The Point, Zicatela Beach and Kiddie Break.
10. San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
This growing tourist hub of Central America offers a wide range of surfing beaches and activities including hiking, dining, nightlife, shopping, yoga and other water and adventure sports like ziplining, sport fishing, biking and sailing. Despite its increasing popularity among the surf community, crowds are still smaller than comparable destinations in Mexico, Costa Rica and El Salvador. A welcoming cosmopolitan town that is popular with expats from the US, San Juan del Sur’s notable surf spots for everyone right from beginners to seasoned surfers.
Best Time to go Surfing at San Juan del Sur: All year round (depending on your level)
Not to be Missed: Playa Maderas (with waves suitable for all skill levels), Playa Remanso (perfect for beginners and 10 minutes from town), Playa Yankee (advanced), Colorado (left and right, river-mouth, barrels), Playa Coco (beginners) and Playa Hermosa (1 mile long, boat accessible, occasional barrels and lots of free peaks!).
These are some of the top 10 surfing destinations in the world. Look out for our next “Alternative Top 10” post soon!