If you’re a surfer, then the world’s your oyster.
There’s barely a corner on the planet where you won’t find breath-taking breaks, epic tubes and gorgeous beaches that’ll have you daydreaming about a perennial globe-trotting adventure, just you and your surfboard, and all the best waves in the world.
Just to make that daydream even more tempting, here’s a round up of the best countries for surf holidays around the world. And there are a few pleasant surprises on the list too.
Because if you thought the perfect surf holiday meant a long haul flight to somewhere dazzlingly sunny on the other side of the world, think again. The perfect break of your watery dreams might be closer than you think.
Grab your passport. Let’s go.
It’s impossible to try to make a list of the best countries for surf holidays, and not put the US right at the top of the list.
After all, it’s only home to Hawaii, California, over a dozen incredible surf competitions and a goldmine of surf history and culture. Whether you’re just dipping a toe in the waters for the first time, or hope to ride alongside some of the sport’s greatest athletes, you’ll find all of it waiting for you here.
The tough part however, is choosing where to go. There are plenty of incredible surf spots across the US, each of them with their own distinctive character.
No surfer worth their wax would want to pass on a trip to Hawaii, the original birth place of surfing, and home to some of the most incredible waves on the planet. While there are endless spots to choose from, the most popular is Oahu, which offers fun breaks all year round.
The Golden Coast of California is another top pick, with historic beaches steeped in old school surf culture since the start of the 20th century. For a taste of the quintessential Californian surfer vibe, head down during the winter months, when you’ll get the best swell.
Be sure to venture beyond the Pacific coastline too. While much of the US’s surfing scene tends to draw towards the West Coast, there are some incredible gems eastwards too, from the iconic Cocoa Beach in Florida (home to surfing legend, Kelly Slater), to the churning waves of the Atlantic Ocean along North Carolina, and more.
If you’re craving a dose of gorgeous sunshine, and a generous serving of tropical breeziness alongside some legendary waves, then head down to Mexico.
Undoubtedly one of the best countries for surf holidays, Mexico’s coastline is home to several great surf spots, including some truly world-class (read: insane) waves. Best of all, Mexico has so far managed to stay off the radar on the whole, which means there are some wonderful spots where you can indulge in a break all to yourself.
It’s worth getting a car and some good camping gear, before heading down Mexico’s coast. There are limitless spots along the stretch of Baja California – Northern Baja has a more lo-fi, rustic appeal and can be cool during the winter, but in exchange, it’ll deliver strong swell and mammoth barrels.
A little further on, and Southern Baja gets much warmer, and is an ideal spot to visit in spring. The charming fishing villages further south promise delicious ceviche, ice cold beers, and colossal waves to make your surfing holiday complete.
The blissed out beaches of Costa Rica are probably on every surfer’s bucket list – with year round waves, warm, tropical waters, and some of the most beautiful natural landscapes you’ll ever encounter.
Depending on how wet you like to get though, you can plan your trip either between November to April, or outside of those dates. The winter months are technically Costa Rica’s dry season, while the rest of the year sees a lot more rain. But when you’re scooping a gorgeous southwestern swell, a little extra wetness in the water might not be much to worry about, and May to September are often the most popular times for fellow surfers.
Costa Rica has a wealth of surf locations around the country, many of them boasting world class waves. And with over 1,200 kilometres of coastline around the country, you’re unlikely to find yourself fighting for a prime spot.
If you’re limited on time, spend a good few days sinking your teeth into some of best Costa Rica has to offer – Witch’s Rock offers strong A-frame waves with plenty of lefts and rights, and a strong southwestern swell that is only for confident and experienced surfers.
For something a little more inclusive to all levels, try Playa Grande, a beautiful stretch of beach in the north, with a soft, sandy ocean floor that can be much more forgiving.
Just watch out for the occasional sharks that have been known to frequent the area.
With over thousands of miles of golden sand beaches and stunning waves all around Australia, it’s not exactly challenging to see why surfing is an integral part of the Aussie makeup. The nation churns out surfing superstars with almost as much regularity as the swell around the coast, and it is without contest, one of the best countries to visit for surf holidays.
But when you have over 100,000 beaches to choose from, how do you pick the best surf spot to visit?
Exploring Australia’s many incredible surf spots is a lifetime’s work, but there are some definite gems that should be at the top of your list. Bells Beach in Victoria is for many the spiritual home of Australian surfing, home to the country’s oldest surfing competition, as well as powerful waves that can exceed 5 metres in height.
Over on the western coast, adrenaline junkies can get their fix down in Margaret River, a luscious region famous for its vineyards as much as the towering, thrilling breaks that can be found here. While Yallingup is often a good spot for a wider range of levels, serious pros can take it up a notch to Prevelly, with strong winds and the iconic lefthanded Mainbreak.
Not all surfing requires driving across the outback to some remote town – there’s plenty of excellent surf to be found in spitting distance from the country’s biggest cities.
You’ll find dozens of beaches around Sydney, from the world famous Bondi Beach, to many other quieter, unspoilt havens. While beaches around the city can get a little more crowded, especially at the weekends, it’s worth it just to get a taste of the full Australian surfing life.
For a different take on antipodean surf culture, head across to New Zealand. While the country is top to toe a magical wonderland for nature in general, its waves are a treat in themselves. And paired up with New Zealand’s generaly laid back and relaxed approach to life, this might just be one of the best places for surfers to visit on the planet.
New Zealand has plenty of excellent surf spots, and one of its finest is Raglan, a tiny town that rose to the ranks in surfing culture, thanks to its consistent waves, with something to offer for all abilities. Home to three of the most famous point breaks in the country, it can be a little crowded in the water here at times, so pay attention and be polite to fellow surfers.
Closer to Auckland, experienced surfers should definitely make the pilgrimage to Piha Beach, a beautiful black sand volcanic beach, surrounded by the remains of an immense crater. If the surrounding scenery isn’t enough to impress you, the epic hollows and barrels will keep you happy.
Australia and New Zealand often get most of the Pacific coast surf buzz, but venture a little further to the coasts of Japan, and you’ll find some incredible and surprising world class surfing along its shores.
It’s worth a visit just to experience a different take on surf culture, but with centuries of history, endless adventure and mouthwatering food at every corner to help you refuel, you’re unlikely to come away less than stunned.
If you’ve never surfed with a mountain in the backdrop, well, here’s your chance. A short ride away from Tokyo, Enoshima Beach is a beautiful, all-levels surfing destination, with plenty of surf schools and hire shops for beginners and intermediates. And catching the sight of Mount Fuji in the sun while you’re waiting for the next wave, might just be one of the memories you keep with you for a lifetime.
If you can venture further across the country however, then make a bee line to the Okinawa islands, for a truly unique surfing adventure. With sub-tropical climates all year round, you’ll find blissful waves at almost any time of the year. Just keep an eye on weather reports for potential tropical storms too.
North Africa has long been a hippy haven for decades, and with that, it’s drawn it generations of surfers too. Morocco is home to some of the best surfing in this part of the world – with charming fishing villages, centuries of history, vibrant souks and delicious fresh food, it’s hard not to fall in love with the country’s surf scene.
Start your Moroccan surf holiday with a trip to Taghazout – a scenic and ultra chilled out village less than an hour away from Agadir airport. Between October to April, this is home to lengthy golden beaches, and decent sized, consistent swell that is popular with learners and more experienced surfers alike.
Banana Beach and Devil’s Rock are both popular points nearby – but be wary of rocks beneath the sand at times. And if the ocean is ever feeling a little flat, there’s plenty of other adventure nearby – head out for a hike to nearby Paradise Valley, with stunning lagoons to dive into.
For something a little more special, it’s worth the drive up the coast to Sidi Kaouki. Just a little beyond the picturesque city of Essaouira, this quiet village takes you back in time to a simpler life, with minimal crowds and ample left and rights. Be sure to indulge in a traditional mint tea to relax on the beach afterwards.
Boasting a wealth of natural beauty and a captivating coastline, it’s little wonder that South Africa is also one of the best countries for a surf holiday too. It’s still very much a hidden gem, but with the world’s top talent flocking to its stunning beaches and incredible waves, it’s definitely a destination to add to the list.
The small town of Jeffrey’s Bay is one of the country’s most popular draws for surfers, and the wide, open expanse of Dolphin’s Beach immediately proves why.
The award-winning beach is renowned for its cleanliness and safety, as well as the awe-inspiring views over the coast, but it’s the epic Supertubes you’ll really want to hit up. One of the best right hand breaks in the world, the tantalising green walls will leave you drooling. Head down between April and September to catch the best of the waves.
If you want to sample a little more of what South Africa has to offer alongside your surfing expedition, then Durban is one of your finest picks.
The stylish, cosmopolitan city is also South Africa’s surfing capital, with spectacular beaches suitable for all levels, with the added bonus of a lively nightlife scene to enjoy once you’re out of the water.
Ireland is one of the surfing world’s most surprising secrets. While the Emerald Isle is often more famous for its many other delights, the world class waves coming in from the Atlantic ocean, long rolling beach breaks, and beautiful scenery really do make Ireland one of the best countries for surf holidays.
You’ll find surf spots here suitable for all levels – with ample surf schools and hire shops around, newbies are well served, with plenty of instructors to take you through your paces. And those craving a greater challenge – Ireland has some magnificent waves to ride that can easily hold their own.
Tullan Strand is a magnet for surfers of all abilities, especially in the summer. With a long, golden beach and gentle but consistent waves, it’s an ideal place to learn – while more experienced surfers can check out the faster break near the cliffs.
For world-class surfing, head down to County Sligo, home to the Irish Surfing Association, and plenty of excellent barrels. Easkey is one of the region’s most legendary beaches with fast and furious rides, but Mullaghmore has been known to get some truly enormous waves, topping out at over 15 metres.
Just remember to pack your boots, gloves, hood – and at least a hot water bottle or two – as it can definitely get cold.
Prefer somewhere a little warmer?
One of the best countries for surfing in Europe, with nearly 2,000 kilometres of coastline, a deliciously temperate climate, and excellent swell in pretty much every direction you look, Portugal naturally belongs high up on any list of the best countries for surf holidays.
It’s not hard to find a pretty decent surf spot along the coast of Portugal, almost all year round. But there are some extra special spots worth rooting out. Arrifana Beach is one of them, close to a small fishing village and popular with experienced surfers and body boarders. Scenic and quiet, and close by to a verdant national forest, you’ll find some powerful waves here to counterbalance all the natural serenity.
If you’re all about size, then head to Praia do Norte, renowned for its insanely large breaking waves. Hawaiian surfer, Rodrigo Koxa made the current world record, riding an 80 ft monster here, but even if you’re not planning to get in the Guinness Book of World Records, you’re unlikely to be disappointed with the swell here.
And if you ever get tired of all the glorious surfing, or just need a little extra pick me up, you can rest assured that Portugal is also one of the best countries for excellent food and wine, too.
While the Maldives are often better known for providing the perfect backdrop for a screen saver or a glitzy honeymoon escape, the hundreds of islands across the Maldivian island chain are also home to some of the best surfing beaches in the world.
A little history lesson – surfing first came to the idyllic shores of the Maldives in 1973, when the Australian surfer, Tony Hussein Hinde and a friend, washed up on the sandy shores as literal castaways. While his friend made his way back home, Tony fell hard for the incredible turquoise waters, stunning waves and the general feeling of having just stumbled into paradise.
He spent the next twenty years exploring the hundreds of beaches around the Maldives, pioneering a thriving surfing scene. And like a true die-hard surfer, he exited this world in the most fitting way possible – riding on top of a wave.
Tony Hinde’s legacy is Pasta Point – one of the best left hand reef breaks in the world. Located in Northern Male, you’ll also find a number of other fun surfing spots around here in the Maldives. It’s best to visit between June and September for the best swell, when waves exceed 8 ft, although beginners and intermediates will have plenty to enjoy all year round.
If you’ve got your heart set on Pasta, then bear in mind that the surf spot is only open to guests at the exclusive Cinnamon Dhonveli resort, where no more than 30 surfers can access the point at any time. While the luxury price tag could make your eyes water, the thought of a private surf break in heaven might just sway you.