Best Places to Surf Around the World

Best Places to Surf Around the World

A sport that has been making waves since the 12th century, surfing is a cultural phenomenon that has influenced the likes of fashion, music and language. From the mighty swells of the Pacific Ocean to the arching waves of the Atlantic and tropical Indian, our humble planet has almost 400,000 miles of oceanic coastline to explore. Whether you opt for a speedy shortboard or a classic longboard, one thing’s for certain: you’re not short of choice. It’s time to don a wetsuit and grab a surfboard as you plan a trip to one of the best places to surf around the world. 


1. Malibu, California
2. Oahu, Hawaii
3. Ericeira, Portugal
4. Bukit Peninsula, Bali
5. Gold Coast, Australia
6. Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
7. Jeffreys Bay, South Africa


Malibu, California

Surfing is part of California’s cultural landscape; just watch one of the iconic TV shows and films set there (such as Baywatch or Point Break) to see why. And while you can’t go wrong with anywhere on the sun-kissed coast, Malibu’s historic surf culture gives it the winning edge. Join the bronzed Californian beauties and head to Zuma for consistent waves and wide sandy shores; Surfrider, for long, right-hand waves; Topanga, for a pro-level rocky point break; and County Line, for gentler waves and fans of the Beach Boys (this spot enjoys a reference in Surfin’ USA). Thanks to California’s glorious climate, its coastline boasts fabulous surf conditions for around 300 days per year.


Oahu, Hawaii 

No reputable list of the best places to surf around the world could omit the birthplace of modern surfing: Oahu, Hawaii. This island paradise’s spectacular beauty and thundering waves continually lure surfers to its shores. Although the humongous waves of the North Shore’s legendary Banzai Pipeline (one of the best reef breaks in the world) should only be tackled by the barrel-riding pros, it’s the perfect place to see how it’s really done (and give you something to aspire to). Other notable surf (or spectator) spots include Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach and Rocky Point. For the less experienced? Oahu has plenty of calmer waves to cater for beginners. Head to Waikiki Beach to try your luck in the novice-friendly turquoise waters.


Ericeira, Portugal   

In 2011, Ericeira became Europe’s first World Surfing Reserve, thanks to its sensational surf breaks and high environmental standards. Combining the charm of a traditional Portuguese fishing town with world-class surfing, magical Ericeira easily earns a spot as one of the best places to surf around the world. Seasoned surfers, try Crazy Left, Coxos, or Cave for steep waves and shallow reefs (which are not for the faint-hearted). For beginners, the gentler foam at Foz do Lizandro or Sao Juliao are ideal. And when you’re not braving the Atlantic, feast on delicious seafood, wander cobbled streets and soak up the charm of this surfing mecca. Located around 30 miles north of Lisbon, why not combine surf breaks with a city break? 


Bukit Peninsula, Bali 

Bali, the ‘island of the Gods’, has long enticed surfers to its southern tip, the Bukit Peninsula. Home to some of the best surf in the world, Uluwatu is famous for huge swells and barrelling left reef breaks known as the Peak, Racetrack, Outside Corner, Temples, and the Bombie. Prefer to spectate? Hang out at the cliffside bar overlooking the waves and the enchanting Uluwatu Temple. Other unmissable beaches include Padang Padang (for long, hollow and steep waves), Bingin (a secluded spot located at the bottom of a cliff) and Balangan (known for its long, fast reef break). Bali’s swirling cerulean waters, tropical vegetation and laidback atmosphere make this Indonesian idyll one of the best places to surf around the world.


Gold Coast, Australia 

In Australia, surfing is practically a religion. While you’re spoilt for choice on the largest island in the world, we’ve chosen Queensland’s Gold Coast as the premier destination. Located around an hour’s drive from Brisbane, the legendary Snapper Rocks should be the first port of call for advanced surfers. Here, you’ll find some of the longest and perfectly formed barrel waves (courtesy of the Superbank), so strap in for the ride of your life. Other sweet spots include local favourite Burleigh Heads, renowned for its fizzing right-handers and lush National Park, while Currumbin (The Alley) and Greenmount are best for novices. Emerge from the deep blue and soak up the surf culture in one of the lively bars and cafes lining the shores. 


Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica 

Boasting over 900 miles of Pacific and Caribbean coastline, Costa Rica’s warm waters, consistent waves and spectacular scenery make it one of the best places to surf around the world. The Guanacaste Province – home to some of the country’s wildest Pacific waves – is a surfer’s paradise. Don’t miss Nosara, with waves for all abilities and a thriving yoga culture, lively Tamarindo for plenty of fizzing beach breaks and a buzzing nightlife, and the remote Witch’s Rock (only accessible by boat or a bumpy 4x4 ride) where powerful rolling barrels attract the most dedicated surfers. As Central America’s first World Surfing Reserve, Costa Rica is an enchanting destination worthy of its world-class surfing reputation. 


Jeffreys Bay, South Africa 

Located in the Eastern Cape province, Jeffreys Bay shot to fame after being featured in the 1966 documentary The Endless Summer. The surf capital of South Africa, and deserved host of the World Surfing League, J-Bay is widely regarded as home to the finest right-hand point break in the world, Supertubes. Watch surf royalty ride the long tubes and steep walls of the infamous Supertubes, Boneyards, the Point and Impossibles. Beginners, don’t fear. The iconic spot is not just the preserve of the pros. For friendlier, sand-bottomed surf, head to the Main Beach for a surf lesson, and you might be lucky enough to spot a pod of dolphins. Surfing mecca aside, J-Bay is also a haven for natural beauty – Kabeljous Nature Reserve is a wildlife paradise. 

Written by Hannah Whitehall | Header image by Zoe Fidji