Ah, the endless quest for the perfect wave. It’s a journey that has filled many a surfer's daydreams and decorated countless vision boards. But the beauty of surf travel isn’t just in the thrill of riding epic waves; it’s also about the rich experiences that come when you put down your board and explore new horizons. So, pack your favorite boardshorts or bikini and let's set sail—virtually, for now—to the top 12 surf destinations in the world.
Explore the best surf spots in the world
1. The Mecca: North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
There's no better place to start than the spiritual homeland of surfing—the North Shore of Oahu. This is where legends are made, and where Pipeline and Sunset Beach offer powerful waves that are the stuff of lore. The best time to go? November to April, when the big swells roll in.
But the North Shore is more than a surf haven; it’s a lush tropical paradise where you can hike through emerald trails, dive into Polynesian culture at a luau, or snorkel in the clear blue waters. When on Oahu, your surfboard shares the spotlight with the island's natural beauty and rich culture.
2. Down Under Majesty: Gold Coast, Australia
When the topic of surf travel comes up, Australia is never far from the conversation. And the Gold Coast is the crown jewel, with epic spots like Snapper Rocks and Kirra.
The waves here are as friendly to beginners as they are rewarding for pros, offering long, right-hand point breaks year-round.
When you're done riding the waves, the Gold Coast invites you to cuddle a koala at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, live it up in the nightlife of Surfers Paradise, or find your inner child at one of its many theme parks.
3. African Gem: Jeffreys Bay, South Africa
Jeffreys Bay is one of those places that makes you feel like you're riding on the edge of the world. Known for its fast, long, and exceptionally well-formed right-hand point breaks, it's a goofy-footer's dream. The surf is best from May to September, during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter.
But Jeffreys Bay is more than just a surfing hot spot; it's a gateway to South Africa's rich cultural landscape. Immerse yourself in the local Xhosa traditions, take a short trip for a genuine African safari, or get your adrenaline pumping by bungee jumping off the Bloukrans Bridge.
4. Latin Fire: Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Nestled in the Nicoya Peninsula, Santa Teresa has become one of the must-visit destinations for surfers around the globe. The break here is a mix of beach and point, providing fun, rideable waves for all levels. The consistent swells and warm waters make it inviting year-round.
Off the board, the Pura Vida lifestyle beckons. Indulge in fresh seafood, go zip-lining through the jungle, or join a yoga retreat to restore your body and spirit.
5. European Elegance: Hossegor, France
Dubbed the "Surfing Capital of Europe," Hossegor offers powerful beach breaks, thanks to the deep water canyons off the coast. The waves here can get big, fast, and are best suited for experienced surfers.
And what's more French than pairing world-class surf with world-class cuisine? Offshore, indulge in gourmet food and wine, or take a leisurely bike ride through the picturesque countryside.
6. Pacific Mystique: Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia
Bali is synonymous with surfing for good reasons. Uluwatu, at the southern tip of the island, boasts consistent swells and offers a variety of left-hand breaks.
Surfing aside, Bali is a spiritual sanctuary where you can experience traditional Balinese ceremonies, indulge in spa treatments, or simply soak up the sun on its stunning beaches.
7. Kiwi Paradise: Raglan, New Zealand
Raglan is famed for its long left-hand point breaks and stunning natural scenery. The surf town offers a relaxed vibe and waves suitable for all levels.
When you’re not surfing, New Zealand's natural wonders are at your fingertips. Think hiking, caving, and taking in the jaw-dropping landscapes that look like something out of a fantasy movie.
8. Latin American Hidden Gem: Chicama, Peru
Chicama holds the crown for the world's longest left-hand wave, offering rides that can last up to two minutes.
Once you’ve had your fill of this surfing marvel, dig into Peru's rich history with visits to nearby archaeological sites or sample ceviche, the national dish, in its birthplace.
9. American Classic: Malibu, California
Malibu's First Point is a world-renowned right-hand point break that's both mellow and challenging, making it ideal for all skill levels.
Off the water, Malibu offers a unique blend of laid-back beach lifestyle and Hollywood glamor. Wine and dine in upscale restaurants, or take scenic drives through the Santa Monica Mountains.
10. Remote Haven: Mentawai Islands, Indonesia
Accessible only by boat, the Mentawai Islands offer some of the most secluded and pristine surf conditions in the world. The islands boast a range of breaks, catering to all levels.
And when you're not riding the waves, you're in a tropical paradise, perfect for fishing, snorkeling, or simply basking in your isolation.
11. European Authenticity: Ericeira, Portugal
Ericeira, a charming fishing village turned surf hub, is Portugal's answer to a surfer’s dream. As the first World Surfing Reserve in Europe, the area offers a wide variety of waves from beach breaks to rocky points. Foz do Lizandro and Ribeira d'Ilhas are just a couple of the spots that have given Ericeira its revered reputation.
But Ericeira is more than just surf spots; it’s a slice of Portuguese culture. Wander through cobblestone streets, taste delectable seafood in rustic taverns, or explore the nearby palaces and castles in Sintra.
12. Moroccan Mystique: Imsouane, Morocco
Tucked away on Morocco's Atlantic coast, Imsouane is a place of contrast and fusion where the desert meets the sea. Known for its long rides—some of the longest in Africa—spots like The Bay and Cathedral Point have made Imsouane an increasingly popular destination.
Imsouane offers more than just great surfing. Immerse yourself in the colorful chaos of Moroccan markets, the heady aroma of tagines and mint tea, and perhaps even try your hand at traditional fishing with the locals.
So there you have it—the world's top 12 surf destinations, where the waves are as epic as the adventures that await you on the shore. From riding monumental swells to delving into unique cultures and landscapes, these destinations offer the ultimate surf travel experiences. All that’s left now is for you to go catch that dream wave.