Where is the best surf in the world?
The answer is a hotly contested one, particularly as surfers try to outdo one another with their efforts to get to the biggest, baddest waves.
Thanks to cheaper travel and amazing satellite maps, the world’s best surf spots are no longer just in Hawaii and Australia. We now know that there are some incredible spots out there just waiting to be found.
That’s why we put together a list of some classics as well as some new essentials that every surfer should know. Here are our seven favorite surf destinations across the globe.
1. Oahu, Hawaii
Oahu is the official surfer’s playground because it is where the modern sport developed.
While there is a spot for everyone here, few will surf Oahu’s best spots, particularly on the north shore.
The break at Pupkea is home to a pipeline that’s only suitable for one percent of all surfers in the world. Without the skill and strength required to be one of the world’s top surfers, you will face the heaviest beating you’ll ever take from a wave.
For most of us, it’s enough to sit on the shore and watch the pros work.
2. Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa
Jeffrey’s Bay, lovingly known as J-Bay, is the center of South Africa’s surf scene. It hosts the World Surf League event each year, and it’s reached as high as spot two on the “best in the world” surf spots.
The break here is a very long fast tube out of a right-hand point break. Its quality and consistency during the surf season make it one of the best right-handers in the entire world.
Visitors can come from the day or hang around the J-Bay surf village to meet pro surfers and shop. It’s also popular with tourists generally who want to catch a glimpse of the action.
3. Skeleton Coast, Namibia
Unlike Oahu, South Africa (and places like Australia), Namibia hosts great surf but little infrastructure. To surf here, you need to be intrepid and be handy with a 4×4 vehicle.
Let’s say that Skeleton Coast is it’s least-foreboding name. Some call it “Africa’s Bermuda Triangle,” while the Bushmen in Namibia refer to it as “the land God made in anger.” The melodramatic Portuguese called the region “The Gates of Hell.”
But if you make the drive here from Windhoek on the right day of the year, you are greeted with something amazing.
Your reward: the chance to score a mile long wave at Skeleton Bay. Yes, really. And given its location and the lack of surf schools making the most of the coast, you will share the barrel with only the most dedicated people.
You might be surprised by how many surfers turn out for this, but the dozens of cars on this remote beach littered with shipwrecks is just further proof that Skeleton Bay is a bucket list destination.
This one will take some planning and a lot of surf charts, but it’s so, so worth it.
Just watch out for the rip. If you don’t catch the wave within five minutes of getting in the water, you’ll end up sailing back in and then walking a mile and a half up the beach to start again.
Nicaragua is the hidden secret in the surf world, and it’s one of the best destinations for beginners and professionals alike.
Head to the south coast of the country, and you’ll enjoy perfect offshore winds every single day. As you improve your skills, head north for incredible breaks, reef setups, and wedges.
Nicaragua is starting to get crowded, and surf hangouts here are surprisingly expensive even compared to Hawai’i, Fiji, and the rest of French Polynesia. However, it’s the price you pay for excellent surf all year round.
5. County Clare, Ireland
We’ll be the first to admit that Ireland isn’t a tropical paradise. But warm weather does not always good surf make, and you’d be best to remember that.
The wild Atlantic coast of Ireland offers some of the best cold-water surfing in the world. From West Cork in the south to Donegal in the north, there’s not a bad beach to be found. Perhaps Clare, in the southwest, is the best of these with the most consistent waves with Lahinch recognized for its healthy reef breaks and year-round fun.
Flights to Ireland are cheap, accommodation is plentiful, and there’s always a hot whiskey to warm you up after you come out of the waves. And if you get tired of surfing, you and your friends can grab your wakesurf boards and hit one of the many, many loughs (lakes) around the country.
6. Hossegor, France
The European capital of surf is on the French Atlantic coast. It’s the European Hawai’i, and if you don’t believe us, then you should know that Jack Johnson used to own a place here.
The waves at Hossegor are mental, considering its location on the north Atlantic seaboard. However, a trench a few miles off the coasts focuses the waves enough to produce heavy walls that rival those of Oahu.
However, Hossegor also caters to all kinds of tourists, which makes surfing here a spectator sport.
7. Puerto Escondido, Mexico
Puerto Escondido has everything you could want from a Pacific surf destination but without all the things that chafe with surfers (i.e., expensive cost of living).
This sleepy town in Southern Oaxaca is a destination for surfer types from around the world. The town is home to a whole host of surf schools, hostels, vacation homes, and even a growing number of luxury properties.
Perhaps the most attractive part of the town is that it has a long surf season, but peak season lasts from May to August.
To get here, you’ll need to fly to Guadalajara or Mexico City in the north and then get a connecting flight to the local Puerto Escondido airport.
What Are Your Favorite Surf Spots?
Year-round consistent waves aren’t the only thing you need for great surf spots. Sometimes, it’s as much about the journey as it is about finally paddling out to catch a monster wave.
Are you looking for an exotic beach destination? Find your next vacation in my Travel archive.