Where to Find the Best Surf Spots in Hawai‘i

A trip to the Aloha State isn’t complete without riding at least one epic wave.

Aerial view of long curve of Waikīkī beach lined by white buildings, with Diamond Head in distance

Waikīkī’s long, rolling waves make it one of the best beaches for longboarding.

Courtesy of aussieactive/Unsplash

Whether you’re an expert chasing a 20-foot swell or a novice who just wants to stay on the board long enough for a shaka pic, you can enjoy surfing year-round in Hawai‘i. Summer tends to bring smaller waves well-suited for beginners, while large winter swells—typically on the north shores of O‘ahu, Kaua‘i, Maui, and the island of Hawai‘i—start in November and often last through February. They attract pro surfers to big wave competitions, including the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, and Billabong Pipe Masters.

Ready to catch a wave? The surf’s up and the water beckons—here are eight of the best places to surf in Hawai‘i.

Note: Maui and the island of Hawai‘i were affected by widespread wildfires in August 2023. The destinations are welcoming respectful visitors back as recovery and rebuilding efforts continue.

1. Waikīkī Beach, O‘ahu

Sure, it gets crowded during the summer and from mid-December through April. But there’s good reason, with the beach’s crystal-clear water against the backdrop of Honolulu skyscrapers and the rugged Diamond Head (Lēʻahi) crater. To make the most of a surf session here, paddle out during the golden hour, right before the sun sets, where the sky is saturated with hues of orange and purple.

Rent boards (prices start at $20 per hour) or sign up for private or group sessions (from $100 for a 90-minute class) with Moniz Family Surf, run by one of the most well-known surfing families in Hawai‘i.

Aerial view Maui Island Beach, Hawaii. Launiupoko State Beach during hot summer.

Launiupoko Beach Park is nearly seven acres in size.

Photo by Unwind/Shutterstock

2. Launiupoko Beach Park, Maui

Launiupoko Beach Park is a popular surfing spot in Maui, where the surf is fun for both beginners and intermediate longboarders who want to get some nose-riding in. The surfable waves roll in all day long, and the beach offers a breathtaking view of Lānaʻi and the west Maui mountains. Plus, Launiupoko sports shady trees, picnic tables and grills, and a kid-friendly lagoon protected by a rock wall.

The parking lot is small, so you’ll want to arrive early to secure a spot. Rent boards from Skim Hawaii and Island Surfboard Rentals, which offer delivery in south and west Maui. (Note: Island Surfboard Rentals doesn’t deliver to Hana.)

Close up shot of water approaching a shoreline

Because of rocky conditions, swimming and snorkeling are not ideal at Ukumehame Beach—so surfers may find that they have the water all to themselves.

Photo by YbnDriplet/Shutterstock

3. Ukumehame Beach Park, Maui

Maui surfers hold a special place in their heart for Ukumehame Beach—last September, nearly 1,000 people paddled out of Ukumehame to honor Lāhainā and the people who were lost in the Maui fires. Ukumehame Beach is aptly named “Thousand Peaks,” thanks to a stretch of surf breaks with continuous peaks. The frequent waves set the stage for beginner and intermediate surfers who want to catch as many waves as possible in a single session. Mornings before the trade winds pick up are the best time to surf—come between November and April, and you might spot a humpback whale breaching.

The park has a small parking lot by the shore, as well as a restroom and picnic tables. Female-owned surf school Maui Surfer Girls offers surfing lessons ($99), as well as one-week women’s surf camps.

Sunset at Poipu Beach

A popular year-round destination for both locals and tourists, Poʻipū is a beginner-friendly beach with consistent surf breaks.

Photo by George Frankiv/Shutterstock

4. Poʻipū Beach, Kaua‘i

Kaua‘i’s south shore gets some of its biggest waves—5 to 10 feet high—during the summer months; in the winter, the swells are more manageable than the waters in the island’s north shore. The barrier reef Poʻipū Beach breaks the large swells and protects surfers from high surfs and rip currents, making it a great place to surf year-round.

Thrill-seekers looking for a challenge can paddle out to the western end of the beach, which has more powerful waves. Rentals for epoxy boards at Nukumoi start at $12 an hour, while Poipu Beach Surf School offers beginner, intermediate, and expert surf lessons (from $75 for a 90-minute session).

Brown concrete building near sea water under a blue sky during daytime.

Kalapakī Beach is located on the southeastern side of Kaua‘i.

Photo by Zane Persaud/Unsplash

5. Kalapakī Beach in Kaua‘i

Located steps from the Kauai Marriott Beach Resort, Kalapakī Beach is a golden-sand crescent with gentle waves, partially protected from the open ocean by a large break wall. This spot is well-suited for longboarders because its two- to four-foot waves break both left and right.

The mellow water is a great setting for those who want to learn to surf. One of the best schools is Kauai Beach Boys, which has been teaching here for the past four decades (from $99 for a 1.5-hour session).

Waters near a rocky shoreline near trees

Besides surfing, Kahalu’u Beach is one of the most popular places to snorkel and spot green sea turtles.

Photo by AndyCandy0501/Shutterstock

6. Kahalu‘u Beach, Hawai‘i Island

There are two parts to Kahalu‘u Beach: The south section is home to a large reef that’s great for snorkeling, while the northern part is better for surfing. The exposed reef break of Kahalu‘u creates clean, rideable one- to three-foot waves that are consistent throughout the day. Depending on their skill level, surfers can choose between different surf breaks, with the farthest peak north best suited for advanced surfers. Kahalu‘u also has a lifeguard station, covered picnic areas, and showers.

Kahalu‘u Bay Surf & Sea is a full-service surf shop (rentals start at $20 for two hours) and school (from $99 for group lessons) a stone’s throw from the beach.

Waters hitting a sandy shore with rocks.

Kohanaiki Beach is also known as Pine Trees Beach.

Photo by Gary Gilardi/Shutterstock

7. Kohanaiki Beach Park (aka Pine Trees Beach), Hawai‘i Island

Kohanaiki Beach was one of the best-kept secrets among Big Island surfers before it was officially designated as a park in 2013 and became more easily accessible to visitors. Its reef break and consistent northwest swells mean that surfers of all skill levels can enjoy it any time of the year. Less seasoned surfers should paddle out to the bay on the south end, where the waves are gentler. Be careful of the jagged reefs, which are (thankfully) visible through the clear emerald water. Kohanaiki Beach is one of the few beaches allowing overnight camping, so if you want to spend the night, be sure to make a reservation online.

Board rentals are available ($39 for 24 hours) from the Kona Boys, which has a shack about six miles south of Kohanaiki.

8. Puaʻena Point Beach Park, O‘ahu

The waters on the North Shore of O‘ahu are world renowned for their 15- to 30-feet-high waves, especially the steep, hollow barreling waves of ʻEhukai Beach Park, also known as the “Banzai Pipeline.” But more forgiving waves are available year-round at Puaʻena Point Beach Park, about six miles south of the Pipeline. Puaʻena Point is a naturally protected cove and has long rideable swells, which makes it ideal for beginners. You might even encounter green sea turtles in the ocean.

A number of surf shops in nearby Haleʻiwa rent out boards, including Surf N Sea (from $30 per day) and Hale‘iwa Surf Shop (starts at $30). For one-on-one instructions, take a class with North Shore Surf Girls, a female-owned and operated surf school where instructors include former pro surfers and lifeguards (one-hour group class starts at $66).

From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR