One of surfing's most famous sites, the North Shore churns out giant walls of water for world-class riders each winter. When the wave faces loom to around 30 to 40 feet at Waimea Bay, the Super Bowl of surfing kicks off. The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational honors the area's first official lifeguard, a waterman who died trying to save his crew members when the voyaging canoe Hokule'a overturned in 1978. From May to September, beginners can book lessons and venture into smaller, gentler swells to join the Hawaiian heartbeat. Don't despair during calmer periods: The bay still has good snorkeling and a popular cliff-jumping spot (signs warn against taking the plunge, but enthusiasts—sometimes dozens at a time—cheerfully ignore it, making for a dramatic spectacle).
Looking for the perfect wave? You'll probably find it on the North Shore, a surfers' paradise that offers up legendary big, glassy winter waves for world-class riders. Over 11 kilometers (seven miles) of beaches host the planet's top surfing competitions here: Catch the Super Bowl of big wave riding from November to February. Then from May to September, you're up! Waves are gentler and smaller, so grab a board, book a lesson and head out into the surf to join the Hawaiian heartbeat.