Hawaii is a mecca of surfing. The islands’ perfect location so far from any other landmass gives it truly astounding wave patterns you just can’t find anywhere else. With swells suitable for beginners all the way through professionals, Hawaii is the ideal place to catch a wave no matter what your experience level.

Oahu is famous for its insane North Shore beaches and rollers. It’s the absolute home base for surfing, offering gorgeous views and lethal waves. The Volcom Pipe Pro surfing event takes place annually along this impressive stretch of beaches. Oahu also gives us surfing superstars, like Eddie Aikau and Ha’a Keaulana.

1. Ehukai Beach Park

Home to the famous Banzai Pipeline, Ehukai Beach is impressive, but it’s super dangerous for those uninitiated into North Shore surfing. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of Tom Curren pulling a 360.
  • Local attractions: Ehukai is just up the road from a couple surf shops, restaurants, and water adventure companies.

  • Conditions: The pipeline is to the left when you walk out to the beach. The waves give you everything from an eastern windswell wrap to shifting western peaks.

  • Experience level: Definitely not for beginners, Ehukai’s shifting conditions and enormous pipeline make it best for experienced or pro surfers.

2. Backyards

Snuggled between Sunset Beach and Velzyland, Backyards is a brutal yet rewarding stretch of reef-filled surf on Oahu’s North Shore.
  • Local attractions: Backyards are close to all the classic North Shore surf shops and restaurants.

  • Conditions: These waves are fast. Look out for the shallow reef and steep wall that can get over 50 feet high.
  • Experience level: You need some solid experience before you take on Backyards. It’s best for highly experienced surfers or pros.

3. Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach is a surfing classic on the North Shore. Home to tons of competitions in her day with impressive surfers like Johnny-Boy Gomes and Pancho Sullivan, Sunset Beach continues to wow and amaze locals and visitors.
  • Local attractions: Sunset is super close to North Shore favorites like North Shore Surf Shop.

  • Conditions: Watch out for wayward western waves, but beyond that, there’s a reason Sunset is a favorite. It offers beautiful, hollow swells from the inside bowl.

  • Experience level: Like other North Shore surf spots, Sunset Beach is best if you’ve got some experience under your belt and are a strong paddler.

Jack Robinson surfs at Sunset Beach

© Brian Bielmann/Red Bull Content Pool

4. Diamond Head Cliffs

On Oahu’s south shore, famed volcano Diamond Head monopolizes the horizon. At its base, surfers of all experience levels can enjoy the waves.
  • Local attractions: Diamond Head State Monument is just behind the beach, and Honolulu is just up the road.

  • Conditions: The swells are pretty calm early in the morning and in the late afternoon with some larger, faster moving bombs midday.

  • Experience level: Diamond Head Cliffs is one of those rare spots that caters to beginners and advanced surfers.

While Oahu’s North Shore is the big name in Hawaiian surfing, Maui offers a few excellent beaches and surf spots to enjoy. Notable surfers from Maui include Matt Kinoshita and Justin Roberson.

1. Honolua Bay

Honolua is easily Maui’s most popular surf spot. It’s usually crowded with both tourists and locals, so be ready for crowds when you make your visit.

  • Local attractions: 808 Boards surf shop is just down the coast from the bay, as is the beautiful Kapalua Golf Course.

  • Conditions: These large swells tend to have great barrel sections, but look out for the sharp reef.

  • Experience level: This spot is best for advanced surfers prepared to do battle with a strong current and shallow reef line.

2. Launiupoko State Wayside Park

Beginners rejoice! Launiupoko State Wayside Park is a fantastic place to get your suit wet for the first time. It’s a popular spot for those just learning how to surf.
  • Local attractions: Launiupoko is on the west side of the island, just down the road from Goofy Surf and Stand Up Paddle School.

  • Conditions: The long reef waves break right and left for relatively consistent lines and lips.

  • Experience level: This surf spot is perfect for new surfers, but it’s also great for more advanced surfers looking for a relaxing time on the water.

Kai Lenny hydrofoils between Hawaiian islands

3. The Cove at Kalama Beach Park

This beautiful, well-protected cove offers relatively consistent and dependable swells, perfect for newbies. It’s a popular spot on the western side of the island.
  • Local attractions: The Cove is just up the beach from Hawaiian Paddle Sports and Kalama Skate Park.

  • Conditions: The shallow cove has low, easy-to-manage waves year-round that break both right and left.

  • Experience level: The Cove is best for brand new surfers or beginners since the waves are small and the water is shallow.

Kauai’s surfing spots are seasonal, with the north end of the island a great choice for the winter months and the south end ideal for the summer. Top-notch surfers hail from Kauai, including Andy Irons.

1. Kiahuna Beach

On the south end of the island, Kiahuna Beach is part of the larger Poipu Beach. It’s optimal for surfers of varying skill levels since the surf changes past the reef.
  • Local attractions: Just blocks from a number of restaurants, resorts, and other attractions, there’s plenty to do when you’re done surfing for the day.

  • Conditions: A large reef runs along the coastline, just off the beach. Between the beach and reef, the waves are small and consistent while past the reef, things get more intense.

  • Experience level: Newbies should stick to the shallower area while advanced surfers can ride big swells past the reef.

2. Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay

© Jarred Decker on Unsplash

With varied waves, a gorgeous background, and bay protected wave consistency, Hanalei Bay should be top of your list of surf spots in Kauai.
  • Local attractions: The large half-moon bay is within walking distance of multiple bars and restaurants.

  • Conditions: Hanalei has three disparate areas, each suitable for different types of surfers. Depending on where you are in the water, you can ride a multitude of curls and barrels.

  • Experience level: This is the ideal spot for all surfers since the waves are so diverse.

3. Shipwreck Beach

Shipwreck Beach, located on the south side of the island, offers gorgeous views and some gnarly surfing opportunities.
  • Local attractions: This beach is just in front of the luxurious Grand Hyatt Hotel.

  • Conditions: Shipwreck Beach is much less crowded than some of the others on Kauai because of its brutal, rocky terrain. The waves are large and aggressive.

  • Experience level: Shipwreck is best for intermediate to advanced surfers who are ready for the pounding surf.

Hawaiian surfing is just about impossible to beat. Enjoy yourself on the swells, breaks, and curls!

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