Whether you’ve never stood up on a surfboard or caught your fair share of waves, there’s something extra-thrilling about surfing in Hawaii. Is it the fact that you’re paddling out in the place where surfing was invented? Is it the knowledge that you’re following in the footsteps of world-renowned Hawaii-born surfers like Duke Kahanamoku, Eddie Aikau, Gerry Lopez, and Andy Irons? Or is it just the overwhelming beauty of the setting?

Whatever it is, there’s no question that Hawaii is a surfing paradise. You’ll find waves nearly year-round in the Aloha State, and you’ll find plenty of different waves to suit your particular ability level. Plus, if you want to try your hand at surfing for the first time, there are plenty of surf instructors and surf schools to choose from.

Where’s the best place to surf in Hawaii? Well, picking the right surf spot in Hawaii is all part of the fun—and the “best spot” changes from day to day. However, to get you started in your search, we’ve listed a few of our favorite surf spots on each island.

But first, let’s answer a few of the questions we get about surfing in Hawaii.

Common Questions We Hear About Surfing in Hawaii

Which Hawaiian island has the best surf?

This is a tough one, but if you made us pick, we’d have to say Oahu, mostly because of the legendary breaks you’ll find on the North Shore. (Not to mention the epic experience of surfing Waikiki!) But, the truth is, you’ll find excellent surfing opportunities on Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island, too.

Where is the best surfing in Hawaii for beginners?

Some of our favorite surf spots for beginners include Canoes on Oahu, Kihei Cove on Maui, Kahalu’u on the Big Island, and Kalapaki on Kauai. However, no matter which island you’ll go to, you’ll find at least a few forgiving spots where a beginner can try surfing for the first time. Go out with a surf school or an instructor if you’ve never been before. You’ll learn the basics, and you’ll get on your feet (literally!) much faster that way.

One caveat: The winter months tend to bring big winds and big waves, so it can be a little tougher during that time to find some gentle, easy surf. However, a good surf instructor can usually find you something workable!

What month has the biggest waves in Hawaii?

The winter months usually bring the biggest waves in Hawaii—November, December, January, and February. This is all due to powerful winter storms in the Pacific, north of the Hawaiian Islands. These storms send powerful swells south, where they crash onto Hawaii’s northern-facing beaches, creating huge waves.

When is the best time to surf in Hawaii?

Just about any time is a good time to surf in Hawaii. One of the things that makes Hawaii so unique is that it gets waves almost year-round. The island chain is so isolated that it’s open to swells from practically any direction, which means waves somewhere at just about any time. So, for most of the year, you’re able to find waves on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island.

What should I wear to surf in Hawaii?

Some people in Hawaii simply surf in bathing suits or board shorts. You’ll also see lot of people in Hawaii surfing in a rashguard, which offers protection from the sun. Others don neoprene tops or vests in colder months. (“Colder” becomes a relative term once you’ve lived in Hawaii for a while!) Anything more than that, and you’ll probably get hot quickly.

Does everyone surf in Hawaii?

It probably feels like that! We’d be willing to bet that you’ll find more surfers here than most of the other states in the U.S. Some days, it feels like every other vehicle that’s passing you has a board on the roof or one peeking out of its truck bed. Surfing is a pretty common hobby in Hawaii, and it’s also pretty common to find casual surfers here who get out every now and then. After all, there’s almost always surf somewhere, they sell surfboards at Costco (or someone’s got an extra you can borrow), and what’s better than an excuse to spend a day at the beach in Hawaii?!

Now that you understand the basics of surfing in Hawaii, let’s talk about where to go on each island.

The Best Surf Spots in Hawaii – Oahu

Canoes @ Waikiki Beach

Level: Beginner
Best Swell Direction: S-SW

There are few places more iconic to surf in Hawaii than Waikiki. There’s nothing like sitting on your board, gazing at Diamond Head while you wait for the perfect wave to roll in. You’ll find surf spots up and down Waikiki, some closer to shore than others. If you’re a beginner, Canoes is the place to start. Yes, it’s crowded, so you’ll need to use your best surf etiquette to navigate the lineup, but the gentle waves are forgiving—and perfect for new longboarders.

To find Canoes, head to the iconic Duke Kahanamoku statue on Kalakaua Avenue in downtown Waikiki, and head out to the water from there. There are showers nearby to rinse off, as well as up and down the beach. You’ll find restrooms just down Kalakaua at Kuhio Beach, toward the Natatorium.

Chun’s Reef

Level: Beginner–Intermediate
Best Swell Direction: NW

Plenty of surf instructors take their students to Chun’s Reef to take advantage of the gentle, rolling waves close to shore. If you’re a longboarder looking for some fun waves on a smaller day, Chun’s is a great spot. When the swell gets bigger, Chun’s can quickly turn into a more intermediate site, so make sure to check the surf report before heading out. This spot can also get a little crowded—especially when the surf schools are out in force—so be prepared to share the waves.

Pipeline @ Ehukai Beach

Level: Expert
Best Swell Direction: N–NW

If you’re new to surfing, consider the Banzai Pipeline a great place to get inspired by some of the best surfers in the world. This famous wave really gets going during the winter months, when Pacific storms send monster swells toward this reef break. The wave is fast, the reef is shallow, and many of the resident surfers are protective of sharing this wave with outsiders. However, if you want to see what’s next for the sport and watch some of the most talented surfers in the world in action, pull up a chair at Ehukai and enjoy the show.

Get an insider’s look at Pipeline from one of the surfers who’s mastered this wave, Oahu’s Jamie O’Brien:

If you’re an expert surfer, you’re probably well aware of Pipeline and all the other monster breaks on Oahu’s North Shore, including Backdoor Pipe, Sunset Beach, and Waimea Bay, to name a few.

The Best Surf Spots in Hawaii – Maui

Kihei Cove

Level: Beginner
Best Swell Direction: S-SW

Gentle waves and room to spread out make this a great spot on Maui for beginners learning to surf and those in the early days of honing their craft. At the Cove, you’ll find board rentals across the street, plus showers and restrooms for easy clean-up afterwards. This spot can get a little crowded with surf school students, but that’s what makes it a great spot for new surfers; you’re all finding your feet together.

Launiupoko Beach Park

Level: Beginner–Intermediate
Best Swell Direction: W-SW

If you’ve got a family in tow, Launiupoko is a great place to set up for the day. Although there’s not a ton of sand, there’s a huge, grassy lawn with picnic tables and barbecues, plus bathrooms and showers. You’ll find a couple of peaks at Launiupoko, ones that can be great for beginners, as well as ones that offer long rides for those who might want to hang ten. Plus, when the swell is right, Launiupoko offers some great waves for more experienced surfers to show off their skills.

Peahi (Jaws)

Level: Expert
Best Swell Direction: N

Like Pipeline, Peahi (also known as Jaws) is a spectating opportunity for all but the most seasoned big wave experts when it breaks big in the winter. However, it’s arguably Maui’s most famous wave, so we couldn’t even think about leaving it off the list. When Peahi breaks, traffic backs up all the way to nearby Paia as people crowd in to watch the world’s most intrepid surfers paddle or tow into this monster wave.

Watch Maui surfer Kai Lenny battle with this incredible wave during an unprecedented swell in 2018:

If you want to try your hand at surfing Maui’s north shore—but you’re not quite at the Jaws level—check out Ho’okipa Beach Park, just down the road. The wind and waves also make this a spot for seasoned surfers, but it’s more manageable than massive Peahi.

The Best Surf Spots in Hawaii – Big Island

Kahalu’u Bay

Level: Beginner–Advanced
Best Swell Direction: S-SW

A good portion of Kahalu’u is excellent for snorkeling, since it’s protected by a reef. However, just at the edge of that reef, you’ll find a nice little surf zone. The nearshore peaks are better for beginners, while the outer breaks are often populated by more experienced surfers with the confidence to navigate a more shallow reef break. If you need to rent a board or you want to try a lesson, check out the surf shop just across the street.

Pine Trees @ Kohanaiki Beach Park

Level: Beginner–Intermediate
Best Swell Direction: S-SW

Kahalu’u is probably the most forgiving of the Big Island’s surf spots, but if you want a spot that’s a little more challenging, check out Pine Trees. It’s one of the Big Island’s most consistent surf spots, and there are a couple of different peaks to choose from. You’ll find beginners in the lineup, as well as plenty of experts. As long as you mind your etiquette, most surfers can catch a few at Pine Trees.


Level: Intermediate–Expert
Best Swell Direction: S-SW

The lineup at Banyans is often crowded with some of the Big Island’s best surfers, so if you plan to get in the water, make sure you’re ready for this fast, intense wave and the surfers on it. There’s a reason that it’s a popular spot with pros; Banyans offers a long, perfect, glassy right when all the conditions line up.

The Best Surf Spots in Hawaii – Kauai

Kalapaki Beach

Level: Beginner
Best Swell Direction: S-SW

Just adjacent to Nawiliwili Harbor, you’ll find Kalapaki Beach. In fact, you may see it out the window if you’ve just flown into Lihue Airport. This sheltered bay features a pretty easy paddle out, plus smaller waves that are perfect for beginners or SUPers. If you’re an experienced surfer, this spot may be too mellow for you, but it’s a great place for a new surfer looking to gain some experience and confidence.

PKs @ Prince Kuhio Beach

Level: Beginner–Intermediate
Best Swell Direction: SW-S-SE

You’ll find a couple of different waves in and around PK’s, which range from slow-rolling beginner waves to steep, intermediate ones. Pick the one that’s right for your level, and enjoy one of Kauai’s most popular spots to surf.

Bonus: When the surf is flat, the snorkeling at Lawa’i Beach, right next to the Beach House Restaurant, is excellent.

Hanalei Bay

Level: Beginner–Expert
Best Swell Direction: N-NW

In the winter months, north-facing Hanalei Bay gets big, powerful waves that offer some of the most challenging surfing on Kauai. However, in the calmer summer months—or on small days—Hanalei can offer beginners some pretty chill waves to learn on. The bay is pretty large and offers several peaks, some of which are better left to experienced surfers. The break just out from the lifeguard stand and the bathrooms (Pinetrees) can be a good place for those just getting started with the sport.

Catch a Wave in the Place That Started It All

Name something better than a surf session in Hawaii. (We’ll wait…) Truly, there’s nothing like taking off on a gorgeous Pacific wave and flying down the line. A few hours in the water in Hawaii will leave you tired, happy, and ready for more. Let these spots be just the start of your own personal journey in the islands where surfing was born—and perfected.

Moving to Hawaii? If you’re relocating so you can enjoy these surf breaks year-round, we wouldn’t blame you! In fact, we’d be happy to help you get all of your household belongings to your new island. Reach out to one of our experts for a complimentary quote.

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