Five Top Places to Go Surfing

These destinations are standouts for surfers of all levels

Oahu's North Shore, photo by Morgan Paul/Flickr

Tackle an epic wave, take a surfing lesson or just soak up some surfer culture at these hotspots where riding the waves is not just a sport, it’s a way of life. Here are some tips on where (and when) to go if you want to catch the perfect wave.

Hawaii’s North Shores

You can’t go wrong with Hawaii, the birthplace of surfing. During big wave season from November to February, notorious reef breaks such as Maui’s Pe’ahi (Jaws) display their massive power. But May to September, Oahu’s North Shore offers gentle waves and rolling swells ideal for beginners. Take a surfing lesson with North Shore Surf Girls that includes a sunset barbecue. 

Tofino, British Columbia

On Vancouver Island’s west coast, surfing is a year-round affair, although you might want to don a wetsuit as the water temperature never rises much above a chilly 15 C. Winter delivers monster-sized waves and powerful peaks while unpredictable summer weather means insider knowledge is key. Count on the pros at Pacific Surf School to scout out a wave that will give you the ride of your life.

Sayulita, Mexico

This boho-chic beach town north of Puerto Vallarta features a pretty crescent of beach with wave action suitable for all ages. Its reputation for mellow surf, warm waters and consistent waves means even beginners can catch a wave, yet more experienced riders won’t get skunked. The final treat of the day? The sublime Sayulita sky at sunset.

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

This laid-back beach town (about an hour and a half from Liberia) can serve as a jumping-off point for exploring breaks along the Pacific coast, although Tamarindo’s beach bars and delicious restaurants offer enough reason to visit. The world-class waves in front of Witch’s Rock Surf Camp are beginner-friendly, which makes it a popular hub for surfing lessons. Packing more punch is El Estero with its frothy curls and strong riptide where bragging rights are a given.

Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia

Maybe it’s the east coast hospitality or few crowds, but you’d be hard-pressed to find more welcoming shores than Lawrencetown Beach Provincial Park near Halifax. Hardcore enthusiasts can surf year-round but the water is warmest July through September. October starts to bring cooler temperatures, frigid water and stormy weather but that’s part of the attraction for thrill seekers. Happy Dudes Surf Emporium (located just outside the town of Lawrencetown) offers lessons and rents out all the necessary gear including boards and wetsuits.