Tackle an epic wave, take a surfing lesson or just soak up some surfer culture at these hot spots 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.

1. Galveston, Texas

Photo by Adiseshan Shankar/Alamy

Some of the best places, with consistent swells and rolling waves, are along the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, located at 25th Street and Seawall Boulevard. The best times of the year are spring and fall as frontal systems push through the Gulf of Mexico, creating great waves.

2. Hawaii’s North Shores

Photo by Daniel_Goldin/Getty

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. 

3. Huntington Beach, California

Photo by Ron Niebrugge/Alamy

This community in Orange County is home to the International Surfing Museum, opened in 1988 by the late Natalie Kotsch, a Canadian who wanted to preserve the community’s surfing past. Surfing is popular on both sides of the local pier, the end of which is home to the 1940s-style Ruby’s Diner.

4. Inchydoney, Ireland

Photo by Ken Welsh/Alamy

A sculpture of a surfboard greets visitors to the beach in Inchydoney, located an hour southwest of Cork. A good spot for beginners, you can surf year-round, but the waves are best in the spring and fall. Other popular spots include Bundoran, Rossnowlagh and Lahinch, all on the Atlantic coast.

5. Kananaskis, Alberta

Photo by Chase Clausen/Shutterstock

Kananaskis is home to The Mountain Wave, a man-made swell on the Kananaskis River built by the Alberta River Surfing Association and Surf Anywhere in 2016. The wave is suitable for more advanced riders, there is also a viewing deck for spectators and competitions are held annually.

6. Lake Pleasant, Arizona

Photo courtesy WakeSurf AZ

Operating on Lake Pleasant, north of Phoenix, WakeSurf AZ allows surfers to ride the wake created by a boat moving in front of them. WakeSurf offers instruction to all levels, from beginners (who learn with the help of a rope line that pulls them) to experts.

7. Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia

Photo by Scotty Sherin/East Coast Surf School

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.

8. Los Cabos, Mexico

Photo courtesy Los Cabos Tourism

In winter, the place to be is Cerritos Beach north of Cabo San Lucas, while in the summer, the best spot for beginners is Acapulquito Beach in San José del Cabo. The Los Cabos Open of Surf takes place each June at world-famous Zippers Beach, located in San José del Cabo.

9. Sayulita, Mexico

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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.

10. Tamarindo, Costa Rica

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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 ofWitch’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.

11. Tofino, British Columbia

Photo by David-Vardanyan/Getty

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.

More About Surfing:

Learning to Make Surfboards in Maine

Surfing on Montreal’s St. Lawrence River

Discover Some Ride-Worthy Waves in Tofino, British Columbia