The Top 24 Surf Spots to Learn to Ride Waves

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Surfing is an infectious sport. It’s so infectious that the number of surfers around the globe grew by over 10 million between 2001 and 2011. The sport that was once reserved for outsiders and vagabonds has become mainstream, and that means there are tons of seaside destinations for you try your hand at wave riding. Although, before you pick up a surf magazine and buy a plane ticket to one of the best (and most difficult) waves in the world, check out these 24 surf towns and beaches that are ideal for beginners.

#1. Waikiki — Hawaii, United States

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Waikiki is one of the world’s most iconic surf spots, and you’ll feel inspired to surf upon arrival. There’s no doubt it’s a touristy place, but the consistent and easy waves at Canoes or the Royal Hawaiian Hotel matched with warm water and sunny skies make for an ideal family or solo learn-to-surf getaway.

Try surfing with: Ty Gurney Surf School, 205 Lewers St, Honolulu, (808) 271-9557.

Find out more about what makes Waikiki special by visiting their official tourism site. 

#2. Byron Bay — New South Wales, Australia

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Byron Bay is constantly being praised as one of the world’s best surf towns, and you’ll feel the laid-back surfing vibes in the air. The area is packed with top-level surfers providing lessons to everyone from first-time riders to intermediate and advanced level surfers. Byron Bay’s location on a small point jutting into the ocean allows it to pick up heaps of swell, so if you’re determined to learn to surf, this is the place to be.

Try surfing with: Black Dog Surfing, 11 Byron St, Byron Bay, (02) 6680 9828.

The Byron Bay tourism guide will help you plan your Byron Bay surf vacation.

#3. Tofino — British Columbia, Canada

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Having to wear a wetsuit during your surf lesson won’t upset you too much when you see Tofino’s breathtaking scenery. The biggest waves come in the winter months, but beginners can enjoy the warmer temperatures and more easygoing waves that summer has to offer. The Tofino Surf School is a great place to grab a wetsuit, a board and a lesson.

Try surfing with: Tofino Surf School, 381 Main Street, Tofino, B.C., (250) 522-0189.

Visit Tourism Tofino to find out more about what makes Tofino special.

#4. Kuta Beach — Bali, Indonesia

Photo credit: Legian Surfer
Photo credit: Legian Surfer

Indonesia is a country laden with world-class waves, and Bali is its most popular tourist destination. Fly into Denpasar International Airport, and you can be on the beach in Kuta renting a surfboard in a matter of minutes. Bargain rental prices and instructors that guarantee you’ll be riding waves on your first lesson make bustling Kuta Beach a must-visit for surf-hungry tourists. Once you master your surfing skills, the island and entire country are teeming with famous surf breaks.

Try surfing with: Odysseys Surf School, Mercure Kuta Hotel Arcade, (0361) 767410.

Visit the Kuta Beach tourism page to find out more about what makes Kuta special.

#5. San Onofre State Beach — San Diego, California, United States

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Surfing is a way of life in California, and you’re guaranteed to catch the surfing bug at San Onofre State Beach. San Onofre is located on the border of San Clemente and Camp Pendleton, and the waves break slowly over a cobblestone reef.

Try surfing with: Endless Summer Surf Camp, 218 Calle De Anza, San Clemente, (949) 498-7862.

Visit the San Diego Tourism page to find out more about what makes San Onofre special.

#6. Punta Mita — Nayarit, Mexico

Nose Riding Surfer

A number of small surf towns dot the coast north of Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific coast. And if you ask anyone where to take a surf lesson, they’ll probably direct you to the bustling surf town of Sayulita. Although it’s a fun place to shop, dine and enjoy a few Tecates on the beach, nearby Punta Mita offers less crowded waters for your first surf experience. The sandy bottom, mellow waves, warm water and encouraging surf schools (try Wildmex or the Tranquilo Surf School) are ideal for aspiring surfers.

Try surfing with: WildMex Surf & Adventure, Pelicanos Street, Sayulita, (52) 329 291 37 26.

Find out more about what makes Punta Mita a must-visit destination by visiting the official Punta Mita Tourism site.

#7. Sagres — Algarve, Portugal

Photo credit: Surf Algarve
Photo credit: Surf Algarve

Portugal’s Algarve region is known for its towering cliffs, sandy islands, bustling beach bars and fun surf. Sagres is a surfer’s haven with accommodations, lessons and activities geared toward the town’s surf following. The Algarve Surf School will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the beach for surf lessons, or you can stay at one of their three comfortable and surf-driven accommodation options.

Try surfing with: Algarve Surf School, Rua Comandante Matoso 8650-35, Sagres, +351 963 133 009.

Find out more about why Sagres should be your next travel destination on Sagres Uncovered.

#8. Hanalei Beach — Hawaii, United States

Hanalei Bay at sunset

The town of Hanalei is on Kauai’s North Shore, and it offers a variety of surf spots for all levels of surfers. Beginner-friendly surf can be found at the Hanalei Pier, so take a lesson or grab a rental board and jump into the water with the local kids. The area is also packed with advanced level surf breaks, so if you’re traveling with experienced surfers, everyone is guaranteed to find what they’re seeking.

Try surfing with: Kauai’s North Shore Surfing School, 5-5075 Kuhio Highway, Hanalei, 808-346-0414.

Find out more about what makes Hanalei special by visiting the Kaua’i tourism site.

#9. Surfer’s Point — Barbados

Photo credit: Ben Ramirez
Photo credit: Ben Ramirez

When you’re aching for a surf lesson on a tropical island with turquoise water and no wetsuit required, Surfer’s Point is the to be. This sheltered spot on the southern coast of Barbados offers laid-back waves for learning to surf year-round.

Try surfing with: Zed’s Surfing Adventures, Inch Marlowe, Barbados, (246) 428-7873.

Find out more about what makes Surfer’s Point special by visiting the Barbados Tourism site.

#10. Newquay — Cornwall, England

Towan Beach

Like other great surf towns, Newquay offers a number of surf spots for varying levels of surfers. The Watergate Bay, Great Western, Towan and Fistral Beach surf spots are all welcoming to beginners. Surf schools are easy to find in Newquay, and there are tons of other area attractions — like golfing, hiking, the Blue Reef Aquarium, kayaking, dining and shopping — for your family to enjoy out of the water too.

Try surfing with: The Escape Surf School, 35 Fore Street, Newquay, 07810 805624.

Discover more about what makes Newquay so awesome on their Visit Newquay tourism site.

#11. Cocoa Beach — Florida, United States

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Cocoa Beach has gained much of its surfing fame from the 11-time world surfing champion, Kelly Slater, who grew up there. Although, this busy Florida beach town, home to Ron Jon’s Surf Shop (the largest surf shop in the world), offers a long stretch of sandy-bottom breaks that are ideal for first-timers.

Try surfing with: 3A Rides Surf and Bicycle, 210 N. Orlando Ave, Cocoa Beach, (321) 868-8820.

Get the complete guide to your Cocoa Beach visit on the Cocoa Beach Tourism page.

#12. Bundoran — Donegal, Ireland

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Ireland has been called Europe’s “Cold Water Indonesia,” and the country caters to surfers of all levels. Bundoran is the surfing capital of Ireland, making it an ideal place to hop on a surfboard for your first time and brag about it later. The TurfnSurf surf school is an Irish Surfing Association approved company that’s designed for aspiring surfers looking to get serious about the sport.

Try surfing with: TurfnSurf, 6 Bayview Terrace, Bundoran, +353 (0) 71 98 41091.

Find out more about what makes Bundoran a one-of-a-kind destination.

 #13. Mal Pais — Puntarenas, Costa Rica

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Mal Pais and its nearby beaches receive consistent surf year round, which has turned the area into a hotspot for surfers from around the world. The break between Mal Pais and Santa Teresa, known as Playa Carmen, offers a longboard wave with a sandy bottom that’s practically made for beginners.

Try surfing with: Mal Pais Surf Camp and Resort, Playa Carmen, (506) 2640 0031.

Find out what makes Mal Pais a premier Central American vacation destination.

#14. Lawrencetown Beach — Nova Scotia, Canada

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You don’t have to travel to the tropics to learn to surf. Lawrencetown Beach, on Nova Scotia’s Atlantic Coast, is known as one of Canada’s best surf spots, and daily lessons (with wetsuits provided) by the East Coast Surf School make it easy to take a surf lesson on your visit. Lawrencetown Beach is just 30 minutes from Halifax, so you can drink in the local surf culture, then head back to the hustle and bustle of the city.

Try surfing with: East Coast Surf School, 4348 Highway 207, East Lawrencetown, (902) 449-9488.

Plan your trip to Lawrencetown Beach here.

#15. Isla Bastimentos — Bocas del Toro, Panama

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Isla Bastimentos is known for more than its alluring Caribbean scenery. It’s one of the best surf areas in Central America, and it remains less discovered than more popular Central American spots. The surf season lasts from November to March, and there are so many breaks that everyone from beginner to advanced level surfers can enjoy the surf trip of a lifetime.

Try surfing with: Red Frog Resort, Isla Bastimentos, (970) 367-4811.

Find out more about what makes Isla Bastimentos so breathtaking.

 #16. Hossegor — Aquitaine, France

Photo credit: Angeloscense
Photo credit: Angeloscense

France may not be the first country that comes to mind when planning a surf trip, but the South of France is known for having consistently desirable waves. The miles of sand-bottom beaches are ideal for taking surf lessons, and there are plenty of surf schools in town for your choosing. Don’t forget to enjoy the fine wines, tasty French eats and nightlife when you step off the beach.

Try surfing with: Tao Magic Glisse, 84 Place Point d’or, Hossegor, +33 5 58 43 92 90.

Find out more about what makes Hossegor unique here.

#17. Weligama — Matara, Sri Lanka

Photo credit: Alexis Gravel
Photo credit: Alexis Gravel

Weligama means “Sandy Village,” and that’s exactly what this Sri Lankan surfer’s haven is. This sheltered bay with a sand bottom is an ideal spot for beginners with surf schools and board rentals waiting on the sand. The beach will probably be packed with fellow beginners, so you won’t feel out of place when you take a few wipe-outs. Don’t forget to enjoy a beer or fresh juice with your new-found surf buddies at Sumith’s Catamaran when you’re done.

Try surfing with: Surf ‘N Lanka, 600/7 Weligama By Pass Road, Weligama, 776056196.

Discover the beauty of Cape Weligama on the town’s tourism page.

#18. Montanita — Santa Elena, Ecuador

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Montanita is Ecuador’s most well-known surfing destination, which means surf hotels and camps are plentiful. Like most surfing destinations, Montanita offers an easygoing, bohemian atmosphere that’s welcoming to travelers learning to surf. A number of the places to stay in Montanita are geared toward beginner surfers, so you can enjoy affordable surf lessons, yoga, delicious foods and comfortable accommodations all in the same place.

Try surfing with: Casa Del Sol, La Punta, Montanita, +593 98 251 1853.

Find out more about what makes Montanita a top beach destination here.

#19. Taghazout — Agadir Idawtanan, Morocco

Beach of Essaouira, Morocco, Africa.

Morocco is quickly making a name for itself on the surfing scene; although, surfers have been riding waves in the Taghazout area since the 1960s. Some of the waves are reserved for advanced surfers, but beginners can find lessons and mellow waves at Crocodiles, Panoramas and other beginner spots. First-time surfers will love a stay at the Surf Berbere camp, where they can get all of their gear, take lessons, sleep and eat for one affordable price.

Try surfing with: Surf Berbere Surf Camp, Hash Point, Taghazout, +212 5282-00290.

Find out more about what makes Taghazout Village special by visiting the village’s tourism page.

#20. Nosara — Guanacaste, Costa Rica

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Costa Rica has become one of the most popular surf destinations in the world for its impressive waves, laid-back vibes, friendly locals, low prices and pristine beaches. Nosara is one of the lesser known surf spots, which makes it one of the most desirable for beginners. Don’t worry about hoards of fellow beginners flying towards you on unwieldy longboards (which can happen at many of Costa Rica’s surf spots). Nosara offers mellow, accessible beach breaks that make learning to surf as much fun as you expect it to be.

Try surfing with: Safari Surf School, Nosara, (866) 433-3355.

Find out more about what makes Nosara one of the best places in Costa Rica.

#21. Muizenberg — Western Cape, South Africa

Row of wooden brightly colored huts

Muizenberg is known as the birthplace of South African surfing, and it’s one of the best places in the country to learn too. Also known as “Surfer’s Corner,” the town offers tons of surf schools and expert teachers to help you ride waves on your first day in the water. The colourful beach-side huts, cafes and gentle waves give this area a much different feel than South Africa’s more famous (and much heavier) surf spots.

Try surfing with: Gary’s Surf School, 34 Beach Road, Muizenberg, +27 21 788 9839.

Discover other reasons why Muizenberg is a top learn-to-surf destination.

#22. Siargao Island — Surigao del Norte, Philippines

Photo credit: Daku Island
Photo credit: Daku Island

Travelers seeking a warm, exotic place to dive into surf culture will fall in love with Siargao Island in the Philippines. Cloud 9 is the area’s famous break, but beginners will want to stick to the numerous surf camps, like the Turtle Surf Camp or Buddha’s Surf Resort, to practice wave riding in a safe and easygoing atmosphere.

Try surfing with: Turtle Surf Camp, General Luna, Surigao del Norte, +593 98 251 1853.

Find out more about what makes Surigao del Norte special here.

#23. Manly Beach — New South Wales, Australia

Surfer Girl.

Manly Beach is located just 30 minutes from the Sydney Harbour Bridge, so you can explore the city and learn to surf all in one day. Manly is known as one of the best places to learn to surf near Sydney for the gentle waves that break at the south end of the beach. Choose the Sydney Surf School or Manly Surf School, and you’re guaranteed to feel the joys of wave riding with one of their many expert instructors.

Try surfing with: Manly Surf School, 93-95 Noth Steyne Road, Manly, +61 2 9932 700.

Discover more about Manly and other area beaches on Manly’s tourism page.

#24. Florianópolis — Santa Catarina, Brazil

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Brazil is quickly becoming a surfing hot-spot, and Florianópolis provides everything a beginner surfer could want. Floripa, as the locals call it, offers a whopping 42 beaches to suit all levels of wave riders. Head to Barra Da Lagoa for easy waves and surf lessons, then head out to experience Florianópolis’ vibrant nighttime scene. Rent a villa or beach house just seconds from the sand for the ultimate learn-to-surf experience.

Try surfing with: Evandro Santos Surf School, Rua Santos Reis, Barra Da Lagoa, 32327753.

Find out more about what makes Florianópolis special here.

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About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a freelance writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, learning new cultures and surfing new waves.

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