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Costa Rica’s Best Surf Spots

For many, the search for the perfect wave has ended in Costa Rica, the “Hawaii of Latin American surf.” You’re spoiled for choice, with dozens of world-class venues and no shortage of surf camps, surf schools, and rental outlets.

A surfer on a longboard turns into a crumbling wave.
Surfing in Costa Rica. Photo © José Pablo Orozco Marín, licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

The Caribbean Coast

The Caribbean has fewer breaks than the Pacific but still offers great surfing. Waves are short yet powerful rides, sometimes with Hawaiian-style radical waves. The best times are summer (late May-early Sept.) and winter (Dec.-Mar.), when Atlantic storms push through the Caribbean, creating three-meter (10-foot) swells.

A 20-minute boat ride from Puerto Limón is Isla Uvita, with a strong and dangerous left. Farther south, there are innumerable short breaks at Cahuita. Still farther south, Puerto Viejo has the biggest rideable waves in Costa Rica. Immediately south, Playa Cocles is good for beginners.

Guanacaste and the Northwest

Surfing is centered on Parque Nacional Santa Rosa, and Witch’s Rock at Playa Naranjo, one of the best beach breaks in the country. While many of the hot spots require a 4WD vehicle for access, surf excursions from nearby Nicoya beach resorts make them more accessible. The best time is during the rainy season (May-Nov.).

The Nicoya Peninsula

Nicoya offers more than 50 prime surf spots, more than anywhere else in the nation. Just north of Tamarindo is Playa Grande, with a five-kilometer-long (3-mile-long) beach break acclaimed as Costa Rica’s most accessible and consistent. Tamarindo is an excellent jumping-off point for a surf safari south to more isolated beaches, including at Playa Avellanas and Playa Negra (definitely for experts only), Nosara and Playas Sámara, Coyote, Manzanillo, and Malpaís. All have good surf, lively action, and several surf camps.

Central Pacific

Central Pacific surfing centers on Jacó, where the waves appeal to beginners and intermediates. Farther south are Playa Hermosa, which has expert beach breaks and an international contest every August, and Playas Esterillos Este and Oeste. Farther south, what Manuel Antonio lacks in consistency it more than makes up for in natural beauty. Dominical has “militant” sandbars and long point waves in an equally beautiful tropical setting. The best conditions are July to December.

Golfo Dulce and the Osa Peninsula

The cognoscenti head to Pavones, on the southern shore of the Golfo Dulce. On a decent day, the fast, nearly one-kilometer (0.6-mile) left break is one of the longest in the world. The waves are at their grandest in rainy season, when the long left point can offer a three-minute ride. Cabo Matapalo, on the Osa Peninsula, is another top spot.


Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Costa Rica.

Windward O‘ahu Water Sports

The windward side is typically just that, windy, a weather condition that can adversely affect surfing conditions unless the winds are blowing offshore. Unfortunately, the windward side usually sees onshore winds, leaving little in the way of consistent, good quality waves for surfing. On the other hand, sports like sailboarding and kitesurfing that flourish in the windy conditions are popular in this region, centered around Kailua where most of the outfitters are located.


Hawai‘i Kai

The outer reefs of Maunalua Bay hold a wealth of surf spots for expert surfers who are comfortable with very long paddles to the breaking waves and surfing over shallow and sharp coral reefs. Because the waves break so far offshore mixed with a lack of shoreline access, it’s nearly impossible for the visiting surfer to distinguish between the different breaks and know which break is surfable and which waves are breaking over dry reef.

There are some options, however, for those who would like to learn to surf, or charter a boat to surf in Maunalua Bay. Hawaiian Surf Adventure (7192 Kalanianaole Hwy., 808/396-2324, 9am-5pm Mon.-Sat.) accesses a secluded wave in Maunalua Bay by boat, which is a gentle surf break perfect for beginner surfers. There are no crowds to contend with, just you and the instructor. Group lessons are $89; private lessons are $149. Hawaiian Surf Adventure also offers stand-up paddle lessons and tours of Maunalua Bay starting at $99 as well as outrigger canoe tours. Island Watersports Hawaii (377 Keahole St., 808/224-0076, 7am-7pm daily) also taps into the uncrowded waves of Maunalua Bay with two-hour group surf lessons for $99 and 1.5-hour private lessons starting at $125. If you’d rather stand-up paddle the bay, two-hour group lessons are $99 and 1.5-hour private lessons start at $125.

Bodyboarding and bodysurfing at Sandy Beach on O’ahu.
Bodyboarding and bodysurfing at Sandy Beach on O’ahu. Photo © Daniel Ramirez, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Sandy Beach

To the east of Koko Head is the infamous Sandy Beach, known for its powerful shorebreak. As a favorite of local bodyboarders and bodysurfers, the water’s edge fills with heads bobbing up and down, waiting to drop into a heaving barrel, right onto the sand. If this sounds dangerous, that’s because it is. Every year people are seriously injured at Sandy Beach, with everything from broken limbs to broken necks, even death. The waves can get big, especially in the summer months. If you’re not a strong swimmer or comfortable in the surf zone, take solace in the fact that it’s quite amusing to watch people get slammed from the safety of the beach. Check with lifeguards for current conditions. There are also two surfing breaks over a sharp and shallow coral reef, Full Point and Half Point, at the north end of the beach.


Kailua

All along Kailua beaches, from Lanikai to Kalama Beach Park, the ocean conditions are usually just right for stand-up paddling. With a soft, sandy bottom, little to no shorebreak, and generally calm water, the area around Kalama Beach Park is perfect for distance paddling up and down the coast. If you paddle out from Kailua Beach, there is Flat Island to explore. And if you’re paddling from Lanikai Beach, there is a bit more rock and reef off the beach, so you can explore the near-shore waters or paddle out to the Mokulua Islands. During the winter months, there are two surf breaks that reveal themselves on either side of Moku Nui, the larger of the two islands. Keep in mind that if the surf is big enough for waves to be breaking on the outer reefs, the ocean currents will be much stronger. Stand-up paddle surfing should only be attempted by expert stand-up paddlers.

Stand-up paddling can become more of a chore than a pleasurable experience in extremely windy conditions. When the wind does pick up and the ocean surface becomes choppy and bumpy, sailboarders and kitesurfers take to the water in Kailua instead.

When the wind picks up, sailboarders and kitesurfers take to the water in Kailua.
When the wind picks up, sailboarders and kitesurfers take to the water in Kailua. Photo © Patrick Rudolph, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

You can rent stand-up paddle boards at Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks (130 Kailua Rd., Ste. 101B, 808/262-2555 or 888/457-5737, 8:30am-5pm daily) for $49 half day and $59 full day, with multiday prices and free carts to walk the board to the beach. They rent beginner and advanced sailboard setups starting at $59 half day and $69 full day, and offer a Windsurf Tour for $99. They have kiteboards and gear for sale, but pre-ordering your gear is recommended. The retail outlet is within walking distance of Kailua Beach Park.

Windward Watersports (33 Hoolai St., 808/261-7873, 9am-5pm daily) is a complete water sports shop selling new and used boards and gear for many activities. They rent stand-up paddle boards starting at $49 half day and $59 full day, with two-hour lessons for $99. They rent kiteboards starting at $30. Actual rental of the kite is contingent upon your skill level, or beginners can take a one-hour course with a certified instructor. Located in Kailua town, they’ll help you put racks and watercraft on your vehicle for the short drive to the beach.

Hawaiian WaterSports (167 Hamakua Dr., 808/262-5483, 9am-5pm daily) also located in Kailua, rents stand-up paddle boards starting at $69 for a full day with multiday rentals. They have a wide range of boards 7-14 feet and boards for all skill levels, and you can exchange your board at any time during your rental period. Sailboard rentals start at $59 half day, $69 full day, and they also offer two-hour lessons—group lessons start at $99, private for $179. Kiteboards are also available for rent starting at $29 per day. Different lessons are offered depending on your skill level. Private lessons start at $179 for 1.5 hours of instruction.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.

Best Beaches in Hanalei, Kaua‘i

The best beaches in Hanalei are along Hanalei Bay & Waikoko Beach, all excellent for sun, sand, and surf. Hanalei Bay is big, popular, and full of conveniences, while Waikoko is smaller and less-crowded but still located close to the main area’s amenities.

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay is a crescent-moon-shaped, nearly two-mile long stretch of unbroken white sand beach consisting of several different spots that make up the heavenly stretch. The bay was used as one of Kaua‘i’s three main ports until recently and is still visited by large yachts. Constructed in 1912 for rice transportation, the pier on the right side of the beach is now utilized mostly by children, who love to jump off of it, and by fishers, who enjoy lazing on it with a pole.

Rocks jut out of the sand at Hanalei Bay on Kauai's northern shore.
Hanalei Bay on Kaua‘i’s northern shore. Photo © Stephen Minkler/123rf.

To the left of the pier is Queen Reef, and to the right is King Reef. Surfing for both experts and beginners takes place here, along with body-boarding, sailing, swimming, and stand-up paddling. At the end of Weke Road between the pier and river is Black Pot. The name refers to the days when a large black pot was always cooking over a fire on the beach here with a big meal for everyone to share. Nearby and mauka (on the mountain side) of Weke Road is the headquarters of the Hanalei Canoe Club. You will see the sign when driving in, along with the sign for a shave ice wagon.

West of that is Hanalei Pavilion by the pier, recognizable of course by the large pavilion on the side of the road. Farther west and roughly in the center of the bay is Pine Trees, a popular surf spot for local children and families. Access to Pine Trees is at the end of He‘e, Ama‘ama, and Ana‘e Roads. It’s a good place to watch locals surf or take surfing lessons yourself. More access is available nearing the west end of the bay before the bridge. Hanalei Pavilion and Pine Trees both have lifeguards, and all of these spots are county-maintained and have showers, restrooms, picnic tables, and grills. When in Hanalei, turn off of Highway 560 onto Aku Road right before Ching Young Village. Turn right on Weke Street, and near the end you’ll see the beach where the pier is. Turn left onto Weke and then right onto He‘e, Ama‘ama, or Ana‘e Road to reach Pine Trees.

Waikoko Beach

Located at the west end of Hanalei Bay is Waikoko Beach and surf break. Another white-sand beach with black rocks dotting the area in the water and on the beach, it can be a less-crowded place to hang out, perhaps because the number of visitors here is limited by the roadside parking. To get here, look for the small parking area on the side of the road after the bridge and mile marker 4. If a spot is available, look for the short trail through the trees.

Travel map of Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii
Hanalei

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.

Surfing in Santa Cruz, California

The coastline of Santa Cruz has more than its share of great surf breaks. The water is cold, demanding full wetsuits year-round, and the shoreline is rough and rocky—nothing at all like the flat sandy beaches of SoCal. But that doesn’t deter the hordes of locals who ply the waves every day they can. The surfing culture pervades the town—if you walk the cliff, you’ll likely pass the To Honor Surfing sculpture. Santa Cruz loves this statue, and it’s often dressed up and always gets a costume for Halloween.

[pullquote align=”right”]Because the Cowell’s break is acknowledged as the newbie spot, the often-sizeable crowd tends to be polite to newcomers and tourists.[/pullquote]If you’re a beginner, the best place to start surfing Santa Cruz is Cowell’s (stairs at West Cliff and Cowell’s Beach). The waves rarely get huge here, and they typically provide long, mellow rides, perfect for surfers just getting their balance. Because the Cowell’s break is acknowledged as the newbie spot, the often-sizeable crowd tends to be polite to newcomers and tourists.

A young surfer in the water at Cowell's in Santa Cruz.
If you’re a beginner, the gentler waves at Cowell’s is the place to learn. Photo © anthony_goto, licensed Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike.

For more advanced surfers looking for smaller crowds in the water, Manresa State Beach (San Andreas Rd., Aptos, 831/761-1795) is a nice beach break south of Santa Cruz. Manresa is several minutes’ drive toward Aptos. During summer, it’s a great place to surf and then recline on the beach.

Visitors who know their surfing lore will want to surf the more famous spots along the Santa Cruz shore. Pleasure Point (between 32nd Ave. and 41st Ave.) encompasses a number of different breaks. You may have heard of The Hook (steps at 41st Ave.), a well-known experienced longboarder’s paradise. But don’t mistake The Hook for a beginner’s break; the locals feel protective of the waves here and aren’t always friendly towards inexperienced tourists. The break at 36th and East Cliff (steps at 36th Ave.) can be a better place to go on weekdays—on the weekends, the intense crowding makes catching your own wave a challenge. Up at 30th and East Cliff (steps at 36th Ave.), you’ll find shortboarders catching larger, long peeling sets if there is a swell in the water.

The most famous break in all of Santa Cruz can also be the most hostile to newcomers. Steamer Lane (West Cliff between Cowell’s and the Lighthouse) has a fiercely protective crew of locals. But if you’re experienced and there’s a swell coming in, Steamer Lane can have some of the best waves on the California coast.

Yes, you can learn to surf in Santa Cruz despite the distinct local flavor at some of the breaks. Check out either Club Ed (831/464- 0177) or the Richard Schmidt School Inc. (849 Almar Ave., 831/423-0928) to sign up for lessons. Who knows, maybe one day the locals will mistake you for one of their own!

Map of the greater Santa Cruz area in California
Greater Santa Cruz

Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Coastal California.

Hana’s Two Famous Beaches

Visitors lament that there aren’t any nice beaches in Hana. Waterfalls, yes, but beaches, no. This is a common misperception among those who made the mistake of turning around in the town of Hana, thinking they had reached the final destination. A few miles past the town of Hana are two of the most stunning beaches you’ll find in East Maui, including one that consistently ranks as one of the top 10 in the United States.

Waves roll in on the flat sand of Koki Beach in Hana, Maui.
According to legend, Koki Beach is where Pele, the volcano goddess, met her mortal end. Photo © Brandon Bourdages/123rf.

Koki Beach

To reach Hana’s two famous beaches, travel 1.5 miles past the center of town (Hana Ballpark) and then make a left on Haneo‘o Road. Going downhill, the first beach you’ll come to is Koki Beach, a favorite hangout of local surfers. Koki gets windy during the afternoon. On the left side of the beach, you can scramble over some rocks to reach some hidden sections of sand. Access to these smaller beaches is only possible at low tide, so most visitors stay on the main section of beach. The dark-red sand is a product of a cinder cone known as Ka Iwi O Pele (“the bones of Pele”). According to legend, this is where Pele, the volcano goddess, met her mortal end. Her bones were stacked high on the shoreline before her spirit traveled southeast to the Big Island.

Hamoa Beach

[pullquote align=right]As the road rounds back to the right, you’ll finally catch glimpses of a beach that Mark Twain considered one of the most beautiful in the world.[/pullquote]Continue along Haneo‘o Road, paralleling the ocean, the snowcapped peak of Mauna Kea on the Big Island occasionally visible in the distance. At low tide you can also see the remnants of the ancient Haneo‘o Fishpond, although access to the fishpond rests on private land. As the road rounds back to the right, you’ll finally catch glimpses of a beach that Mark Twain considered one of the most beautiful in the world.

View over lush trees to the yellow sand beach of Hamoa on Maui.
Look down at Hamoa Beach from a viewpoint. Photo © Maria Luisa Lopez Estivill/123rf.

Before you experience Hamoa Beach for yourself, however, you need to find a parking spot. Parking is tight; park only on the right side of the road so that traffic flows smoothly on the left. You might have to drive past the beach before you can find a space. Access to the beach is down the stone stairway. The park area at the bottom of the stairs is property of the Travaasa Hana hotel but the sandy beach is public property.

This is the best spot in Hana for a relaxing day at the beach. On the calmest of days it’s possible to snorkel along the rocky coastline, though most visitors will prefer to bodysurf the consistent, playful shorebreak. This can also be one of the best surf breaks in the area.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.

5 Best Beaches Near Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef

Choosing the best beaches in Australia is like picking the best card out of a full deck. All of them have great potential depending on your aim, and everyone has favorites and old faithfuls. Then there are the face cards, which tend to appeal to everybody if only because they pack so much more punch compared to the others. Here are some of my personal favorites for the five best beaches near Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef.

Bondi Beach

This iconic beach is famous for its surfing, its ever-vigilant lifeguards, and its stunning setting a mere 20 minutes from Sydney’s CBD. Always bustling, Bondi is fringed by an esplanade filled with restaurants and quirky shops, has an old-fashioned bathers’ pavilion and an exciting seawater pool, and is the start of the gorgeous coastal walk to Coogee. It’s the perfect escape from the busy metropolis.

Beachgoers dot the golden sand of Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.
Popular Bondi Beach sees lots of activity. Photo © birillo81/123rf.

Manly Beach

Which one is better, Bondi or Manly? It’s a bit like potato and patata. Manly is on the north side of Sydney Harbour and is reached by the fantastic Manly ferry ride, so that is a plus. The waves, some say, are even better here for surfing, and the offerings of restaurants, ice cream parlors, and shops are similar to Bondi. The promenade is lined with tall pine trees, which add a different touch. See for yourself. Which one do you prefer?

Pine trees line the shore of the wide flat beach at Manly, Queensland.
Manly Beach offers fewer crowds than Bondi. Photo © Sopanawish Thongdeeria/123rf.

Whitehaven Beach

The best way to truly appreciate this stunning beach is from above. Flying over Whitehaven Beach and the associated swirls of the Hill Inlet takes your breath away. The pristine white of the sand and the turquoise to blue and green shades of the water look like they have been painted; there simply is no other beach like it. Seven kilometers of sand fringed on one side by palms and green bushland, on the other by the clear sea, it is a perfect spot for a luxury picnic and a snorkel. If you can splurge, take a luxury flight complete with champagne picnic to the beach; it will be one of the highlights of your trip.

White sandbars meet turquoise water at Whitehaven Beach in Queensland.
Aerial view of stunning Whitehaven Beach. Photo © Debra Law/123rf.

Mission Beach

An hour south of Cairns, Mission Beach sits alongside four other great beaches, stretching over 14 kilometers, but has the advantage of having a strip of little shops and restaurants, plus a few beach resorts for recreation and sustenance alongside. The beach looks out over Dunk Island and with its fringe of palms and bush offers plenty of secluded spots for utter privacy and relaxation.

Kayaks waiting on the sand at Mission Beach in Cairns, Queensland.
Cairns’ Mission Beach offers amenities on top of beautiful sand and surf. Photo © Chris Van Lennep/123rf.

Four Mile Beach

Stretching alongside Port Douglas, this is a great beach for the whole family. You can hire sun loungers and umbrellas, take surf lessons, and even partake in yoga first thing in the morning. There are always throngs of people walking and running the length of the beach, but the white sand strip is large enough to accommodate fitness enthusiasts and those who simply want to relax. And there is still plenty of room to build sand castles.

A long stretch of beach flanked by trees curves into the horizon at 4 mile beach.
4 Mile Beach at Port Douglas is great for families. Photo © Dirk Ercken/123rf.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Sydney & the Great Barrier Reef.

Volunteering in Panama with Give and Surf

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Gentle waves wash up on a long stretch of beach in Panama.
Along the Pacific coast of Panama. Photo © Lilly Lapcakova/123rf.

A U.S.-registered 501(c)3 organization, Give and Surf’s mission is to empower the indigenous Ngobe people of Bahía Honda through education and community development projects. Bahía Honda is a traditional village whose 225 or so residents live in thatched huts and travel by dugout canoe. Their work has now expanded to include Bahia Roja, Old Bank, and Isla Solarte.

[pullquote align=right]Give and Surf hosts many volunteer groups, who can get involved in large-scale construction projects.[/pullquote]Volunteers generally assist with educational programs Monday-Friday mornings, including helping out at the preschool established by Give and Surf by reading to the children, playing games, painting, drawing, and chaperoning field trips, while having the afternoons & weekends free for surfing, exploring, and enjoying everything that Bocas has to offer. Volunteers can also lend a hand at the after-school or summer-school program, which offers lessons, sports, music, movies, games, and more to elementary school-aged children; or teach English to teens and adults. Environmental and sustainability programs include a sustainable chicken project, water tank installations, and beach cleanups.

Map of Archipiélago de Bocas, Panama
Archipiélago de Bocas

Give and Surf hosts many volunteer groups, who can get involved in large-scale construction projects. Past projects have included building or repairing a playground, water catchment systems, a new roof, a dining hall, a community garden, a library, and bathroom/septic tank installations.

As might be guessed from the name, Give and Surf was founded by passionate surfers, and volunteers can take free lessons, or if they are already experienced, simply borrow a board and watch for the next big wave. It is not at all necessary, however, to have an interest in surfing in order to volunteer with Give and Surf. Besides surfing and swimming, volunteers can spend their free time snorkeling, hiking, spelunking, zip-lining, kayaking, and more.

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Give and Surf

Bocas del Toro, Panama
tel. 507/6955-6804 or 507/6743-1688

Type of work: Children and youth, community development, education, and environment.

Application Process: Fill out the volunteer application on their website www.giveandsurf.org. Volunteers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a chaperone, and it is a great family volunteer opportunity.

Cost: For 2016, costs for individual volunteers are $700 per week or $2,000 per month. Includes accommodations, local transportation, and lunches, and half of the fees go directly to the project. Group trips and prices can be coordinated separately by emailing info@giveandsurf.org.

Placement Length: One week.

Language Requirements: None.

Housing: Accommodations are on Isla Bastimentos, “steps from the ocean and a short boat ride from the volunteer site in Bahía Honda.” There is a volunteer guesthouse, but community homestays can also be arranged if preferred. Lunch is provided to volunteers.

Operating Since: November 2010, with the first volunteers arriving in March 2011.

Number of Volunteers: Over 175 volunteers in 2014 and over 200 in 2015.

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Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Volunteer Vacations in Latin America.

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Pioneering Women: Margo Oberg, Surf Legend

Margo Oberg from ENCYCLOPEDIA of SURFING videos on Vimeo.

Before women’s surfing became the popular sport it is today, Margo Oberg was in the water paving the way for generations of female surfers behind her. A pioneer for women’s surfing, Oberg dominated the sport for over three decades. Growing up in La Jolla, California, Margo Godfrey began surfing at 10 years old and won her first world championship title at 15.

[pullquote align=”right”]A pioneer for women’s surfing, Oberg dominated the sport for over three decades.[/pullquote]In her first surf contest she won the open women’s division and a coed children’s event, proving she had something special. She kept surfing, and by high school she had made a name for herself, winning the 1968 World Contest and the Western Surfing Association’s women’s title. Her early accomplishments were taking place when women’s surfing was nowhere near as popular as it is today.

She moved to Kaua‘i’s south side in the early 1970s after marrying Steve Oberg in 1972. For three years Oberg spent time on Kaua‘i, taking a break from surfing professionally. In 1975 she got back into the game, winning contests left and right. Throughout her career she won a total of seven world championships.

At home in Kaua‘i, Oberg began giving surf lessons in the mid-’70s and after a few years started the Margo Oberg Surfing School. She had a strong business going that supported her life on Kaua‘i. No longer competing, Oberg still lives on the south side of Kaua‘i, helping out with surf contests and working with her surf school. Today, women’s surfing has many more competitors, surfing at a higher talent level than they did 40 years ago. Oberg was truly a pioneer and an influence on many women on the surfing tour today.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.

Wintertime Surf in Hawaii

Spectators on the beach watch surfers ride Oahu's famous pipeline.
Watching surfers at Pipeline on O‘ahu’s North Shore. Photo © Karen Wilson/123rf.

December is prime surfing (or spectating) season in Hawaii. Look out for world-class competitions & 40 foot waves!

Hawaii is known for its giant wintertime surf and December is one of the best months to be a surf spectator as waves on Hawaii’s north- and west-facing shores can easily reach 20 to 40 feet high. On O‘ahu’s North Shore, the world’s elite professional surfers will compete for the prestigious Billabong Pipe Masters title, the third jewel of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. The contest is held on the best three days of the waiting period, from December 8–20. To sweeten the deal at the final event of the ASP World Tour, three surfers will also be competing for the ASP World Title.

The Best Surfing in the Hawaiian Islands (For All Skill Levels)

Surfing in Kona.
Surfing in Kona. Photo © Montse PB, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Legendary Olympic gold medalist swimmer, original beachboy, and ambassador of aloha Duke Kahanamoku introduced surfing to the world. Be part of that legacy by getting on a board during your stay.

Whether you’re a first-timer or a lifer, year-round surf means you’ll find the perfect wave for you.


Hawaiian Islands Surfing For Beginners

O‘ahu

Populars and Paradise

Once you’re comfortable with your feet in the wax, paddle out to Populars and Paradise for longer rides on Waikiki’s outer reefs.

Canoes

No stay in Waikiki is complete without surfing this famous break. The slow-rolling wave is fun whether it’s your first time or you can hang ten.

Chun’s Reef

A beautiful right breaking point on the North Shore, this slow-breaking wave is perfect for beginners and even has small waves occasionally during the summertime.

Kaua‘i

Kalapaki Beach

Much like the friendly waves in Waikiki, Kalapaki Beach has soft waves that break just offshore. It’s perfect for surf lessons.

Po‘ipu Beach Park

On the west end of Po‘ipu Beach Park, in front of the rock outcropping, is Lemon Drops, a great wave for beginners. It breaks right and left and washes into deeper water, so you don’t have to worry about hitting bottom.

Maui

Launiupoko Beach Park

Lahaina locals learn to ride their first waves at this happening beach park. There are multiple peaks for longboarders to choose from.

Lahaina Breakwall

Crowded, shallow, and always sunny, this breakwall is dominated by surf schools on the inside reef, while advanced surfers hang on the outside. While most days are calm with gentle surf, this becomes an advanced spot on the large south swells of summer.

The Cove

This is the epicenter of the Kihei surf scene. The shallow, protected cove is home to the south side’s numerous surf schools.

Pohaku Beach Park (S-Turns)

A longboarder’s dream, S-Turns is Maui’s most user-friendly winter break. The long paddle out means a long ride in. This rolling, forgiving wave is the perfect spot for honing your skills.


For Experts

O‘ahu

Ala Moana Bowls and Kaisers

Some of the best waves on the south shore are along a strip of reef in front of the Ala Moana Small Boat Harbor. Kaisers is a barreling right that breaks in extremely shallow water over sharp reef and Ala Moana Bowls is a long, fast left that local surfers keep under lock and key, coveting every barrel.

Sunset Beach

This powerful and unforgiving wave on the North Shore is famous for separating the experts from the herd. The right boards, the right frame of mind, and stamina are a must to surf the heaving walls of water that break along Sunset Beach.

Makaha

Makaha is a predominant right-hand point break on the leeward side of O‘ahu, famous for its powerful surf, the characters in the lineup, and its backwash close to shore. Makaha breaks nearly all year long, on south, west, and north swells, and sees gigantic waves during the winter.

Kaua‘i

Hanalei Bay

This right hand point break is a long, beautiful wave that attracts surfers from all over the island. Shortboarders prefer to surf further up the point, while longboarders and stand-up paddlers like the end section that breaks into the channel. Hanalei is generally a wintertime break.

Maui

Honolua Bay

Honolua Bay is a place of local legend. During winter, this can be one of the best right-hand waves in the world. If you respect local surfers and wait your turn in the lineup, there’s a chance you could snag a wave that makes your entire vacation worth it.

Ho‘okipa Beach Park

This popular break is the center of the Pa‘ia surf scene. During the large swells of winter this becomes an experts-only amphitheater of towering 20-foot surf.

Pa‘ia Bay

Walking distance from the center of town is one of Maui’s only real beach breaks, best for shortboarding and bodyboarding.

The Big Island

Honoli‘i Beach Park

Located just outside of Hilo, Honoli‘i offers the best waves in the region. There are several different breaks depending on the swell direction. Since it sits at a river mouth, the water is cold compared to most beaches.

Pine Trees

One of the most famous surf breaks on Kona Coast, Pine Trees is one of the best high-performance waves in the region.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.

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