This guide to the best places to go surfing in Hawaii covers all skill levels, from professionals craving massive waves to beginners looking to test the water. The Aloha State and surfing have been a match made in heaven ever since the first royals took to the waves on their handcrafted wooden rafts way back in the 1800s. Even the legendary father of surfing, Duke Kahanamoku, hailed from these tropical lands.

    Fast forward to today, and surfing is a staple on the tropical islands. It's easy to see why – the archipelago has more breaks and surf spots than you can shake a hibiscus garland at. Read on to discover some of the most popular surf beaches in Hawaii.


    Pua'ena Point, Oahu

    A wave to suit all sorts on different days

    Pua'ena Point is a chameleon of a surf spot, with waves to suit a variety of levels, depending on the conditions. It's one of the famous locations on the Oahu North Shore – the premier surf territory in the Aloha State. You can look for it just off HI-83, about a 40-minute drive north of Honolulu.

    Here, the waves form off the jutting headland. When swells are big and coming from the north, they'll bend around the rocks to offer uber-long right-handers. Other days, Pua'ena Point offers good protection from the mega Pacific groundswells, while smaller days can be great for beginners and longboarders looking for something mellow.


    Cove Beach Park, Maui

    Great for those using a longboard for the first time

    Cove Beach Park is one of the top-notch surf spots in a long run of places on the western shoreline of Maui. It's located towards the southern end of Kalama Park, just off the South Kihei Road. There's dedicated parking just after the turnoff onto Iliili Road.

    The break here is a mellow longboarder wave at heart. It starts on a rock reef about 160 ft off the golden-sanded beach and finishes after a ride of about 20 to 30 seconds closer to the middle of the bay. Thanks to rather small swells, Cove Beach Park is a great place to learn surfing in Hawaii.


    Haleiwa Beach Park, Oahu

    One of the best surf spots on the North Shore

    Haleiwa Beach Park is a regular haunt for the local surfers of the Oahu North Shore. It sits on the inside of reefs a little south of Pua'ena Point. Because it's isolated from the open ocean by a barrier of reefs, this surf spot is excellent for when the waves on other beaches along the North Shore are far too big.

    There's a further little dash of reefs in the middle of the bay, which helps to create a wedge-like wave with a better right-hand shoulder – it’s suitable for intermediate surfers on a shortboard. Haleiwa Beach Park is about a 10-minute walk from tiki bars and cafés in the heart of Haleiwa town.


    Diamond Head, Honolulu

    Easy-going surf with dramatic views

    Diamond Head is one of the most iconic features of Honolulu. You can't miss it – it's a soaring volcanic crater that looms over the capital of the Aloha State. Venture to the far south side of the mountain and there's surf on offer, just off the sands of the Diamond Head Beach Park.

    Great for beginners, the waves here are usually small and mellow. They work best on southern swells, which tend to be way less challenging than the northern swells that pound other parts of Oahu. The views are also fantastic. You'll be surfing under the lush Kuilei Cliffs, with cabbage palm forests and soaring ridges overhead.

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    Waimea Bay, Oahu

    Surf where the Beach Boys surfed

    Waimea Bay is such a famous surf spot that it's even featured in songs by the Beach Boys. It sits smack dab in the middle of the iconic Oahu North Shore, a stone's throw off the Kamehameha Highway and facing the big northwest swells of the winter months.

    When things get big here, they get really big. Swells in December and January can top 30 ft, drawing in the most accomplished pros in the industry. For non-surfers, it’s a great place to come and watch the experts ripping up the right-hand walls of water. Simply spectating is an adrenaline sport in these parts.


    Peahi, Maui

    Enjoy a roaring welcome from Jaws

    Peahi, also known as Jaws, is a roaring surf break for the experts on the northern coast of Maui. It hides behind a wall of sinewy cliffs, a short detour through the lush grass meadows from the Hana Highway. At the top of the rocks, you can find a small parking lot overlooking the break itself. Get there early as it's usually packed when the swell is working.

    Peahi is a gnarly break that can rival even Nazare in Portugal. It's one of the most famous waves on the planet, with the ability to hit heights of 60 ft. Most of the people surfing here usually head out on jet skis to save their energy, though a few brave souls might try to paddle their way to the break.


    Banzai Pipeline, Oahu

    Get pitted on the North Shore

    The Banzai Pipeline is the name that's been given to the perfectly tubular wave that pops up on Ehukai Beach during the bigger winter swells. It's one of the most iconic places to go surfing in Hawaii. You can find it on North Shore, around a 5-minute drive up the coastal highway from Waimea Bay.

    Also known as just "Pipe" to locals, this one needs a little bit of height to get working properly. When the swell is 12 ft and up, you can watch as the waves roll into the deep underwater reef gardens and forge powerful barrels that peel left, offering expert surfers the ride of their lives. The beach itself is also downright picturesque, with acres of soft, white-tinged sand to laze on.


    Shipwreck Beach, Kauai

    Fun for lots of levels

    Shipwreck Beach calls to all levels of surfers from its place on the southern side of Kauai. Very accessible to travellers, it's conveniently plonked between the stylish resort hotels of the Poipu region. In fact, much-loved Poipu Beach itself is only a few bends down the coast road to the west.

    Waves at Shipwreck Beach don't rely on the strong northwest swells, so they can often work in summer as much as winter. When they do, you're looking at chest- or head-high challenges with both left and right rides. There's usually a crowd but it's all good vibes. Non-surfers can bring boots for the immersive Mahaulepu Heritage Trail that starts on the beach itself.


    Hanalei Bay, Kauai

    Mellow swells on the side of Princeville

    Horseshoe-shaped Hanalei Bay is a fantastic pitstop for travellers with the board on the northern side of Kauai. It fronts the whole town of Hanalei itself, within a 10-minute drive from the chic villas and golf resorts of Princeville, the main resort in this part of the island.

    Wave-wise, you're mainly looking at easy-going, beginner-level rides. The sheer size of the bay helps to cut down the power of the swell, refracting the sets and helping them mellow out for the learners and longboarders. For something a little more challenging, you can head west to Tunnels Beach, which can pick up 20-ft monsters in the midwinter.


    Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

    Learning in the footsteps of Aloha kings and queens

    Waikiki Beach is one of the most epic learner locations on the planet. It's sat just to the south of Honolulu, on its own fragment of Oahu. It has been a famous wave-riding location since the early 1800s, when Hawaiian royals came to hit the swells here.

    There's not just 1 spot on offer, either – there are several. Total beginners can hit the chilled whitewash of Canoes, the easiest of the lot. From there, you could move to The Wall, a forgiving wave that offers lots of practice time. Then head over to Queens, arguably the best wave in Waikiki, offering some nice, rideable walls when the swell is medium to high.

    Joseph Francis | Contributing Writer

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