The 25 Best Surfing Beaches in America

Surfing is the type of sport that lends itself to travel. Watching other surfers negotiate the waves at the best Hawaiian surf spots is essential to mastering the sport, but the best surfing spots for you can only be the most awe-inspiring, the spots where the waves crash uniquely, offering you an irresistible challenge. In fact, many surfing legends have been developed on a surfer’s personal quest to finding surfing heaven on earth.

Part of the adventure in surfing is seeking out waves in little-known, obscure surfing beaches on the east coast or surfing beaches in Maui – or even the best surfing beaches in San Diego and beyond.

Still, others prefer to scour the internet on the search term – surfing beaches near me. The results of this search may end up providing a surfing location smack in the middle of some of the coolest and best surfing beaches on the east coast along the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean (home to the best Hawaiian surf spots), or some of the best surfing spots in Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico.

The surfing lifestyle exemplifies a mystical lifestyle, one worthy of the effort required to find the best surfing spots in the US, or the best surfing beaches in Maui, even if you are only looking for the best surfing spots for beginners. As surfing as a sport has grown in popularity over the previous decades, the number of the known surfing spots has grown similarly.

The guide that follows includes a diverse mix of surfing beaches in California to the eastern seaboard and beyond. The chosen sites have been selected based on the qualities that define an awe-inspiring surfing spot –

  • The Waves’ Ride-ability Factor
  • The consistency and swell size of the waves
  • Typically, an amazing geographical location, with a lively nightlife and fresh beach grub.

The 25 Best Surfing Beaches in America

1

Huntington Beach, California

Rideability: 100/100
Swell Size: 100/100
Location: 100/100
Rave Score: 100

Welcome to Surf City, America

Located about 30 miles from Los Angeles, Huntington Beach epitomizes the Southern California beach culture scene that highlights an outdoorsy lifestyle and some of the best surfing beaches in California. Where else would one find International Surfing Museum, then in one of the best surfing spots California – Huntington Beach? The best season the finest surfing beaches California has to offer is during the Fall. The waves at the Huntington Beach pier and by the Southside state park offer swells and peaks for surfing aficionados. After surf activities include the Golden Bear nightclub, the Surfing Walk of Fame, and the Surf Theatre.

2

Kaanapali Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Rideability: 99/100
Swell Size: 100/100
Location: 100/100
Rave Score: 99.67

Among the Most Beautiful Beaches in Hawaii & the World

The island of Maui has more of the best surfing spots for beginners than any other Hawaiian Island. Among these beginner surfing beaches in Maui; one will find the picturesque Kaanapali Beach. Kaanapali Beach is ranked among the finest places to learn to surf on the island of Maui – with rentals and lessons available nearby. In addition, there are fine sand beaches and consistent wave breaks that create an excellent backdrop for learning to surf.

3

Santa Cruz, California

Rideability: 99/100
Swell Size: 99/100
Location: 100/100
Rave Score: 99.34

The Home of 11 World Class Surf Breaks

Santa Cruz is world-renown for surfing and home to one of the campuses of the California State University, the nearby Redwood Forests, and the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. Recognized to be one of the best surfing beaches in California (and arguably the nation), Santa Cruz is collectively considered to be one of the most vibrant surfing locations on the West Coast. Locals know the best time to surf Santa Cruz is the Winter (so bring a 4/3 wetsuit), with summer surfing known as Lake Santa Cruz. If you are a Northern Californian and have been searching the internet on the phrase – surfing beaches near me, look no further because Santa Cruz has some of the best surfing spots in California for all levels of surfers.

4

Waikiki, Honolulu

Rideability: 99/100
Swell Size: 99/100
Location: 99/100
Rave Score: 99

More than 100 Surfing Beaches – Many Excellent for Beginners

Waikiki is one of the best surfing beaches in Hawaii, offering gorgeous views and many surf schools for those who wish to learn. Waikiki, with its infamous break known as the Canoes, is also known for its hip and friendly vibe. The rolling, beginner-friendly waves offer newbie surfers a great opportunity to practice newly acquired skills.  The rides are long, with consistent waves that break both left and right – all the while offering a fantastic view of Diamond Head, Hawaii’s ancient volcano. But note, there are other legendary and challenging surf spots in Oahu for even the most advanced surfer. Waikiki Beach can be crowded, although there are enough waves for all surfers.

5

Cocoa Beach, Florida

Rideability: 99/100
Swell Size: 100/100
Location: 97/100
Rave Score: 98.67

The East Coast’s Surf Capital

Cocoa Beach, home to world-renowned 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater and is not only one of the best surfing beaching Florida but arguably one of the best surfing spots in the US as well. Cocoa Beach, which is a barrier island about 50 miles due east of Orlando, offers wave action for surfers of all expertise and experience and year-round surfing options in the Sunshine State. Cocoa Beach is also home to the world-famous Ron Jon surf shop, with more than 50,000 square feet of space dedicated to surfing excellence. The Westgate Pier is a popular spot with warm water and small breaking waves year-round.

6

Ventura, California

Rideability: 100/100
Swell Size: 97/100
Location: 97/100
Rave Score: 98

Surfer Magazine Names Ventura Among the Best Surfing Towns in America

Ready for some killer waves/curls off the west coast? The many surfing beaches California offers in this area of the coast are recognized to be among the best surfing spots in California, with some arguing that Rincon Point State Beach is the Queen of the California coast. Rincon Point State Beach offers three distinct locations, with its south-facing point creating some epic waves at the right time. There is also the less crowded Port Hueneme Beach, which offers year-round surfing. For views of seals and dolphins, beginners can check out County Line beach. Perhaps the most well-known surfing location in Ventura is near the Pier is C Street, offering right-hand waves rolling in from the west.

7

Nags Head, North Carolina

Rideability: 100/100
Swell Size: 96/100
Location: 95/100
Rave Score: 97

World Class Surf for All Surfer Skill Levels

Nags Head is recognized as one of the best surfing spots on the east coast along the North Carolina coast on the Outer Banks, an Atlantic coast region where surfers from all over the country arrive for the ESA Tournament. Every surfer who has experienced the Outer Banks has their favorite surf spot, among the best from Florida to Maine. Head out to Jennette’s Pier, debatably the oldest surfing spot on the Outer Banks, which was revitalized after Hurricane Isabel devastated the original structure that was built in 1939. Nags Head offers a number of surfing opportunities along beach road that offer the best surfing experience in the nation – the best waves depend on the moment and the day, so keep your eye open for Nags Head’s excellent waves.

8

Jacksonville Beach, Florida

Rideability: 98/100
Swell Size: 97/100
Location: 95/100
Rave Score: 96.7

The Surf is Always Up!

One of the best surfing spots in Florida, Jacksonville beach has a long-standing and robust tradition with regard to surfing, offering 22 miles of beach and coastline. For nearly three decades, the amateur surfing competition known as The Wave Masters has been held during May on the Atlantic Coast in North Florida. While Jacksonville offers great surfing conditions all year, the biggest surf happens during Winter, with the summer surf one of the East Coast’s best surfing spots for beginners. Jacksonville also has professional night surfing. These are Jacksonville’s best surfing locations – Huguenot Park, Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville Beach Pier, and Mayport Poles/Hanna Park. Jacksonville’s relaxed vibe offers great eateries and craft breweries to help you wind down after a day on the water in the Northern Florida sunshine.

9

San Clemente, California

Rideability: 97/100
Swell Size: 97/100
Location: 95/100
Rave Score: 96.34

Ideal Waves for Every Rider

San Clemente in Southern Orange County has long been considered as one of the best surfing beaches in California.  San Clemente offers miles of coastline from the Trestles (with its several ideal wave spots) to T-Street and all the locations in between.  San Onofre Beach State Park (San-O), home of Trestles, is the destination during the summer months and also on weekends throughout the year to enjoy the gentle surf for long-boarders or beginners. The lower portion of Trestles is best known for its picturesque location with waves that hollow to the left. Long-boarders will likely prefer the Upper San-O beach. About a million visitors descend on San Clemente each year, with about half the visitors only coming for a day of surfing.

10

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

Rideability: 98/100
Swell Size: 95/100
Location: 95/100
Rave Score: 96

Surfing Magic on the East Coast

While the Outer Banks grabs surfing headlines for North Carolina, the southern portion of the state offers Wrightsville Beach – a hip college town (UNC Wilmington) and a serious place for tubing and surf. Wrightsville Beach sits upon the most southern piece of North Carolina’s mainland coast, an ideal geographic location that combines to offer a surf that mixes it up from hurricane swells from the south and northeasters during the Fall and Winter. Wrightsville Beach is primarily a summer destination, a funky college vibe with something going on all the time. Wrightsville Beach offers consistent fun and long rides when the surf is up. Check out the nature preserve south of the beach that offers a unique surf experience.

11

Dana Point, California

Rideability: 94/100
Swell Size: 96/100
Location: 97/100
Rave Score: 95.67

The Birthplace of Hobie Surfboards & Surfer Magazine

Dana Point defines the American surf culture, rich with surfing history and surfing innovation. As one of the best surfing beaches California offers, Dana Point is a surfing oasis in southern Orange County, with more than six miles of the Pacific Coastline. Dana Point proudly represents the Golden State’s official sport with something for every surfer. Doheny State Beach, along the Pacific Coast Highway, offers rider-friendly iconic waves that define beach and surfing culture. Stunning views and ideal waves are found at Strands Beach, located in a small cove. Experts head to Salt Creek, where the surf rolls along with a rocky point and a sandy beach. Surfing lessons are available from expert instructors year-round.

12

Ocean City, New Jersey

Rideability: 98/100
Swell Size: 94/100
Location: 94/100
Rave Score: 95.34

New Jersey’s Surfing Mecca

Ocean City on the Garden State’s south coast has produced an amazing number of talented surfers. This surfer’s mecca sits to the south of the more crowded beaches in central coastal New Jersey. Like most east coast surfing locations, there are sand bars that modify the direction of the break, depending on the storm and its forward-moving direction. Ocean City exemplifies the Jersey Shore, with its boardwalk along the beach – offering iconic eats like pizza, pork rolls, and other beachie-treats. Like most of the best surfing spots on the east coast, Ocean City, with the best waves off-season – in Winter. Ocean City is within shooting distance of NYC and Philadelphia when you need a nightlife fix.

13

Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

Rideability: 97/100
Swell Size: 94/100
Location: 94/100
Rave Score: 95

Puerto Rico’s Surfer’s Beach

Aguadilla is recognized as one of the best surfing beaches in Puerto Rico and offers some of the most popular beach towns along Puerto Rico’s west coast. Puerto Rico is a short flight from much of the east coast of the United States with an abundance of tropical sunshine and solid surf year-round. Aguadilla offers a variety of surfing options from Surfer’s Beach, which may be a beginner’s or advanced location depending on the particular day. The Wilderness offers more advanced surfing challenges on its right-hand rolling wave action. Bridges is the most crowded of spots but offers an amazing frothy surf ride. Bodyboarders and surfers also head out to Crash Boat, a sand bottom, right-breaking section of Aguadilla.

14

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Rideability: 96/100
Swell Size: 94/100
Location: 94/100
Rave Score: 94.67

Surfing’s Birthplace on the East Coast

Located along the mid-Atlantic coast, Virginia Beach offers a range of surfing conditions, depending on the location, the season, and current weather conditions. Virginia Beach is also home to the East Coast Surfing Championship, which makes it perfect for watching professionals show their remarkable skills. But it is also ideal for those just learning to surf. Local surfers who understand the Virginia Beach surf know that finding the perfect wave takes a bit of tenacity, a dash of patience, and a whole lot of luck. As such, finding the perfect wave to ride has become an art form in and of itself for surfers in Virginia.

15

Folly Beach, South Carolina

Rideability: 96/100
Swell Size: 94/100
Location: 93/100
Rave Score: 94.34

Charleston’s Home of ‘The Washout’

Folly Beach is one of the Palmetto State’s best surfing beaches with several surfing meccas; some even consider Folly Beach world-renowned. Folly Beach is lined with jetties and sits on Folly Island, which attracts surfers from around the globe. The Washout, which is also known as Hollywood, is the most challenging on the South Carolina coastline, created after Hurricane Hugo wiped out a swath of beachfront homes that allowed winds to blow unimpeded. Other surfing locations on Folly Beach include the Folly Pier (only from mid-May to September), 10th Street East and 6th Street East, which is best known for consistent and friendly surf. The best season to surf Folly Beach is Fall, followed by Winter, Spring, and Summer.

16

Haleiwa, Island of Hawaii

Rideability: 96/100
Swell Size: 94/100
Location: 93/100

One of the Best Surfing Beaches in Hawaii – North Shore of Oahu

About sixty minutes from Waikiki, the laid-back town of Haleiwa sits on Oahu’s north shore and is home to legendary surfer Eddie Aikua. Haleiwa is a surfing cultural mecca and now is the artistic hub of the north shore. In addition to Ali’I Beach Park, the Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach, and Waimea Bay all offer surfing conditions from beginner to the Seven Mile Miracle – home of world-class surfing. The surfer from Turtle Bay to Haleiwa ranks among the top, where advanced surfers can ride a 50-foot wave if the surfing stars align. Grab some beach grub fresh from surrounding waters served amid plantation-type buildings and art galleries.

17

Half Moon Bay, California

Rideability: 95/100
Swell Size: 94/100
Location: 93/100
Rave Score: 94

Home of Big Wave Surfing at the Mavericks

About 20 miles south of San Francisco is Half Moon Bay, which is, as its name implies, a crescent-shaped bay in north-central California that offers surfers mild to moderate temperatures year-round. At the northernmost edge of Half Moon Bay – off Pillar Point is the big wave area known as the Mavericks, home to the Annual Titans of Mavericks competition that ran for more than 15 years. Within Mavericks at its extreme northernmost end is the Corner, a challenging ride if you catch the right wave correctly, a disaster, which lands you in the annals of wipe-out history for the wrong wave. For more than three decades, Half Moon Bay has ranked among the best surfing beaches California has to offer.

18

Ocean Beach, San Diego, California

Rideability: 95/100
Swell Size: 93/100
Location: 93/100
Rave Score: 93.67

Among the Best Surfing Beaches in San Diego & Surrounding Areas

A few miles northwest of San Diego is Ocean Beach, or OB as it is known colloquially, where surfing began more than 100 years ago in 1916. Fifty years later, Ocean Beach was world known as one of the best surfing spots in San Diego, the United States, and the World, developing and hosting the World Surfing Championship. But Ocean Beach is also known as San Diego’s Haight-Asbury, with a historic district of bungalows and cottages built in the late 1880s. The waters south of the pier break left (or suicide right). Beginners should check out the beach to the north, known as Dog Beach, but stay away from the jetty, which creates challenging hollow tubes on its right swell.

19

La Jolla, California

Rideability: 94/100
Swell Size: 93/100
Location: 93/100
Rave Score: 93.33

One of the best Surfing Spots in San Diego to Learn to Surf

La Jolla, located in southern California, offers one of the top locations to learn the art of surfing. This is because La Jolla’s warm waters (temperatures between 68- and 74-degrees F) and soft sandy bottom make it an ideal spot to learn as a newbie surfer does not have to worry about what is beneath the wave you are riding. La Jolla Shores is San Diego’s crown jewel and offers consistent conditions of 2 to 4 feet waves throughout the year. La Jolla is family-friendly and is stunningly beautiful and epitomizes the ‘endless summer’ vibe. La Jolla also offers Black’s beach, considered by many in the know to be the best wave in San Diego.

20

Hermosa Beach, California

Rideability: 93/100
Swell Size: 93/100
Location: 93/100
Rave Score: 93

Several Miles of Combined California Coastline and Beaches

Flanked by Manhattan Beach to its north and Redondo Beach to its south, Hermosa Beach (which translates to the beautiful beach) is one of the most popular surfing beaches in California – anywhere along its 3,400+ mile coastline. About a 20-minute car ride from LAX (without traffic), Hermosa Beach offers a variety of surfing experiences, with waves that break right to the left, over a sandy bottom. The finest surf to ride can be found in both the Winter and the Fall seasons. Nearby Manhattan Beach hosts an annual International Surf Festival – a surf competition and festival promoting health and fitness. Check out the yearly induction of the newest member of the Surfer Walk of Fame. Kids aged 5 to 13 will find surfing campus for each level from June until August.

21

Montauk, New York

Rideability: 96/100
Swell Size: 93/100
Location: 89/100
Rave Score: 92.67

An Early Morning Surfer’s Heaven

Montauk is only a few hours from mid-town Manhattan but has been ranked among the ten best surfing locations in the country by Surfer Magazine. Montauk is known by locals as the end and offers a consistent array of exposed and raw surf from the eastern, western, and southern swells. In addition, surfing Montauk offers surfers a variety of break types – from point breaks to sand bars – suitable for most surf styles and skill levels. Montauk is a fishing town and an artist’s haven located about thirty minutes from the Hamptons. Surfers who can handle colder water temps (average of 55, but as cold as 35 degrees F) will appreciate the gorgeous views of the Long Island coastline, plenty of surfing space, and a quick, inexpensive flight from JFK or Logan in Boston.

22

Venice, Florida

Rideability: 96/100
Swell Size: 93/100
Location: 88/100
Rave Score: 92.33

Surfing at its Best in the Shark Capital of the World

Venice, Florida is located on Florida’s west coast and includes both a part of Florida’s mainland and Venice Island. Among the best surfing beaches in Florida, Venice’s 500-foot-long, as high as eight feet jetties (built by the Army Corp of Engineers during the 1960s) act as a buffer that creates a clean line of surf, among ideal conditions. Historically, the Gulf of Mexico has been derided and called the Lake of Mexico; however, winds over the jetties in Venice have created a surfing haven. The man-made jetties actually magnify the power of the wave by compressing it into a small area. And while the surf is not always consistent or cooperative, the sand on this side of the Sunshine State is well-placed in helping waves break.

23

North Shore, Kauai, Hawaii

Rideability: 87/100
Swell Size: 93/100
Location: 96/100
Rave Score: 92

Consistent Hawaiian Surf with Something for Everyone

Kauai is home to the many champion surfers, including Andy Irons. The Hawaiian trade winds from offshore combined with ground swells offer some of the best surfing throughout the year – even outshining some of the best surfing beaches in Maui and other Hawaiian Islands. Hanalei Bay is Kauai’s crown jewel of surfing. Summertime wave action on the North Shore offers less intense waves, which are great for those learning to surf. More experienced riders should look to ride the north shore’s waves in the winter months when waves hit their peak in terms of height and challenge. Many of the world’s best surfers converge on Kuai to ride ocean swells that rise upwards of 40 feet high.

24

Jenson Beach, Florida

Rideability: 96/100
Swell Size: 93/100
Location: 86/100
Rave Score: 91.66

A Surfing Find Off Florida’s Treasure Coast

North of South Florida’s largest cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach is Florida’s Treasure Coast, home to Jensen Beach State Park, situated to the south of the barrier island known as Hutchinson Island. Jenson Beach, which is an exposed beach and reef break, is the least localized spot along Florida’s Treasure Coast as it is flanked by the more popular waves at Walton Rocks and Stuart Rocks. For the Treasure Coast, Jenson Beach offers some reliable surf created by playful winds and a bottom of both rock and sand that creates rideable beach break swells with a reef.

25

Playa Middles Isabela, Puerto Rico

Rideability: 92/100
Swell Size: 90/100
Location: 90/100
Rave Score: 90.67

The Best Surfing on the Island of Puerto Rico

Playa Middles Isabela is a laid-back surf town on the north shore of the island that is home to the yearly Corona Prof Surf Competition, noted as Puerto Rico’s preeminent surfing competition. Locals encourage you morning surfing as this is when the sun is less harsh, and the air is cooler. Check out Isabela, an easy-to-access, consistent surf location with manageable waves and curls most suited for experienced surfers with a right break over the reek/beach. Surfers of all levels can find some nice swells to ride in Jobos, which also offers some great eateries and bars along the beach.

The Bottom-Line

The beauty of the above-noted surfing destinations is that they offer consistent, challenging waves – often in a unique way. Ultimately, this creates surfing magic. And while most travelers tend to associate the sport of surfing with the summer and Palm Trees, some of the best rides and waves can be found in places as far north as New York, New Jersey, and Virginia.

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William Kennedy

William Kennedy is a staff writer for RAVE Reviews. He lives in Eugene, OR with his wife, daughter, and 2 cats, who all politely accommodate his obsession with Doctor Who and The Smiths.