How To Plan a Surf Trip | Advice from a Surf Travel Guru

Ahhh, the surf trip. Whether you’re heading off on your maiden surf venture or you’re already a seasoned swell chaser, nothing beats the feeling. The feeling of having your flights and accommodation booked, knowing that you’re going. After you’ve gawked at every photo, watched every video clip, and read every blog post on your destination. All those months of dreaming and planning your surf trip become a reality. 

However, a successful trip goes beyond Googling a place to death and jumping on the next flight. While a few mishaps and unexpected events are part and parcel of a great surf trip, you’ve got to come away with some stories, right? You still want to minimize risk and choose a destination suited to your ability and bank balance. This is where excellent planning comes in. So you can reduce risk and choose the best destination to suit your needs, this article breaks down everything you need to know to plan a surf trip

Stop sitting there wondering, ‘How Do I Plan a Surf Trip?’ and let’s dive into everything through the entire surf trip planning process, from choosing the perfect destination appropriate to your ability, the best time of year, what to pack, and what to have in place pre-departure. A lot goes into the perfect surf trip, so let’s dive right in.   

Choosing Your Destination 

Your destination can make or break your trip; this is the most important factor in planning your trip. Choosing the right destination is tricky because there are hundreds to choose from, but some crucial considerations include: 

Your Ability 

Some countries and specific areas are renowned for particular wave types. For instance, West Australia is synonymous with slabs, big waves, and sharks, while in contrast, Sri Lanka is known for its mellow beginner-friendly beachies and forgiving pointbreaks. So you want to choose somewhere that aligns with your ability. However, most of the world’s best destinations have a variety of spots for all abilities. Ultimately, you want a place that: 

  • You enjoy 
  • You feel comfortable in 
  • Allows for some surf progression

These are all factors that contribute to the enjoyment of your trip. Next up, your bank balance. (eek). 

Your Budget 

Your bank balance plays a significant role in where and how you travel. Always select a destination based on the cost of living. Destinations such as the Maldives or the Mentawaii islands have incredible waves but are among the most expensive surf destinations on Earth. On the other hand, places like Morocco, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Mexico are much more affordable, and you can score two weeks of world-class waves for under USD $1000. Pretty cool, right? 

 

Your Time 

We’d all love to pick and choose when and where we go, but time-constraint is often a huge factor in where you go on a surf trip and for how long. Life gets in the way, work and family commitments take priority, and it leaves you with only 1-2 weeks a year to chase waves. And that’s if you’re lucky. Therefore it’s critical to maximize your time. You don’t want to sacrifice wave quality, but choosing a destination close to home, as it doesn’t take three days to get there, allows you to spend more time in the water (hopefully in the tube) and less time in the airport. 

For example, if you’re in North America, Mexico, or Nicaragua would make sense, while for Aussies, Indonesia is great! Sick waves and only a few hours on the plane. It saves money and time! Now we know the factors you must consider pre-trip, let’s discover some of the best surf trip destinations and why they’re so good. 

Choosing The Best Destination 

The following countries aren’t chosen based purely on wave quality; I have hand-picked these because they have the best blend of great waves for all abilities, accessibility, culture, and affordability. 

Mexico 

It’s no secret Mexico has some of the best waves in the world, and surfers have been flocking there for decades. The country has everything, from thumping beach breaks to perfect right points and even beginner-friendly a-frames; the place has it all. Throw in a massive variety of spots, friendly locals, epic food, and low-cost climbing, and you have everything you need for a wicked surf trip. 

Best time to go? 

Mexico’s surf season runs from April to October; the biggest swells happen, and the country’s premier breaks light up. However, Mexico has excellent waves all year round. A rule of thumb is that the South works best from April to October, while the North is better from October to April. 

Best Breaks

Puerto Escondido – Playa Zicatela for advanced surfers looking to get tubed. There’s also a beginner-friendly left point and reef in town! 

Barra de la Cruz – perfect right point for advanced surfers to get tubes and rip into 

Sayulita – The perfect beginner surf destination and epic for longboarders. There’s a wicked vibe in town, and the beaches are beautiful. 

a man riding a wave on top of a surfboard in mexico after learning how to plan a surf trip
Surf Trip Mexico

Indonesia 

Indonesia has more waves than you could hope to ride in one lifetime. Seriously, it’s ridiculous how wave rich the archipelago is! From the well-known breaks of Uluwatu, Lakey Peak, and Kuta Beach to the world-class Mentawaii islands and some lesser-known corners, Indo has it all! 

Best time to go? 

Indeosmais surf season runs between April and October. This is when large long-period south swells march up from the south Indian Ocean and wrap into the various reefs across the archipelago. 

Best Breaks 

Kuta Beach – The original beginner-friendly beach break in the heart of Bali! 

Kuta Lombok – Lombok’s surfing hub, incredible spot variety, and a wave for all abilities 

The Mentawaii – Hundreds of perfect waves scattered across a paradisical island chain. For advanced surfers looking to get the waves of their life. 

Costa Rica 

From North America, Costa Rica is the perfect surf trip destination, offering a wealth of forgiving breaks for beginners and punchy beachies for advanced surfers; the country also provides safety, accessibility, and climate! 

When to go? 

April to October is Costa Rica’s best season and when the best waves happen. However, due to its exposure to the vast Pacific, Costa Rica gets waves all year. 

Best Spots 

Santa Teresa – beach town with several fun beach breaks and waves for all abilities. An incredible spot for intermediates. 

Jaco – bustling beach town with a beginner-friendly beachie. Jaco is also five minutes away from the heaving beach break, Playa Hermosa. 

Witch’s Rock – The iconic Witch’s Rock is a spot for advanced surfer chasing barrels—one of the best waves in Costa Rica. 

Costa Rica Luxury Surf Resort how to plan a surf trip
Luxury Surf Resort Costa Rica

Portugal 

You’ll be hard-pushed to find anywhere more wave rich than Portugal. The coastline offers every wave you can imagine, from learner-friendly bays to world-class reef breaks, slabs, and big wave bombers. Whatever you fancy, Portugal has it. 

Best time to go? 

The best time to surf in Portugal is winter. The coast receives the brunt of the North Atlantic’s fury, and although this is great for advanced surfers, it’s not so much for beginners. However, the coastline is rugged enough that there is always somewhere sheltered to surf—alternatively, head to Portugal in the shoulder season (Spring/Autumn) for less powerful swells. 

Best spots? 

Peniche – While famous for Supertubos, Peniche has a variety of spots! Check out Baleal if you’re a beginner. 

Ericeira – Surfers paradise and every wave you could hope to surf. Ribeira D’llhas, Cave, and Coxos are all within minutes of each other. 

Sri Lanka 

Sri Lanka is custom-made for beginners and intermediates. It has everything you want: beginner-friendly beaches, fun reefs, unique culture, low cost of living, and friendly locals. 

Best time to go?

The best time of year to surf in Sri Lanka depends on the season. The East Coast is best from April to October, while the South West Coast works from October to April. 

Best Spots 

Arugam Bay – Sick right points for advanced surfers working in April – October. 

Weligama – Perfect beginner beach, with surf schools and surf shops. 

Midigama – Small town with a variety of breaks. 

How to Plan Your Surf Trip (Step-by-step) 

Flights 

Locking your flights is the most exciting step of a surf trip. Once you’ve confirmed those tickets, you know you’re going! I always use Skyscanner, Kayak, or Google Flights no matter where I travel and find they always have the best prices. You’ll often find the cheapest fares six weeks out from departure. 

Accommodation 

Choosing somewhere great to stay is massive. This will largely depend on your budget. For example, if you’re on a budget, you can find a cheap hostel (use Hostewlorld), or if you prefer something more luxurious, an immersive surf camp experience could be the go! Whatever you choose, lock in your spot as soon as possible because the best surf camps and hostels fill up quickly in the season. 

Transportation 

Depending on the style of your trip, the next stage is transportation. This can mean your lift to and from the airport and how you’re getting around when you’re there. If you’re staying at a surf camp, arrange this with your host! I do this as much as possible so I don’t have to sort it out after a long flight! 

Surf Trip Extras 

Now that you’ve got all the essentials sorted consider some extras. For example, what non-surfing activities are there? What parts of the culture do you want to experience, and are there any sites you want to see? Although surfing all day every day is great, getting surfed out is inevitable at some point, and you may even find by the end of a trip you don’t even want to surf. Particularly if it goes small and onshore, line up any extra activities with the worst day on the forecast

Packing Essentials Private Villa Surf Trip in Bali how to plan a surf trip

Packing essentials list: 

Safety 

It’s always worth considering safety on your trip, regardless of where you’re going. For example, ensuring your transport is pre-arranged means you’re not stranded in some strange town on the other side of the world. Buying a coded lock for your baggage is also great for peace of mind while traveling through airports and hostels. 

Final Thoughts 

Surf trips are some of the best and most memorable times of our lives; it’s where we go to escape it all and score the waves of our lives. But a great trip requires planning, and I hope this guide has helped you cover everything that goes into it. While panning is all good, remember that things don’t always go to plan and that flowing through these mishaps is all part of the surf trip game! After all, you’ve got to come back with some stories, right? 

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