Surfing in Hawaii: Your Ultimate Guide to Catch the Wave

You’re craving the ultimate exhilarating escape: surfing in Hawaii. But the questions keep coming now that you’ve decided to make your surfing dream a reality. You need an advice-packed guide to tell you everything you need to know. Luckily, you’re reading a complete guide to surfing in Hawaii right now.

Hawaii is the ultimate surfing destination year-round. It gets swells from the north in winter and the south in summer, and the water and weather stay warm throughout all seasons. There’s also a Hawaiian beach perfect for every surfer’s skill level, from beginners to big-wave riders.

 Nowhere else do you feel the spirit of surfing as strong as in Hawaii, making this island a life-changing destination for all wave riders. This guide is packed with advice, interesting facts, and tips to prepare you for the ultimate mind-body-soul experience in paradise.

Best Hawaiian Island For Surfing

If you must choose only one island for your Hawaiian surf adventure, make it Oahu.

Oahu’s North Shore boasts several world-famous surfing spots that have set the scene for legendary feats, and it’s the destination surf enthusiasts swear should be on your must-visit list.

Where To Surf In Hawaii: Top Surf Spots

You’ll find the top Hawaiian surf spots on Oahu, Maui, and Kauai.

Here’s a cheat sheet of where to go and why it’s epic:




Top Surf Spot Why It’s Epic


Ehukai Beach Park Promises to put pros’ skills to the test in a showdown between surfers and monster waves.


Backyards Fast, supersized waves (reaching 50 feet and higher) keep things exciting for experienced surfers.


Sunset Beach Boasts conditions to thrill experienced surfers.


Diamond Head Cliffs A wonderland for advanced and newbie surfers at the base of a volcano. Conditions are beginner-friendly early in the morning and in the late afternoon and more thrilling at midday.


Maui Honolua Bay Honolua’s claim to fame is being Maui’s most popular surf spot.


Launiupoko State Wayside Park The go-to spot with consistent waves for new surfers or pros wanting to take it easy.


The Cove at Kalama Beach Park A first-timer’s favorite, with small waves and shallow water.




Kiahuna Beach It’s got something for everyone – small, consistent waves and shallow water in front of its reef and wilder conditions behind.


Hanalei Bay A one-stop spot for surfers who want a variety of waves. Beginners and experts will get a satisfying session.


Shipwreck Beach A top pick for experienced surfers who want to tackle ferocious waves away from the crowds.


Surfing In Hawaii For Beginners: Tips And Lessons

Here are 9 tips to make all new surfers feel confident in Hawaii’s waters:


  • #1: Learn from the pros. Study expert wave riders in action before you give surfing a go.
  • #2: Have someone show you the ropes. Book a lesson with a surf instructor or take an experienced friend with you the first time you try out surfing (or perhaps try to befriend the highly paid pro surfers you were watching and ask them for pointers!).
  • #3: Take up skateboarding. Boost your balancing skills and ability to react quickly to changes in the environment (surfing essentials) while on land.
  • #4: Use a surfboard leash. This handy strap will stop your board from getting away from you when you need it most (and prevent it from whacking fellow surfers).
  • #5: Consider using a soft-top board. A softer surface = less chance of turning black and blue from your board hitting you while you learn to control it.
  • #6: Leave the tricks for later. Don’t attempt stunts like surfing on your head, hanging ten (curling your toes over the edge of your board), a 360 flip, or airs (flying above the wave’s face) until you’ve perfected the basics.
  • #7: Size up your waves. Look for waves that don’t go higher than your chest for your first surfing experience.
  • #8: Know the surfing rules. Must-know etiquette includes letting the person closest to the peak have the wave – and don’t even think about pushing surfers aside to get to impressive waves.
  • #9: Pick the right spot for your skill level. Beginner-friendly destinations include Maui’s Thousand Peaks during summer, late spring, or early fall, Oahu’s Castles in spring and the fall, Oahu’s South Shore’s “Pops,” Maui’s The Cove, and Kauai’s Pine Trees from October to March.

Surfing in Hawaii

Surfing In Hawaii History: From Ancient Hawaiians To Modern-Day Surf Culture

Without Hawaii, there would be no surfing. This is where surfing was born, celebrated, and nurtured to become the worldwide passion it is today.

Let’s glance at the history and evolution of surfing in Hawaii:


  • Ancient Hawaiians (men and women from all walks of life) rode waves thousands of years ago. British explorer Captain James Cook reported seeing surfers in Hawaii back in the 1770s.
  • Surfing in Hawaii was on pause throughout the 1800s.
  • In the 1900s, surfing was back with a bang on Hawaii’s coastlines. Surfing’s rising popularity is largely thanks to Olympic athlete and big-time surfing fan Duke Kahanamoku.
  • The love of surfing spread worldwide, and in 1953 the first international surfing championship for men and women was hosted at Hawaii’s Waikiki Surf Club.
  • Hawaii now attracts millions of surfing enthusiasts yearly and hosts some of the world’s biggest surf competitions.

Surfing in Hawaii

Surfing In Hawaii Facts: Weather, Waves, And Water Temperature

Hawaii’s weather, waves, and water temperatures make surfing a pleasure any time of the year.



With average daytime sea-level temperatures fluctuating less than 10°F from summer to winter (85°F in summer and 78°F in winter), it’s always surfing weather in Hawaii.

These slight temperature changes throughout the year mean you can forget about spring and fall and consider Hawaii to experience only summer from May to October and winter from November to April.

It’s rainy from November to March, but most rain falls on the mountains and valleys, and you’re likely to find a dry patch for surfing somewhere along the coast.

Hawaii’s trade winds blow almost every day. But at times throughout the year, the wind stops. Then it gets hot and sticky or stormy. Though this is rare.

You can surf year-round in Hawaii. Still, the North and South shine for different reasons at various times of the year. Here’s where to go, when, and why:


Season Best Spot Why




North Shore The North Pacific creates waves that wow during winter, attracting some of the world’s top surfers.


South Shore To avoid the crowds and relax with gentler waves.




North Shore You’ll catch some good waves and miss the crowds.


South Shore


Go in late spring for decent enough swells for a good day on the water.


Summer South Shore Everywhere else pales in comparison to the South Shore during the summertime.


Fall North Shore Enjoy some early-season swells and space before the peak season hits.


South Shore Make the most of the last few good end-of-season waves.




Hawaii is perfectly located to get multi-direction swells. They come from the north in winter and the south in summer.

The swells, breaks, and curls are unique to the different areas of the coast and seasons, with the North Shore creating monster waves during winter. This is when the North Shore puts on a show and invites daring big-wave riders to have a go.

For every wild, wavy spot, there’s a calmer one somewhere more sheltered. And you’ll often find beginner-friendly and more challenging conditions in the same place.

Water Temperature

Hawaii has warm water all year, with an average temperature of 74°F and a summer high of 80°F.

Surfing in Hawaii

Mountain Surfing In Hawaii: Tackling Big Waves On The Islands

You’ll find some of the world’s biggest and most dangerous waves in Hawaii, from Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore (with its reputation as the deadliest wave) to Maui’s Jaws (with winter waves towering 50 to 80 feet high).

Riding big waves is an adrenaline rush that can’t be beaten. But it’s a risky thrill.

Don’t attempt taking on the mega waves before reading this:


  • Riding waves bigger than 10 feet high is only for expert surfers with years of experience, strong bodies and minds, and excellent breath-holding skills.
  • Things go wrong for even the most talented surfers – potentially creating a life-threatening scenario.
  • When you’ve cultivated the skills, strength, and mental toughness to play with the big waves, paddle out with an experienced big-wave rider who can keep an eye on you until you’re confident you know what you’re doing.

Surfing In Hawaii Videos: Inspiring Footage From The World’s Best Waves

If you’re not already packing your surf gear, eager to be welcomed by Hawaii’s warm weather and stunning scenery, these videos of surfing in paradise should do the trick!

Watch world surfing champion and Olympic gold medal winner Carissa Moore (who calls Hawaii home) show why she’s such a big deal in surfing:

[YT link:]

Join surfing legend Stephanie Gilmore as she makes tackling the North Shore’s waves look like child’s play:

[YT link:]

Get your heart pumping as you see big-name-in-big-wave-surfing Ian Walsh take on Maui’s Jaws:

[YT link:]

Go back in time to watch surfing icon Duke Kahanamoku prove why he’s known as the father of modern surfing:

[YT link:]

What To Wear Surfing In Hawaii: Tips For Staying Safe And Comfortable

Think beyond the bikini and board shorts to stay safe and comfortable while surfing in Hawaii. Though, a well-fitting bikini or one-piece and not-too-baggy boardies that stay put with activity and crashing waves are a good place to start.

Sticking to minimal surfwear might give you a similar sense of freedom experienced by Hawaii’s first surfers, who practiced au naturel. Still, it won’t protect you and keep you comfy. To up the comfort and safety factor, add these items to your surfing wardrobe:


  • A rash guard or springsuit made from SPF material for 2-in-1 protection against rashes and the sun’s harmful rays.
  • A 2mm-thick wetsuit top for chillier or very windy days.
  • Reef shoes to come between your feet and sharp rocks, coral, or sea urchins. Or active sandals or slip-slops to slip on when you’re back on dry land.
  • Reef-friendly sunscreen to keep you safe from the sun without harming the coral reefs.
  • UV 400 polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun and glare.
  • A surf leash to stay connected to your board.
  • A super-absorbent towel to dry you in a flash.
  • A changing poncho so you can slip out of your surf gear into your favorite beachwear without anyone knowing.

Surfing In Hawaii Cost: Budgeting For Your Dream Surf Trip

The grand total of what you must save to fund your dream surf trip depends on so many factors. Where you’re based, how long you’ll stay, whether you travel alone or with companions, what you eat, and what you do during your time away from the waves all influence the cost.

Here’s an idea of the basics you’ll need to budget for:


  • Flights: $500 to $800 for a round-trip economy-class ticket from most US cities to Honolulu (see factors influencing your ticket price).
  • Food: about $77 a day, with an average of $31 per person when dining out.
  • Local transport: roughly $37 a day.
  • Accommodation: on average, $214 a day for a hotel room for one and $427 a day for two people sharing.

Surfing In Hawaii Cost: How To Make Your Money Go Further

Here are tips for cutting costs while surfing in Hawaii:


  • Choose to land at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, Hawaii’s biggest and busiest airport.
  • Book your flight two to three months before you want to leave, and pick an off-peak period. The cheapest times to visit Hawaii are in May and October.
  • If you’re traveling in a group, stay in a condo rather than a resort.
  • You might want to see what all eight major Hawaiian islands offer, but rather fully explore just one or two islands to save on inter-island flights.

How To Say Surf In Hawaiian: Learning The Language Of The Islands

Want to know what to say to locals to get someone pointing you in the right direction for wave riding? Heʻe nalu (say it: heh-Eh NAH-luu), meaning to surf.


This jam-packed guide served up all the must-know info to prepare you for taking the plunge and surfing in Hawaii. Whether you were looking for the top spots to surf, pointers to get you started, or budgeting advice, you’re now ready. Surf’s up – let’s go!


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