26 Best places to learn to surf in the world

As the health and well-being benefits of surfing become more widely known, more families and beginners are looking for the best places to learn to surf around the world. If you, too, are stoked to join the surf movement, here are some of the best places around the globe to take a lesson and catch your first wave.

Nosara, Costa Rica

Thanks to its warm and consistent waves, Nosara, Costa Rica is first of out list of best places to learn to surf. The dusty surfing outpost of Nosara is an ideal destination for beginners to experience riding a wave for the first time. With a friendly scene, top-rated surf camps, Nosara sets you up for a great experience.

After hours in the water, work out your surf-beaten muscles at one of the many yoga schools in town. Wind down your day with a cold Imperial beer on Playa Pelada, the perfect place to watch the sun sink into the ocean.

Costa Rica has long been a mecca for surfers. Some even believe that the best waves in the world crash down on the shores of Costa Rica.

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Second on the list of best places to learn to surf is to experience the surf in Nicaragua. Nicaragua’s beaches, are generally less crowded than surfing Costa Rica.

However we recommend making Nicaragua a part of your Costa Rica journey. San Juan del Sur is only 50 miles from the Costa Rican border. San Juan del Sur, a village on the Pacific coast, is surrounded by remote beaches with waves workable for all levels; Remansa, which means “extra calm” in Spanish, is the perfect spot for beginners. Easily you can sleep, eat, and surf with your surf friends for days. The women-only Chica Brava surf camp offers yoga, healthy food and an epic surf adventure.

Encinitas, California

Our home surf spot, Encinitas is the ideal California surf town. it’s chill and friendly. Not so much of a “locals only” attitude you might find in Orange County. There are quieter surf spots further afield for beginners, like the north end of Moonlight Beach. For a thoroughly uplifting first surf experience, check out Beacons beach a little further north.

Maui, Hawaii

Surf in Maui is known for being beginner friendly. In other places like Ohau's North Shore, which is home to big waves, you can feel less intimidated with the friendly waves of Maui. With its warm waters, Maui has waves enough for every level. Maui is a great island to focus on learning how to surf and feel the power of the wave.

South Padre, Texas

Texas doesn’t have a reputation for great surf, but there is one place where almost everyone can catch a wave. In a jetty-side beach protected from unpredictable Gulf winds, you can easily learn how to surf for the first time on foam surf boards that make everyone feel steady and safe.

Bakio, Spain

If you want to surf in Spain, head north to the Bay of Biscay in the Basque Country. Mundaka, 23 miles northeast of Bilbao, may be regarded as a surf capital of Spain. Beginners will have better surf conditions at the lesser known nearby town of Bakio. With few tourists and only a handful of laid-back hotels and restaurants, Bakio has the low-key vibe and regular waves that make the beginner feel welcome.

Biarritz, France

With friendly locals and plenty cafes, Biarritz has been called “the California of France”. Interestingly, in a special program funded by the regional Olympic committee, Biarritz doctors are prescribing surfing and other ocean sports as remedies for health problems. The 12-week surfing program is luring more and more people to the waves to heal them. With this healthy respect for the surfing life, Biarritz is a great choice for being one of the best places to learn to surf. Try Surf Training school; the ultra-experienced surf coach Philippe Beudin will have you catching waves right in to the soft sands of the Cote des Basques beach in no time.

Taghazout, Morocco

Taghazout, a fishing village in the southwest of Morocco, is another on of the best places to learn to surf because its generally not crowded. Essential when searching for the perfect surf destination. With waves for advanced surfers from September-April and smaller waves throughout the rest of the year, this small town has something for everyone.

Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

On the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, the relaxed village of Arugam Bay is known for its steady waves during the peak season of May-November. Another one of the best places to learn to surf because of the extreme tropical atmosphere and amazing food Sri Lanka has to offer. With its laid-back vibe and wide variety of restaurants, Arugum Bay is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the water.

Tavarua Island, Fiji

This heart-shaped island in Fiji is home to one of the most famous breaks in the surfing world – Cloudbreak. Located a mile off the island, this wave is restricted to those who check in at the Tavarua Surf Resort and has been known to get so large that only tow-in surfing is possible.

Puerto Escondido, Mexico

The quiet Mexican town of Puerto Escondido is home to surfers, families and Zicatela Beach. This beach was nicknamed “Mexican Pipeline” due to its similarity to the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu.

Hanalei Bay, Kauai

The waves are known to get rather large on this beautiful crescent-shaped bay. Known to reach 20 feet, the biggest waves occur in the center of the bay and are called “pinetrees” by the locals.

Huntington Beach, California

With a nickname like “Surf City USA,” it’s no wonder both novice and seasoned surfers make their way to Huntington Beach to catch a wave. Start at the Huntington Beach Pier where on any given day you’ll see at least a dozen surfers in the ocean down below waiting for the perfect wave. While in town, geek out with a visit to the International Surfing Museum.

New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Ranked as one of best places to learn to surf in America by Surfer magazine, New Smyrna Beach boasts more than 17 miles of beaches, including North Beach, a stretch of beach popular with surfers thanks to its fairly consistent breaks. As in, you can pretty much count on being able to catch a wave in New Smyrna Beach. Another go-to for surfers is Bethune Beach, which tends to be less crowded.

Nags Head, North Carolina

For east coasters who don’t want to go as far as Florida, look to Nags Head on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. For years, surfers have been paddling in the waves just off of Jennette’s Pier. The area is so popular in fact that it’s home to the annual Easterns Surfing Championships, which are set to take place in mid-September.

Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu’s North Shore is well-known as a paradise for surfers and those eager to take up the sport of surfing. In fact, some say that if the ideal wave exists, you’ll find it on the North Shore, which draws some of the best surfers in the world to its beaches. While beautiful beaches are plentiful on Oahu, for gentler waves, try the beaches of Waikiki, which offers lessons customized to individual skill levels. They also offer surf tours, taking guests on scenic drives and out to the very best beaches for surfing.

South Padre Island, Texas

Texas doesn’t usually make the best places to learn to surf list when it comes to prime surfing locales. But there’s South Padre Island. Better known as a spring break destination, this island off the southernmost tip of Texas is at the heart of the state’s surf scene. This relaxed beach town boasts miles of coastline and consistent swells just right for novice surfers. Catch the best waves along the jetties near the south side of town.

Cocoa Beach, Florida

Surfers of all levels heed the siren’s call of Cocoa Beach, which delights with its mellow waves and warm breezes year-round.

Barbados

Many people head to the Caribbean to escape the daily grind, but once you’ve spent your third day (like, the entire day) lounging on the beach, you’ll be ready for some real action. When that moment hits, you’ll be glad you’re in Barbados and paddling on a longboard over the island’s crystal-clear waters.

Santa Cruz, California

The relaxed surf vibe is strong in Santa Cruz. Home to Jack O’Neill, the late founder of the popular O’Neill surfwear brand. Santa Cruz is another one of the best places to learn to surf. The surf scene and has long been known as one of the best places to surf on the west coast. Capitola Beach and Cowell Beach to be the best spots for new surfers thanks to small longboard waves.

Playa Grande, Costa Rica

Apart from Nosara, Costa Rica there are a number of other areas considered some best places to learn to surf. The beach town of Playa Grande is known as one of Costa Rica's is known for this as well. It also happens to be home to the second largest nesting ground of the largest marine reptile, the Leatherback Turtle.

Bundoran, Ireland

Known as a surfer’s “cold water Eden,” the shores of Bundoran on the southwestern tip of Donegal provide nearly constant swells. The town embraces the culture with extra accommodations for surfers — even offering discounts to surfers who visit during the peak season of September-May.

Jeffreys Bay, South Africa

Host to the annual Billabong Pro ASP World Tour surfing competition, the town of Jeffreys Bay was made famous by the surf cult classic, Endless Summer. Its surf break is considered one of the best right-hand point breaks in the world due to its consistency and quality. Making it one of the best places to learn to surf in South Africa.

Huntington Beach, CA

If you're looking for a surf destination, you can't go wrong with Surf City, USA. With 4 different-facing beaches, there’s a break for everyone. Which is why its one of Californias best places to learn to surf — longboarders should head to the northwest beaches, while shortboards are best in the south, by Huntington Beach Pier.

Bondi Beach, Sydney

One of Australia’s best places to learn to surf. The white sands of Bondi Beach not only provide top-notch surf, but also plenty of restaurants and shops for when the waves have you worn out.

San Clemente, CA

Last on this list, San Clemente is still one of the best places to learn to surf. Known for its waves as well as its surf coverage. It’s also home to Lower Trestles, a favorite break among surfers which has been threatened by the state’s attempt to build a toll road, but has been defended repeatedly by numerous surf organizations.

In Orange County, surfers of all levels flock to San Onofre State Beach in San Clemente. It’s no wonder this is one of the most visited state parks in California. Thanks to a well-positioned reef break, you’ll find gentle waves, which are ideal for beginners, because who wants to get knocked down again and again. Just north of San Onofre State Beach is Lower Trestles, a popular location for pro surf events.

Book Your Surf Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book your flight
Find a cheap flight by using Google Flights. They are our favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know you're getting the best flight.

Book your surf hotel or surf accommodation
You can book a really unique and local place with AirBnB anywhere in the world. We used it recently in Sri Lanka to book a place withing a 3 minute walk to a surf break. If you want to stay somewhere other than an AirBnB, use Booking.com, as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.

Don’t forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, surf gear theft, and cancellations. Basically, you get protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a surf trip without it. We’ve been using World Nomads for close to ten years now.

Protect your personal data
When you travel, you're constantly logging into public Wi-Fi. VPNs are designed to protect all of your Internet traffic. This includes email, streaming music and video, voice calls, and anything else you can think of. We use ExpressVPN when we're on a surf trip.

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out our resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all those I use — and they’ll save you time and money too!