The Ultimate Guide to Surfing in the Caribbean

Surfing in the Caribbean is a diverse and evolving landscape.

While it’s true that destinations like Indonesia or Costa Rica have been more prominent on the global surf map, the Caribbean holds its own with unique offerings.

Places like Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are home to impressive waves, ranging from powerful slabs in Rincon, Puerto Rico, to elegant reef breaks in the Dominican Republic.

Rising Lure of Surfing in the Caribbean

The Caribbean, often more associated with luxury resorts than surfing, is gradually shifting its image.

New surf areas are emerging, notably in Cuba and the Bahamas, expanding the region’s appeal to surfers.

Meanwhile, traditional surf hubs are evolving, with modern surf camps and facilities appearing in places like Encuentro in the Dominican Republic and in Jamaica.

The real draw of Caribbean surfing is, of course, the waves themselves. The region’s exposure to North Atlantic swells brings a variety of surf conditions.

From the energetic barrels at Palmetto Point to the dynamic waves of Soup Bowl, the Caribbean’s potential for great surfing is undeniable.

Understanding the Surf Season in Central America

To best understand the surf season in Central America, it’s useful to consider the region in terms of its two coasts: the Pacific and the Caribbean. Each coast offers unique surfing experiences, influenced by their distinct climatic conditions.

Caribbean Coast

The surf on the Caribbean side of Central America is less predictable than on the Pacific. Its main swell season aligns with the dry season, spanning December to April. During this period, surfers shouldn’t expect the same daily consistency found in oceanic swells, as the Caribbean relies on northern storm systems for wave generation. Another period of notable waves, typically smaller and cleaner, ideal for intermediate surfers, occurs in July in areas like Bocas del Toro and the Belize reefs.

Pacific Coast

Contrastingly, the Pacific coast offers a nearly year-round surf season, with a brief lull during the rainy months of September, October, and August. This interruption isn’t due to a lack of swells, which are constant, but rather because the increased rainfall can lead to churned waters and less desirable surfing conditions. From December to early May, conditions are generally milder, making it a good time for beginners seeking smaller waves in places like Panama, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. The summer months bring larger southerly groundswells, energizing the bigger breaks along the coast, extending all the way up to Mexico.

The Top Surf Spots in the Caribbean

The Caribbean’s surf scene shines brightest in the Dominican Republic, Barbados, and Puerto Rico.

These locations excel with north swells in winter and boast well-developed surf communities. For those planning a surf trip, these destinations are a great starting point, offering an array of surf camps.

Dominican Republic: A Surfing Gem

  • Geography & Swells: Close to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic captures similar swells. The Amber Coast and northern regions are prime, particularly for N-NE winter swells.
  • Surf Spots: Encuentro and Puerto Plata stand out with fantastic reef breaks. The coastline is dotted with coves and points, ripe for exploration.
  • Conditions: Eastern Trade Winds can be challenging; early sessions are recommended.
  • More Information: For a detailed guide, explore Surfing in the Dominican Republic.

Barbados: The Surfing Outlier

  • Location Advantage: Positioned 100 miles east of its neighbors, Barbados gets solid N, NW, and NE swells.
  • Coastline: A mix of reefs and rugged points creates diverse surf conditions.
  • Notable Spot: Soup Bowl, known for its intense barrels, is the highlight. Yet, there are plenty of spots suitable for beginners and intermediates.

Puerto Rico: A Surfing Legacy

  • Reputation: Known for its history with professional surfers, especially around Rincon with its challenging barrels.
  • Growing Scene: Aguadilla and the north coast are emerging as noteworthy surf areas.
  • Suitability: Best for intermediate and advanced surfers due to its shallow reefs and hollow waves.
  • Explore More: For comprehensive information, visit Surfing in Puerto Rico.

Jamaica: Beyond Reggae

  • Surf Scene: Jamaica might not be the first stop for Caribbean surfing, but it’s a strong contender for the second. Favored by the NE trades in summer, it offers varied breaks.
  • Spots for Beginners: Boston Bay is perfect for new surfers with its gentle, curving waves.
  • Advanced Options: Bull Bay and Makkas in the south offer challenging barrels.

Antigua: A Hidden Surf Paradise

  • Spotlight: Palmetto Point, discovered in 2001, is a standout with its right-hand barrels off a scenic point.
  • Variety of Breaks: Other spots on Antigua’s main island cater to different skill levels, benefiting from NW winter pulses and SE trades.

Bahamas: Not Just for Relaxation

  • Surf Potential: The Bahamas, known for its luxury tourism, also offers great surfing, especially in the Abacos and Eleuthera.
  • Winter Swells: These islands excel in catching NW-N-NE winter swells, with geographical features creating offshore conditions.

Cuba: The Uncharted Surf Frontier

  • Emerging Surf Destination: Cuba’s surf scene is less known compared to Barbados or the Dominican Republic but holds potential.
  • Highlighted Spot: Boca de Yumuri, with its right point break, is a highlight on good days.
  • Adventurous Surfing: Cuba’s largely unexplored coasts offer a sense of adventure for surf trips.

Turks and Caicos: Hidden Surf Potential

  • Geography and Swells: Despite being geographically similar to the Dominican Republic and Bahamas, Turks and Caicos’ surf scene is limited due to an offshore reef system blocking north swells.
  • Surf Opportunities: Some areas do receive swells, suggesting potential for undiscovered waves.

St Lucia: A Honeymoon Destination with Surf

  • Surf Scene: St Lucia is known more for its luxury resorts, but it also offers surf spots, mainly suited for intermediate surfers.
  • Best Time to Surf: The NE swells in winter are ideal, with spots like Pigeon Point being popular.

Guadeloupe: An Underrated Surf Destination

  • Surf Quality: Guadeloupe boasts surf conditions comparable to Barbados, with a variety of reef breaks suitable for all levels, almost year-round.
  • Unique Appeal: The combination of clear waters and volcanic black-sand beaches adds to its allure, especially for intermediate and advanced surfers.