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best usa surfing towns

I got hooked on surfing when I was 13. I took a lesson on the Jersey Shore and quickly fell in love once I popped up on my foam rental board.  Since then, I’ve lived in and scoped out the best places to surf in Malibu and the Bay Area and have traveled around the country in search of the best surfing spots – from Maui to Washington to Florida. 

I feel lucky to live in a country with some of the best surf spots in the world! 

Here’s my roundup of the 10 best surfing beaches in the US!

Malibu, CA

best surfing towns malibu

Malibu may be the most iconic surf town in the US, with some of the best waves in the world. Think the surfing film Gidget, gorgeous sunsets, perfect peelers, and Hollywood hangouts. You may encounter some localism here–an unwelcoming vibe from locals and territorialism over waves–but it’s worth enduring to surf some of the dreamiest longboard peelers on the mainland. 

Best Season: Fall and winter see the biggest swells. Summer is good for beginners. 

Skill Level: Beginner to expert, depending on the break and the conditions.

PROS CONS
Dreamy, consistent waves Crowds
Relatively warm water Localism
Beginner-friendly  
Easy to get to (45 mins from LAX airport)  

Best Places to Surf

Surfrider Beach – This is the iconic Malibu right point break where Gidget and her friends used to surf. On a south swell it fires perfect, long, powerful-yet-chill peelers. This is one of the premiere longboarding spots in the US.

Latigo Beach – Latigo is a hidden gem. It’s not quite as epic as Surfrider, but it’s a similar wave with a fraction of the crowd. Be sure to park on the Pacific Coast Highway! You’ll get ticketed if you park on Latigo Shore Drive.

Staircases – This is a bit of a secret spot, and it’s a great place to go to get away from the crowds. Staircases is at the northernmost end of Leo Carrillo State Beach.

County Line – County Line Beach lies at the north end of Malibu, on the dividing line between LA and Ventura Counties. It features fun, peaky, intermediate-friendly waves. You can usually catch something here, even when there isn’t a swell. County Line gets crowded when it’s good.

Where to Book

  • Adventures in Malibu – Book a surf lesson with Jason Rogland, a professional surfer with over 15 years of teaching experience! Cost: Group lessons start at $90.
  • Traveler – If you’re an experienced surfer looking to rent a sweet board, check out Traveler’s demo boards. The shop is across the street from Surfrider Beach. A $20 day pass to Traveler’s surf club gets you access to their hot outdoor shower, a restroom, a locker, and WiFi. Cost: $60/day for board demo.
  • Malibu Surf Shack – Looking to grab a board for the day? Check out Malibu Surf Shack. They’re next door to Traveler and rent soft top boards, which are great for beginners, as well as epoxy and fiberglass boards. Cost: Surfboard rentals starting at $30/day; wetsuit rentals are $10/day with a board.

Santa Cruz, CA

best surfing towns santa cruz

Santa Cruz is arguably the best place to surf in Northern California, and one of the best places to surf in the world. The water’s cold, for sure, but there are tons of breaks for all levels–from very beginner to extreme expert.

Best Season: Fall and winter see the biggest swells. Spring and summer are better for beginners and intermediates. 

Skill Level: Beginner to expert, depending on the break and the conditions.

PROS CONS
Dreamy, consistent waves Cold water
Breaks for all skill levels Crowds
Rad town Sharky

Must-Surf Spots 

Cowell’s – If you’re new to surfing, or love a chill longboarding session, Cowell’s is your place! It’s a slow, gentle wave that’s surfable for all levels.

Pleasure Point – You’ll find fun, long rollers at this magical and consistent point break. The crowds can get thick at this famous surf spot, but it’s a roomy break.

Four Mile – Just north of Santa Cruz and protected from the wind, this is a favorite all-around spot in the area. Four Mile gets the big swells and barrels but is relatively intermediate-friendly on smaller days.

The Hook – Just south of Pleasure Point, the Hook is a fast, right point break that barrels when it’s big.

Where to Book 

  • Adventure Out – If you’re new to surfing, we definitely recommend booking a lesson! Taking a board out on your own with little experience can be dangerous, especially in the Bay Area. The surf instructors at Adventure Out are professional outdoor guides and are lifeguard and first-aid certified. They’ll get you out there catching waves in no time! Cost: $109 for a 3-hr lesson
  • Traveler – If you’re an experienced surfer looking to rent a sweet board, check out Traveler’s demo boards. The shop’s just a few blocks away from Pleasure Point and The Hook. Plus, a $20 day pass to Traveler surf club gets you access to their hot outdoor shower, a restroom, a locker, and WiFi. Cost: $60/day for board demo.

Santa Barbara, CA

best surfing towns santa barbara

Santa Barbara is a surfer’s paradise, and one of the best surfing beaches in California. This upscale college town features tons of breaks for various skill levels, and the water is a lot warmer than NorCal!

Best Season: Fall and winter see the biggest swells. Summer is good for beginners. 

Skill Level: Beginner to expert, depending on the break and the conditions.

PROS CONS
Dreamy, consistent waves Crowds
Relatively warm water  
Beginner friendly  
Rad town  

Best Surfing Beaches

Leadbetter Beach – If you’re a beginner, start here! This is your ticket to fun, forgiving waves.

Campus Point – Get out there with the UCSB college kids! This beach break is usually a chill, beginner spot, but it really picks up with winter swells.

Rincon – West swells produce long, dreamy rides at this world-class right point break. This spot is best suited for intermediate and advanced surfers. 

Where to Book

  • iSurf – Book a private or group lesson with iSurf’s professional instructors. Cost: Group lessons start at $115.

Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

best surfing towns honolulu

A list of best surf spots wouldn’t be complete without Honolulu, surfing’s birthplace. People live and breathe surfing in this top surf destination, and there are many chill beginner spots here.

Best Season: Late fall through spring shows the biggest swells. Summer through mid-fall is best for beginners. 

Skill Level: Beginner to expert, depending on the break and the conditions.

PROS CONS
Dreamy, consistent waves Crowds
Warm water all year Localism at some spots
Beginner-friendly, especially Waikiki Far, if you live on the mainland

Best Places to Surf

Waikiki Beach – This famous surf spot has slow gentle peelers, panoramic views, and turquoise waters. This spot is laid back enough for the most cautious beginners.

Tonggs Beach – If you’re looking for lefts and a lighter crowd, check out Tonggs!

Ala Moana Bowls – A fun bowl with great lefts and rights. Suitable for beginners on a small swell. 

Where to Book

  • Ohana Surf Project – Book a private, family, or group lesson at Waikiki Beach. Cost: Group lessons start at $95.
  • Surf HNL – Interested in avoiding the Waikiki crowds? Book a surf lesson with Surf HNL. They’ll take you to a secluded beach in Honolulu and have you standing in no time. Cost: Group lessons start at $109.

Maui, HI

best surfing towns Maui

Maui has some fantastic waves, especially for beginners.  The town of Pa’ia is a quaint, quintessential hippie surf town on the northeast coast of Maui. Skip touristy Lahaina and make Pa’ia the home base for your Maui surf trip.

Best Season: Late fall to early spring see the biggest swells and best surfing waves. Summer is best for beginners. 

Skill Level: Beginner to expert, depending on the break and the conditions.

PROS CONS
Dreamy waves Crowds
Warm water all year Localism
Rad town Can be windy
Also great for snorkeling and paddling Far, if you live on the mainland

Must-Surf Spots

Thousand Peaks – Drive 30 minutes from Paia, to the west shore of Maui, and you’ll encounter many beginner-friendly spots. Thousand Peaks, at Ukumehame Beach Park, is glorious. The break features a long, luxurious paddle out, tons of right and left peaks, and chill, peeling longboard waves.

Paia Bay – A fun beach break that works best in the winter.

Ho’okipa – A barreling right break, for experienced surfers only! This is where the pros go.

Where to Book

Rye, New Hampshire

When you think of New Hampshire, surfing probably doesn’t come to mind. But Rye is an idyllic spot for a surf trip, especially in summer or fall.  It’s also one of the best surf beaches on the East Coast.

Best Season: Fall through early spring gets the biggest swells. Summer is best for beginners, because the water is warm and the waves are usually small. 

Skill Level: Beginner to advanced, depending on the conditions.

PROS CONS
Uncrowded in the off-season Crowded in the summer
Warmish water in the summer Frigid in the winter
New England charm Waves aren’t the most consistent
  Mosquitos bite like hell

Must-Surf Spots

Jenness State Beach – A fun beach break that works best in winter but is great for beginners in summer.

Rye on the Rocks – A left hand reef break with fairly consistent surf.

Where to Book

  • Cinnamon Rainbows – Book a private or group lesson, or rent gear at this classic Hampton surf shop. Cost: Semi-private lessons start at $55; board rentals start at $25.
  • Summer Sessions – Book a private or semi-private lesson with Summer Sessions. You’ll meet your instructor at Jenness State Beach. Cost: Semi-private lessons start at $55.

Manasquan, NJ

 

new jersey surfing beaches

New Jersey beaches get a bad rap. (Thanks, Jersey Shore!) But there are some surf gems along NJ’s 130 miles of coastline, like Manasquan and nearby Belmar.

Best Season: Fall is the best season for swells, water temperature, and thinner crowds. (Think hurricane season.) Winter brings big swells, but the water is frigid. Summer is good for beginners because the water is warm and the waves are usually small but fun. 

*Note: Surfing a hurricane swell can be tricky. Sometimes you’ll find the best surf before a hurricane, sometimes you’ll find the best surf afterwards, and sometimes a hurricane will produce surf that’s too crazy and dangerous to surf at all. Know your limits and err on the side of caution if the conditions seem to be beyond your ability.

Skill Level: Beginner to advanced, depending on the conditions.

PROS CONS
Uncrowded in the off-season Crowded in the summer
Warm water in summer Frigid in the winter
One of the best spots on the East Coast Waves aren’t the most consistent

Best Surfing Spots

Manasquan Inlet – Arguably one of the best waves on the East Coast, the Inlet can produce steep, long rides and can handle big swells.

16th Ave, Belmar – 16th Ave in Belmar is a good all-around spot. It breaks fairly well on all swells and barrels when it’s big.

Where to Book 

  • Summertime Surf – Book a private surf lesson in Belmar with Summertime Surf! Cost: Private lessons start at $95.

Wrightsville Beach, NC

wrightsville beach surfing

Enjoy fun, friendly Atlantic surf in this lovely college town in North Carolina. While the west coast and Hawaii see more consistent swells with longer rides, if you hit Wrightsville when the water’s warm and the surf is up, you’ll have a blast.

Best Season: Fall is the best season for swells, as it’s hurricane season. Winter brings big swells, but the water is cold. Summer is good for beginners because the water is warm and the waves are usually small but fun.

Skill Level: Beginner to advanced, depending on the conditions.

PROS CONS
Less crowded in the off-season Crowded in the summer
Warm water in summer Waves aren’t the most consistent
Rad town  
Easy to get to (20 mins from Wrightsville International Airport)  

Best Places to Surf

Crystal Pier – An approachable beginner spot where you can find rideable waves on any swell. 

C Street – Fun beach break for beginner to advanced surfers, depending on the conditions. When it’s small, take out your longboard. When it’s big, you might score some hollow ones.

Where to Book

Folly Beach, SC

folly beach surfing

This chill surf town is 20 minutes south of Charleston, making Folly Beach an awesome place for a surfing and culture trip. While the west coast and Hawaii see more consistent swells with longer rides, if you hit Folly Beach on a hurricane swell, you won’t be disappointed.  If you are in the Southeast, Folly Beach is one of the best surf beaches in the area.

Best Season: Fall is the best season for swells, as it’s hurricane season. Winter brings big swells, but the water is cold. Summer is good for beginners, but it’s crowded.

Skill Level: Beginner to advanced, depending on the conditions.

PROS CONS
Uncrowded in the off-season Crowded in the summer
Warm water Waves aren’t the most consistent
Beginner-friendly  
Close to Charleston, a rad city   
Easy to get to (35 mins from Charleston International Airport)  

Must-Surf Spots

Folly Beach Pier – Breaks left and right on all swells.

10th Street – Solid beach break. 

The Washout – Considered the best, and also the most crowded, break in Folly Beach.

Where to Book 

  • Carolina Salt Surf Lessons – Take a surf lesson at Folly Beach with Carolina Salt Surf Lessons. Their experienced team of instructors is led by pro surfer and Charleston local, Kyle Busey. Cost: Lessons start at $60.
  • Folly Beach Adventures – Just looking to rent a board? Book one with Folly Beach Adventures. Cost: Boards start at $35/day, $75/week.

New Smyrna Beach, FL

new smyrna beach surfing

New Smyrna Beach may have the most consistent waves in Florida, making it one of the top surf spots in the state. Combine that with warm water, good vibes, and fresh fish, and it’s hard to argue with a trip to NSB.

Best Season: Fall and winter bring the biggest swells, but it’s surfable all year.

Skill Level: Intermediate to expert, depending on the conditions.

PROS CONS
Consistent surf  Crowded
Warm water Cars on the beach
Also great for kayaking & SUP Localism
  Sharks

Must-Surf Spots

New Smyrna Beach Inlet – With fun, consistent, and sizable waves for Florida, the Inlet is arguably the best surf spot in the state. But this place can be a bit intimidating for beginners and outsiders, as there are locals out here who try to run the scene. 

Ponce Inlet – For slightly slimmer crowds, and slightly smaller waves, head to Ponce. The waves here are fun, consistent and beginner-to-intermediate friendly. A big swell can make it super fun for the most experienced surfers, too. 

Where to Book

  • Drake Hickman Surfing School – Looking for a lesson? Book one with Drake Hickman Surfing School. Cost: Group lessons starting at $45.  Surfboard rentals by the day or week starting at $25/day.

Our top 10 surf towns across the US should be on your list. We would love to hear your favorite surf spot in the comments below!

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