The 5 Best Beaches for Learning to Surf

The 5 Best Beaches for Learning to Surf

Written by Katie Coakley on

Katie Coakley is a Colorado-based freelance writer who writes about travel, craft beer, and outdoor adventures. The Coronavirus may have kept her state-side but she’s still traveling safely. See more of her work on her website or follow her on Instagram @katie_on_the_map.

The 5 Best Beaches for Learning to Surf

The 5 Best Beaches for Learning to Surf

While there are plenty of ways to enjoy the beach, there’s nothing quite like paddling out to catch a wave. If you are just learning how to surf, head to these beaches for the best beginner waves.

It was one perfect moment of bliss: My heart was pounding, my knees were a bit shaky, and I was slightly terrified that it was all going to come crashing down around me—but then the stars aligned. At that moment, everything came together in a heart-stopping, fist-pumping experience that seemed to last forever (even though, in all likelihood, it was about 10 seconds).

I was in love.

Not with one of the shaggy haired, boardshorts-wearing boys that were scattered on the beach (that would come later). No, I was in love with surfing.

Surfing is on many people’s adventure travel bucket list, and for good reason: It’s a rush and a completely unique way of enjoying the water. However, picking the right place to learn makes all the difference. In addition to small, manageable waves, you also want a fairly long beach that will give you time to get up on the board, and excellent teachers. If your vacation dreams include catching the perfect wave, pack your bag with everything you need for a surf adventure and head to one of these five beaches that are great for budding surfers.

Sayulita, Mexico

The first time that I awkwardly stood up on a surfboard was in Sayulita, Mexico. This town on the Pacific side of Mexico just north of Puerto Vallarta is a great place to learn: The waves are small, the teachers are super patient, and there are several beach bars with frosty beers waiting for you when you’re spent. The crowds have found Sayulita (I blame Bachelor in Paradise), but if you go in off-season or sign up for a surf camp, you’ll have a chance to sample these sweet waves for yourself.

Waikiki, Hawaii

Yes, Hawaii is known for some pretty serious waves, but you don’t have to start your surfing journey with the pros. Instead, head to Waikiki, a lovely area on the protected, south side of Oahu. Here, you’ll find plenty of waves that are perfect for beginners. As the birthplace of modern surfing, you’ll find options for lessons and rentals which will make cruising the main breaks of Queens and Canoes with their long, forgiving waves, a piece of vacation cake.

Byron Bay, Australia

I only had two days in Byron Bay, Australia, but I knew that spending at least a few hours on a surfboard was a must. Byron Bay is one of the most popular surf spots in Australia, and features a wide variety of different breaks for suffers at all levels. I’m always a fan of lessons—I’m guaranteed to learn something new and there’s no better way to find the best breaks than from the people who surf them all the time. Our instructor took us to The Pass, a great beginners’ point-break wave. Not only did the wave break slowly, but the run out was super long, making it easier to stand up to enjoy the ride.

Kuta Beach, Bali

There are plenty of expert waves in Bali, but there are also places that are suitable to beginners, too, such as the shallow waters of Kuta Beach. More than five-miles long, Kuta Beach is separated in three main areas (Kuta Beach, Legian Beach ,and Seminyak Beach), so there are plenty of different spots to choose from. With smaller waves and a sandy bottom, it’s a great place to perfect your paddling and get up on the board.

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known for its multitude of surf spots for all levels of surfers. Though there are several beaches with gentle waves, Playa Tamarindo is one of the most popular. Yes, there will be crowds, but the beach is big enough to share and there are plenty of rental shops and surf schools here. The sandy bottom makes the occasional fall bearable and the vibe of the town will make you feel like a you’re a pro in no time.

Wherever you travel on your first surfing adventure, keep these tips in mind:

  • Give yourself a break. Surfing is unlike any other sport, so go easy on yourself if it takes a while to pick up. It can take a lot of paddling to find the perfect wave, so just relax and go with the flow.
  • Be one with the sand. Everything you own is going to be sandy (and most likely damp). Packing cubes are a great way to keep the sand at bay and protect your dry clothes from your wet ones.
  • Surfing is social. Yes, you’ll be tired after a day on the board, but don’t turn in for the night just yet. Bring a small, water repellent bag with some dry clothes, wet wipes, aloe (surfer burn is real!), and lip balm so you can do a quick change before meeting your new friends out to relive your surfing glory.

Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):

Surf Trip Packing List: What to Pack to Ride the Waves

The Best Winter Surf Escapes

What to Do in Bali: 5 Can’t-Miss Adventures