Best Surfing Spots in Oahu
A huge part of the identity of the Hawaiian Islands is surfing. With world-class waves that attract surfers from around the world, there is a multitude of beaches where surfers love to congregate. Oahu is the third largest of all the Hawaiian Islands. Known as ‘The Gathering Place,' it offers an assortment of surfing opportunities that appeal to both beginner and experienced surfers.
The tradition of surfing has been around since the 4th century A.D. when the Hawaiian Islands started seeing travelers from Marquesas and Tahiti. In the early days, the very best beaches and surfboards were reserved for royalty, but by the start of the 20th century, the interest in surfing had waned considerably.
Luckily, the surfing tradition survived and is flourishing in Oahu today. Seasoned surfing veterans most likely have a list of their own best surfing locations in Oahu, but if you are a newcomer to the sport and want the very best experience possible, keep reading to find a spot that works best for you.
North Shore Oahu Surfing Locations
During the winter months, big-wave surfers are drawn to Sunset Beach to ride some of the most impressive waves in the Islands. Sunset Beach is one of three surf breaks where Triple Crown Surfing Content is held, showing just how challenging and exciting the waves can be during winter. The big surf season for Sunset Beach is from October to April, and conditions have a tendency to change quickly during that time. In summer, the water is much calmer and ideal for snorkeling. Sunset beach is located on the Kamehameha Hwy, in Haleiwa.
Waimea Bay is also located in Haleiwa, on Oahu’s North Shore, at the mouth of the Waimea River. In Hawaiian, Waimea means ‘reddish water’ and many long-time surfers still come to Waimea Bay to surf the winter swells when the waves are their biggest and baddest. The annual ‘Eddie Would Go’ surfing contest is held in Waimea Bay, in honor of legendary surfer Eddie Aikau. In summer, the waves flatten out, and more kids and families spend time in Waimea Bay.
In the winter from November to February, the waves at Ehukai Beach can reach more than 30 feet high, making it a paradise for experienced surfers seeking thrills. Ehukai means ‘sea spray’ in Hawaiian and this beach is not only one of the best surfing locations in Oahu, but the entire world. Ehukai Beach is located in Haleiwa, off the Kamehameha Highway.
Haleiwa’s Ali’i Beach
On the North Shore of Oahu is Haleiwa’s Ali’i Beach, located in Haleiwa off Highway 83. This is another daredevil’s dream for surfers, with waves reaching up to 25 feet high during the volatile winter months. There can be dangerous rip tides and currents, so only experienced surfers should give it a try. Things calm down in the summer when the beach is transformed into a haven for families and snorkelers.
Banzai Pipeline (Pipe)
The Banzai Pipeline features some great surfing, although things can get dangerous with a shallow reef and hazardous waves during the winter months. As the winter swells push up onto the reef, you will be treated to some of the most picturesque waves imaginable. The name comes from the surf break, combined with the name of the beach that is facing it. Banzai Pipeline is located off in Haleiwa off Kamehameha Highway in the northern part of Oahu.
South Shore Oahu Surfing Locations
Waikiki Beach & Diamond Head Beach
On the South Shore of Oahu, Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head beach can provide memorable surfing experiences for suffers from all skill levels. Diamond Head Beach is located on the foothills of an extinct volcanic crater called Diamond Head. Waikiki Beach tends to attract a lot of visitors, but Diamond Head Beach is a little more peaceful and sparsely populated. You’ll experience both south and east swells at this point, making it a consistent surfing spot in south Oahu.
Makapu'u Beach is located just southeast of Oahu and is popular for hikes up to the Makapu'u Lighthouse. It is also a great surfing spot, with similar breaks to Sandy Beach Park. The drive to Makapu'u Beach is about one hour from Waikiki on the Kalaniana’ole Highway. There are strong currents that force surfers to be careful, and the area is known for body surfing.
Sandy Beach features some of the finest sand in Oahu, as well as powerful shore breaks that make surfing exciting just about any time of the year. Beginners should be careful of the breaks before venturing out and giving Sandy Beach a try. The beach is situated just beyond the Halona Blowhole, and a 30-minute drive from Waikiki along the Kalaniana’ole Highway.
West Side Oahu Surfing Locations
Makaha Beach Park
Makaha Beach is one of the original breeding grounds of big-wave surfing and is consistently one of the best surfing locations in Oahu. The waves can swell up to 25 feet high in winter, and, in the summer when things calm down, it is one of the more popular dive sites in Oahu. Makaha Beach is located in Makaha, north on Farrington Highway on the island's West Shore. It is on the driest side of Oahu and summers can be quite hot.
On the northwest tip of Oahu is Yokohama Bay, sometimes called Keawa'ula Beach. It is located about an hour and a half from Waikiki. It has an exposed beach break and is good for surfing all year long. Yokohama Bay is rarely crowded and is in one of the most remote areas of Oahu. The waves can get hazardous during the winter from November to February, and beginners should be aware of strong currents and the rocky bottom.
While surfing is almost like a religion to many, you don’t need to be an expert to create memorable surfing experiences in Oahu. There is ample opportunity for people of all skill sets to ride the waves, so remember that the best surfing locations in Oahu have something for everyone.