The Top 11 Best Places to Surf in Hawaii for Beginners

Hawaii has long been called a paradise, even before it became part of the United States in the late 1950s. With stunning beaches, fragrant island flora, and friendly locals, it is not hard to see why the islands that make up Hawaii have become such a go-to for travelers worldwide. 

There are things that can help you be safe when surfing as a beginner. Getting a friend to teach you a thing or two on land is very helpful, and then it is best to start small as far as waves go. Where to go is just as important as what to do, so read on to discover a list of some excellent surfing spots in Hawaii that are ideal for beginners.

Thousand Peaks

Thousand Peaks on the island of Maui is well-known for the year-round breaks it provides to surfers. Beginner surfers are encouraged to visit in the summer, or late spring to early fall, as winter waves, in general, are known to be larger and more dramatic. Typically, the breaks on this beach tend to be very beginner-friendly.

Although beginning your surfing journey is much safer when the surf is low, the biggest waves on this beach are pretty easy to navigate, and the breaks are clean. Most waves are very easy to read, too, perfect for starters. The best part about Thousand Peaks is that it pretty regularly boasts waves of all sizes, and reformed waves are common. 

This area is not usually overcrowded, which is nice for newbies, as this provides plenty of room for you to learn from any mistakes. Plus, less of a crowd means less of an audience for the inevitable wipeouts that come when you are in new territory. Fewer people in the water also makes the area less competitive overall, so you can feel safe.

The main downside is that you may have to paddle out a little farther here than on other shores, but seasoned surfers say that the long rides you can get on Thousand Peaks make it all worth it. Even if your novice arm muscles hurt at the end of the day from all that paddling out to waves, you will still have had plenty of opportunities to ride.

Castles

Castles on Oahu, or known to locals as the windward side of Malaekahana, is another beach with easily accessible waves for rookies. Much like Thousand Breaks beach, the best times to visit this area for surfing are in the fall and spring. 

Castles is a very popular beginner spot, but that is for better or for worse. If nothing else, you can be assured that this is an excellent surfing location for new riders learning the basics. Unfortunately, you will know this because every beginner and their family will also probably be in the water.

On the upside, Castles is an excellent place for you to train, take classes, and learn the ropes of surfing. The nice, sandy bottom can make inevitable wipeouts a little more gentle. Ideally, you can take your time learning how to fall correctly without doing too much damage to yourself or your board, so you are ready for the big waves someday.

The downside to this being such a well-known beginner spot is that the beach will probably be pretty crowded, and you might have to fight to get a wave! This should not matter too much, though, at least in the beginning. You will start your surfing journey on land, learning how to sit, lay, and stand on your board correctly so you can balance.

"Pops" or Populars

This beach has its description right in the name. Located in Waikiki on the south shore of Oahu, this surfing spot is popular because it gives great waves year-round. Waikiki is actually where it is rumored that surfing originated. The crowd, albeit large during peak season, is usually super chill and friendly, mostly made up of:

  • Locals
  • Families
  • Older folks

Pops has soft and surfable waves for all skill levels, so this is a great place for the whole family to go. It is also a great beach to go to for learning how to surf as you can sit on the beach and really study the more intermediate and expert surfers and how they are riding the waves. So much of surfing is watching, as well as trial and error.

Seasoned surfers will always recommend observing those already out on the water from the shore for a little bit before you go paddling out. Not only can you learn a lot from this, but you can also see how difficult the waves are, what they are doing, and how to react. Nature needs to be respected, and a little fear can be healthy.

The waves on this beach are soft and small, perfect for new learners, and they rarely get larger than waist or shoulder height. This shore has something for everyone, and these forgiving waves can sometimes offer a good, almost endless ride under the right conditions. A good day surfing on Waikiki is not hard to come by.

Queens and Canoes

Surfing is a famous island pastime for Hawaii locals, especially on the island of Oahu. It has been described as an almost spiritual experience, which intrigues many tourists who come from all over to attempt this difficult sport. When not done correctly, surfing can be dangerous, but locals say the perfect "barrel wave" high is worth the risk.

Another ideal surfing beach on the surfing capital of Oahu is called Queens and Canoes. It is pretty easy to both stay safe and get that perfect wave on this section of Waikiki. 

This area is a beginner's wonderland, with excellent beach access, willing rental places, and lots of non-judgemental skill levels in the water. This area breaks year-round, which makes it one of the more popular beaches in the area. 

As there will definitely be lots of other new surfers in the water also trying to master the art of the fall and the perfect finish, it is a good idea to pay attention to others in the water and practice controlling your board.

Barbers Point

Barbers Point in Oahu is yet another popular beginner spot, although it is not quite as busy as Waikiki. This area tends to get busy from the many snorkel, surfboard, and bodyboard rentals nearby. If you are not overly concerned with rubbing shoulders with a few strangers for a decent ride, then Barbers Point is going to be an ideal beginner spot.

Humans are not the only beachgoers that tend to populate Barbers Point. This area is famous for monk seals sunbathing on the shore. They are super fun to see and snap pictures of. Sharks have also been known to occupy this area, and surfers should always be aware and make sure their feet are constantly moving in the water.

The waves on Barbers Point are not overly aggressive, and more experienced surfers will still refer to this break as a beginner-friendly ride. Shallow waters and a nearby reef are excellent for snorkelers but provide small and gentle waves for new surfing students as well.

Because this beach can be more crowded than most, it is very important for surfers to be not only aware of their surroundings but also be able to control their own board. If a beginning surfer is too new to the sport to be able to control their board, they might need to consider a less busy area to keep everyone safe.

Breakwall

Breakwall is located on West Maui and is known to be an ideal surfing locale for all experience levels. Those familiar with this beach say that you can find a rideable wave pretty much every day out of the year. These waves come in great shapes, making this spot a local favorite.

Because Breakwall really is "all that and a bag of chips." It is not uncommon to find a crowd there. For the most part, the crowd is made up of other new surfers, and beginners rarely are seen fighting over who gets to surf a wave, so the waters are not overly competitive. 

Being a popular spot also means that you have many places to choose from as far as renting your gear goes. Lots of places here will offer newbies a good deal on a surfboard to rent and a wetsuit to try, which is less for you to pack in and pack out. Absolutely no downside there!

The Cove

The Cove is found in South Maui, and surfers can find the best waves in the summertime. Almost all waves on this beach are soft and gentle, to the point of being almost too soft and gentle!

If a wave is too large, it can intimidate or even harm a newer surfer, but if a wave is too small, it can be impossible to surf, and few people can stand out on their board in the water for very long if nothing is propelling them forward. This is why so many surfers spend their free time chasing that perfect Goldilocks kind of wave. 

With gentle breaks and sand bottoms, The Cove is another place perfect for new surfing students to learn how to fall and wipeout without damaging anything. Another thing students can learn here is how to end their run. In the beginning, novice surfers might want to fall off their board or wipeout as a way to end the ride, but there are better ways:

  • Step back to the tail of your board and pivot to the whitewash to go over and back out. 
  • Ride that wave all the way to the shore. It can be harder than it looks!
  • Take a few steps back and sit down so you can enjoy all your admirers.

The Cove is an excellent spot for new surfers looking to take lessons professionally. Lessons normally focus on core strength exercises and balancing practice. Although formal lessons are not required to attempt to ride, you would do well to at least have the advice and help of a more seasoned surfer to give you tips and pointers.

Pua'ena Point

This beach, located on the northern shore of Oahu, is known for looking more like a lake in the spring and summer when smaller waves are occurring most frequently. Winter surfing is the best time to get out on the waves at Pua'ena Point. Surfing is really only possible in the winter when the formerly small waves turn into massive breaks. 

The best part about these winter waves is how frequently they can reform up to five times per wave! Reforming waves are waves that die down once they hit deeper water and then break once or multiple times. More reforming waves means more chances to surf for everyone and the potential to have longer, better rides. 

This beach has pretty mixed reviews. Some beginner surfers do not feel comfortable riding these huge waves as they can look super intimidating and extremely dangerous. Other sources have said that this location, in spite of the larger waves, is safe for beginners to learn where their limits lie and how to push those limits safely.

The most important thing to remember with this surfing spot is that the farther out you paddle, the bigger and stronger the waves are. As a novice surfer, it is not a good idea to surf recklessly. Pushing limits is one thing, but being irresponsible is another. Surfing safely should always be the main focus.

Lemon Drops

It may surprise you to know that the state of Hawaii is the most isolated chain of islands in the entire world! Most people live on six of the major islands, but there are a total of over 132 islands. The six bigger and more populated islands are:

  • Kauai
  • Oahu
  • Molokai
  • Lanai
  • Maui
  • Hawaii

Because Hawaii is a series of islands, they can get swells from all directions, making these islands one of the best places in the world to surf. Lemon Drops beach is found on the southern shore of Kauai and is one of the most friendly local spots in all the islands of Hawaii. The best time to visit Lemon Drops is in the summer.

Lemon Drops is known around the area as being a primarily "beginners only" spot. Because of the friendly and non-judgemental crowd and the soft waves, this stop is another perfect place for beginners to hone their skills and practice the uglier side of surfing, like falling and wiping out safely.

Aside from being a great spot for surfing novices to practice the basics, Lemon Drops is just a great beach overall. The beach is rarely crowded, so you can feel free to bring the whole family as you are getting your surfing lessons in. While the students are learning, those who are less interested in the surf can relax and enjoy the warm water.

Pine Trees

Pine Trees beach is found on the island of Kauai and is so named for the beautiful and enormous ironwood trees surrounding and lining the sand. This beach is another that features sandy bottoms, perfect for beginners learning to surf and fall off their boards safely. It is recommended for beginners to only surf Pine Trees from October to March.

This is another great winter spot for surfers where beginners are welcome, though cautioned to be aware of particularly large swells that can happen in peak conditions. This goes back to the excellent advice given prior that when surfing, you should always take time to first:

  • Sit for a moment on the beach
  • Wax up your board before going out
  • Survey weather conditions and other surfers in the water

The best waves for beginners to seek out should not go too far above their waist or chest. Although these waves do not seem to be large enough to surf, experts say that this size of wave will still be able to propel you forward but will not get you into too much trouble if you were to fall off your board unexpectedly.

Pine Trees beach has these perfectly sized waves most of the season. The best part about Pine Trees beach is that the water breaks typically in shoulder-deep or even more shallow water. These small waves and shallow water make for ideal conditions for the less experienced surfer.

Middles 

Surfing is an especially beautiful sport as it works all the muscles in your body while connecting you to the largest and oldest part of the world: the ocean. When you have those muscles more developed, you might head out to Middles on the island of Maui. 

This area is a bit more advanced than some of the other beginner locations, but it is still a great place to grow your surfing skills. It is recommended for beginners to limit their adventures to Middles on the north shore when you come to surf in the summer. 

It is also a good idea to get a friend to go with you when you surf, especially if it is a friend that is more experienced or knows the area well. Lessons are offered in this area, and they can really help you boost your skills quickly, but nothing beats putting in the time and the effort to master this art.

Surfing is an especially artistic sport and is one of the more difficult, not to mention addictive hobbies. As long as you have access to the water, a board, and have a relatively endless amount of patience and humility, there is little stopping you from trying! Make sure to layer up on the sunscreen and give surfing here a go.

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