I don’t travel the world in search of the perfect wave, but after living in Florida, Oahu, Maui and San Diego, I have surfed my fair share of breaks. I decided to list my favorite spots in order. Keeping in mind, my style of wave isn’t huge, powerful and gnarly. You won’t find Pipeline or Jaws on this list. I like clean, chest to head high rights — with preferably no crowd.
1. Honolua Bay – Maui
The best wave in the world as far as I’m concerned. It’s a clean, right hand wave that can go forever. And it’s surrounded by the most beautiful environment you can imagine. When it gets big, it gets crowded, but during the summer on a chest high day you can still manage to have this incredible spot all to yourself. Those are my kinda days.
- Pros: A perfect right wave. Beautiful setting. Not easily accessed. Can find empty on small days.
- Cons: Can get crowded and dangerous on big days. Those days can bring out some angry locals.
2. “Pops” or Populars – Oahu
I was a townie. The big, powerful North Shore waves were too much for me. Pops is a Waikiki break, but the looooong paddle out there deterred most tourists and surfers. So, despite the name, it’s not terribly popular. Once you finally got there, it was pure fun, and usually double the size of Canoes and Queens (the insanely crowded Waikiki breaks). It’s the only place I ever surfed at night (late night), and probably my most memorable session.
- Pros: Super fun right or left wave. Always larger than inner Waikiki breaks. Very forgiving. Great for longboards or short boards.
- Cons: Very long paddle out. Usually a small crowd.
3. Diamond Head – Oahu
Diamond Head usually serves up the biggest waves on the South Shore, and it usually comes with a whole lot of wind. Despite the often choppy conditions, I love surfing Diamond Head. It’s a beautiful little hike down, and there’s almost always waves all year round.
- Pros: A short drive from Waikiki, but hidden from tourists. Usually the biggest surf on the South Shore. Lots of breaks, making it possible to find uncrowded peaks.
- Cons: Often windy and choppy. Usually relatively crowded.
4. Hot Sands – Maui
My “go to” spot in Lahaina. It was a short 3 minute drive down the hill, and then a 5-10 minute walk along the beach through the community of Puamana. Don’t park in Puamana, it’s gated and they’re really strict about surfers parking in their community. Another clean, right handed break. Hot sands is a very short and easy paddle, and usually uncrowded. I’ve had countless fun days surfing a longboard at Hot Sands with only a few regulars in the water.
- Pros: Really short paddle out. Super fun right longboard wave. Usually only a few people out on the weekdays.
- Cons: A long walk along the beach to the spot. Supposedly somebody spotted a shark while I was surfing here, I still think it was a dolphin. I’ve encountered some unfriendly locals here — luckily their aggression hasn’t been directed towards me.
5. Tonggs – Oahu
When Diamond Head was too blown out and windy to surf, Tongs was just around the corner — sheltered from the wind. It’s probably the only left, goofy foot wave on my list. Despite it’s close proximity to Waikiki, it’s somewhat hidden access in a small neighborhood near Kapiolani Park kept it from becoming too crowded. I did have my bike stolen while surfing this spot with a friend. It was later found by the cops and returned — looking like a piece of crap, but it wasn’t an expensive bike to begin with. This is completely off topic, but don’t buy an expensive bike on Oahu if you plan to chain it to palm trees.
- Pros: Usually clean and sheltered from the wind. Fun left that works well for longboards and short boards. Mellow crowd.
- Cons: I had my bike stolen that was chained to a palm tree while surfing this spot. Occasionally crowded.
6. Rainbows – Maui
When Honolua was too big for my taste, Rainbows was the place to go. When first moving to Maui, it was my most frequented break. With more power than the south shore spots, but less power than the north shore, Rainbows was great for a shortboard or longboard. Luckily, when Rainbows was breaking, most people forgot about this awesome spot and were surfing further up north.
- Pros: Super fun short board wave. Mostly a right, but has a closing out left. I had the spot all to myself countless times. Usually a fun crowd, if any.
- Cons: Really shallow reef at low tide. I was attacked by a little fish here (like 5 inches) — jumped out of the water and latched its teeth on to my back. It was more funny than anything. I have seen the spot crowded a few rare times when it was bigger.
7. Woody’s – Maui
If this spot broke more often it would have ranked higher on my list. Located between Launiupoko and Guardrails on the west side of Maui, Woody’s needs a sizable South swell to start breaking. When it does, it’s a long, forgiving, chest to head-high plus wave that is super fun. It breaks right and left, but the left is more popular since the right (eventually) closes out and pitches a little more. There is a crowd of regulars that shows up when this spot breaks, but they’re all friendly and fun to surf with.
- Pros: Super fun right or left wave perfect for longboarders. Long rides. Fun drops. Friendly crowd. Easy paddle out.
- Cons: Doesn’t break often.
8. Canoes and Queens – Oahu
Chaos. This isn’t the place to go for a great time of actual “surfing.” It’s a great place to go surfing with friends and watch pure insanity ensue. Despite everything so wrong about these well known Waikiki breaks, it can be a blast. You have to surf these spots in the right mindset. If you’re looking for a wave to yourself, don’t go here. This is party wave central. Surfers of every skill level and attitude pollute these waters. It is actually a great wave, but you’ll never have it to yourself. The closest I had was surfing a large south swell during a rain storm, and there were still a number of people in the water.
- Pros: Loads of entertainment. After being lucky enough to catch a few waves and not get run over by a kook or punched by a local, you can grab a drink at Dukes and watch the chaos from shore.
- Cons: Just about everything except sharks, they’re too scared to enter these waters. I’ve seen people punched in the water, chased to shore, verbally assaulted (constantly, and I’ve been on both ends), collisions (about every second), broken boards (including my own), bloody wounds, people hit by canoes, snorkelers and inner tubes mixed in the lineup, the list goes on and on. It’s also what makes this place so great — sometimes.
9. Bird Rock – La Jolla, CA
So far, this is one of the few spots I’ve found in La Jolla that is comparable to the types of waves I like to surf in Hawaii. It’s a fun, long right that’s usually uncrowded on the weekdays.
- Pros: Long right wave. Great for a longboard or short board. Starts breaking well at about 4 feet. Small weekday crowds.
- Cons: Cold water. Long paddle. Kelp beds.
10. Playa Linda – Titusville, FL
Most surf spots in Florida are shark infested with sloppy mushburger waves. On rare occasions throughout the year, with a hurricane in the Atlantic, offshore winds and Mercury in retrograde, the surf can become epic. During those times, Floridians would argue the best spots are Sebastian Inlet and New Smyrna. I beg to differ. Playalinda goes largely unsurfed because it has a reputation as a nude beach, and the town is mostly known for its one attraction, NASA. Now that NASA is kaput, Titusville should advertise its other export before becoming a ghost town. The waves are usually bigger and better than anywhere else along the east coast during a good swell.
I’ve had many a fun day surfing here in college. I’ve surfed this spot in every condition imaginable. While it’s certainly not the best wave in the world, it’s the closest thing I have to a home break. My cousin Travis brought me here for the first time, and I surfed this spot with many friends and family. One of my favorite surf days took place here, on what would have appeared to be a flat day. There was some freak sand bar just off-shore, and a fast breaking, hard pitching, super consistent chest high barrel had formed. My cousin Todd and I surfed this phantom break all day until we had noodle arms and couldn’t handle getting pounded in to the shore anymore. Try as we might to find it, I’m sure this spot will never appear again.
- Pros: Nostalgia. Sometimes great, sometimes unique.
- Cons: Often choppy and mushy like most of Florida. Sharks, alligators (yup) and jellyfish.
Some honorable mentions where I’ve had incredibly fun, memorable days of surf:
- DT Flemings – Maui
- Ho’okipa – Maui
- Publics – Oahu
- Threes – Oahu
- Windansea – La Jolla, CA
- Tourmaline – Pacific Beach, CA
- Unknown Name – Maui (Between Launiupoko and Woody’s)
- The Harbor – Maui
- Ironwoods (Shit Falls) – Maui (For bodyboarding, not surfing)
- 2nd Light – Satellite Beach, FL
- Scripps Pier – La Jolla, CA
I appreciate you sharing this blog post.Thanks Again. Want more.
Sydney local here..just surfed Pops today after spending the past week battling the epic crowds @ canoes & queens…you’re right about the paddle…it’s looong but well worth it for some super fun waves
Brilliant, you have all my favorites listed here and few surf spots I didn’t know about yet. Hopefully one day I’ll get a chance to visit them all.
I just stumbled on to your post looking for surf spots in hawaii while I’m there in september.
I remember about 5 years ago stalking muku while still at university, trying to explain that I wanted to work somewhere like this to my tutor, who in turn told me I was insane and couldnt design near the beach. I didnt listen to her. Ah, it’s all bringing back nostalgia!
That’s awesome! Glad to hear we were being stalked 😉
Hit me up when you’re on island and we can grab some coffee and go surfing.
I like your site and design style. My wife is in the wedding industry as well — a photographer.
You’re not supposed to list your favorite spots on the web. Thanks for the Aloha though. It used to be surfers were friendly to each other before localism reared it’s ugly head. It’s refreshing every time Aloha surfaces amongst the plauge of localism. Aloha, and keep on spreading the spirit.
Thanks for the feedback Rich!
Localism sucks, but I think respect goes a long way. I don’t encounter much localism, but then again I don’t like surfing crowded breaks on the weekends. The most localism I’ve seen is at Waikiki.
I think your rule applies to secret spots, and providing maps or detailed directions to those spots (which I would never do). The spots I’ve listed are common knowledge 😉
Maybe localism seems like it sucks but I think it might need more of a comeback. Now that even surf etiquette has been forgotten (or seemingly never even learned by many) and you have people dealing with crowded conditions by dropping in on others, something needs to put this in check. Our surf spots (just about anywhere now) just can’t hold as many people as want to show up and surf at any given time.
Also I agree with Rich that we need less surf spot info on the web: though this is a nice list and very helpful, I would rather not know if it means more enjoyment for the people who choose to make the sacrifices it often takes to live by their spots, as I have done to live next to my own (now) overly crowded spots. It just isn’t a nice thing to do in the long run, even though it is well meaning in its intention to share a love of surfing.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on 10 best surf spots.
My web-site … web site (Latasha)
Your assessment of Queens was spot on. I SUP surfed it today while visiting family, and it was, indeed a circus. I did escape the crowd py paddling to the inside and surfing “Little Queens”, but the rides were pretty short.
you should rename this “my 10 favorite surf spots on maui”
Haha, maybe so. Or create a new post that is all Maui.
As a youngster while I was “flown there not grown there “ as the brahs would say…. I too had my “townie” days for many years and Kaisers was my exclusive and only spot. The loco town vibe at Kaisers was prolly worse than Bowls which was a just paddle over from RockPile InBetweens. Meaning newbies didn’t get no waves and if/when u dropped in U got ur head slapped at a minimum…and told to go in….lol
Was never a problem for me and now I’m an older guy and when we come back to Oahu i still paddle out to Kaisers. Some young angry locals often try start with their “brah what?” stuff but luckily I still have Dennis the beach boy and others that I’ve known from way back when out there so I still get my share of what is for me the best wave on the south shore (love the bowl) !!
Thanks for the posting Bra, I’m going to Maui for the first time with Fam in August and am planning on hitting up the spots you mentioned. I’ve surfed my whole life but haven’t traveled much and made my first trip to Hawaii (Oahu) last summer and had a blast surfing Kaisers every day, which by luck was right in front of the hotel I was staying at… the locals were super cool and friendly. I plan on having an even better trip this summer in Maui. I surf the Huntington Beach area almost every day and know what it’s like to deal with crowds but it’s really all about respect, knowledge and being human. There’s nothing wrong with sharing knowledge which will provide stoke for others. I’m not a rich man so I figure if I’m going on a Vaca, I’m going to be finding somewhere to surf, guaranteed, and you’ve pointed me in the right direction. Take care!
My 10 favorites in general order:
1. Threes, Oahu
2. Two Roads, Indialantic (Florida)
3. Lums, Satellite Beach (Florida) I have no idea what it is now called, if the Lums is gone.
4. Chun’s Reef, Oahu
5. Mana’s break, Windward Oahu, 1/2 mile toward Kaena Point from Makaha (probably destroyed, since it appears that Mana’s Quonset hut home has been replaced by yet another resort.
6. Avalanche, Oahu (with the correct swell)
7. South side of Port Canaveral jetties, particularly while waiting for a launch. I discovered it in ’67 when I spent the night there waiting to see the first launch of the Saturn V. I was standing on the roof of my ’59 Renault Dauphine, when the vibration/sound hit. The roof collapsed under me. Then, the trunk of a Chevy convertible a few feet away popped open, and a couple wrapped in a blanket stood up to watch the launch. I can’t remember the surf that morning, could not have been much.
8. 8th Avenue South, Indialantic, the closest break from my friend Alan Greene’s house. We were roomies in Hawaii; he paddled out about a mile with my board under one foot when I got blasted inside, and was carried out by the rip at Chun’s (see #4 above).
9. North of St. Augustine pier with the correct swell.
10. Sandy Beach, Oahu, where I broke the nose off of my first island board (8’10” Weber mini-gun).
I grew up camping at the south side of the Port Canaveral jetty, waking up praying for surf. 😉
I recently surfed Ft. Pierce Inlet. It’s one of my new favorites. Heavy crowd, but a beautiful wave!
I grew up in Waikiki in the 50’s living near Tonggs, It was a long walk but Ala Moana was my favorite break. (which you didn’t list)
Like you Honolua Bay is number one for me, 1n 1961 two of us had a few days off from UH flew to Maui and had 6 to 8 foot perfect surf with just the two of us out.
What a great list. Obviously Hawaii dominates the rankings. I grew up surfing in the Los Angeles area, and it was not until I started surfing San Diego that I realized how bad the waves were in my home base.
Life is short, and this article saved vauballe time on this Earth.
…just curious: how long of a paddle out is it from shore to Tonggs?
Tonggs is no short paddle. It’s not quite as long as Pops though… I’d say under 10 minutes.
Thanks for sharing! I hope I can enjoy those spots when visiting Maui! I feel happy after reading this lines. Thanks again.
you left out many….trestles, horseshoe,la jolla; blacks beach, hanalei bay, tunnels beach, maalea,maui, newport point,newport beach the wedge,newport beach rincon swamis
Great list, thank you for putting this together as it’s coming in handy on my current Maui trip. Love that you think the water in San Diego is cold! My local break is OB up in San Francisco – that’s a different level of cold – and well, pretty much eveything else. Cheers.
A minute saved is a minute eaednr, and this saved hours!
Surfing ruined my life
Spent the morning trying to get a chance at a wave at Canoes last Sunday all the time eyeing that thin white line out at Pops. Finally I bit the bullet and paddled out. So glad I did, Mahalo for the advice. Curious, what you think of 1000 Peaks? I like that spot.
I’m a old north shore local back to the late 60’s, when I was young I surfed town, kaiser’s, ala moana park, bowl’s etc, waik’s but never did tongss. I want make tongs my go to for my friend and I but don’t know where to launch —– can u paddle from kaimana beach park? Oldy 66 still going, as a matter of fact i’m going doctors this morning,and i’d like to try today. Actually youngsters don’t like seeing me out, don’t know why, I always share, courteous, and don’t bang anyone! Mahalo, old school manners guy!!!