7 best beaches around the world for learning to surf

There are two main types of beach vacations: The kind where you lie on the beach and wade in and out of the water when you need to cool off, and the kind where you take the opportunity to become one with the water, and test your skills and pump your adrenaline through sports like scuba and surfing. When it comes to surfing, you can get that vacation and cruise the waves in countless destinations across the globe, whether you’re a newbie just learning how to maintain your balance or an experienced surfer looking for epic swells. Here are seven expert favorites:

Outer Banks, North Carolina

The Outer Banks is an approximately 200-mile-long stretch of islands off the coast of North Carolina, and it comes with waves for surfers of all abilities. “You’ll find everything from beginner to advanced, depending on the time of year [and] hurricane swells that frequent in the fall,” said Erin Swain, an avid east coast surfer and master sommelier, self-dubbed the Surfing Som, noting that summer is popular for beginner surfing in warm water. Plus, she added, “there are tons of amazing restaurants; and it’s...where the [Wright brothers] took their first flight, so there is a memorial and museum worth checking out.”

And if you need a break from traditional surfing but still want to be in the water, “kite-surfing [in the Outer Banks] is world class due to the winds,” Swain said.

The Algarve, Portugal

“The Algarve in the south of Portugal is a fantastic destinations for surfers of all levels, but particularly beginner surfers,” said James Cave, a travel blogger at Portugalist. “It gets more than 300 days of sunshine per year, and there are good waves for almost all of those 365 days as well. The winter period, in particular, is a great time to come and learn to surf in the Algarve. The weather is still warm, and accommodation and surf lesson prices are a fraction of what they are in the summer months.”

Portugal’s southernmost region, consists of several coastal cities worth visiting; Cave recommends both Lagos and Sagres for a fun surf vacation. “Both have plenty of hostels and accommodation, and there’s a great surfer social scene in both of the towns too,” he said. “When you’re not in the water, you’ll be in the western part of the Algarve: a part of Portugal that’s relatively unspoiled by tourism and, as well as surfing, is known for its scenic coastal hiking trails.”

The Algarve, Portugal
Source: Pawel Kazmierczak/Shutterstock

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

“Costa Rica’s main surf town has amazing beginner beach break waves and incredible advanced river-mouth waves [a close] distance from almost every [accommodation],” said Ryland King, founder of Surf Trip List. “The best place to stay is at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp, and make sure to ask about the zipline canopy tours for when you’re not surfing.”

If you want to stay somewhere a bit removed from Tamarindo’s hustle-and-bustle, both Sueño del Mar and Cala Luna (a picturesque bed-and-breakfast and a chic, eco-conscious boutique hotel, respectively) offer a peaceful respite just a five-minute drive — or slightly longer walk — from the action.

Tofino, Canada

Canada may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of catching a wave, but the Vancouver Island district of Tofino “is home to a surfer’s paradise called Chesterman Beach,” said Caroline King, a Canada travel designer at Vivid Travel. “This coast has often been described as like surfing in the Twilight movies because of the stunning forests filled with pine trees and rocky terrain. From June to August you can catch fantastic waves in this hidden gem of a location, and afterwards you can always grab some fish tacos at Tacofino, the taco truck parked on the beach.”

Tofino, Canada
Source: Caron Palmer/Shutterstock

Kuta and Bali, Indonesia

King also recommends surfers head to Kuta, a village in South Lombok, Indonesia with “mellow rolling waves.” She added, “conditions like these are great for beginners, or for anyone wanting a chilled-out session. These beaches tend to be quiet along the south coast, and you can easily hire a scooter and explore the blue lagoons, sandy coves and lush vegetation, to find the perfect spot for surfing.”

You can also find surfing bliss in what is arguably Indonesia’s most popular vacation destination, Bali. “The waves in this area are so perfect they’re almost mechanical,” said Jasmine Martin, a contributing author at FinBin. “The landscape is exquisite, offering up the most postcard-esque tropical environment you can think of. Though Bali is not typically the best place for beginner to novice surfers, more advanced surfers can experience the waves of their [lives]. The coral reef offers fast, big, perfect barreling waves; and they are consistent and usually very clean.”

Cocoa Beach, Florida

Cocoa Beach is known by many as the East Coast surf capital, and for good reason, according to Maria Potehina, the blogger behind Call It Adventure. “Florida is known for having beautiful weather all year round, and...Cocoa Beach, with warm water temperatures and numerous surf schools is an excellent place for beginners,” she said. “The waves are easy to ride, the warm water makes the learning process fun and experienced instructors...will help anyone conquer the surfboard. Besides all of that, Cocoa Beach is a great resort city with tons of restaurants, hotels, and attractions such as [Florida] Surf Museum or Cocoa Beach Pier, where everyone can find fun things to do after a nice surfboarding session.”

Puerto Escondido, Mexico

There’s no lack of surf-friendly beaches in Mexico, but Dane Faurschou, the travel blogger behind Holiday From Where, is partial to Puerto Escondido, located on the country’s pacific coast in the state of Oaxaca. The “beautiful little town [is] home to one of the most famous waves on the planet that regularly plays host to the world’s most famous surfers,” Faurschou said. “If you don’t think you’re quite at the level to rub shoulders with surfing’s elites, there [are] several other spots that are perfect for everyone. ...Just 15 minutes south in a sleepy little surf town, [La Punta], there is a perfect left-hand point that gets incredibly fun and is great for learning. The area has the typical laid back surf town vibe going on with a multitude of places...offering morning yoga, organic meals and all types of smoothies for a post surf refreshment.”

Puerto Escondido, Mexico
Source: Alyssa Gunn/Shutterstock