World’s Top 10 surfing destinations: The alternative list

Lead image of Maui surf. Pic: Pic: Dane Siestas (Flickr CC)

We recently posted our non-definitive, but still well researched list of the Top 10 surfing destinations in the world, which included such luminaries as Bali’s Bukit Peninsula, Australia’s Gold Coast, Malibu in California and that jewel of southern Europe — Ericeira, Portugal. Yet there were other places that “should” have been in the list, but for one reason or another were not included. Perhaps we left them out for the purpose of variety, or because they were too exclusive, remote or dangerous. Whatever the reason, the omission of these great destinations made us want to create an alternative list made up of other, alternative Top 10 surfing destinations.

Again, in no particular order…

1. Maui, Hawaii, USA

Though there are many incredible surfing destinations around the world, any legitimate list of top 10 surfing destinations would immediately be suspect without including at least one place in Hawaii among its ranks. This is, after all, where it all began. Though an entire island, most of Maui’s breaks are located on the west and northwest coasts, with many in very close proximity to one another. There are actually too many to mention, but big wave spot Jaws, world-class Honolua, along with Woody’s, Hot Sands and Rainbows each deserve a nod. For something more accessible to intermediates, Paia is Maui’s arty, family friendly surf town that isn’t bustling with tourists.

2. Byron Bay, Australia

A mellow town popular with international transients, this legendary surfie hangout boasts 70 km (43 mi) of sandy beach. It’s also a chock full of natural beauty. Despite Byron Bay’s popularity and cultural appeal, beginners should be careful not to take on waves that are out of their league. Notable spots include the Wreck (named for the sunken ship that creates the break), Belongil Beach, The Pass, Clarkes Beach, Wategoes, Suffolk Park and Tallow Beach. Byron Bay is best surfed from June to September.

3. Costa Rica (north Pacific coast)

The coast of the province of Guanacaste is home to some of the most consistent surf you’ll ever encounter. Year-round surfing is also a distinct advantage. The centre of surfing activity is Playa Grande and its noisier neighbour, Tamarindo, with spots like Playa Negra, Naranjo and Nosara each providing their own charms. Costa Rica in general is perhaps the most respected surfing destination in Central America and boasts incredible natural wealth and biodiversity. The north Pacific coast, while a popular destination, also has the perk of having a relatively low permanent population.

4. Ilha de Santa Catarina, Brazil

Brazil’s surfing paradise and home to the vibrant city of Florianópolis, this picturesque island off the southeast coast is known for its abundant beach resorts and consistently good waves. Santa Catarina’s 7490 km (4,655 mi) of coastline and 42 beaches supply a variety of waves and atmospheres, but do note that SC is extremely popular with young Brazilians and in addition to being a surf centre, is known as a huge party destination. Top spots around “Floripa” as Florianopolis is known, include Mocambique, Santinho, Joaquina Beach (for high-level surfers), Barra Da Lagoa (for novices), Campeche, Praia Mole, and Lagoinha do Leste.

Santa Catarina. Pic: Federico Racchi (Flickr CC)

Santa Catarina. Pic: Federico Racchi (Flickr CC)

5. Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain

The second largest of the Canary Islands, this southern outpost of the Kingdom of Spain attracts surfers and holiday-goers with its pleasant weather, wide beach and top surfing conditions. Sometimes referred to as the “Hawaii of the Atlantic”, Fuerteventura is warm year-round with the best surfing from October to March, though April to August offer smaller waves more suitable for beginners. The Bubble is the island’s famed expert right-hand tube and the locals guard it aggressively, but there are plenty of breaks to choose from for all levels of surfers. These include Los Lobos, Rocky Point, Generrosa, El Hierro, Mejillonas, Harbour Wall, Cotillo, Esquinzo, German Rights and Shooting Gallery.

6. Barbados

Rihanna isn’t the only Barbadian attraction— it’s got some of the Atlantic’s best barrels. The Soup Bowl is a beautiful tube that draws international surfers like all-time great Kelly Slater, while Surfer’s Point, located on the southern tip of the island, offers both left and right peaks suitable for beginners and intermediates. Further advantages of this Caribbean gem are its clear, warm water and small crowds even when the surf’s up.

7. Tavarua Island, Fiji

A quintessential island paradise, Fiji’s Tavura Island is known as the “heart-shaped resort” and is a vacationer’s dream. With 7 principal surf breaks — Cloudbreak, Restaurants, Tavarua Rights, Swimming Pools, Namotu Left, Wilkes Pass, Desperations and Kiddieland — such a small place offers plenty of variety. Kiddieland, as the name suggests, is where you should head if you’re just starting out, while the world-famous Cloudbreak is a haven for big wave daredevils, offering up 10-metre (50-ft) swells. Tavura Island is surrounded by a coral reef so it also offers excellent opportunities for scuba diving and snorkelling.

Fiji. Pic: Bruno Ahlgrimm (Flickr CC)

Fiji. Pic: Bruno Ahlgrimm (Flickr CC)

8. Teahupo’o, Tahiti

Another Pacific island paradise, this village on the island of Tahiti in French Polynesia was made for surfing. Teahupo’o is known in the surfing world as the “heaviest left”, boasting epic barrels that attract expert surfers from far and wide. Because of this it has been a mainstay of the ASP World Championship Tour for years. Though truly something to behold, Teahupo’s amazing hollow-breaking waves are best left to the pros and experts.

9. Biarritz, France

A resort town for around 150 years and the birthplace of the French surf scene — and perhaps European surfing in general — Biarritz is a great place to combine surfing with an old school luxury holiday. Surf, dine, sip fine wine and soak up the sun. La Grande Plage in the centre of town has great waves, but can get crowded, especially during holiday season. For a bit more space and variety, head toward some of the area’s other top spots like La Côtes des Basques, Anglet, and Guethary. The best months for surfing in Biarritz are September to November, though the big north Atlantic swells are present all year long.

Biarritz. Pic: Pierre Rennes (Flickr CC)

Biarritz. Pic: Pierre Rennes (Flickr CC)

10. Taghazout, Morocco

Taghazout is North Africa’s answer to California because its waves and water are like SoCal, though that’s where the similarity ends. French, Spanish, local Moroccans and Berbers all enjoy the splendid surf, which includes some of the best point breaks in the world. Beginners also have tamer spots to choose from, namely Panoramas and Crocodiles. But if you’re looking for powerful, well-formed waves, head to Anchor Point and Killer Point. Surfing is good all year round, but the bigger waves come in September through April. A small fishing village, Taghazout doesn’t draw big crowds and has the advantage of being inexpensive compared to many destinations. If you’ve time, why not also visit the ancient cities of Essaouira, and Marrakesh?

That wraps up our alternative World’s top 10 surfing destinations. I hope we’ve made some good choices and even helped out a bit. If you don’t agree with them, make your own damn list!

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