Best Learn to Surf Destinations Around the World

Wanderlist

A learn-to-surf trip, whether with friends or solo, is a guaranteed good time. Not only will you have fun learning a new skill, but you’ll also get to visit some unbelievable Instagram-worthy destinations. What’s more, surf lessons are a great value for money experience if you’re a backpacker. Given that you get all of your gear provided plus an expert guide to show you the difference between nosediving and hanging ten.

But where are the best learn-to-surf destinations located and what makes them so popular? To answer this, we’ve created a list that features our favorite learn-to-surf beaches and breaks from around the world. From the exotic tropics of Indonesia to the windswept coastlines of North Africa, these are the places you need to visit if you’re serious about wanting to stand up on a surfboard for the first time.

1. Kuta

BALI, INDONESIA

Bali is known as the ‘Island of the gods’ for good reason. With surf spots for all skill levels dotted around its southwest and southeast coast, plus ample opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture, it’s a backpacker’s learn to surf heaven on earth.

Not to mention its cost of living and nightlife won’t leave you wanting.

2. San Juan del Sur

NICARAGUA

Nicaragua has had a bit of a rough trot lately, but that doesn’t change the fact San Juan del Sur on the country’s Pacific coastline is still one of the best learn-to-surf destinations in the world.

Come for the good vibes, tropical weather, and affordable living. Stay for the unforgettable sunsets and quality beginner waves that blow offshore 300 plus days a year.

3. Byron Bay

AUSTRALIA

This hippie-hideout-cum-backpacker hotspot is a magnet for eager learn-to-surfers from all over the world… and for good reason. Located in Australia’s bucolic Northern Rivers region, Byron Bay is the complete package when it comes to surfing destinations.

Enjoy gently peeling waves and a surf scene that echoes Australia’s legendary counterculture of the 60s and 70s.

4. Taghazout

MOROCCO

A favorite destination amongst intrepid surfers looking to evade those brisk European winters, Taghazout is an alluring learn-to-surf mecca located only a couple of short flights south of the Old World on Morocco’s Atlantic coast.

Once a small fishing village, its streets are now lined with cafes, surf shops, surf school providers, and tour guides. All of which cater to backpackers looking for a unique learn-to-surf experience in North Africa.

5. Waikiki

OAHU, HAWAII

Located on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, Waikiki is a veritable learn-to-surf playground that more than lives up to its hype. Expect rolling waves that make learning to surf a breeze and an after-dark scene that rivals some of the world’s most popular nightlife destinations.

In addition to its crystal-clear waters and view from the lineup towards Koʻolau Range that will take your breath away that is.

6. Cape Town

SOUTH AFRICA

Cape Town, and more specifically Muizenberg Beach, is widely considered to be the birthplace of surfing in South Africa. Bohemian with a relaxed atmosphere, its shallow waters are ideal for backpackers who want an authentic learn-to-surf experience only 30 minutes from the country’s capital.

Visit ‘Surfers Corner’ to score a few fun waves or take it slow and do some people-watching on the beachfront.

7. Sayulita

MEXICO

A learn-to-surf adventure wouldn’t be complete without a trip south of the border. And nowhere in Mexico is it easier to grab a board and hit the waves than in Sayulita.

Dripping with boho charm and blessed with plenty of funky bars and galleries to spend some time in, you’ll always have something to do in Sayulita after a long day of riding waves at any one of its friendly beginner beach breaks.

8. Manly Beach

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

Manly Beach has been the go-to beach for backpackers looking to dip their toes into the Sydney surf scene for years. Less crowded than its more famous counterpart over the bridge (Bondi), Manly blends big-city living with a typical Australian beach lifestyle.

The result? An enviable learn-to-surf destination with great waves for beginners and intermediate surfers alike. And when you've exhausted yourself in the water you can always chill out at one of the most instagrammable cafes in Sydney.

9. San Sebastian

SPAIN

A picturesque beachfront promenade, world-famous restaurants, and a thriving learn-to-surf culture make San Sebastián in Spain a not to be missed destination for wave-hungry backpackers.

Hit the bay on a sunny day and perfect your skill with a little help from one of the town’s famously friendly locals. Then, once you’ve worked up an appetite, hit the streets for some traditional tapas-style pinxos.

10. Peniche

PORTUGAL

With its quaint town center and rich maritime history, Peniche offers visitors a glimpse into Portugal’s seafaring past. But the reason why we love it is that it is also a hub for backpackers in Europe who want to learn to surf.

Seriously, there are nearly more surf schools and surf camps here than in the rest of Portugal combined. Rather than feel crowded though, Peniche feels like one big learn-to-surf party. Perfect for beginners who also want to mingle and meet new people while learning to ride the waves.

11. Strandhill

IRELAND

Ireland may not seem like your typical learn-to-surf destination. But when it comes to the beach break of Strandhill, it definitely deserves a mention. Considered to be one of the best beaches to learn to surf in the country, it has also produced some of the nation’s most skilled surfers.

You’ll need a wetsuit to brave the cold no doubt, however, a trip to the chipper and a pint of Ireland’s famous stout to warm up after a session makes it all worth it.

12. Santa Teresa

COSTA RICA

If you want to learn to surf in the tropics then Santa Teresa in Costa Rica may just be the place for you. Situated in the Puntarenas Province, Santa Teresa is a town that draws surfers from all over the world.

Thanks in part to its ridiculously warm waters, consistent waves and buzzing beach scene. Hang ten during the day at a surf school then hang out on the sand in the afternoon to watch a brilliant sunset with your new friends.

13. Hoddevik

NORWAY

With advances in wetsuit technology, cold-water surf destinations are becoming more and more popular. Hoddevik in Norway, for example, is but one learn-to-surf hotspot with a reputation for epic waves in near-freezing conditions.

Cold water aside though, it is also one of the most picturesque places on this list. With everyone who makes the pilgrimage to its dark sand beaches is blown away by its rugged mountain backdrop.

14. Durban

SOUTH AFRICA

African, Indian and colonial influences blend together to give Durban an almost indescribable attractiveness. Beyond its unique mix of cultures though, there are also some pretty awesome waves as well.

Addington, for example, is an iconic learn-to-surf beach. Protected from the big ocean swells, it offers small waves and tropical warm water, giving it a well-deserved reputation as a friendly surf spot for beginners.

15. San Diego

CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES

Spending a few days on the west coast of the USA? A trip down to sunny San Diego for a learn-to-surf session should definitely be on your itinerary.

Boasting a wide range of beaches to choose from and more surf schools than you can poke a stick at, you’ll be up on your feet and riding the waves in no time at all. For a Californian surf experience that you won’t soon forget.

16. Sagres

ALGARVE, PORTUGAL

Situated at the western tip of the Algarve, Sagres is one of the most desirable learn-to-surf towns in Portugal and Europe. Visitors to this laidback destination can expect to find a mix of beach-loving locals and beginner surfers sharing the waves.

Access to two coastlines that face different directions also means you can always find a decent beach to surf, ensuring you can maximize your time in the water and progress quickly.

17. Cocoa Beach

FLORIDA, UNITED STATES

Cocoa Beach is the birthplace of 11 times world champion Kelly Slater, so it goes without saying that it must have some great waves. And while you may not become an instant surfing star after a couple of sessions here, you will get to claim that you learned to surf at the same beach as this celebrated competitor.

Cocoa Beach is also home to the Florida Surf Museum, which traces the history of surfing in Florida and offers some context for the town’s booming surf scene.

18. Newquay

ENGLAND

Regarded as England’s foremost learn-to-surf destination, Newquay features great waves and the type of relaxed atmosphere that’s typical of surf towns around the world.

Of course, it may not offer the warmest water or weather, but it’s a small tradeoff when you consider how beautiful its seafront is and the quality of waves at Fistral and Watergate Bay. A must for backpackers who want to master surfing while in the UK.

19. Scheveningen

NETHERLANDS

Scheveningen near the Hague can offer up some seriously memorable learn-to-surf days. You’ll just need to make sure you time your session when the weather isn’t too crazy.

That being said, Scheveningen is still the best place to go if you want to learn to surf in the Netherlands. The seaside town is widely regarded as the home of Dutch surfing and surf culture.

20. Perth

AUSTRALIA

Contrary to popular belief, there are other places to learn to surf in Australia besides Sydney. Perth for one has waves all year round that rarely get over waist high, making it the ideal place for beginner surfers.

Bright blue water, white sand beaches, and idyllic weather will also ensure you feel like you’re getting the full Australian learn-to-surf experience.

21. Ngarunui Beach

NEW ZEALAND

In a country that’s known for its extreme sports and adrenaline-charged activities, Ngarunui Beach offers a different change of pace in a quaint New Zealand coastal setting.

Located on the west coast of the North Island, this black sand beach dishes out gentle rollers and consistent waves for beginner surfers. Making it a great place to hit the waves if you ever happen to find yourself in the land of the Kiwis.

22. Tofino

CANADA

Off Canada’s west coast is the town of Tofino. With its wild natural scenery that encompasses lakes, ancient rainforests, and sandy beaches. It is a popular surf destination amongst Canadians and backpacking internationals alike.

The 35 kilometers worth of waves and variety of breaks also means you’ll be able to find a surf spot to suit your skill level. Just don’t forget to hire a decent wetsuit.

23. Weligama

SRI LANKA

‘Weligama’ means sandy village, which is an apt name for a town that sits right next to a sweeping bay. Half fishing village and half energetic surf town, it is the perfect spot for beginners who want to refine their wave riding skills while on holiday in Sri Lanka.

The bay also offers ample protection from the winds, ensuring you can catch plenty of slow and gentle offshore waves here when the rest of the coast is blown out.

So what did you think of our learn to surf list? Have we got you totally amped to try surfing for the first time? If your answer is yes, then don’t let another wave pass you by. Book a trip to one of these dreamy learn-to-surf destinations today and start your surfing career off on the right (or left) foot.

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