The Hawaiian archipelago is perhaps the top wave magnet in the world. Unencumbered by nearby landmasses or continental shelves, the best surfing in Hawaii is as good as anywhere on the planet. The powerful ocean swells that roll onto its reefs and shores create some monster waves for the pros. Not an expert? Then check out these top 10 intermediate Hawaiian surf spots.
The islands enjoy two distinct surfing seasons: winter and summer. In the winter, Alaskan storms generate the massive north swells that fuel legendary sessions at Pipeline, Jaws, and Waimea with incalculable pumping surf.
The southerly summer swells lack the punch of their wintertime cousins. But very good surf can still be found in abundance. And while waves are smaller it is plenty big enough for most of us. The entire island chain is known for surf. But the islands of Maui and Oahu have more than their share of the best surfing in Hawaii.
Surfing has a rich tradition in Hawaii and plenty of local influence. And not all breaks provide equal opportunity surfing for the outsider. However, a visiting surfer can find friendly conditions and manageable surf with the right knowledge.
There’s no use in paddling out at Pipe just to get thrashed over the reef or merely to spectate while more established surfers dominate the line-up. Nor is it fun to get snaked or shunned or worse at some extremely localised break.
Instead, scope out the surf spots below. They are mainly with an intermediate-level surfer in mind, for the most enjoyable Hawaiian surfing holidays.
Even with the inherent crowd you’d expect at decent spots in Maui, La Perouse remains a largely unattended line-up. This reef break, located on the southern tip of the island, picks up a lot of south and southwest swell in summer and throws a long peeling left.
The wave speeds up in punchy sections and lags in others, great for racing and carving. Offshore winds often help conditions at La Perouse and encourage the appearance of sneaky little barrels. Definitely one of best intermediate Hawaiian surf spots in July and August.
The little island of Kauai offers great surf spots, but many are locally protected and generally off limits to visitors. An exception is Hanalei – a long right hand point that changes it temperament as it peels into the bay closer to the pier in view of luxury Kauai rentals.
Facing north, the top of the point can get massive, growing easily to double overhead on large northwest swells. But wave energy drops off as the swell enters the bay and smaller waves can be picked off at several peaks inside. The sandy bottom is an allure here, as is the potential for fun longboarding sessions on mellow days.
Situated just down the beach from the thunderous tubes of the Banzai Pipeline, Ehukai is a sandy bottom beach break offering a handful of shifty peaks and sandbars. Outshined by its brethren reefs just 50 yards to west, Ehukai can be as good as Pipe and is usually far less crowded.
The peaks spread out the line-up and give surfers plenty of variety. Good with two to eight feet of swell, Ehukai is overrun by Pipeline when waves are huge. This beach is a great place to surf the famed North Shore.
Hulopoe is Lanai’s most popular beach, and also the top surf spot. It is exposed to southerly swells, making April to October the best. When firing it is a challenging point break that is not for beginners. With a steep take off breaking over a shallow reef this long lefthander holds its size which can be two to twelve feet. Easily one of the best intermediate Hawaiian surf spots.
The Big Island (or officially Hawaii) is the newest of the Hawaiian islands. With less time eroding there are fewer beaches and surf sports are harder to come by. It is also the most populated island so it is much busier. But it still deserves inclusion in this guide to the best surfing in Hawaii.
Kona is the destination, with three good Hawaiian surf spots in the area. Kahaluu bay is the place for beginners with gear hire and surfing courses available. A few miles away Banyans is suited to experienced surfers, this is a popular spot with locals so be respectful. Just north of Kona, Pine Trees is a busy exposed reef break with consistent surf for intermediates all around the year.
When the big spots in Oahu are firing the west coast of Molokai will be pumping too. The difference is it’s remote and empty. The breaks aren’t as good as the best on Oahu but usually they are very good for intermediates. But on big-wave days only experienced surfers should paddle out.
Sheraton’s – named after the defunct resort here – at Kepuhi Beach offers easy sandy access just watch out for a few boulders while paddling out. On good days there can be an A-Frame topping out at 10 feet, on smaller days the rest of us can have a play!
When the wind picks up here, on Maui’s northern coast, Hookipa is a premier windsurfing spot. But when the breeze is light, you’ll find consistent waves and many peaks to choose from. Hookipa’s northern exposure utilizes east, north, and west swells and serves surfers with a range of waves to choose from.
Pavilions, a solid peeling right off the eastern point is the main spot, but fun peaks are abundant elsewhere. Early morning and late afternoon is best in order to escape the winds.
The famous right point of Sunset has produced some of the most epic surf in the Pacific. Sunset’s reputation for heavy waves is well earned, so catching it with the optimal swell size and direction is crucial. The deep water take-off spot will be crowded, but by no means localized.
A speedy, walled-up section leads the way to a throwing barrel and the ride of lifetime. Wait for five or six feet of swell (two or three feet Hawaiian!) from the north/northeast and take out a bigger board for paddling purposes. Watch for clean up sets and the shallow inside reef. The stoke of one wave here will last for days.
Best on a direct north swell, Laniakea (Lani’s) plays host to a diverse crowd of locals and tourists on surfing holidays – so you won’t feel out of place in the line-up. On perfect days, the wave is fast and hollow and unforgettable.
But most of the winter, northwest swells create numerous peaks above the reef to thin the crowd and alternate take off spots. Lani’s is a good wave to surf when trying to avoid the intensity and consequences of other North Shore spots. Be sure to stay aware of clean up sets rolling in, and the inside reef that can ruin a session.
When the North Shore is offering little more than ripples from May through August, head south to Diamond Head Beach Park. The reefs here pick up more south and east swell than other spots on the South Shore, so the waves will be a foot or two bigger.
When it’s on, five or six peaks will be breaking consistently. Smaller days may only offer waves at the main break called Lighthouse. Although a crowd of longboards, shortboards, and bodyboards can be expected when Diamond Head is working, catching one solid wave will encourage you to stick around.
We hope you found this guide to the best surfing in Hawaii for non-experts useful and inspiring. If the top 10 intermediate Hawaiian surf spots have you planning a trip then check out our surf in Hawaii page to start booking.