Seattle to San Diego surfing road trip: Best west coast surf spots in US

Mar 27, 2020 BY Paul McWilliams

A Seattle to San Diego surfing road trip will take you past the best west coast surf spots in the US. Although you could do this over 10 days there are
such surfing riches you could easily spend 10 weeks, 10 months or even 10 years!

best surfing apps surfing huntington beach Pixabay royalty free image

The top spots include world famous beaches and renowned waves. The route takes in some of the most legendary surf spots in the US. But also little-known breaks and waves along the way too.

Seattle to San Diego surfing road trip

Before we take a look at the best west coast surf spots in US, we need to discuss some logistics. This kind of road trip takes a little planning.

When should you go? Which direction should you travel? And what is the best way of getting around?

When to do a west coast surf road trip

Down south in San Diego, even the winter months have pleasant weather. The same can’t be said up north in Seattle where it will be bitterly cold in the winter. However, the waves at this time of year are better.

There are good year-round spots all along the route. But if you’re looking for the really big barrels, then winter is probably the best choice. If you want a more relaxed trip and some warm sunny weather, go in the summer. 

How to travel

While there are plenty of public transport options, have you ever tried to catch a Greyhound with a surfboard? Unless you are spreading it over 10 years you really need your own transport for a Seattle to San Diego surfing road trip.

Seattle to San Diego surfing road trip Best west coast surf spots in US Needpix Royalty free image California

Hiring cars in the US is generally affordable. And there is no problem dropping them off in a different city to your start point. Big rental agencies can be found in all major airports. For shorter trips this is a good option.

For longer trips buying your own wheels is more affordable. There are plenty of options for under $2500 on Autotrader. Just remember you’ll need insurance. When you get to San Diego you can sell it on or carry on down into Mexico.

Whatever you choose bear in mind you’ll need a rack or space to keep your boards. A great option would be to get a campervan. It is more expensive but your transport and your accommodation is covered. 

Which direction to travel

Route 101 from Seattle follows the coast and links up with route 1 half way down the coast. Route 1 then hugs the coastline all the way to San Diego. So it is pretty hard to get seriously lost.

Which direction to head comes down to personal preference and cost of flights. There is no best way to travel but bear in mind that it’s always colder further north. So, if you want to end your trip sitting in the warm sun, sipping cold beer on the beach, head north to south.

Best west coast surf spots in US

For convenience sake, in the Seattle to San Diego surfing road trip below we are travelling north to south. Starting up north in the State of Washington and heading south through Oregon to California.

Best surf spots in Washington

The first stop on this road trip is not far from Seattle:


This man-made surf spot came about after the construction of two jetties, and it’s now one of the most reliable on the west coast. The main surf spot is called ‘the corner’ and is nestled to the south side of the southern jetty. It’s a big and consistent beach break.

La Push

This small but sheltered cove lies at the mouth of the Quillayute River, with the best surfing at mid-tide. You’ll often find clean barrels here, especially during the winter months. And the sand and gravel that has accumulated at the river mouth makes for some interesting breaks. 

Long Beach

The biggest spot in Washington state and with plenty of space on the beach to find your own section. Mile after mile of sandy white beach is battered by the ocean, and on a clear day the barrels roll in one after another. Easily one of the best west coast surf spots in US.

Best surfing in Oregon

Washington is only 240 miles (400 km) from north to south. So unless you dither and delay – easily done! – your Seattle to San Diego surfing road trip will soon enter Oregon.

Otter Rock

Wedged between Depoe Bay and Newport, this is some of the most consistent two to four-foot surf in Oregon. And with a choice of campsites down the road, it’s the perfect first stop in Oregon.

Oswald West State Park

A small beach break that is ideal for beginners plus some great waves offering some of the most fun surfing in the state. Although it can get busy and does involve a short hike along the beach. 

Indian Beach

One of the most beautiful coastal areas in Oregon. There is a fee to park your car. But it’s worth it. Not recommended for beginners because of the strong currents, if you go when it’s quiet you can find good waves in a variety of swells. 

Top surfing in California

Stretching for 900 miles all the way to the Mexican border you have a lot of ground to cover in California. Plus of course some of the best west coast surf spots in US. In addition to surfing there are many great adventure activities in California.

Point St George, Crescent City

This surf spot is beautiful, with the lighthouse in the background, and the waves are reliable. But it’s also cold. So, you’ll need a hooded 4/3 or 5/4 wet suit (in fact the same goes for all of the above), no matter what time of year.

The swells come from all directions, so you’ll need to be an experienced surfer to manage. However, there are some easier spots close to the pier. 

Caspar State Beach, Mendocino

There are reliable right breakers here caused by the rocky reef. You’ll find surfing for all levels, with beginners and intermediates at Caspar Beach and heavier breaks over towards the Point Arena. Whatever your level, waves are fast and powerful, so keep on your toes.

Seattle to San Diego surfing road trip Best west coast surf spots in US Flickr CC image of surfers at Mendocino by Hitchster

Pacifica, San Francisco

This is a calmer beach break just outside the city. But in winter, the waves can get big and powerful. The legendary Mavericks is not that far away after all. All along this stretch of coast you should watch out for rip tides.

Pleasure Point, Santa Cruz

An essential stopping point on any Seattle to San Diego surfing road trip, Santa Cruz can date its surfing history back to 1885. This makes it the unofficial home of surfing in mainland US.

There are waves here for all levels and it’s pretty much a way of life for many of the residents. Pleasure Point is ideal for beginner and intermediate level surfers but there are many spots to explore.

Carmel Beach, Monterey

One of the most well to do places in the US, Clint Eastwood used to be the mayor here. The wave breaks along a sand bar, with loads of room in the water. It’s best at high tide and the breaks go throughout the year. 

Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo

This is a classic long beach break next to the pier, but it can get busy. Luckily, there are several other good waves within walking distance. A top stop during your Seattle to San Diego surfing road trip.

Morro Bay

This small coastal town is home to volcanic rock formations and a range of waves. Very condition dependent the beach break is usually calm, but there are rocks around so you need to be careful. Surf in the morning for the cleanest waves.

Seattle to San Diego surfing road trip Best west coast surf spots in US Flickr CC image of surfers at Morro Bay by mikebaird

Rincon Point, Santa Barbara

Another famous wave in US surf culture and often frequented by surf legend Kelly Slater. It’s a classic point break and the areas around the outer point can produce some nice barrels on a good day. Easily one of the best west coast surf spots in US.

Malibu, Los Angeles

No Seattle to San Diego surfing road trip can be without a stop off in Malibu. When you think of the coast in the US, then this is probably what you imagine. Malibu longboards were unsurprisingly invented here.

There are some nice intermediate level breaks to try. But just hanging out on the beach and watching the world go by is fun in itself. And it’s all a short drive from LA making it one of the best west coast surf spots in US.

Sunset Cliffs, San Diego

Ocean Beach is the archetypal hippie surfing hangout. Walk down the cliffs from here and you’ll see the Sunset Cliffs break. You can either walk down the stairs or copy the locals and jump into the water with your board.

And, as the name suggests, it’s not a bad place to watch the sun go down. When you are finished, and have dropped off your hire car, perhaps celebrate on a tequila tour in San Diego.

What's a Malibu Longboard and why buy a big surfboard Flickr CC image by surfingsanders

Any Seattle to San Diego surfing road trip can be done to your own tastes and at your own pace. While these are some of the best west coast surf spots in US there are plenty of others too. Enjoy!

Let us know your top spots in the comments below. Also check out our surfing holiday discounts as you could save a fortune on your next trip.


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