By Claire Heginbotham | Published on March 8, 2022

Many people say the best surfing in the world is their home break, and as a Capetonian local, I'd be inclined to agree. But I'll never forget the first time that I realized surfing is possible in Japan.

I was 25, fresh to travel, and a new arrival to a seaside town called Kamakura — just a two-hour trip outside of Tokyo. In my first few days, I languished in the culture, eating sushi, drinking sake, and watching the sunset behind the majestic shadowy bulk of Mount Fuji. The warm summer air was gently transitioning to fall, and life couldn't get better.

That is, until I saw a man and his son with two surfboards strapped to a bicycle — they were headed to the beach. Curious, I followed them. Feeling a little bit like a stalker, I cycled behind the two at a distance, surprised to land up a few minutes later at the main beach.

I must have sat there for a full hour watching this dad teach his little grom the ropes. Surfing, in any language, is the same. Paddle, stand, fall, laugh and repeat. It was that day my passion for surf travel truly began. Because even in the most unlikely of coastlines, there's always good surf to be found.

All you need is a mode of transport, an epic quiver, and friends to share the experience.

The Best Surfing Spots: Learning To Surf Back Home

Sunny South Africa is one of the best surfing destinations in the world. Here, you'll find the famous triple barrel at Jefferys Bay and hundreds of picturesque surf spots up the west coast. Every year, as the crowds of summer tourists flock back to their home cities, the large winter swell starts to roll through. And that's when things start cooking.

Beach Sunset near Eland's bay, West Coast, South Africa.
Beach Sunset near Eland's bay, West Coast, South Africa.

Almost every single person in Cape Town has tried surfing at Muizenberg Beach at least once. It's a rite of passage and the perfect spot to start your epic surf trip. "Muizies," as locals call it, is ideal for beginners to learn on longboards and for the more advanced surfers to practice their 360 airs in safe conditions. And from here, it only gets better.

Elands Bay is just over a two-hour drive from Cape Town and is home to one of the most drool-worthy left-hand waves in the world. A powerful point break makes this surf spot perfect for high-performance speed runs, turns, and carving.

Weekend warriors make up the bulk of surfers here, so if you want to snag a quiet, peaceful session, head up during a weekday and rent out an Airbnb or hire a campervan and make your base at the local campsite. The town is known as a sleepy little vacation "dorp" on the beautiful west coast. Named after the nearby historic cave paintings of Eland — a large type of antelope — there's plenty of sightseeing for you to do after or between surf sessions.

After Elands, the east coast is your proverbial oyster. Follow the gently curving coastline up to Durban, and indulge in epic surf spots like Hole-in-the-Wall along the way! (Tip: Watch Blue Crush 2 for some South African surf trip inspiration.)

Morocco isn't a go-to spot when people think of surf destinations, but it definitely needs to be on your bucket list.

Refusing To Kick My Beach Bum Habits

Luckily, adulting isn't an affliction that concerns surfers. The moment we see the waves working, we drop work, call in sick, make excuses to our partners, and practically sprint toward the water. Professional sports surfers aside, all that expended energy means we like a good chill sesh on either side of our surf. And what better place is there to chill than Bali? Beautiful Bali, the country where flowers scent the air and locals are always smiling. That surfboard of mine is practically packing itself every time someone says, "How about Bali?"

Padang Padang beach in Bali is one of the lesser-known pipes in the world, but well worth the trip. However, Padang Padang's powerful waves aren't for the weak of heart. The wave here is an epic left barrel that's been coined by professional surfers as "the Pipeline of Bali." If you're a beginner surfer, head to the friendlier inside break called Baby Padang.

Surfer Riding a Big Wave at Padang Padang Beach, Bali, Indonesia.
Surfer Riding a Big Wave at Padang Padang Beach, Bali, Indonesia.
In my experience, Padang Padang doesn't fire all day, every day — be prepared to wait for the perfect conditions. You need the swell, wind, period, and tide to line up. But once they do, the ride is pure perfection, whisking you away in a deep barrel for some 50 meters. This spot is famous among Balinesians and goofies, so the lineup is going to be crowded when the waves are firing. Expect to see pros and experts in the water, too. As an intermediate surfer myself, I prefer to sit on the beach during those days. Just watching pros carve is like learning how to paint a masterpiece.
Seeing the Best Waves Flowing at Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
Seeing the Best Waves Flowing at Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

But when Bali gets crowded, there's another corner of the world that I just can't get enough of — the Caribbean. It's home to thousands of paradise islands, where waves of all sizes glisten like gems in the warm, gentle trade winds. All. Year. Long.

There are so many epic Caribbean surf spots to choose from, but two stand out to me as the most unmissable: Puerto Rico and Barbados. Puerto Rico stands out because it's home to Punta Borinquen, the first Caribbean destination to be classed as a "World Surfing Reserve." It's no wonder this area was top of the list; the entire 5-mile coastline is dotted with beaches you can surf. A surf spot called Gas Chambers often has thundering right-hand barrels, and the nearby Wilderness is home to a massive open ocean that's a true playground for experienced surfers.

Visiting the West Coast of Puerto Rico.
Visiting the West Coast of Puerto Rico.
The nearby town of Aguadilla thrives with a healthy reggae-like culture, and you'll find plenty of rentals, lessons, surfing shops, surfing tours, and nearby accommodations. Did I mention that U.S. citizens don't need a visa? All you need is a flight, and you're ready to go!
Visiting the Surfing Town of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
Visiting the Surfing Town of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico sells itself, but when I chat with my surf buddies about Barbados, the excitement wanes. "It's just for the mega-rich," people say. "The platinum coast has ruined the local culture," they complain. Well, forget what the tourist books tell you. Because on the other side of the island, along the western coast, you'll find the true soul of Barbados surfing alive and kicking. This side of the island is a long-held secret where locals will swear you to secrecy to protect their empty lineups. There are dozens of spots that are cooking all year long, including the famous "Soup Bowl," where the traveling Atlantic swell culminates into an epic 35-foot wave — advanced surfers only on this one!

One last honorable mention for my fellow beach lovers is Moorea, an island near Tahiti. It's kind of out of the way of … well … everywhere. It's an eight-hour flight from Los Angeles and a nine-day sail from Brisbane to reach Tahiti via cruise liner. But Moorea makes it all worth the effort. The island is protected by barrier reefs 1-mile offshore, and the surrounding lagoon practically begs you to jump in the warm water and surf the slowly curling reef breaks.

Surfing In The Weirdest Of Places In The World

Taking a Surf Trip to the Village of Taghazou. Morocco.
Taking a Surf Trip to the Village of Taghazou. Morocco.
Morocco isn't typically a go-to spot when people think of surf destinations, though it definitely needs to be on your world surfing bucket list. I can't quite put my finger on why Morocco is so fun to travel to, but something about it just keeps you coming back. Near the sandy town of Taghazout, you'll find epic barrels at Killer Point, a break that got its name from recurring visits by majestic killer whales. Nearby surf spots only increase in intensity, with Draculars, Boilers, and Anchor Point drawing adrenaline seekers and world-class photographers. If you want epic conditions to practice your shortboard tricks and epic photos to boot, this is the place to do it!
Taking a Surf Trip on Camelback. Agadir, Morocco.
Taking a Surf Trip on Camelback. Agadir, Morocco.

Venture On Surf Adventures: Best Surfing In The World

As grateful as I am for the stunning natural world around me, I can't help but feel wanderlust calling my name. There are thousands of beaches waiting for us in the big wide world. We haven't even touched on surfing in the Arctic under the northern lights or what it might be like to rip on waves with the local groms in India. Mother nature has truly gifted us surfers with a lifetime of adventure in this world.

I think it's time to pack my suitcase again.

Written By

Claire Heginbotham is a professional copywriter and adventure traveler. Over the last five years, she's published work with Royal Caribbean, Gaijinpot, Kuroko Tours, and many more. She's traveled to hundreds of bespoke Asian destinations where the unknown flourishes.

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Taking a Surf Trip to the Village of Taghazou. Morocco.
Taking a Surf Trip to the Village of Taghazou. Morocco.

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