Best Surfing Towns – USA

There’s something magical about surf towns: They’re laid-back, blessed with great waves, full of character, and sweet places to hang out. These 10 cool little towns, from East Coast to West are the best of the best surfing towns. Grab your sunscreen, and your beach essentials and head to one of these great surfing towns.

Haleiwa, Hawaii

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Unlike Santa Cruz, you won’t need a machete and a harpoon to stave off the massive patches of omnipresent seaweed and flocks of sharks. Most of the year, you won’t even need a wet suit and, thanks to the abundance of reefs, waves are nice and consistent in shape, quality, and period. In fact this consistency even applies to the surf season. Locals get quality surf almost year round, with the exception of the Summer months—which are still pretty passable. Things you’ll want to be on the lookout for: skull crushing monster waves, shallow reefs, angry locals.   For more Hawaii surfing beaches, visit the best surfing in Hawaii.  Visiting Haleiwa? Read our Oahu Travel Guide for everything you need to plan your Oahu vacation. Best Area Hotel: 5 Star Prince Waikiki

Santa Cruz, California

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Santa Cruz is a surf town that stands out even among other surf towns. A very chill, laid back place with great food, and plenty of primo waves makes this a top pick. Pleasure Point and Steamer Lane are both legendary surf spots—to say nothing of Mavericks. If you’re on the market for long clean rides, crazy consistency, and waves the size of yo mama then Santa Cruz is where it’s at. Surfing here ain’t all sunshine and rainbows, —there’s the tank sized sharks, freezing cold water, and the most notoriously dangerous venue on the West Coast – Mavericks. Visit Santa Cruz California! Plan your vacation by visiting our Santa Cruz Travel Guide. Looking for more great surfing beaches in California? Visit here for the best surfing in California. Best Area Hotel: 4.5 Star Sea & Sand Inn

Pa’ia, Hawaii

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The gateway to Maui’s sinuous Road to Hana, Paia is the hub of the island’s north shore surfing scene and close to Ho’okipa Beach, where surfers and windsurfers have each staked their claims on the island’s big winter waves. Surf shops, small boutiques, and restaurants line the modest streets of this colorful plantation town, which retains an island-flavored hippie vibe. Vacationing to Pa’ia ? Visit our Maui Travel Guide and start planning. For more Hawaii surfing beaches, visit the best surfing in Hawaii. Best Area Hotel: 5 Star Montage Kapalua Bay

Encinitas, California

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Encinitas is possessed by surfing and surf culture.  Walk through town and you won’t find a single street corner that isn’t completely dominated by surf paraphernalia, long board themed restaurants, and legit surf talent. Not too surprising given that Encinitas is right smack in the middle of some very solid surf spots: Cardiff, Swamis, Trestles are all practically at its doorstep. Host to typical San Diego amenities like perma-sunshine, powerful waves, and beautiful women, you’ll never feel more at home. Looking for more great surfing beaches in California? Visit here for the best surfing in California. Visiting Encinitas? Read our Encinitas Travel Guide and visit Encinitas! Best Area Hotel: 4.5 Star Cardiff by the Sea

Narragansett, Rhode Island

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The tall seawall edging the south end of Town Beach in Narragansett helps generate some high waves with a long, steady beach break that’s a favorite of local surfers from beginner to advanced, especially after storms. Surfing legend Peter Pan leads a local scene that includes summer lessons and camps. Step out of the waves and you’ll find a classic New England beach town with small inns and B&Bs, shore restaurants and clam shacks, and a low-key, family friendly vibe. There are plenty of great east coast beaches along with Narragansett. Visit Narragansett RI, read our travel guide for everything you need to plan your trip. Best Area Hotel: 4.5 Star The Break

Ocean City, New Jersey

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New Jersey produces some great surfers. Specifically, the South Jersey beach town of Ocean City, which boasts more surf accolades than any northeastern surf establishment. Take Dean Randazzo, New Jersey’s only former ‘CT competitor, plus a deadly crop of aspiring WQS surfers. Even the local high school has won over a dozen state surfing championships, and despite some cold-ass winters, the locale’s consistency and nearness to ledgier surf up the coast puts it on the U.S. surf map. There are plenty of great east coast beaches along with Narragansett. Visit Ocean City NJ, read our travel guide for everything you need to plan your trip. Best Area Hotel: 4.5 Star Harris House Motel

New Smyrna Beach, Florida

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Fishing poles, super swampers, and driving on the beach — you’re not in California anymore. This is Florida. New Smyrna Beach is a quiet little community of core surfers that pretty much have something to ride every single day of the year. Sure, there’s a bit of a shark situation due to the nearby inlet, but maybe that’s how everyone’s gotten so good at doing airs. Visit our New Smyrna Beach Vacations Guide and plan your vacation here today! There are plenty of great area beaches, visit our best beaches of the Florida East Coast for a complete list. Best Area Hotel: 4.5 Star Black Dolphin Inn

San Clemente, California

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There’s a reason why the likes of Jordy Smith, Filipe Toledo, and Yadin Nicol (to name a few) all moved to San Clemente out of anywhere in America. Well, actually a few reasons. 1) Lower Trestles; 2) Close enough to LAX; 3) Far away enough from LA; 4) Did we mention Lowers? Quiet little San Clemente, sitting at the bottom of Orange County, halfway between LA and San Diego, actually has a lot more to offer than the A-frame on the other side of the tracks. Want to Visit San Clemente? Read our travel guide and start planning your vacation. Looking for more great surfing beaches in California? Visit here for the best surfing in California, or view the best southern California beaches.  Best Area Hotel: 4.5 Star Hampton Inn & Suites

Ventura, California

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Well south of Point Conception, the physical line dividing Southern California from the wild lands to the north, Ventura nevertheless does its best to stay removed from the hordes to its south. Ventura has enough variety to offer a little something for every surfer: points, punchy beach breaks, even an offshore, deep water reef. Don’t like the vibe at one spot? No problem, there’s plenty more here. Visit Ventura! Read our Ventura travel guide and start planning. You can also fine the best southern California beaches here. Best Area Hotel: 4.5 Star Comfort Inn & Suites

Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina

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The thin strip of land far off the coast of North Carolina known as the Outer Banks can feel very, very removed. That’s precisely because it is. Rustic beach houses are perched on stilts with high tides nearly at their doorsteps. Each year, hurricanes come close enough to send the residents running. But few American surf towns boast the peace of mind like the Outer Banks town of Kill Devil Hills. That of course, is access to some of the best tubes on offer on the entire Eastern Seaboard. Sure, summer sees its fair share of visitors who want a taste of this town’s beautiful isolation, but in the winters? It’s just you and chilly, thundering peaks. Read our Outer Banks Travel Guide and start planning your vacation. There are also plenty of great east coast beaches along with Kill Devil Hills. Best Area Hotel: 4 Star Shutters on the Banks

Huntington Beach, California

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The U.S Open of Surfing, held at Huntington since 1959, is the personified collision of waves, commercial stoke, and neon-outfitted teenagers looking for some crazy. Of all the cities on our list you’d be hard-pressed to find a community with a deeper appreciation for surf history, with names like Carroll, Fletcher, Llamas, and Nuuhiwa. It’s also home to some of the country’s most reliable beach breaks, churning surf year round. If surf is your livelihood, and its culture your food source, Huntington Beach is your mana. Looking for more great surfing beaches in California? Visit here for the best surfing in California, also view the best southern California beaches here. Visit Huntington Beach Ca today, read our travel guide and start planning today! Best Area Hotel: 4.5 Star Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort

30 Comments

  1. Cody Ellison

    Hi Leahrae, great post I would agree these surf towns are top 10 for sure! I’ve been to a majority of them other than Hawaii but would love to go one down. Speaking from experience when I was in the Marines we would go surf a lot out on the Outer Banks when we were stateside. They tend to have some pretty decent swells year-round and they have a lot do to do other than surfing in that part of NC. Thanks for the great post! Can’t wait to read more!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Glad you enjoyed … and agreed!  Yes, I have a post on the Outer Banks which is a great area as well!  Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  2. jaykaynigltd

    Surfing is a great sport! Out of all the locations you have listed, I have been to San Clemente, California and the place is spectacular. Though I was an amateur back then but I really enjoyed surfing. Anyway, I would definitely recommend San Clemente, California for any one any day. San Clemente, California is a great area to explore as well as surfing. New Smyrna Beach, Florida is the next on my list and thanks for the heads up.i hope to share my experience with you on this page.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Cool Jay!  San Clemente is a top surfing location and the whole town has a great beachy surfing vibe.  Glad you enjoyed and shared your thoughts, thank you.

      Reply
  3. Alblue

    Oh I love beach cities. They usually have beautiful views at sunset. Hawaii is one of my bucket list and I’m glad to see it here. What kind of attraction / activities that I can expect in Pa’ia and Haleiwa? How long the distance if I want to travel to travel from one city to other? Thank you very much for your information.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I am glad you enjoyed reading about the best surfing towns – USA.  I have links in the post for the travel guides.  You can visit the Maui Travel Guide for Pa’ia, and the Oahu Travel Guide for Haleiwa 🙂  These will give you all of the best things to do in these two areas.  I cannot give the travel time.  It really depends on if you fly to the other island or go by boat.  I hope this helps.  Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  4. Wealthfather

     I found the post very detailed and Informative. So so many useful tips and tricks all on one page! Wonderful! I bookmarked to look further.

    These are lovely sites and I can’t wait to visit these beaches.

    Actually I intend visiting Africa during my next vacation in April because thats my birthday month but with this your post, I am changing my mind right away to visit USA and I will be checking on 
    Huntington Beach, California. 

    Can booking be made in advance for a specific date and still be as cheap

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hi there, wow Africa sounds great….and expensive LOL.  Huntington Beach would be more affordable and I can most certainly book this for you.  The more in advance the better price wise.  Here is my email:  leahrae@beachtraveldestinations.com.  If you email me your dates and stuff I can send you the pricing.  I also need to know where you are flying from.

      Reply
  5. Chris Isaac

    Growing up I was a surfer.  There is nothing better than being out in the water like that.  All these places look fantastic!  I have been looking to renew my interest in surfing and finding the ideal vacation spot.  You have given me a lot of choices.  I have always wanted to go to Hawaii, so that might be my first top for a great surfing vacation!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hawaii would be a great place to get back into it.  Not sure if it’s like riding a bicycle.  You might have to practice a bit to get to where you were but you will have a blast!  Thanks for stopping by and visiting the best surfing towns – USA.

      Reply
  6. Chrissie Spurgeon

    I love the photos of those surfing towns, especially the ones in Hawai and California. If I lived in the US, I would certainly head to one of those, but sadly I am in the UK, so I will have to be content with closer surfing beaches!

    I have never tried full-on surfing, though I love to body-board whenever I can!

    I was wondering if you have a favourite surfing beach out of the ones you have described, and if so, which one?

    Thank you so much for making me dream of summer beach days!

    Chrissie 🙂

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hi Chrissie,  I am gonna have to go with Santa Cruz as my favorite. Not just for the surfing but for the whole atmosphere of the town.  I just love the vibe there.  I’d live there if I could 🙂

      Reply
  7. Buck

    I can’t tell you how nostalgic it is for me to see North Carolina on your list of surfing destinations. Some folks don’t know it, but you can catch some nice waves if you go to the right spots. You hit the nail on the head. As for the spots in Hawaii that you mentioned, which one do you think is best? A good friend is from there but we don’t get to talk much about surfing.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Boy, There are so many good surfing spots in Hawaii and it really depends on your level of expertise as far as which one is considered the best.  So that is one that really doesn’t have a direct answer.  I think if you ask most people, they are going to say Sunset Beach or Haleiwa Beach Park.  Hope you visit one of these great surfing towns soon!

      Reply
  8. Carmen & Ben

    This post is paradise for surf lovers, and a great guide to have handy and bookmarked.

    I’m excited also to know that I have been to 4 of your listed best surfing towns in the USA, and eager to go and visit the rest.  

    I was particularly surprised by the East Coast (Atlantic Ocean) places that you listed in NC, FL and NJ, just because in my experience the best surfing towns are usually in the Pacific, but I’m glad to have learned something new today.

    Great article.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, you did!  I live in Florida and I know we have good surfing here.  Of course the west coast does have more than their share, but the east coast definitely has some good spots!

      Reply
  9. Babsie Wagner

    Once again, Ocean City, near and dear to my heart, makes the cut!  Now I have to admit I have never tried surfing, but I’ve done my share of boogie boarding, as has my entire family, but watching the surfers, now that has always been a big part of our vacation every year at Ocean City, Jersey!  As a mother, I have to say I watched with a little bit of fear, it really is not for the faint of heart, but my kids, especially my sons, squealed with delight whenever one of them would “wipe out.”  It really is so much fun to watch!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I agree, my son surfs and he just had shoulder surgery because of a wipe out.  But that has not stopped him!  It is fun to watch for sure!

      Reply
  10. Colleen Savoie

    This is a great post especially with summer right around the corner and people already planning vacation destinations and of course the beaches are always the best! I’m not surprised that California has some great places to surf but until I read this I didn’t realize how many beaches there are to choose from in California. It’s also I interesting to know New Jersey and Rhode Island are on this list.  I’ll definitely add these to our vacation search list this year.  Which one is your favorite?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I am gonna have to say it is California.  I love California beaches and there are such a variety.  San Clemente has that great beachy atmosphere that I love.  That’s my first stop 🙂  Thanks for the visit to the best surfing towns USA.

      Reply
  11. Holly

    Oh, how I wish I could go on a surfing vacation right now. I’m loving the Hawaii and California suggestions. Hawaii is on my bucket list and I think my husband and I will go there and do a vow renewal on our 10th anniversary. I think Cali will be our next family beach vacation, probably next spring. My oldest son is obsessed with the beach, and really, so am I!

    I never would have expected to see Rhode Island on a list for best surfing downs. Shows how much I know about the East Coast, I guess! 

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, there are some great surfing destinations …. and beaches on the East coast…. where I live 🙂  My son is a surfer, so we spend a lot of time at the water.  Thanks for stopping by and visiting my Best Surfing Towns – USA post.

      Reply
  12. Jyl

    Speaking as someone from Ireland, I’ve never experienced any of these wonderful beaches, and surfing is something I am only ever dreaming about. Our waters, although choppy and they do offer great surf, are way too cold for my likings. So all I can do is look at websites like yours to see what I’m missing out on. And I shall continue to look. The info you give is very in-depth and I have made note of the various beaches. Maybe some day….

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hopefully you can visit one of these great surfing towns soon and get away from the cold….water 🙂  I know I have to have the water at least 80 degrees before I will get in LOL.  Thanks for stopping by beach travel destinations.

      Reply
  13. Jen

    Hi Leahrae, I love this post! I can’t tell you how much I miss Hawaii. I had the pleasure of staying there with my sister for 10 days and it was so lovely. The weather was perfect and so was the beach water. I wish I knew how to surf, I don’t see that happening with my fear of drowning, but I do love being on the beach and your post just reminded me how much I need a vacation. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Jen! Thanks for visiting the best surfing towns 🙂

      Reply
  14. Boby

    You have no idea how much I appreciate finding your post at this exact moment!
    I’ve been telling all my friends over and over again how much I would like to learn how to surf.
    But they don’t take me seriously!
    Once they see me doing it, they will!
    Now, I live in Europe and I’ve never been to the USA up until now.
    In your opinion, which one of these awesome towns I should go for?
    I like all of them, it’s an impossible choice to make.
    So, I hope you can help me to make that decision.
    Your advice will be more than appreciated.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hands down the best is Haleiwa, Hawaii with a very close second being San Clemente. You will be happy with either choice. It’s a tough one! I’d maybe check the airline prices to each, and that might be the determining factor! Please let me know if I can help with your plans!

      Reply
  15. Daniella

    Hi Lea,

    Wow, my son is going to love this article because he is a fan of surfing. In fact, he just subscribed to a club a few months ago, and now the only thing he wants to do is surf:)
    Since my son is just making his first steps in surfing, what beach would suggest for novices?
    I wouldn’t want him to put his life in danger.
    Thanks a lot!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Definitely San Onofre in San Clemente. I think that is where he should go to learn 🙂 He will have a blast and he will be safe 🙂

      Reply

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