Surfing has been a popular sport amongst Hawaiians of all ages for many centuries. In fact, the first written mention of surfing in Hawaii dates all the way back to 1779! However, some researchers believe that surfing may have originated in ancient Polynesia before the sport officially gained popularity in Hawaii.
Once surfing did gain popularity in Hawaii, the sport was reserved mainly for Hawaiian royalty—including King Kamehameha. As such, surfing later earned its title as the “sport of kings”. By 1819, even the ley people in Hawaii began to participate in the water sport as well.
While surfing was once a socially and ritually significant part of Hawaiian culture, Honolulu’s surf culture is hotter today than ever before. Some of the best surfing locations—including the Banzai Pipeline—are locatedright here in Honolulu.
Read on to explore some of the best surfing locations in Honolulu!
Ala Moana Bowls
Located between Sunset and Makaha, Ala Moana Beach (1401 Ala Moana Boulevard) is a surfing hotspot amongst local surfers—mainly due to its close proximity to Downtown Honolulu. Ideal for intermediate- to- professional surfers, the bowl-shaped waves at Ala Moana Bowls can sometimes reach as much as 12 feet high! On an average day, however, waves here typically reach between one- and- four feet high.
Nestled between Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach (59-104 Kamehameha Highway) features huge waves that often range between 15- and- 30 feet high, and some of the best sunsets you’ll find in all of Hawaii.
In fact, Sunset Beach is home to the well-renowned Vans Triple Crown Surfing Contest and O’Neill World Cup of Surfing during the winter months. However, due to its giant waves, Sunset Beach is best surfed by intermediate- to- expert wave riders.
Located within Ehukai Beach Park (59-337 Ke Nui Road), the Banzai Pipeline is a surfing hot spot for only the most advanced of wave riders. The winter months at Ehukai Beach Park bring out the largest, most powerful waves—often reaching heights of 20 feet or more!
Moreover, the Banzai Pipeline is also said to be one of the most dangerous waves in all of Hawaii. With its sharp, shallow reefs that sit just below the surface of the water, the Banzai Pipeline has been known to break or damage surf boards and it has even resulted in the serious injury of many surfers throughout the years. Needless to say, even expert surfers should exercise caution when riding the waves at the Banzai Pipeline.
Situated at the base of Koko Crater, Sandy Beach Park (8801 Kalanianaole Highway) is an excellent surfing location for wave riders of all experience levels. With the beach’s clear waters, beautiful stretch of fine sand and mid-size waves, Sandy Beach Park is arguably one of the best beaches on South Oahu.
Waimea Bay Beach Park
Located just outside of Honolulu in Waimea Bay Beach Park (61-031 Kamehameha Hwy), Waimea Bay offers the biggest, most powerful waves between the months of November and February. While the waves here are calmer in the summer, this surfing location is best surfed by the most advanced of wave riders, no matter the time of the year.
The Tennis Courts at Ala Moana Beach Park
Like the Ala Moana Bowls, the surfing spot known as the “Tennis Courts” is also located within Ala Moana Beach Park. Ideal for intermediate- to- expert surfers, the Tennis Courts offer some of the best surfing conditions during Honolulu’s summer months.
Best Surfing Locations for Beginners
If you’re new to surfing in Honolulu, there are a few popular locations that will quite literally help you to get your feet wet as you learn how to surf for the first time. These locations include Diamond Head, Chun’s Reef, Waikiki Beach and White Plains Beach.
Read on to learn more about these beginner surfing locations!
With its deep waters, stunning scenery and long, mellow waves, the break at Diamond Head Cliffs is one of the best locations in Honolulu for learning how to surf. Located within Diamond Head Beach Park (3300 Diamond Head Road), the waves at Diamond Head become faster and more dangerous the closer surfers get to the shallower surfing location known as the “Lighthouse”.
Chun’s Reef Beach
Chun’s Reef at Chun’s Reef Beach is a popular surfing location for beginner wave riders and local surf instructors alike. As such, you may even be instructed to meet at Chun’s Reef Beach if you choose to take surfing lessons in Honolulu.
However, keep in mind that Chun’s Reef Beach (61-507 Kamehameha Hwy) is home to two popular surfing locations, including one break for beginners (located near the shore) and another more advanced break further out. The break located closer to the shore features longer, gentler waves—while the second break is best for advanced surfers. Additionally, beginners should steer clear of Chun’s Reef during the winter, as the waves are much more powerful during the months of October and March.
Waikiki Beach (Kalakaua Avenue) is another popular hotspot for those learning how to surf for the first time. The waves here are gentle, making it a great place for learning how to stand on a surfboard for the first time. Plus, many experienced wave riders teach surfing lessons right here on Waikiki Beach.
While Waikiki Beach is home to multiple beginner-friendly breaks, some of the better options for novices include Queens, Canoes and Pops (or Populars).
White Plains Beach
Featuring a slow-breaking wave that remains consistent throughout the year, White Plains Beach—especially the break located closest to the shoreline—provides beginner surfers with a fun and relaxing experience as they learn how to surf for the first time.
Since this break features a soft, sandy bottom, surfers will be less likely to cut themselves if they happen to fall and hit the reef. Plus, first-timers can rent equipment and take surfing lessons here, all without stepping foot off the beach.