Planning a trip to paradise? Always dreamed of learning how to surf? Here are the best beginner surf spots in Oahu!
Lucky for you, if you’re looking at visiting the island of Oahu in Hawaii, you are coming to the surfing capital of the world. For surfers around the globe, Oahu is the mecca of surf culture – a place with perfect waves for anyone who wants to learn to surf.
And I mean anyone. Whether you’re a baby, a toddler, a dog, or someone from Chicago who’s never seen the ocean before – on Oahu, there’s plenty of waves for surfers of all shapes and sizes, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced.
Do not be intimidated by the North Shore’s big wave surf culture and the professional surfing contests that happen here year-round.
No matter if you’re an absolute novice who’s never gotten on a surfboard before or a beginner surfer who is intrigued by the sport but needs gentle waves to practice, there is a spot for every kind of surfer on this island – and it’s not just up North!
This article will give you all the information you need to know in order to get started (and stoked) on learning how to surf on Oahu’s north, west, east, and south shores.
Best beginner surf spots on Oahu: South Shore
Waikiki Beach and its many surf breaks is by far the best place on the island for beginner surfers to go learn the basics of catching a wave. The swell is up on the South Shore during the summer months (i.e., April – September). Waikiki offers surfers a two mile stretch of beautiful golden sand beaches and countless paddle out points.
The most popular and accessible spot to paddle out from is between the pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the Duke Kahanamoku statue.
If you don’t have a surfboard, no worries. If you walk the beach between the Royal Hawaiian and the Duke statue, you will find many surfboard rental locations where you can find a longboard to take out for the day.
If you already have a board, you will find a surfboard drop off location at the Duke statue on Kalakaua Ave. (if you’re dropping off, it’s better to have two people – one who can wait with the boards, the other who can go find street parking up the street alongside the Honolulu Zoo).
Once you’ve got your surfboard ready to go, it’s time to pick a spot to paddle out to. For beginner surfers, Waikiki Beach is going to look like a huge playground of waves. For locals and more experienced surfers, you’ll be looking for which break you want to surf at for the day – a.k.a. which direction to paddle out to.
For beginners, you want the shortest paddle out. That means getting experience at two of the most iconic longboarding waves in the world – Canoes or Queens.
Once you’ve got your board and you’re standing on the beach looking out towards the ocean, remember that Canoes is the closest wave on your right-hand side (towards Ewa) and Queens is the closest wave on your left-hand side (towards Diamond Head).
For glassy, low wind conditions (ideal surf conditions for Waikiki), and less crowd, it’s better to paddle out early in the morning or before sunset. Waikiki is a popular surf spot all summer long, amongst tourists and locals alike.
Fun fact – the waves in Waikiki are so ideal that during the days of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the entire beach and its many waves were reserved for Hawaiian royalty.
The crowd in Waikiki may intimidate you as a beginner surfer, but just know you are not the only one out there who’s learning how to surf.
Beginner surfers love Waikiki because it’s a gentler, long ride, where you can develop the paddling and pop-up skills necessary to ride waves.
It’s also one of the best places to learn how to surf because when you fall, you fall into relatively deep water with very little risk of injury since the bottom is mostly sandy with a few scattered rocks here and there.
Ideally, for beginners trying to experience surfing for the first time, you’ll want to paddle out when it’s somewhere in the 1-3 ft. range. That could be in summer or winter, depending on the weather and ocean conditions.
The South Shore swell can definitely cause waves to roll in at the 5-7 ft. range on big summer days, but in those conditions, waves begin to break farther out at Pops and then the inside breaks like Canoes and Queens get the smaller size leftovers.
Best beginner surf spots on Oahu: West (Ewa) Side
White Plains Beach
Staying on the west side?
The best beginner surf spot on west Oahu is at White Plains Beach. Since it’s technically South Shore, the swell will be biggest during the summer months.
White Plains is great for beginner surfers (especially kids) because the waves on the inside – closer to shore – have sandy bottoms that should make falling injury-free. White Plains has A-frame waves, meaning you can catch a wave going either left or right.
East (Windward) Side
Windward Oahu boasts some of the most beautiful mauka (mountain) and makai (ocean) views in the entire world. With the dramatic Ko‘olaus in the background, white sand beaches, and views of the outer islands like the Mokes, Flat Island, and Rabbit Island.
The gentle waves along the windward coast are ideal for families with children who want to learn to surf.
At Kailua Beach, the surf height usually stays in the 1-3 ft. range, with the chance of bigger waves during the winter season. The waves along Kailua Beach are beach breaks, meaning the waves crash on the beach and there are no rocks on the bottom to worry about.
There is plenty of space for beginner surfers to spread out, and waves that offer lefts or rights.
This is a great beach to take your kids to because the shallow depth makes it easy for parents to push your kid into the wave as it breaks, helping them develop their pop-up skills.
Just remember – this is not the right place to jump head first off your board. Try to fall gently back like a starfish in order to land softly and safely in the shallow water.
Best beginner surf spots on Oahu: North Shore
Pua’ena Point Beach Park (Haleiwa)
Pua’ena Point is located at the northeast corner of Haleiwa Harbor.
This spot offers a reef break that is great for beginner surfers during the winter season because it sits inside a cove that protects beginners from the bigger North Shore waves.
Make sure you check the surf forecast. During the summer months, this spot can be more like a lake with very few rideable waves.
Interested in learning how to surf at this spot and need a board? There are plenty of surfboard rental locations in Haleiwa town. If you want to gain experience surfing up North, this is a great spot to book a lesson with HOKALI.
Heading from town, this longboarding wave is located at the beach right after Laniakea Beach on North Shore, north of Haleiwa town. Since it’s located on the North Shore, be cautious and always check the forecast if you’re paddling out in winter.
Ideally, Chun’s is best for beginner surfers who want to get experience surfing North Shore in the summer months when the waves aren’t massive, and the current isn’t as strong.
On the right day, Chun’s offers beautiful, long-lasting rights, with a beautiful view of the North Shore countryside, a small crowd, and hopefully a few turtles.
Before paddling out at Chun’s, make sure you know if you’re going in low tide or high tide.
Since Chun’s is a reef break, the bottom is rocky. If you’re a beginner, you want to look for 1-3 ft. waves on the surf report.
If you have got your pop-up skills down and worked up some paddle strength, this is a great spot to catch 2-4 ft. waves and start gradually working on your carving (turning up and down the wave) skills.
Learning to Surf is Better with Friends
Stoked to have some local knowledge on where to go, but still feeling unsure about paddling out yourself? No worries chicken curry – HOKALI is here to help you out!
When you book a surf lesson through HOKALI, you will get to paddle out with a trained professional surf coach who is truly passionate about the sport. He teaches beginners how to surf, and he has plenty of experience with giving customized advice to beginner surfers trying to improve their surf skills on the island.
HOKALI’s surf coaches are local surfers who can teach you not only surfing technique, but also local knowledge on where’s the best place on Oahu for you to either learn how to surf or how to improve and take your surfing to a whole new level… or as we locals say, “a honu level.”
After booking a surf lesson, make sure to check out some tips on how to prepare for your first surf lesson. Wherever you go, remember to stay loose, have fun, and live Aloha!
Check out this blog post if you want to find out more reasons why you should surf in Hawaii!