On the south shore of O‘ahu, in the heart of Honolulu and just a step away from the beaches and hotels in Waikiki, you will find a whole bunch of fun surf breaks for all levels. Surfing in Ala Moana is perfect for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Waikiki.
The line between Waikiki and Ala Moana arguably exists at Ala Wai Boat Harbor. In front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Resort in the parking lot of Ala Wai Boat Harbor, you will see Rock Piles and further down, Bowls, one of the most popular surf spots for intermediate to advanced surfers on the south shore.
Ala Moana Bowls
The name Bowls describes the crater-like bowl shape of the wave, as it travels over the reef. It is a fast, long left that can reach double overhead during big swells. Because it is such a fast reef break, and tends to get very packed with locals, it is not recommended for beginners.
If you are an intermediate surfer, paddle out on a small day, observe, and get a feel for the wave direction. Even during the winter, with the right wind and conditions, Bowls can be a really fun spot for longboarding and provides small rippable surf.
Right across the street from a popular destination among locals and visitors alike, Ala Moana Shopping Center, lies Ala Moana Beach Park. This is a great locale to post up and picnic, beach, barbeque, watch a beautiful sunset, or surf of course.
The beach park also features a tennis court, sand volleyball area, and running or bike path. This makes it fun for everyone involved, since you can likely find something that will suit your interest. And there’s almost always free parking available, unlike Waikiki, or other spots where parking can be a bit trickier.
The great part about surfing Ala Moana breaks is that the line ups tend to be thinner than in Waikiki, because the breaks are less exposed and a bit harder to get out too. The waves are a bit steeper than in Waikiki, but can be suitable for beginners on smaller days.
The breaks enclosed in Ala Moana Beach Park are mainly popular among short boarders, but some spots are also suitable for longboarding, like Courts. Let’s discuss some of the names.
Many of the breaks in the beach park are named by locals for the spots that they line up with on the shore. For example, Courts lines up directly with the tennis courts and Concessions lines up with a concession stand in the park. The waves break very far out from shore, making it difficult to spot from the land. If you can see white caps it is likely that there is a wave there. From the water’s edge, you have about 20 yards out to wade or swim, before the reef starts.
For beginner surfers, here are some breaks you should check out, and how to access them:
The tennis courts that are mentioned here a few times are in the center of the park across from the beach. This is a popular right that breaks in two spots, one farther out and further inside, over the reef. If you paddle out straight from the tennis courts you will reach the peak. As mentioned, the reef can be tricky especially at shallow, low-tide times of day. This spot is frequented by many locals.
Concessions is a fun A-frame wave that ranges from waist high to overhead during peak summer swells.
Paddle out directly across from the concession stand, and in front of the closest lifeguard tower. If you are a beginner, it is recommended to go with someone who is experienced and can guide you to the path and to the break.
From the beach, however, you can observe where people are paddling out from. There is a thin sand path that goes over the reef. Here, you’ll see people stand up and start walking out. This is easier than paddling over the reef, especially if it’s shallow.
This thin path is free of sharp reef and wana (sea urchin in Hawaiian, pronounced Va-Na), so you are at a much lower risk of cutting your feet. You’ll want to find this similar path and follow it if possible.
One beach park over from Ala Moana is another stretch of fun breaks located across from Kewalo Boat Harbor. Kewalos is a break straight out from the jetty at the western end of the park. It is a break place to observe some awesome pro surfers.
This break happens also to be the home break of world champ Carissa Moore, and where all the up-and-coming groms are getting in their reps! It is a fun, hollow left that shapes up like Ala Moana Bowls. Beware of the reef, however, as it can also be shallow at times.
In addition to Kewalos, this park features a few other fun long board and short board breaks that are a bit less crowded and competitive. Checkout Marine Lands or Straight Outs for example.
The best thing to do is to go with someone who knows the area well or to chill in the park for a little bit, drink your morning coffee, and observe! Typically, the south shore sees small waves under 3 feet during the winter months, during which time it can be more fun to longboard. During the summer, wave heights can reach 6+ feet.
Be mindful that unlike Waikiki, all of these surf spots are heavily frequented by locals. If you are a tourist, exercise the utmost respect and when in doubt, don’t go out, or opt for a professional surf lesson in Waikiki!
To have the best experience, as with anywhere, you want to be treating everyone with respect, but especially the people who surf at these spots regularly. This is also the best way to learn, through watching and making mental notes.
To get an idea of how these breaks are performing, you can also check out Surfline live cameras or have a surf buddy to call up. What are you waiting for? Get out there!