Learning to ride a wave is up there on many peoples’ bucket list and can be a beautiful holiday experience. It might even get you hooked and you discover a totally new sport that will change your life. One thing is for sure: It’s never too late to learn how to surf! And if this is your first time to try to stand up on a surfboard, it is important to choose a destination that provides the best and safest conditions so you can enjoy your surf holiday.

Because there are many things to consider before you get your first wave, we have collected a list of the best places to learn to surf with focus on following criteria:

  • Good learning infrastructure – Surf schools or surf camps with professional coaches are in the area.
  • Safe surfing environment – So you can sorely put your focus on learning to surf and don’t have to worry about ocean hazards.
  • Reachability – An average surfing holiday for beginners doesn’t take longer than max. 1-3 weeks. You shouldn’t spend days travelling to reach your spot.
  • Culture & Experiences – If you learn to surf, you also learn to explore new places.

Map with great beginners spots

Europe

Europe is a hot spot for surf holidays of all levels. Because of the varying coastline there are soft beach breaks for beginners, but also heavy, surging waves that you, as a surfing beginner, should definitely avoid.

Portugal

Baleal Surfbeach in Peniche
Famous Baleal Beach in Peniche, Portugal on an empty day.

Continental Portugal has almost 1000km of coastline with all facets of waves. You can find perfect beginner beaches everywhere. There are five main surfing destinations, Porto, Peniche & Beliche, Ericera, Lisbon and the Algarve. Every destination has their own vibes and it really depends what you prefer and the time you consider to go. You can learn to surf in Portugal all year long.

Places with huge potential and still very hidden from surf tourism are the Portuguese Islands Azores and Madeira. Taking a guide or surf camp is a recommended option though.

Best time to go: All year

Spain

Birds view of a northern Spain secret surf bay.
One of the many protected surf spots in northern Spain with Liquid Surfcamp super close by.

Spain has also many beaches with soft waves which makes it a good beginner destination to learn all year. Here you have four main destinations. During European summer, you can get small waves in the north with many surf schools and camps from the Basque Country all the way to the west to Galicia. With end of summer the waves become too big for the north so surfing holidays for beginners shift down to the south with Andalusia and the Canary Islands as good options. Try to avoid Christmas and New Years on the Canaries though because it gets super crowded there.

Here is a list with excellent surf camps & schools in Spain.

Best time to go: All year

France

Surf class in France
A typical surf lesson on the endless beaches in France. Thanks to Natural Surf Lodge for the shot.

France is famous for long, endless beaches where you sleep so close to the beach, you just walk up on the sand dunes and check the waves with your coffee in your hands. It get’s really busy during summer with surf camps and schools lining up next to each other. If this is not your favourite thing, you should consider checking out the coast further up north where you find a more versatile coastline with surfing bays, huge cliffs and less crowds. But be aware, there are huge tide difference in the north so better plan you surf session or visit a surf school.

Places for surfing beginners in France are basically the three main coasts on the west coast:

Silver Coast – Mostly beaches beginning from famous Basque Country in the south all the way up to Soulac-sur-Mer

Coast of Light – Mixed settings with beaches, reefs and cliffs from La Rochelle up to Saint-Nazaire

Southern Brittany Coast – Mixed setup but also has big beaches to learn to surf

Best time to go: May – September

Ireland

Sometimes the UK and especially Ireland fall under the radar but they have beautiful coastline with many beginner beaches. In Ireland, you can still experience a true surf culture with less crowds. Surf schools in Ireland work super professional and get you on a wave in no time. Be prepared to surf in cold water even during summer though.

Best time to go: July – September

Asia

Bali, Indonesia

The Island of Gods is definitely the capital of surfing in Asia and attracts millions of tourists, that also want to learn to surf, every year. A true postcard destination and a paradise with no lack of comfort, service and super easy to reach. It has some beaches that offer good conditions to learn to surf but be aware you will share the ocean with hundreds of other beginners. During main season, from June to September, the waves can get really big. So, the best time to visit Bali as a beginner is the “wet” season with smaller waves and fewer people.

Best time to go: November – March

Lombok, Indonesia

It’s like Bali 30 years ago with more nature to discover, and picturesque beginner spots. The main spot is Kuta Lombok, a booming town with easy access and accommodations that work together with surf schools in the area. It is less of a party scene with basic infrastructure but perfect for a surf getaway if you’re not much into the party scene.

Catch up with a local surf guide to avoid the main spots.

Best time to go: May – September

Sri Lanka

The teardrop shaped island close to India is a true beginners’ and intermediate paradise. You can surf all year thanks to the two main surfing destinations. The real main season for surfing is during the European winter and happens on the south coast of Sri Lanka. Well known spots are Weligama and Mirissa. They have many surf camps and schools that offer a full variety of surf holidays with accommodation right on the beach. Once the wind changes there, you can visit Arugam Bay on the West Coast from May till September to surf the endless sand bottom point breaks that are just a short tuk tuk ride away. Surf schools are rare but there are a few in town.

Best time to go: All year

Philippines

The Philippines consist of more than 6000 Islands and has stunning landscape with beautiful beaches. The most surf tourists travel to Siargao Island. It is a tropical paradise with many advanced waves and only a few for beginners. If you decide to learn to surf in Siargao, better learn quick or you might get stuck on that one spot. Also, worth checking out is San Juan, La Union in Northwest Luzon. It has smaller waves and more beaches.

Best time to go: July – December

Thailand

Generally famous for anything but waves, the tourist destination Phuket gets some nice beginner waves when the season is right. Thailand is a good alternative for beginner surfing holidays since it has more to offer than just surfing. So, if you just want to experience the feeling of standing up on a wave, it might be worth thinking about.

Best time to go: May – October

Central America

Man with surfboard on beach.
Surfing in Central America means beaches, beaches, beaches.

Costa Rica

With over 1.000 km of coastline Costa Rica has many different surfing destinations. Luckily everywhere you go, being it the Pacific or the Caribbean side, you will find plenty of beaches stacked with palm trees and waves. Tamarindo, Jaco, Playa Grande are pretty famous for their easy waves with plenty of surf schools or boards to rent in town.

Best time to go: May – October

Nicaragua

Nicaragua has lately been in the news due to political instability and unrest. Make sure to double-check the current situation with your Embassy.

A true surfers’ destination, Nicaragua delivers all necessary conditions for a dreamy surf session. Most of the year. Especially in Southern Nicaragua you get offshore winds almost all year long. This means wave conditions are super clean and picturesque, which at the end make your surf lessons easier.

Best places for beginner surf sessions are, north of Managua, the towns of Jiquillo, Maderas and Miramar. Also, Las Penitas / Poneloya have good places to stay and surf. In the South, the waves tend to be softer and it gets busier with a bit of a scene in San Juan der Sur and Popoyo. Just south of Popoyo, Playa Amarilla is a true beauty.

Make sure to check following surf camps in Nicaraua.

Best time to go: March – August

Mexico

Mexico is a fascinating country with a hot climate in the north and mild in the south. You can find deserted waves and also palmy beaches with perfect beginner waves, right in front of your place. People are super friendly and the general dangerous reputation is not deserved.

Most of the surfing in the northern part happens in Baja California and it is famous for big, hollow waves. If you want to learn to surf in this area, definitely contact a provider in the area. They will know when the waves are small and where it is safe to travel. Further south you can find protected bays with many surf schools or camps. Especially the regions Nayarit and Oaxaca have good beach breaks and provide perfect wave conditions. Cool places are San Agustinillo in Oaxaca, Punta Mita and San Blas in Nayarit.

Best time to go: March – June

Panama

Still an underrated country to get perfect surf for all levels with less crowds and good vibes. Favourite and well known place for many surfers around the world when they hear Panama is Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean side of the country. They have all kind of waves with beach breaks for beginners and challenging waves for the ambitious ones. A good infrastructure with bars, restaurants and accommodation is also present. If you’re in for a bit more travelling, go visit Santa Catalina on the Pacific Coast for less people.

Best time to go: All year

Africa

Morocco

Ocean view from old town Taghazout.
Just a stone throw away from the old fishing village Taghazout – your future waves.

Harsh, dry desert meets epic waves. During European winter the main places around Taghazout and Safi attract lots of surfers from around the globe because this is the time when the famous point breaks like Anchor Point or Killers start to work. For surfing beginners, you can escape the winter, experience a rich culture and also get some good waves at many sheltered beach breaks. There are also many surf camps, hostels and schools for all price range.

You can read our guide on what to bring to a surf camp in Morocco here.

Best time to go: September – April

Senegal

So, you’re planning a trip to Morocco but want to avoid big surf tourism? Have you considered flying to Senegal? Even though it is not the most famous surfing destination, a small but well skilled scene has developed around Ngor Island, just off the capital Dakar. You can find some surf camps there, that show you the area and many secret spots.

Best time to go: October to March

South Africa

Woman with surfboard standing ashore.
Surfing in Cape Town with the Table Mountain in the background. What else can you possibly want?

South Africa has a lot of coastline and gets waves from all sides except the north. This means most of the time, you’ll get good conditions to surf. It is a true surfing country with so many famous spots that are proud of their surfing. Areas around Jeffery’s Bay, Durban or Cape Town are just a few to mention and they are easy to access with good surf camps on offer.

Best time to go: All year

Namibia

Northwest of South Africa starts the beautiful country of Namibia. With only around 3 inhabitants per km² you can image how much space there is. If you’re up for a little adventure and want to catch your first wave, chances are high you’ll have waves to yourself. One thing though, better get in touch with local surf guides to avoid unpleasant surprises in and out the water. For more tips about Namibia, check out this site.

Best time to go: October to March

 

 

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