Hawaii Surfing Guide

The Big Island of Hawaii is one of the best surfing locations in the world. The heat, the waves, and the clear blue water all make for a surfer’s paradise. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned surfer, you’ll love the surfing culture of Hawaii.

To help you prepare for your adventure, we’ve created this guide to surfing in Hawaii. Keep reading for tips on the best locations, surfing etiquette, and where to get lessons.

Surfboards in Hawaii

Best Surfing Spots on the Big Island

Knowing where to go can make a big difference when it comes to a surfing day. The top four surfing spots on the island are:

1. Banyans (Kona)

A fair warning that the winds and waves are pretty strong in Banyans, so this spot is typically recommended for experienced surfers. In addition to the strong current, there are also plenty of sharp rocks and sea urchins to watch out for. 

Still, for intermediate and advanced surfers, this is a favorite spot – especially among locals. 

The prime season for surfing in Banyans is the summer months. The waves are hollow, with a left reef break, and an east-wind direction. 

Surfing on the big island of Hawaii

2. Kahalu’u (Kona)

Kahalu’u is a go-to spot with many tourists as it’s an excellent location for less-advanced surfers. There are also plenty of vendors in the area offering lessons and rental surfboards. The winds are typically small to medium in size, making it a perfect spot for beginner to intermediate surfers. 

Kahalu’u typically sees its prime surfing conditions in the summer months. 

Two surfers walking to the beach

3. Pine Trees (North of Kona)

Pine Trees Beach is popular with both tourists and locals because its exposed reef break almost guarantees prime surf conditions all year round. Try to get here early because it can definitely get crowded! Pine Trees is recommended for surfers that are intermediate and advanced. 

Surfing in Pine Trees Beach, Kona, Hawaii

4. Honoli’i (Hilo)

Located in Hilo, Honoli’i offers a great surfing location for people of all skill levels. Surfers get to choose between several breaks – a reef, a beach, and a river mouth. Locals are less likely to frequent this spot, so you shouldn’t be dealing with as many crowds! 

Boy walking with surfboard

Surfing Etiquette

Now that you know where to surf, let’s talk about how to surf. When you visit these spots, you’ll often be sharing the waters with locals, experienced surfers, and other tourists. A big part of surfing culture is respecting each other. 

There are a few fundamental rules you should be aware of:

  1. Right of Way: The surfer closest to the peak always gets priority. There are no line cuts when it comes to surfing etiquette. According to SurferToday.com, this means that “if you’re paddling for a right-hand wave and a fellow surfer is on your left shoulder, you should give priority to him or her.” This also applies to dropping in. Never cut off another surfer who is ahead of you or has the right of way. 
  2. Don’t Snake: “Snaking” is a term used to describe when a person repeatedly circles another surfer in the hopes of getting the inside position of a wave. Similar to rule #1, this is a no-no. Always wait your turn. 
  3. Don’t Throw Your Board: Your surfboard is a heavy piece of equipment. Throwing it can endanger other surfers. Learn the safe and proper way to paddle out. 
  4. Communicate: We all have to share the water. It’s important to shout out what you’re about to do to those around you to help avoid crossing into each other’s paths. 
  5. Apologize: If you make a mistake and cut someone off, always apologize. People can understand mistakes, but it’s polite to acknowledge the error. 
  6. Help Each Other Out: If you see a surfer in need of assistance, always do what you can to help out. 
Female surfer in the water

Surfing Lessons 

Unless you’ve been surfing all of your life, surfing can be intimidating. It’s a challenging sport, especially if you only get to practice it a handful of times a year. Use your visit to the Big Island as an opportunity to take some surfing lessons. 

If you’re planning to tackle surfing on the Kona coast, you can get lessons at Kona Mike’s Surf Adventures, Kona Surf Company, or Kona Town Surf Adventures. 

If you’re on the Hilo coast, you can get lessons at the Hulakai shop.

Surfboards lined up together

When to Go

You can surf on the Big Island virtually all year round. You’ll get great waves in both the summer and the winter months but will probably deal with fewer crowds and cheaper flights in the off-season (January to April). 

Surfing lessons

With the help of this guide, you should be all set for your next surfing session on the Big Island. It’s time for you to see views of Hawaii while riding a giant wave!