The Top 10 Surfing Destinations of 2021
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There’s no denying that 2020 has changed the way we look at travel. At the beginning of the year, surfing was banned in most places across the globe. Beaches, resorts, even entire countries closed down. But brighter days will come, and we shouldn’t stop dreaming.
Some well-established surfing destinations have already started welcoming tourists back. And while others remain closed, domestic travel has been strongly encouraged. Unfortunately, surfing is not possible in landlocked countries or states. That said, it is very much possible to avoid long-haul flights and travel closer to home to find good waves.
Numerous surf camps have adapted to comply with all safety, cleaning, and sanitation standards in order to continue offering unforgettable experiences.
When we compiled the list of the best surfing destinations of 2020, we had no idea what was coming. Now it’s that time of year again to look at our statistics and bring you our predictions for 2021.
Portugal has maintained its first position, followed by the Canary Islands, same as last year. But other places have lost ground. Read on and find out what are the surfing destinations that you should consider adding to your 2021 bucket list!
Note: At the time of writing, some countries are still subject to travel restrictions. We strongly advise to stay up to date with the latest COVID-19 restrictions and information from official government sources.
BookSurfCamps offers a flexible cancellation policy. Should you not be able to travel as scheduled, we’d be happy to help you alter your booking with the same organizer or a different organizer.
Image credit: Magikvanilla Surf Camp
Home to not only some of the best surf spots in Europe but also the world, Portugal is the most visited surfing destination on the Old Continent. It hasn’t lost any ground in 2020, owing to the fact that it reopened to international travelers from select countries in June, without an imposed quarantine.
Portugal is also the most affordable country in Western Europe (not counting flights). Add to that the abundance of surf camps, an outstanding variety of waves for all levels, vibrant surf culture, cuisine, and authentic charm, and you have yourself a recipe for an unforgettable surf trip in 2021.
Thanks to its multitude of gentle and user-friendly waves, especially during summer, Portugal is one of the world’s best surfing destinations for beginners. At the same time, some of Europe’s biggest and most powerful waves can be found in here – the gnarly waves at Nazaré, Supertubos, and Cave come to life in October and continue to fire up all the way through March.
There are numerous great spots scattered all along Portugal’s coast, but the highest concentration of world-class waves can be found in the Centro Region. Here, Ericeira and Peniche are the country’s surfing hotspots, with a large number of surf camps and waves for all levels and tastes. Of course, sunny Algarve in the south and Porto in the north shouldn’t be ignored, as they have their own unique personality and some awesome waves to offer.
Note: At the time of writing (Nov 2020), large parts of Portugal are in partial lockdown.
Best time to go:
While it is possible to surf in Portugal all year round, October through April are the most consistent months.
For beginners, the best time to go is during summer, between May and September, when the waves are smaller and less powerful. For experienced surfers, the waves are biggest and most powerful during winter.
» READ MORE: All You Need to Know About Surfing in Portugal
Image credit: Line Up Fuerteventura
The Canary Islands have had one of the lowest covid-19 infection numbers in Spain. In summer, they started welcoming tourists back from the European Union and Schengen area without an imposed quarantine, which made the archipelago a sought-after destination.
Closer to Africa than to mainland Spain, the Canary Islands are a fascinating blend of European, African, and American influences. While each island has its own personality, what they share in common is the otherworldly landscapes, year-round sunny weather, warm water, and fantastic waves.
The islands are a great place to learn to surf, thanks to the sheltered surf spots with mellow waves for beginners that are accessible all year round. And they’re also a premier place to take your skills to the next level, as there are numerous powerful, fast, and technical reef breaks that can challenge even the most experienced of surfers.
Note: At the time of writing (Nov 2020), mainland Spain is affected by curfews (there are restrictions for people circulating at night, from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.), whereas the Canary Islands are not affected. You must fill in a health control form (FCS) before or upon entering the country. All tourists traveling to the Canary Islands must present a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours of arrival.
Best time to go:
The Canary Islands are a year-round surfing destination. That said, the most reliable conditions can be found between September and April.
For beginners, the waves are gentler in summer and autumn. For experienced surfers, the waves are most powerful between November and February.
For the first time, the United Kingdom made our list of top surfing destinations and landed straight on an astounding third place. This is mostly because numerous surfers opted to travel domestically and ride the local waves.
But the UK is more than worthy of this spot even under normal circumstances. Sure, the water is colder, but on a good day, the wave quality is just as great as anywhere else in the world.
From the gnarly waves at Thurso East in Scotland and Portrush in Northern Ireland to Croyde and Woolacombe in North Devon, Saltburn-on-Sea in North Yorkshire, and all the way to Cornwall in Southwest England, the UK has a variety of epic surf spots for all levels.
Home to Newquay, the capital of British surfing, Cornwall is the most popular surfing destination in the country. It’s one of the best places to learn to surf in the UK, especially in summer and early autumn, when the waves are gentler. It’s also where you’ll find the famous surf spots of Watergate Bay, Fistral Beach, Porthleven, St Agnes, Sennen Cove, and more.
Note: At the time of writing (Nov, 2020), the UK is set to enter a second national lockdown, which will impact surf camps and surf schools.
Best time to go:
The United Kingdom receives consistent swells between September and May. For beginners and advanced surfers alike, autumn is the best time to surf in the UK, as the weather is still pleasant, the water is not as cold yet, and the beaches are less crowded.
4. Costa Rica
Image credit: Selina
Blessed with year-round surf, tropical climate, and warm water, the “rich coast” certainly lives up to its name. Costa Rica is one of the most beginner-friendly surfing destinations in the world, and has quality waves on both its Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
The most visited surfing destinations in Costa Rica are in the Guanacaste and Puntarenas provinces, which have a wide variety of waves for all levels, from mellow beach breaks to downright gnarly reefs.
The country has an all-around laidback atmosphere and its Pura Vida lifestyle is simply contagious. Chic surf towns like Tamarindo, Nosara, Santa Teresa, Jacó, and Puerto Viejo welcome tourists and expats from all corners of the world. Even though tourism is booming, there are many quaint fishing villages and secret surf spots left to discover.
Note: Costa Rica reopened for tourists from select countries in August. At the time of writing, it welcomes tourists from all 50 US states.
Best time to go:
Any time is a good time to surf in Costa Rica. That said, surfing conditions differ from one coast to the other.
On the Pacific Coast, the waves are at their best between April and November. This is when the waves are bigger and more powerful, but there’ll also be sheltered and more mellow waves for beginners. Occasional clean, glassy conditions can be found between December and February too.
On the Caribbean Coast, the optimal conditions are between December and April.
» READ MORE: All You Need to Know About Surfing in Costa Rica
Image credit: Surf Soul Adventure
Only a short flight from Europe, Morocco is a coveted winter surfing destination, as most of its surf breaks put on their best performance during the cold season.
A melting pot of Berber, Arabic, African, and European influences, Morocco is a sensory overload and a right-hand point break paradise.
Most of the waves are user-friendly, even the bigger ones, which makes Morocco one of the best places in the world to learn to surf and make progress. There are numerous waves for beginners as well as some that will put your skills to the test.
Although there’s surf all along its Atlantic coast, the highest concentration of quality waves can be found between Essaouira and Agadir. Taghazout and Tamraght are the most visited surfing destinations in Morocco, with beginner-friendly spots like Panorama Point, Hash Point, La Source, and Banana Point. But this is also where you’ll find the legendary Anchor Point and Killer Point, two of the most iconic waves in the country.
Note: At the time of writing, foreign travelers who are visa-exempt can enter the country, provided they have a confirmed hotel reservation or invitation from a Moroccan company, as well as a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival.
Best time to go:
Although there are waves in Morocco all year round, the best conditions can be found between October and March, when the Atlantic delivers big and consistent swells.
For beginners, spring, summer, and early autumn bring smaller and friendlier waves. But there are sheltered spots all throughout the year. For experienced surfers, winter months are when the challenging waves at Anchor Point, Killer Point, Boilers, Dracula’s, and Desert Point fire up.
» READ MORE: All You Need to Know About Surfing in Morocco
The land of wine, baguette, croissants, and cheese is the proud home of some of the world’s best beach breaks. From Normandy and Brittany in the north all the way to Landes, Hossegor, Anglet, and Biarritz, France’s Atlantic coast is dotted with quality surf breaks.
The birthplace of surfing in Europe, Southwest France has an outstanding diversity of waves, chic surf towns, and high-quality surf camps. Each and every corner along this stretch of coastline exhales surf vibes.
The Nouvelle-Aquitaine region is a global surf hub, and the highest concentration of quality beach breaks in Europe can be found between Seignosse and Biarritz.
Note: At the time of writing, France entered a second national partial lockdown, which affects surf camps and beach access.
Best time to go:
France is a year-round surfing destination. That said, the most consistent conditions can be found in autumn and winter.
For beginners, the best time to go is summer and early autumn, when the waves are smaller. For experienced surfers, autumn and winter receive powerful waves. Overall, September, October, and November are the best months to surf in France, for beginners and experienced surfers alike. The waves are excellently formed, the water is not as cold yet, and the beaches are less crowded.
Image credit: Mojosurf Australia
Australia just had to make it on our list. Surfing is a way of life Down Under and an undeniable part of its culture.
Due to the pandemic and the restrictions associated with it, Australians have been encouraged to travel domestically. Therefore, the country’s surf beaches lost none of their popularity. Plus, legendary spots like Burleigh Heads, Snapper Rocks, Byron Bay, Torquay, and Margaret River will always be on any avid surfer’s bucket list.
In NSW, Byron Bay is a surfing mecca with a variety of breaks for all levels. North of Sydney, the Northern Beaches are home to some of Australia’s most iconic surf beaches, including Manly Beach. And let us not forget Bondi Beach, one of the most popular beaches in the world.
South of Brisbane, the Gold Coast is the most visited coastline in Australia, home to some of the world’s best right-hand point breaks, including Burleigh Heads, which is considered the best surf break in the country.
Note: At the time of writing, Australia's borders are closed and are expected to remain closed until late 2021. Some states are beginning to ease their restrictions, but travel between Australian states and territories could be subject to travel restrictions.
Best time to go:
Australia has great waves all year round. The Australian autumn (March-May) and winter (June-August) have the most reliable surfing conditions. Summer (December-February) is less consistent, but the cyclone season can occasionally deliver epic conditions.
» READ MORE: All You Need to Know About Surfing in Australia
8. Hawaii, USA
Out of the eight main Hawaii Islands, only four have good surf year round: Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Big Island. The archipelago is the birthplace of modern surfing, a reef break paradise, and home to some of the best waves on the planet, as well as some of the scariest, such as Pipeline on Oahu and Jaws on Maui.
Oahu’s North Shore is the ultimate surfers’ playground and testing ground. All surfers, rookies and pros alike, dream of visiting the stretch of coastline where the world’s biggest and heaviest waves fire up during winter.
The Seven Mile Miracle is widely considered the world’s surfing mecca. It stretches for seven miles (11km) between Haleiwa and Velzyland, and is dotted with no less than 36 world-class waves, including Banzai Pipeline, Backdoor, Sunset Beach, Haleiwa, Waimea, Off the Wall, and Gas Chambers.
Note: At the time of writing, Hawaii reopened to US travelers. Beaches are open but gatherings are limited.
Best time to go:
It’s possible to surf in Hawaii all year round. That said, the conditions differ between the northern shores and the southern.
Winter (October-April) is the best time to go surfing on the northern shores of the Hawaiian Islands. On the southern shores, the waves are much gentler during this time of year, and thus more suitable for beginners.
Summer (May-October) is the best time to surf on the southern shores. This is when the waves are much smaller on the northern coasts and suitable for beginners, but there can be long periods with no swells.
» READ MORE: All You Need to Know About Surfing in Hawaii
Image credit: Experiencia Puerto Escondido
The powerful point breaks and crystal-clear azure waters have drawn surfers to Mexico’s shores for decades.
Although popular resorts started welcoming tourists back in summer, the surf beaches were much quieter in 2020. Under normal circumstances, Baja California, home to some of the best waves in the country, would see flocks of Southern Californian surfers over the weekend.
On the central coast, Nayarit and Mazatlán are swell magnets, with numerous uncrowded waves for all levels of surfers. But the most popular surfing destination in Mexico remains Puerto Escondido, the birthplace of surfing in Mexico and home to La Zicatela, a legendary beach break that’s also known as the “Mexican Pipeline”.
Note: Travel is open for citizens of all countries. PCR tests are not required to enter the country, nor is quarantine imposed. You are required to fill in a health form upon entry.
Best time to go:
It’s possible to surf in Mexico all year round, as the country receives consistent swells. However, the best conditions can be found between May and October, during hurricane season. This is when the waves are at their biggest and most consistent.
» READ MORE: Surfing in Mexico: Your Guide to the Best Waves
10. Bali, Indonesia
Bali lost a lot of ground, just like the rest of Indonesia, due to the pandemic. It closed its doors to foreign tourists back in March and, although there was a tentative plan to reopen in September, it was scrapped, and international travel will not be resumed for the remainder of 2020.
But there’s no knowing what 2021 has in store and if borders would open again. Still, Bali might return to its former glory. After all, it is home to some of the world’s best waves, for all levels and tastes. Kuta Beach, Canggu, Dreamland, and Medewi are excellent spots for beginners and intermediates, while advanced surfers surely have the reef breaks at Padang Padang, Uluwatu, Bingin, and Impossibles at the top of their bucket list.
Best time to go:
Bali receives swells all year round. But the surfing conditions differ between the west and east coasts.
The best time to go surfing in Bali is during the dry season (May-September), when the legendary reef breaks on the west coast put on their best performance. During the wet season (November-March), you can find quality surf on the east coast.