Best Beaches For Surfing In America: Top 5 U.S. Cities For Catching Incredible Waves, Per Experts

Cowabunga! Hang ten! Stretching along the coastlines of the United States, incredible beaches beckon surfers with their thrilling waves and scenic beauty. From the iconic breaks of California’s Huntington Beach, known as “Surf City USA,” to the tropical paradise of Hawaii’s Pipeline, where massive barrels challenge even the most experienced riders, these beaches offer a playground for wave enthusiasts. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, the diverse range of surf spots, each with its unique charm and challenges, makes these the best beaches for surfing in America.

According to new research, a wave has a “sweet spot” for surfers. Mastering the menacing waves of the Pacific Ocean is no easy chore. Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California sought to figure out how to find the most forceful part of a wave — the area that will most efficiently propel the surfer forward. “Based upon the speed and geometry of the wave, you can determine the conditions to surf a wave and also where on the wave the maximum acceleration, or ‘sweet spot,’ will be located,” says study co-author Nick Pizzo. The authors say that the location can be found right inside the curl of the breaking wave.

When you finally reach that “sweet spot,” surfing becomes a thrilling dance with nature’s rhythm. Picture this: The salty breeze whipping across your face, skimming the surface with ease as you are picked up by a gnarly wave. And if you aren’t a veteran in the waves yet, don’t worry. Visiting some of these beaches can give you a taste of what pros can accomplish.

Places like Florida, California, the Carolinas, and Hawaii have enormous beaches perfect for diving into the fun. Our list of the best beaches for surfing in the U.S. is based on the most recommended locations across nine expert reviews. If you have a beach that’s a must-visit for fellow surfers, please leave your suggestion in the comments below.

The List: Best Beaches for Surfing in the U.S., According to Experts

1. Cocoa Beach, Florida

ParkSleepFly says Florida’s Cocoa Beach tops their own list with a score of 8.32 out of a possible 10. “In Cocoa Beach, which produced world-renowned surfer Kelly Slater, the average sea temperature is a balmy 80 degrees, and there are 78 surf breaks packed in almost 12 miles of coastline,” they write in their review. “The beach is also trending online, with more than 3,000 surfing-related Instagram hashtags and 5,800 Google searches.”

Surfer heading into the waves at Cocoa Beach, Florida
Get to Cocoa Beach early to catch the spectacular sunrise before heading into the waves for surfing fun (Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

According to Trip Savvy, “Situated about 45 minutes from Orlando on Florida’s ‘Space Coast,’ Cocoa Beach is a renowned surf town that’s home to two of the world’s best surfers (Caroline Marks and Kelly Slater) and a favorite for surfers of all levels.”

Gotham mentions that Cocoa Beach is a great place not just for surfing, but simply to spend the day. “Enjoy a visit to the Kennedy Space Center and world famous surf breaks all in one visit. Surrounded by gorgeous maritime forest and a lovely beach town, Cocoa Beach is a great surf destination for those looking to unwind. With year-round warm temperatures and waves suitable for beginners and pros alike, this spot is the place to be if you’re in search of a slice of paradise.”

“No Best Surf Locations in America list would be complete without Cocoa Beach, Florida. Home of the world famous surfer Kelly Slater, Cocoa Beach isn’t something to turn your nose up at. This beach has calmer waves that are perfect for beginners and longboarders and with a few different spots providing these kinds of waves, there’s no shortage of options on where to surf all on a single beach,” states Surfing Waves.

2. North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii

“Oahu’s North Shore is what surfing legends are made of as the home of the Triple Crown of Surfing competitions and the birthplace of many internationally known surfers. Also referred to as the ‘Seven Mile Miracle,’ this is where you’ll find the world-famous Pipeline surfing break. Winter swells roll in and push up onto a very shallow reef that creates some of the most incredible waves, forming spectacular rideable barrels that pro surfers dream about, ” writes travel blog Trips to Discover.

Surfer rides waves in Oahu at sunset
Oahu is not only one of the best places for surfing, it’s also one of the most beautiful (Photo by Woody Kelly on Unsplash)

57 Hours adds: “There is every kind of surf break here, from reefs to points to beach break and everything in between. Some of these breaks have become legendary names in the lexicon of surf history: Sunset Beach, Velzeyland, Gas Chambers, Rocky Point, Waimea Bay, Chun’s Reef, Haleiwa, and the notorious Banzai Pipeline, which is regarded as one of the best, if not the best wave in the world.”

Gotham ranks it on the top and writes, “As one of the most iconic strips of sand in the world, this spot is definitely worthy of its ranking as a top surfing destination. With world-class surfing conditions and plenty of great eateries and shops that line the surrounding streets, this spot is great for surfers and explorers alike!”

3. Huntington Beach, California

“Known for its beautiful boardwalks, abundance of longboards and incredible surf, Huntington Beach is a great destination for a day of play,” says Gotham. “Take a post-surf walk on the eight miles of stunning beach. With a mild climate and lively skate and surf culture, Huntington is sure to provide great memories on your next excursion!”

Surfer catching waves in Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach is known to many as “Surf City, USA” (Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash)

10 Best writes: “There’s a reason Huntington Beach is known as ‘Surf City USA,’ as this destination is home to year-round surf conditions making it an ideal place for newcomers who wish to learn how to shred, or at least stand up, on their board.”

Trips to Discover calls Huntington Beach a “mecca for wave lovers” (and their pets) in its review. “It was the stomping ground of surf pioneer George Freeth over a century ago and Duke Kahanamoku, the Big Kahuna, who chose it as his base in later decades. You’ll find surf schools, surf camps, and surf shops in the town center while popular places to ride the waves include the Huntington Beach Pier, which holds the U.S. Open of Surfing. Huntington Dog Beach even hosts its own dog surfing competition every year in late September, so you can bring your skilled four-legged best friend to get in on the fun.”

4. Folly Beach, South Carolina

We’ve already ranked the historic city of Charleston as one of the best places to retire. As it turns out, not too far down the street is one of the best beaches for surfing in the U.S. “This chill surf town is 20 minutes south of Charleston, making Folly Beach an awesome place for a surfing and culture trip. While the west coast and Hawaii see more consistent swells with longer rides, if you hit Folly Beach on a hurricane swell, you won’t be disappointed.  If you are in the Southeast, Folly Beach is one of the best surf beaches in the area,” writes Trip Outside.

Welcome to Folly Beach sign
Folly Beach welcome sign (Photo by Bre Smith on Unsplash)

Why is The Washout such a perfect spot for surfer? According to Salty Home, “It is a long beach break that can become quite powerful during hurricanes swells or northeastern swells.”

Adds TripSavvy: “In South Carolina, the lovely Folly Beach draws surfers who enjoy a laid-back vibe and a pumping surf break. Located just south of Charleston, Folly Beach is a favorite local getaway on the Atlantic Ocean—with a pier, several parks, and an abundance of shops, restaurants, and great family fun. New and experienced surfers here can enjoy several waves in the area year-round, as the temperatures here are relatively mild. If you’re seeking lessons, there are a number of surf shops to choose from, including Oceans Surf Shop and McKevlin’s Surf Shop.”

5. Santa Cruz, California

Many surfers might be shocked that this location isn’t number one on the list. “Santa Cruz is world renowned as one of the top surfing towns, offering everything from gentle waves to massive and dangerous crashing swells,” writes Trips to Discover. “Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point are the most popular spots, with the latter a favorite for its variety, ideal for both first-timers and the pros. Steamer Lane hosts the Cold Water Classic Surf Contest and attracts onlookers year-round as one of the most beloved places to surf on the planet.”

Surfer riding waves off Santa Cruz
Surfer riding waves off Santa Cruz. (Photo by Gabriel Barranco on Unsplash)

According to Trip Outside, “Santa Cruz is arguably the best place to surf in Northern California, and one of the best places to surf in the world. The water’s cold, for sure, but there are tons of breaks for all levels–from very beginner to extreme expert.” 

Surfing Waves says, “Also known as ‘surf city’, Santa Cruz is quite possibly one of the best locations for surfing in the whole of California, if not the whole of America. Pleasure Point and Capitola Beach make for perfect surfing for beginners, with calm waves, or for a step up there is Cowell’s beach if you want to practice your wave catching. Steamer Lane offers surfing for the more experienced, or for anyone who likes a bit of seafood, the Crow’s Nest restaurant is a good place to settle at the end of a long day’s surfing. Check out the little Surf Museum there also. FYI: you’ll need a 4/3 wetsuit as the water can be a little chilly.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This post may contain affiliate links.

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About the Author

Saloni Ordia

Saloni is a freelance B2B SaaS writer who excels at creating in-depth product-focused content. When she is not writing, you can find her in the kitchen whipping up new recipes or curled up with a rom-com novel.

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