Nothing compares to a Hawaii surf trip. If you can’t make it all the way across the Pacific to the birthplace of surfing and the home of our North Shore surf school, a trip to the West Coast will do just fine. California has a special place in surf history. Thanks to Duke Kahanamoku and George Freeth bringing surfing to the mainland, the state was, and remains, highly influential in surf culture. Spots like Malibu and surfers like Mikey Dora shaped surfing into what it is today. A road trip along the West Coast is like traveling through surf history. North of California, Oregon, and Washington are epic surf travel destinations, both teeming with quality waves for those who can stand the cold. Continue reading below for The Ultimate West Coast Road Trip.
San Diego, California
Our first stop at the bottom of Southern California is San Diego. San Diego is home to dozens of world-class waves, with something for every level of surfer. Advanced surfers flock to famed waves like Blacks Beach for big swells, while beginner and intermediate surfers stick to the beach breaks around town. North County, San Diego, has a relaxed residential vibe with stunning sea cliffs, epic reef setups, and tasty Mexican food.
San Clemente, California
Just an hour North of San Diego is San Clemente, California, the capital of progressive surfing. With waves like Lower Trestles and T Street, it’s easy to see why. There’s still plenty to choose from for longboard lovers and new surfers. San O offers slow peeling waves, and Upper Trestles is significantly more user-friendly and less crowded than its world-famous southern neighbor, Lowers.
Malibu is a must-stop spot on any West Coast road trip for surf geeks. While the wave is one of the more crowded in the world, it remains an iconic fixture in surf history and is inarguably an excellent wave. First Point Malibu is a cobblestone right-hand point break that stretches for what feels like an eternity and breaks in front of Malibu’s lush mountains.
Santa Barbara, California
Santa Barbara doesn’t have the most consistent waves on the West Coast because the Channel Islands break up most of the swell that comes toward shore. During the winter, when powerful north swells are plentiful, the queen of California comes to life. Rincon, a legendary right-hand point, is one of the best waves in the state and is as fickle as she is perfect.
Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz, California, is on the other end of the California surfing spectrum. Santa Cruz is cold and a little rough around the edges, but the coastline is stunning, and the waves are as good as anywhere in the state. Santa Cruz is just a stone’s throw from the infamous big wave spot, Mavericks in Half Moon Bay.
The Oregon coast is breathtaking. Towering seaside cliffs and rock spires give way to densely forested mountains with secluded coves and sea caves around every bend. Seaside, Oregon, near the Washington border is one of the region’s best waves that offers reliable surf year-round. Seaside is a highly competitive left-hand point that’s an expert-only wave. Just south of Seaside is Cannon Beach, which is more user-friendly and less localized.
Westport, Washington, is Washington’s most accessible wave, as much of the coastline in the Olympic Peninsula is hard to get to. Westport is a long sandy beach with miles of sand bars and a reliable jetty break. Like most west-facing waves in the Pacific Northwest, Westport is best in the fall and is best for beginners during the summer when the swell is smaller.
Add a trip to Hawaii to your bucket list to learn from the best at our North Shore Surf School, located along Oahu’s Seven Mile Miracle, and surf the tranquil, turquoise waters of Turtle Bay. To stay close to the action on the North Shore, book your stay at Turtle Bay Resort.