Surf Travel, a Global Overview

Surfers have been traveling the globe for half a century, looking for great waves and incredible places. Here is a list of destinations that have been discovered to have incredible surf and now offer resort accommodations and guide services to lead you to overhead peaks, long lines, and gaping barrels. Not sure where you want to go? Here’s an overview of the best surf travel destinations in the world and what benefits they offer.

Samoa

Ever wonder what Hawaii would be like if it had been left mostly alone? Samoa is the answer to that: a purer brand of Polynesia.  . The Samoan archipelago is made up of four main islands – Savaii, ‘Upolu, Tutila and Tau – and many smaller islands and atolls. Together they were known as the Navigator’s Islands by explorers because the Samoans were fearless ocean-goers.

Some places to go in Samoa:
SALANI SURF RESORT
SAVAII SURFARIS

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Tahiti

Before we get to the surf, a geography lesson: Saying you are going to “Tahiti” when you are going to the Society Islands is like saying you are going to the Big Island when you are going to the Hawaiian Islands. Tahiti is one island in the Society Islands group, like the Big Island of Hawaii is one island in the chain of Hawaiian Islands.  The Society Islands include Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Tahaa, Raiatea and Bora Bora.

Some places to go in Tahiti that are land-based accommodations and surf guide options concentrating on the islands of Tahiti, Moorea and the Tuamotu Atolls that are packaged with equal measures of Polynesian aloha and Surf Stoke that combine to make Tahiti one of the most desirable travel destinations in the world:

TEAHUPOO BLACK WATER LODGE
HA’APITI LODGE
GUIDE SERVICE AND HOTELS
NINAMU RESORT, TIKIHAU

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Fiji

If you are personally feeling damaged by modern civilization, Fiji is the place to wash away the stresses, toils and troubles, slings and arrows, and leave all that in your wake as you boat out to empty waves breaking in cool blue waters over pristine coral reefs. This is the place to go to live the words of John Severson, spoken in the 1960s, but still ringing true in places like Fiji: “In this crowded world, the surfer can still seek the perfect wave, on the perfect day and be alone with the surf and his thoughts.”

With a few exceptions, Fiji is the land of perfect waves breaking in crystal clear water on reef passes as close as a quarter mile from shore, and as far out as 15 miles.  Because the Fiji islands are volcanic, the coral reefs rise abruptly out of the deep so open ocean swells unload with full power. Except for the smaller days, Fiji is best experienced by surfers with some ability and experience.

Surf Travel locations in Fiji:
NAMOTU ISLAND RESORT
MATANIVUSI SURF RESORT
WAIDROKA BAY RESORT

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Tonga

Tonga has surf that isn’t as well known as its Hawaiian, Tahitian, Fijian or even Samoan cousins. Tonga is about a third of the way between Hawaii and New Zealand, which puts it in the path of swell from the northern hemisphere winter that has crossed the equator, and also raw energy from the Southern Ocean rumbling and bumbling as it heads north.

Tonga has been mostly overlooked for the last 100 years and that also applies to the surfing world. WaterWays Travel thinks that is a mistake and have aligned with the Ha’atfau Beach Resort on the main island of Tongatapu to show you the best Tonga has to offer. Ha’atafu Beach Resort is a blend of western and Polynesian hospitality with easy access to a dozen Tongan surf spots.

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The Maldives

The Maldives are a tropical surfer’s paradise of twenty-six atolls and 1,192 islets, strung like a “garland of islands” along 73° east longitude – which puts it exactly halfway around the world from New York City.

The Maldives are a fairly recent surf discovery, a happy accident in 1973, when Australians Tony Hinde and Mark Scanlon caught a ride in Sri Lanka on the yacht White Wings headed for Africa. Three hundred and fifty miles southwest of Sri Lanka, the sailboat ran aground on a reef in the middle of the night. The next morning, Scanlon and Hinde were still alive, their gear intact, and found themselves in a fantasy land of perfect surf breaking in turquoise waters along coral reefs rimming an island nation of conservative Muslims that was mostly unknown to the outside world.

The Maldives are a spectacularly beautiful water world of islets and coral reefs – one of those places that lives up to the hype and even surpasses it. WaterWays Travel has an exclusive relationship with Atoll Adventures which was founded by Tony Hussein Hinde and his family to manage the Surf Program for Chaya Island Dhonveli Resort (formerly Tari Village & Dhonveli Beach & Spa) which later expanded into yacht based operations in both the Southern/Outer Atolls and North & South Male Atoll. Atoll Adventures know the Maldives better than anyone else, as they discovered most the breaks going back to the beginning.

There are basically 3 options in the Maldives, an Outer Atoll Yacht Charter, an Inner Atoll Yacht Charter or staying on the island at a resort, such as Chaaya Island Dhonveli Resort

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Bali

Bali is the mystical Island of 1000 Temples – and hundreds of waves. Some of the names are familiar – Uluwatu, Padang-Padang, Bingin, Kuta, Sanur – and for good reason. No region in Indonesia has a broader variety of world-class waves that are so easily accessible. But for every wave you have heard of, or dreamed about, there are three or four that are less known. And once you get to know them, you will wonder why you’ve never dreamed of them.

Although a separate island from Bali, G-Land on Java is almost an extension of the greater surfing arena people visit on trips to Bali. An easy overnight transfer, or morning boat trip can land you along one of the most legendary left reef breaks in the world, well deserving of its reputation.

Since Bali was opened to the world in the late 60s and early 70s, it has become as much a jumping off point for other parts of Indonesia as it is a destination itself. But in the past few years, more and more American and Australian surfers – famous and infamous – have been expatriating themselves to Bali, spending some or all of the year there. One visit and you’ll understand why.

Bali Surf Camps and Resorts:
Bobby’s G-Land Surf Camp
Discovery Kartika Plaza Hotel
Puri Uluwatu Resort
La Walon Bungalows

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Rote / Timor

Roti is a small island in the Nusa Tengarra region of Indonesia, southwest of Timor and a very different world away from the increasingly overrun surfing areas of Bali, Sumatra and the Maldives.

When it comes to Indonesian surf adventure, anyone who tells you “been there, done that…” probably hasn’t been to Timor/Roti or the neighboring islands

LOCATION

LATITUDE : 10.790141
LONGITUDE: 123.09082
At 10° south, Roti is one of the farthest south points in the Indonesian archipelago. At E 123°, Roti is tucked up above Australia and about on the same longitude as Broome in Western Australia. Think of Roti as being at the end of a funnel formed by Australia and Indonesia, and then think of that funnel loaded with lots of world-famous, well-traveled swell.

If you’re planning on traveling to Rote, your best bet is Nemberala Beach Resort.

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Sumba

A surf trip to Sumba is like going back in time, before Christianity or Islam or Buddhism, when humans worshipped Gods close to the earth with blood and stone.  Four hundred kilometers east of Bali, and directly south of Komodo and Flores Islands, Sumba is an island on the cusp of Asia, Melanesia and Australia, and its culture and climate are effected by all three. Sumba is a bastion of a more primitive life as it was lived prior to 1522, when the first Dutch ships arrived.

Perfect waves are part of Sumba’s natural beauty; home to one of the most luxurious surf resorts in the world, the Nihiwatu Resort: 438 acres of tropical forest, rice terraces and grasslands wrapped around the two and half kilometer long Nihiwatu beach. Nihiwatu is not a “surf resort”, but more a luxury resort that happens to have exclusive access to one of Indonesia’s best lefthand reefs.

There are few resorts in the world that can compare to the total experience offered by Nihiwatu Resort.

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Lombok / Sumbawa

Step on a yacht leaving Bali and you have two choices for which way to go for surf – northwest or southeast – and two choices for how to get there: overland, or by sea.  If you make the correct and best choice and go southeast aboard a 7 night yacht charter the island stops within range are Nusa Lembongan, Lombok and Sumbawa.

The eastern islands of Indonesia are loaded with surf, from a couple of spots on Nusa Lembongan that are a short run from Bali, to the nether regions of the islands of Lombok and Sumbawa – jungle islands down to the water’s edge, with thin lines of coral between the beach and the deep blue sea. Those coral reefs are where the attraction lies.

Climb aboard a chartered yacht like the Dreamweaver and score the reefs of Lombok & Sumbawa.

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The Mentawais

There are two ways to tour the Mentawai: One is by land and two is by sea.

By Sea:

Many people still prefer the original mode of transportation for accessing the buffet of surf breaks in this zone. What was once sketchy is now luxurious as the boats have upgraded and come a long way since the early explorers. The yacht charter option provides the most flexibility to move up and down the chain based on conditions and your groups’ preference.  WaterWays charter options range from basic and safe to high-end luxury.

Freedom Yacht Charter
Midas Yacht Charter
Nusa Dewata Yacht Charter
Melaluca Yacht Charter
Huey Yacht Charter

By Land:

Some travelers are just “land lovers” and the thought of being on a boat for 10+ days with a bunch of guys is not really their idea of a vacation.  If you prefer to stretch your legs, have the privacy and luxury of a large A/C bungalow, take your meals in a proper dining room or are traveling with a “significant other” – you’re in luck!  Over the past five years, land-based resort operations have been developed in each of the wave-rich areas that make up the Mentawai chain.

Macaronis Resort
Aloita Resort

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The Telo and Hinako Islands, North Sumatra

The surf in the islands north of Mentawai is much like the surf in the Mentawai: long rights and lefts breaking on coral reefs with a jungle backdrop. The difference up here is crowds. There aren’t as many surfers poking around north of the Mentawai, and that’s a good thing if you want to enjoy all the fruits of Indian Ocean surf, without the seeds.

The better waves in this part of the world include Treasure Island, an incredibly long right in the Banyaks, Asu and Bawa are complimentary right and left reefs in the Hinako Islands. If the wind is bad for Asu it’s good for Bawa and vice versa. On Telo Island it’s Max’s Left, Max’s Right, GT’s Schoolyards and on and on and on. And don’t forget Lagundri Bay on Nias, the Mother of All Right Reefs, still firing after all these years

Perfect waves, gnarly waves, easy waves, fun waves, rights and lefts.  Although there are waves in this region suitable for most level of surfer riding whatever your board of choice; to make the most of the experience we recommend passenger have an intermediate skill and comfort level in the water.

Some options here include:

Bohemian Yacht Charter
Telo Island Lodge

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Africa

In 1966 The Endless Summer gave the surfing world a face full of Africa’s southern hemisphere surf potential. Mike Hynson and Robert August traveled around the world looking for the perfect wave and found it at Cape Saint Francis, where powerful, long-lined open ocean swell from the Southern Ocean wrapped for hundreds of yards around a sand and rock point – perfected by offshore winds blowing off the winter-cooled desert and into the Indian Ocean.

The Eastern Cape is everything from Jeffrey’s Bay to East London. The world’s greatest right point is the featured attraction, but there is a beautiful variety of points, reefs and beachbreaks along this 150 miles of coast, which is all in the Indian Ocean as the South African coast begins to run to the northeast

The Durban South Coast is the area from Port Edward up to Durban. This is all in the KwaZulu/Natal province, a stretch of coast kind of like the north coast of New South Wales, lush and green and dotted with very small towns, which all have their surf scenes and their secret spots. Beautiful.

Durban is South Africa’s surf city, home to Cave Rock, Pottz, a lot of classic beachbreaks, Jordy Smith, Wave House South Africa and Shaun Tomson. Durban divides into two areas. The north is home to the Golden Mile beaches, including the Bay of Plenty, North Beach and New Pier. The south coast is home to Cave Rock, which Michael Tomson described as “a playground for masochists.” In general, Durban is a playground for everyone.

The Durban North Coast is everything from Durban to the border of Mozambique. This area gives “rhino chaser” a new meaning as some of Africa’s most famous game reserves are inland from the coast and visited on guided tours.

Mozambique was a Portuguese colony, so the flavor of life changes the instant you cross the border from the British/Dutch influenced South Africa. The farther north you go, the more tropical the coastline becomes, with parrots in the palm trees, white sandy beaches and small fishing villages. This is the paradise you have always dreamed about, but never dreamed you would find in Africa.

Jeffrey’s Bay
Durban Mozambique

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Mexico

Mexico’s surf ranges from easy, sand-bottomed points that are perfect for beginners, to triple-overhead points, reefs and beachbreaks that are for experts only. Cardon Adventure Resort is nestled between two classic, sand-bottomed left points. Salina Cruz offers guided tours to one of the last, best places in Mexico – a virgin stretch of coast with point after beachbreak after point. Go to these places and you’ll be shocked that you were so unaware of all that Mexico has to offer. Mainland Mexico was one of the first big adventures for surfers but it’s still down there and a lot of it is as untouched as it was in the 1950s, when surfers were poking around in Woodies and DC 9s.

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Costa Rica

Witch’s Rock, Ollie’s Point, Tamarindo, Nosara and some of the famous places you’ve heard about are in this part of Costa Rica, but there’s another dozen or two spots you haven’t heard about but will be very glad to meet. Tropical sunshine, jungle to the water’s edge, empty beaches, friendly people and a reassuring feeling of safety and security. These are the elements that attract people to Costa.

Travel by boat on the Aquadesiac Yacht Charter, or by Land Rover with Costa Rica Surf Adventures

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Nicaragua

Nicaragua has a lot of surf potential, but a small 15 miles stretch known as the Popoyo Surf Zone is a must see surf destination. It offers year round deep water swell and over 300 days a year of all day offshore winds.

The Popoyo Surf Zone is on the southwest coast and runs from Manzanillo in the south to Playgrounds in the north.   It is to Nicaragua what the North Shore is to Oahu, or Punta Hermosa is to Peru.  Unlike Costa Rica to the south and the other breaks to the north in Nicaragua and El Salvador, the Popoyo Surf Zone is a miracle of points, beach and reef breaks that capture the power of the frequent south swells and adds an all day dose of offshore winds funneling in from Lake Nicaragua to create great surf. Ventana a Las Olas Surf Resort is a great place to stay, eat, surf, and relax.

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El Salvador

If you’ve ever seen John Milius’ 1978 Big Wednesday, a lot of the surfing in the perfect right point that was supposed to be Malibu was actually done at Punta Roca, a right point in El Salvador. Seen from a satellite, Punta Roca is a perfectly shaped right point with a lagoon at the top and a pier at the bottom – a lot like Malibu. Now imagine Malibu about 2000+ miles closer to the source of all that south swell. A Malibu that is bigger, warmer, faster, way more consistent and a lot less crowded, and then you will understand the attraction of Punta Roca – and all that El Salvador offers.

Great places to stay and surf in El Salvador:
Mizata Surf Lodge
Casa de Mar
Tekuani Kal
Miraflores Surf Lodge

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Panama

Just a short flight from Panama City gets you into the Bocas Del Toro region. At around 9° N, this cluster of small islands just off Panama’s Caribbean coast has become a popular eco-haven vacation sight for divers, sun worshippers and a growing number of surfers clued into the “Other Panama”: An area closer in feel to the South Pacific then Central America, with jungle down to white-sand beaches and surf fringing on reefs. Azucar Surf Retreat and Red Frog Bungalows are a couple of great options in the Bocas area.

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Ecuador

Just when you thought the whole world was as crowded as Lower Trestles or Sebastian Inlet, along comes Ecuador: miles of wave-lashed coastline hiding between Colombia and Peru that the surf world has overlooked. Guided Surf Tours are available, or you can stay at Montanita Surf Camp and explore on your own.

The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are to Ecuador what Hawaii is to the west coast and Puerto Rico is to the east coast. When most outsiders think of the Galapagos they think of a protected National Park that is off-limits to all but scientists, and certainly not open to surfers. But that is not the case, and the Galapagos have become one of the most exotic passport stamps a surfer can collect. And if you suspect that an island chain located directly on the equator, 700 miles out to sea and equidistant from the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific might have surf – well you have suspected correctly.

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Peru

Peru has the four S’s covered in abundance: Swell, Surf spots, Solitude and Seafood. These are the S words that surfers like best, and while Peru is a country that is on the surf travel map, the third largest country in South America is still Terra Incognita to most surfers. With all it has to offer in a surfing world that is increasingly populated, Peru should be more popular than it is, but thank God it isn’t. Peru is still a Sanctuary for surfers who just want to get waves, lots of waves, and aren’t afraid to drive through some dust to get them.

Chicama is the perfect wave you drew in your math book when you daydreamed in high school.  Seeing is believing, and surfing it is beyond belief. The Chicama experience is not what you expected and more than you expect. To catch this left point firing at six feet is to dream about it for the rest of your life.

Punta Hermosa is a beach town 20 miles south of Lima that is doubly famous in the surfing world for two natural wonders: Pico Alto and Sofia Mulanovich. Pico Alto International Surf Camp is located just back from the beach between the surf spots at Oscar Point and Senoritas, but within close range of an eight mile miracle of 17 surf spots from San Bartolo to the south and Arica to the north, and many more spots for those who want a 50 mile adventure into the countryside to surf alone.

Located in Los Organos, Bungalows Playa Blanca puts you halfway between the Peruvian Pipeline at Cabo Blanco and the city of Mancora a little north. In between and on either sides of those two points are a half dozen more points, reefs, and miles and miles of beach break.

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