The Best Places for Surfing in Jamaica

Jamaica's year-round warm waters make surfing an even more appealing prospect
Jamaica's year-round warm waters make surfing an even more appealing prospect | © Uliana Bazar / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Lola Mendez
7 August 2020

Jamaica’s 635-mile-long coastline has hidden surf spots for all skill levels. Trade winds provide a consistent year-round surf and the tropical environment keeps waters warm. These are six of the best places for surfing in Jamaica.

Boston Bay

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Surfer, Boston bay, watersports, waves, surfing, Jamaica, Jamaika
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The most popular beach for surfing in Jamaica is picturesque Boston Bay in Port Antonio parish. There are surfable waves year-round in the bay and you can always find a handful of local surfers out in the water. The waves are gentle, making this a great spot for newbies. Several surf schools operate on the beach if you need some help getting up on the board.

Zoo

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Some of the best surf spots in Jamaica are around the southeastern side of the island including Zoo, which is near Bull Bay. Zoo is popular among local surfers, and is best suited to intermediate riders, as the reef break produces waves with a short ride on a barreling right. Before Hurricane Ivan, which destroyed the reef here, Zoo was widely considered to be the best place for surfing in Jamaica.

Bull Bay

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Jamnesia Surfing, Jamaica
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The most iconic surf camp on the island is Jamnesia – based out of Bull Bay and also known as Copa Bay – near Kingston, also considered to be the place where surfing first gained popularity on the island. Jamnesia is operated by the Wilmot family and was founded in the 1970s as the first surf school in Jamaica. Bull Bay local Elishama Beckford, affectionately known as Shama, was the first Jamaican professional surfer and has a celebrated international career. The bay has consistent surf year-round with big waves on the right reef break and long rides.

Makka

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Surfers love to take on the swells in the Saint Thomas Parish at Makka in Yallahs. The small beach boasts world-class water tubes that give surfers the chance to enjoy fairly long rides on breaking waves. Jamaica’s first professional surf competition, the Makka Pro Surf Contest, is held here annually, and is one of the largest surfing events in the Caribbean. Surfers from all across the planet come to Jamaica for the festivities.

Runaway Bay

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Beach and jetty break at Royal Decameron resort in Runaway Bay, Jamaica. In the background one can see workers on jetty.
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Runaway Bay is located on Jamaica’s scenic northern coast – near the resort town of Ocho Rios – and is a great spot for surfers of all levels. Check the wind pattern before paddling out as onshore trade winds often affect the quality of the waves. The bay’s exposed point breaks sometimes create choppy waves that can sometimes be staggering, so take care.

Lighthouse

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This surf spot is conveniently located near the Norman Manley International Airport – useful if you feel the need to catch a wave immediately upon your arrival in Jamaica. You can expect to find a steady swell of three-to-six-foot waves here. If you enjoy watching surfers take on epic waves from the safety of the beach, this is a great place to watch folks participate in the sport.

These recommendations were updated on August 7, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.