Oahu, like every Hawaiian island, is a place where postcard-worthy beaches meet the crystal clear waters of the Pacific, while the vibes on land are simultaneously laid-back and adventurous. So, is it any surprise that this island is a surfer’s paradise?
Oahu, roughly translated as The Gathering Place, is renowned for its surfing scene. With waves around the island that cater to all levels, from gentle rollers to thrilling breaks, its reputation as a world-class destination for surfers of all abilities is well-earned. With that in mind, here is our guide to surfing in Oahu for beginners.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Best Beaches for Beginners
Waikiki Beach – one of the most iconic beaches on the island, Waikiki offers gentle, rolling waves ideal for beginners. Lessons are easy to find, and the sandy bottom provides a forgiving environment.
North Shore, Haleiwa – during the summer months, the North Shore’s beaches transform into serene, beginner-friendly waters. With fewer crowds than in winter, it’s an ideal time to learn to surf on this legendary stretch of coast.
White Plains Beach – located on the west side of Oahu, White Plains Beach is a well-kept secret for beginners. It’s less crowded, and the waves are often mellow, making it perfect for honing your skills.
Rentals and Gear
As a beginner, you probably have little to no gear, but that’s not a problem at all! Save the room in your luggage and check out one of the island’s many surf shops. Here you can rent everything from boards and wetsuits to leashes, fins and other accessories. These shops are also where you tend to find the best advice, as expert staff can guide you on what kind of board suits a beginner – soft-top surfboards, longboards or foam boards are often a good way to start – as well as guidance on seasonal water temperatures, local surf spots and much more. Renting is usually charged either by hourly or daily rates, with most shops offering package deals for full holiday usage. Some shops even offer a delivery service, so you don’t have to worry about getting your board to the beach.
Surfing Lessons and Classes
It sounds obvious but there really is no better way to pick up surfing skills quickly than by learning from the experts. This is particularly true if you’ve never been on a board before, as those early learning are the most important, and most frustrating without good support.
There are a tonne of surf schools in Oahu offering lessons led by friendly, experienced instructors, whose ability to accelerate your learning curve will blow your mind. You can usually choose between group sessions, private lessons and even multi-day surf camps, depending on your preference. The costs vary depending on the school, but group sessions can be found for around $50, private sessions are around double and a full-day experience will cost somewhere between $150 to $250. It might sound like a lot but what you’ll spend in money you’ll save in learning time!
There are loads of surf schools across Hawaii, but always make sure your pick in Oahu has certified instructors. We recommend Hans Hedemann Surf School, Big Wave Dave Surf Co. and Ty Gurney Surf School.
Safety and Seasonal Considerations
Surfing is, by its very nature, a dangerous sport. There’s no reason to worry if you follow basic safety procedures and head out on the waters with common sense, but it’s particularly important for beginners to consider a few things. You should always be aware of the local conditions when you plan to surf. Considering wave size and current speed is especially important, while rip currents and large waves should be avoided at all costs.
When you’re starting out you shouldn’t go surfing alone. Whether you book a lesson, go with a group or simply make sure there are plenty of experienced surfers around you on the beach, make sure there are people aware of your presence on the water.
It’s also important to respect your fellow surfers by sticking to general surf etiquette. Don’t get in people’s way and never drop in on someone else’s wave. Wait your turn, respect the lineup and always be friendly. This is a super kind and supportive community, so get involved!
Beginners should feel confident giving surfing a go in Oahu at any time of year, but the best time for newbies to work on their surf is in the summer months, which usually offer smaller and more manageable waves.
General Tips for Surfing in Oahu
The best times for uncrowded surfing are typically early mornings or weekdays.
Consider renting a car – this will help you get to the most amazing surf spots on the island.
Chat to locals – surfers tend to be friendly people, especially in Hawaii, so don’t hesitate to strike up conversation, ask for advice and potentially make some new friends!
Discover the local surf community – there is usually lots going on in the Oahu surf community, from known hang-out spots to organized events and even competitions, there are plenty of shared spaces for fellow surf-lovers to bond.
The adventures don’t have to stop with flat waves – consider exploring Oahu by hiking, snorkeling or enjoying a scenic drive.
With such a friendly, welcoming surf community and some of the most magical surf spots in the world, Oahu is as magnetic to new surfers as it is intoxicatingly beautiful. So grab a board, soak in the tropical sun and get ready for an adventure that you’ll never forget.
This is an AI assisted article produced by Gethin Morgan.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.