West Coast Beaches That Are A Must-Visit For Surfers

Often a beach lover's go-to, the West Coast has amenable weather practically all year round, making it the perfect destination for catching a wave or honing your surfing skills. So die-hard surfers looking for some first-rate beaches should definitely head west. Not only are the swells and waves larger on the West Coast compared to the East Coast, but California, Oregon, Washington State, and Hawaii all offer a variety of surfing hot spots that are truly next-level.

Whether you are a beginner or a pro surfer, access to the Pacific Ocean in all its glory is more than possible in this region of the U.S. In fact, many of these incredible beaches are just a short drive away for most west coasters. That said, if you are just visiting or new to the West Coast surf scene, choosing the right hot spot may prove to be somewhat challenging. So, to help, here are the top West Coast beaches that are must-visits, especially for surfboarders and adventure-types on holiday.

The Wedge, California

Located in Balboa, near Newport Beach, California, The Wedge is known for its fantastic surfing and short-break waves. This Southern California gem is also rumored to have some of the biggest swells in the area. Thus, The Wedge is undoubtedly a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a powerful and demanding surf experience. Thanks to the 2,000-foot jetty built almost 100 years ago to protect Newport Harbor, the unpredictable waves here bounce off this massive structure, creating a surfing hot spot that keeps even the best surfers on their toes.

With many waves reaching well over 30 feet, more than a few beachgoers opt to bodyboard here rather than board surf. However, surfing has a peak season at The Wedge, usually during the summer and early fall. Of course, it is worth noting that bodysurfing or boarding is your only option when the blackball flag is raised from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Since The Wedge is one of the riskier options, wave riders of all levels should exercise extreme caution regardless. Besides offering incredible surfing, The Wedge is an amazing location for catching epic sunsets, enjoying the great outdoors, and marveling at the surrounding coastline.

Huntington City Beach, California

Affectionately nicknamed Surf City, Huntington Beach is one of California's premier surfing towns worth checking out. Situated in Huntington Beach, Orange County, California, Huntington City Beach is your classic surfers' paradise with manageable swells. For beachgoers looking to enjoy the waves sans the crowds, winter is often the best time to grab a longboard and make your way out for bigger swells than the ones typically seen in the summer.

From a rich surfing history, ample surf shops, surfboard rentals, and other fascinating surf-related activities to an iconic pier, Huntington City Beach is a beach with it all, including the attention of many pro-surfers. And, with around 10 miles of phenomenal coastline in Surf City, you can venture out and experience other beaches in this area if you do not want to spend all your time at Huntington City Beach. A few other superb wave rider hot spots nearby include Huntington State Beach (popular with body surfers and boogie boarders), Bolsa Chica State Beach (great for beginners), and Sunset Beach, which has good conditions for all forms of boarding.

Short Sand Beach, Oregon

The Oregon Coast is brimming with must-visit beaches that are prime for surfing. With ample seaside towns — many with surfing coves, like those near Oswald West State Park (Short Sand Beach) — wave riders will be far from disappointed. Approximately 0.5 miles long, Short Sand Beach is surrounded by pristine wilderness and is a hidden gem for surfing.

This partially forested beach is also home to Smugglers Cove — a well-known spot for steady surf year-round. Tucked away from the rest of the Pacific, Smugglers Cove is delightful and shielded from unpredictable tides, currents, and sudden weather changes. As a result, Smugglers Cove is a wonderful spot for boogie boarding, surfing, and simply enjoying the surreal ocean views on a beach vacation. Even outside the cove, the breaks here seem very consistent. So, if you are vacationing in the Cannon Beach area, add Short Sand Beach and Smugglers Cove to your incredible surf scene itinerary.

Westport Beaches, Washington

Yet another beach town with several places to shred is Westport, Washington. Visitors will find a dazzling coastline with three main breaks — The Jetty, The Groins, and The Cove. Located on the outskirts of Westhaven State Park, The Jetty promises consistent surf for all experience levels. Still, newbie surfers ready to take their skills to the next level tend to opt for The Jetty. On the other hand, the Groins, which is just off the Westport marina, attracts intermediate to advanced wave riders who are aware of the extreme tidal changes.

Alternatively, The Cove at Half Moon Bay is for advanced surfers. Due to the hazardous shorebreak, The Cove is not as popular as it once was. Moreover, surfing at The Cove is no easy task as the waves, currents, and occasional giant swells here can be outright dangerous. So, if you are not a highly skilled wave rider, then it is strongly recommended that you enjoy the other two hot spots instead. That said, Westport Beaches are undeniably must-visits if you are passionate about surfing and happen to be on the West Coast.

Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

Waikiki Beach in Hawaii is just one more fantastic surfing destination on the West Coast that should not be overlooked. Not only does Waikiki Beach have optimal conditions for newer surfers, but there are also many surf shops that offer everything from board rentals to lessons. However, suppose this is your first time considering riding the waves, or you do not know the first thing about surfing but are ready to test the waters. In that case, you can check out any available Waikiki Beach surf schools for an in-depth overview of the basics while visiting.

Waikiki Beach is also good for intermediate and advanced surfers looking to catch some manageable waves. Plus, Waikiki Beach has some pretty famous breaks that skilled wave riders seem to enjoy. In addition to being a top-tier spot for surfing, this beautiful paradise is roughly two miles long and is broken down into several sections. And, no matter which area of Waikiki Beach you choose to explore, other fun activities are abundant, including snorkeling, swimming, canoe paddling, paddle boarding, and more.

Blacks Beach, California

Another must-visit in Southern California is none other than Black's Beach, also known as Torrey Pines State Beach or Torrey Pines City Beach. A truly spectacular beach as a whole, the lower portion of Black's Beach is what makes this surfing hot spot famous. With powerful breaks, deepwater canyons, strong currents, and winter swells, catching some waves here is a real treat. Of course, this particular San Diego beach is not for the timid and requires a certain skill level when riding its waves. Still, interested surfers can opt to take semi-private lessons here if they are not quite sure they are ready for the breaks at Black's Beach.

Black's Beach is also a stunning state park with phenomenal coastal views on land or sea. Plus, there are plenty of other interesting reasons to make your way out to this San Diego gem, including its frequent nudist beachgoers, incredible Catalina Island vistas, and abundant recreational activities, including the revered Gliderport Trail. However, it is worth noting that convenient access to standard beach amenities like parking and bathrooms is limited, so plan accordingly.

Indian Beach, Oregon

Only a few miles from Cannon Beach, along the breathtaking Oregon Coast, adventurers will find Indian Beach in Ecola State Park. Not only is this an amazing destination for surfers, but Indian Beach is also an excellent starting point for hikers. With stunning shoreline vistas, you can easily get lost in all the surrounding beauty, whether on your board or hiking boots. Nonetheless, when surfing at Indian Beach, you can expect calm waters and beginner-friendly waves.

Here, wave riders will find the most optimal conditions in winter and summer. Indian Beach is known for its amenable swells (usually during mid-tide) and light winds, making it the ideal spot for practicing your skills. However, all surfers should be mindful of the occasional rip tide when riding the waves here. Still, the best part is that Indian Beach is not overly crowded like other well-known beaches in the area, despite being a filming location for such cult classics as Point Break and the Goonies. So, do yourself a favor and head to Indian Beach for an enjoyable surfing experience on the Oregon Coast.

Mavericks Beach, California

Mavericks Beach is a favorite among most wave riders in Northern California, and this spectacular beach offers access to Pillar Point Harbor's perfect conditions that create larger-than-life waves. Mavericks Beach is yet another surfing hot spot that truly shines in winter with its towering swells. The world-class surf here can accommodate all surfing styles — from boogie boards and short boards to paddleboards. Many intermediate surfers come to this 5-mile stretch of beach to learn from the best of the best all year round, as a variety of tours and classes offer the "Mavericks Experience."

That said, Mavericks Beach is mellower with serene rolling waves during the warmer months, so if this is more your scene, head to this must-visit West Coast treasure in spring or summer. Mavericks Beach, overall, is a great destination for surfers up for a real challenge — especially given the cooler waters, giant waves, and frequent shark sightings. For these reasons alone, Mavericks Beach is the place to be to get your adrenaline pumping, and visiting will allow you to cross one of the world's deadliest surfing havens off your bucket list.

Sunset Cliffs, California

For lively surfing in one of the more consistent reef breaks, Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, California, is another must to add to your surfing bucket list. Sunset Cliffs is an outstanding national park, and wave riders will find Garbage Beach at this nature preserve. This premium spot is a favorite among all surfers and has two main breaks that bring in the crowds. Despite the name, Garbage Beach at Sunset Cliffs is beyond scenic (though the kelp that washes up on the beach in the area is quite intense from time to time, hence the name), and on any given day, you can expect your fair share of locals.

Broken up into the South and North sections, Garbage Beach has incredible swells where long rides are commonplace. Even so, the waves tend to be somewhat strong, so caution is always best when surfing. Other than that, low negative tides and the unpredictable kelp washing up on shore are the only real downsides to this San Diego surfer's dream. It is also worth noting that the locals are very protective of this spot, but as long as you're respectful, there's no reason you cannot relish the surf at Garbage Beach.

Long Beach, Washington

For many surfing fans, Long Beach, in Washington State, may not be their first choice when they hear the name. But Long Beach, and most of the coastline along the Long Beach Peninsula, promises a nice little go-to for surfers of all levels. This destination boasts more than 28 miles of serene, unpopulated white sandy beach, abundant whitewater, and substantial waves, often larger than anticipated. It is an excellent choice for those seeking to enjoy the Pacific's warmer waters with the added comfort of a wetsuit.

Wave riders headed to Long Beach can expect swells from almost every direction and an all-around peaceful surf. If you are a beginner, this boarding paradise is particularly agreeable, and several places offer lessons. Still, there are a handful of things to remember when enjoying this West Coast region, including the occasional shark, rips, and choppiness (blown-out or hard-to-ride waves). Besides this, Long Beach is a wonderful, family-friendly destination with a notably gentle spindrift. So, you should make it a point to partake in this seaside oasis on holiday in The Evergreen State.

Trestles Beach, California

For most southern Californians, Trestles Beach, near San Clemente, offers the finest surfing. Many travelers are surprised to learn that Trestles Beach is just a part of San Onofre State Beach. But both Upper and Lower Trestles are highly revered spots that stand out amongst the pack. Even still, when compared to one another, Lower Trestles tends to shine just a little brighter — and is where the WSL World Tour surfing competition and the NSSA Nationals are hosted annually. So, if you are searching for the best of the best (A-frames and all), then the Lower section of this famed beach is a must.

Similarly, Upper Trestles promises thrills, rippable waves, frequent media attention, and much more. Despite this, what makes the Upper Trestles, most surfers' second choice, is the lack of consistency for long-distance wave riding. Still, the Upper Trestles is a contender for must-visit beaches on the West Coast. And if you decide to check out the surfing jewel of Southern California that Lower Trestles is often referred to as, then it is only fitting to explore both and possibly the other sections of San Onofre State Beach, including Middles, The Church, The Point, Old Man's, or Dog Patch.

Bolinas Jetty, California

In Northern California, not too far away from San Francisco, Bolinas is a hidden oasis for surfers and is touted as having one of the Bay Area's premier coastlines that new wave riders can delight in. Thanks to its unique landscape, almost anywhere on this stretch is great for surfing. That said, many surf enthusiasts head to Bolinas Jetty for a thrilling day at the beach.

With its steady breaks, clean waves, and ideal conditions in the warmer months, Bolinas Jetty is undoubtedly a good go-to for beginners. Though, when out and about in the Jetty, it is important to watch out for sharks and overcrowding. Alternatively, for slightly more experienced wave riders, a quick trip to Stinson Beach (less than 4 miles from Bolinas Jetty) is a popular spot for all boarding, sunbathers, and beach lovers. The surf at Stinson Beach is not too challenging, but it is worth considering if you are in the area as an add-on. Beachgoers can expect first-rate waves, consistent swells, and superb scenery here.

Malibu Surfrider Beach, California

Lastly, Malibu Surfrider Beach is practically a given here. As its namesake implies, Malibu Surfrider Beach is a wonderful and popular point of interest that attracts wave riders from far and wide. As part of a much larger coastal region (Malibu Lagoon State Beach), Malibu Surfrider Beach is a great place for newer (but still skilled) surfers and wave riders looking to have an iconic outing in the Golden State — one they will likely never forget.

Overall, Malibu Surfrider Beach comes complete with golden sandy shores, ample outdoor recreation, remarkable waves suited for longboards and shortboards, a bustling pier, and dazzling ocean views. So, regardless of whether you take your board out at this legendary beach or any of the others mentioned above, one thing is certain — the West Coast is brimming with amazing surf breaks and some of the best beaches that should be on your list.