Updated September 18, 2019
When you visit Hawaii, learning how to surf has got to be on the top of your list. But when you’re new to an island, it can be hard to know which surf schools and which surfing lessons are the best. Check out these top Hawaii surf schools by island, great for beginners, advanced surfers, and everyone in between.
Oahu is the most popular destination for professional surfers in Hawaii, with the big-wave season on the North Shore starting in November and finishing in February. In the summer all the action moves to the South Shore where the waves can be big but are rarely too challenging. For beginners, Waikiki is popular year round, as the beaches have plenty of amenities and the waters are calm, but you can find great beginner surf lessons all over the island.
#1 – Sea & Board Sports
Imagine surfing in a little surfing town far away from the Waikiki crowds. That’s what’s waiting for you in Sea & Board Sports in Haleiwa on Oahu’s North Shore. Haleiwa stands out with its rustic architecture and quaint surf shops. Despite being on the North Shore, it’s home to some of the friendliest waves. Sea & Board’s lessons take place off Chun’s Reef, known for being a great spot for beginners and groups, with low and long waves. Chun’s Reef has some rocky patches, but your lessons will take place in the sandy spots.
Choose this Hawaii surf school for: Surfing on the North Shore away from crowds, great prices
Beach: Chun’s Reef
#2 – Gone Surfing Hawaii
The most popular beach in all of Hawaii, Waikiki beach is an excellent place to start your surfing adventures. Gone Surfing Hawaii offers classes for all levels and emphasizes the time spent in water, as their goal is to get you up on your first lesson. It doesn’t hurt that you can see Diamond Head in the distance while you catch your first wave or that after your lesson you can watch the sun set with a Mai Tai in hand at one of the nearby beach bars.
Choose this Hawaii surfing school for: Surfing on Hawaii’s most popular beach
Beach: Waikiki Beach
#3 – Surf HNL Ala Moana
Popular among locals and tourists alike, Ala Moana has everything you need. This white-sand beach has calm waters and lots of green park space, making it perfect for family outings. It also gets less crowded than nearby Waikiki, making it a great spot for surf lessons. Their lessons last from 1 to 2 hours, depending on your preference, and can be private or group—but the instructor to student ratio is low no matter what.
Choose this Hawaii surfing school for: Family surfing in Honolulu
Beach: Ala Moana Beach Park
Crystal clear turquoise water and coral reefs make Maui one of the most popular holiday destinations of the Hawaiian archipelago. Though Oahu is more popular among professional surfers, Maui still has lots of great surfing spots to discover and is a perfect place for beginners to catch their first wave.
#1 – Maui Surfer Girls
This female-owned surfing school offers surfing classes at the secluded Ukumehame Beach Park. This beach doesn’t get crowded like other Maui surf spots, and its multiple surf breaks means there are enough waves for everyone. Not to mention, Maui Surfer Girls is one of the only schools permitted to teach here. There’s not much by way of amenities at this beach, so you’ll have to pack your own food and drinks.
Choose this Hawaii surfing school for: Surfing away from the crowd, super friendly instructors
Beach: Ukumehame Beach Park
#2 – Surf Club Maui
Surf Club Maui boasts their individualized surf lessons that allow people of all athletic abilities to start surfing. Led in small groups, you’ll get plenty of attention and adequate support from the friendly surfing instructors. Plus, they guarantee that you’ll successfully learn to surf during your first lesson—if you don’t, you’ll get a second lesson for free! Also check out the Kids Surf Camp, a 3-day summer surfing camp for children ages 5 to 14 where they’ll learn about the ocean and safe surfing techniques while having a great time with other kids.
Choose this Hawaii surfing school for: Small and personal group lessons
Beach: Kalama Beach Park
Learning how to surf can be challenging since you’re trying to master the basics while also keeping your balance on the board. At Island Style Adventures they expertly help you manage both. Operating out of Kaanapali Beach Park—known as one of the most beautiful beaches on the island—Island Style is a great option for beginners who are new to Maui. There are several big resorts here as well as dozens of restaurants so you can get food and do some shopping after your lesson.
Choose this Hawaii surfing school for: Beginner surfing close to Maui hotels & amenities
Beach: Kaanapali Beach Park
With regular surf breaks and long sandy beaches, Maui’s south shore is popular among surfers year round. Based in Kihei, Maui Sports Unlimited offers classes for every level, from beginner to advanced. Beginner lessons are held on Kalama Beach Park, also known as the Cove, and considered the best beginner beach on the island, while advanced lessons take place on nearby beaches appropriate for the student’s skill level. Advanced lessons are great for surfers looking to progress to a different board or onto more challenging waves. Already a pro? Try the surf safari.
Choose this Hawaii surfing school for: Intermediate–advanced surfing
Beach: Kalama Beach Park
The youngest of all the Hawaiian islands, the Big Island isn’t really known for its surfing. Visitors usually come for volcano hikes, stargazing, and rainforest expeditions since the beaches here can be rugged and treacherous due to lava rocks. But wherever you are in Hawaii, surfing is always an option. Kona on the west side is best for beginners while Hilo on the east side is reserved for experienced surfers only.
Kahalu’u Bay Surf & Sea’s group surfing lesson has a low student-to-instructor ratio and can accommodate surfers of all levels, including beginners. The lesson starts off at the surf shop with safety tips and surfing basics before moving into the warm, clear blue waters of Kahalu’u Bay. They also have private and semi-private options. All the gear you’ll need—soft-top longboards, rash guards, and booties—will be provided, so you’ll just need to bring a swimsuit, towel, and sunscreen, and be ready to surf!
Choose this Hawaiian surfing school for: Highest rated reviews, surf with family and friends
Beach: Kahalu’u Bay Beach
A group surf lesson with Kona Town Surf Adventures is a great way to try something new with your family. Their lifeguard and CPR certified instructors will make sure that you feel safe while having fun learning to surf. With a 4 students to 1 instructor ratio, taking a group lesson will offer a perfect mix of individual attention in a team environment! Whether you’re a first-timer or seasoned pro, you can take advantage of the extensive knowledge that their instructors offer while dipping your toes into the traditional sport of kings.
Choose this Hawaiian surfing school for: Small group lessons
Beach: Kahalu’u Beach
#3 – Ocean Eco Tours
Ocean Eco Tours specializes in beginner lessons. Operating out of Kona, their lessons take place at the beaches in Kaloko-Honokoahau National Park. This area is protected from the strong stuff by an offshore reef, making it a perfect spot for newbies. Their lessons last two hours and the teachers customize their instructions to suit your comfort level. Children are more than welcome!
Choose this for: Beginner surfing in Kailua-Kona
Beach: Honokohau and Ai’opio Beaches
With pristine white sand beaches and an abundance of tropical vegetation, Kauai is the perfect island for a quiet and relaxing vacation. While many come to soak up the sun and enjoy the beach, this “garden island” is perfect for water sports as well.
Poipu Beach Surf School operating out of Poipu Beach Park offers lessons on one of the most popular beaches in Koloa. This family-friendly beach has lots of facilities and great restaurants and is known as one of the best snorkeling spots on Kauai. The surf lessons take place in the western part of the beach where waves break gently off the reef. They offer beginner lessons here (including a lesson just for kids), but intermediate and advanced surfers will be more interested in the Surf with Instructor class where you get a more hands-on experience or a Surf Tour where an experienced instructor will take you to the best surf breaks on the island.
Choose this Hawaii surfing school for: Surf year round for all skill levels
Beach: Poipu Beach Park
#2 – Hanalei Surf School
The largest on Kauai, this beach in Hanalei’s crescent-shaped bay makes a great location for surf lessons. With coral reefs on both sides, the beach is a popular snorkeling spot too. In winter, surfers head out to catch the gigantic waves that can reach up to 20 feet or more, but the waves are just the right size for newbies if you stay close to the beach. Hanalei Surf School offers 2-hour private and semi-private lessons. They also offer private lessons with pro surfer Evan Valiere for those looking to up the ante.
Choose this Hawaii surfing school for: Beginner to advanced private lessons
Beach: Hanalei Bay
Falling between Poipu Beach and Lawai Beach, Kiahuna is a great beach for beginner surf lessons. The water is a beautiful ocean blue and is relatively calm near the shore because of the outlying reefs. Hawaiian Style Surfing offers the Kauai’s Ultimate Group Surf Lesson, where you can meet other beginner surfers while trying out this incredible sport for the first time. Whether you book your group lesson with friends and family or with strangers, you’ll have a great time learning to surf in the company of others!
Choose this Hawaiian surfing school for: Beginner group lessons
Beach: Kiahuna Beach
Did you know that Hawaii has recently banned the use of sunscreens that aren’t considered reef safe? Check out our review of the best reef safe sunscreens to make sure you’re protecting yourself, and the environment.
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