We are graced with seven oceans on our planet. Each creates storms that produce swell, sending waves to remote bays, beaches and coastlines. Of those, only some waves are consistent enough to break daily. For the adventurous souls willing to ride those select few spots, here are our top ten countries for surfing.

A surfer stands in the foam looking out at a rainbow on the horizon
Surfing might not have been invented in California, but it was basically perfected there © Sean Jansen / Lonely Planet


Polynesians arguably discovered and enjoyed the act of wave sliding, or surfing, in Hawaii. Later, the sport hit its stride in California – wooden surfboards evolved into composite boards, and the invention of the wetsuit meant surfing could be practiced year-round. With the largest amount of coastline on this list, the US was an easy choice for its history, variety, and countless miles of beach access.

The best waves: Santa Cruz, California has many waves to choose from. Collecting waves in both summer and winter, this cold-water surf destination always has somewhere to get in.

California's 10 best beaches


Australia is a surfer's dream with its thousands of miles of coastline, 3 oceans and both temperate and tropical waters. Surf the history of Torquay in Bells Beach, the infamous Super Bank in Queensland or the rugged coast of Western Australia – really, the whole continent is a surfer’s playground.

The best waves: Byron Bay in New South Wales features a rich surf culture with all sorts of housing options. Longboard or shortboard, point surf or beach break, this warm-water haven is a playground.

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A surfer in a black wetsuit slides down a green wave with the sun behind it in Mexico
Mexico's variety of conditions are the main draws for surfers © Sean Jansen / Lonely Planet


Mexico has a variety of climates and coastlines unlike anywhere else on the planet. From the cool waters of Baja California, the second-longest peninsula on earth, to the tropical white-sand beaches of the south make Mexico a unique surfing destination. It’s also one of the best for year-round surfing – with surf camps galore, point waves and reef waves and waters both warm enough for trunks and too cold for anything but a wetsuit.

The best waves: Sayulita has it all. Fun waves, warm water and plenty of places to stay and eat on the cheap. An easy choice for a week of waves.

Mexico's 10 best beaches


France’s coastlines are covered in waves that broke during the most tragic times in history. Now those same coastlines beckon with a thriving surf culture. Cheese, wine and waves make for a happier combination. With an annual international surf contest on the southern Atlantic coast that brings the best surfers in the world to its beaches, it’s no surprise France made this list.

The best waves: Biarritz is where history meets with the trendy surf culture of the future. There are fun waves and plenty of places to stay with restaurants and an incredible climate for year-round enjoyment.

A solitary waves fan gets ready to surf on an island beach in Indonesia
With thousands of islands, beaches and surf spots in Indonesia are rarely crowded © Sean Jansen / Lonely Planet


‘The isles of the gods’ ­– Indonesia has an appropriate nickname, given this chain of islands boasts some of the most volatile geography in the world. The Indian Ocean sends swells of all sizes to the nation’s thousands of islands, and they're ripe for riding. Ever since its waves were first surfed in the 1970’s the popularity of the region has exploded, with surf camps, boat charters and island-hopping adventures for remote and un-crowded surf.

The best waves: Bali has a fun travelers’ scene and waves coming from every direction. There are also beginner and advanced waves for all experience levels.

Essential Bali travel tips: what to know before you go

South Africa

South Africa encapsulates the shoreline geography for the entire continent. While the country is primarily known for its wildlife, including great white sharks, it also has varied and diverse surfing spots. Featuring two oceans, and surf from cold and deserted to warm and sub-tropical – with vibrant Cape Town separating the two – South Africa is a one-of-a-kind surf country.

The best waves: Durban has it all. Nowhere else has the same level of places to stay, cheap travel and friendly vibes both in and out of the water.

A line of three men carry surf boards up a rocky slope on their way to a spot to surf
There's plenty of coastline in Brazil, but you might have to work a little bit to get to the very best spots © Sean Jansen / Lonely Planet


As the largest country in South America and fifth largest in the world, Brazil has an enormous amount of coastline. From the famous beaches of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to the remote and tropical north, Brazil is the most underrated surf country out there. A world surf tour brings competitors from around the world to ride the best waves.

The best waves: Florianopolis is an island south of São Paulo where the southern Atlantic batters its coast with long lines of swell. There are plenty of places to stay if you want to post up for a while.

The beaches in Brazil that locals love – and you will too

Costa Rica

Cradled between North and South America, this biologically diverse gem is host to perfect, warm waves and tropical beaches. With a ‘Pura Vida’ – pure life – vibe and easy access for travelers from the Americas and Europe, Costa Rica is an affordable and easy trip for travelers to fly in and chase a swell.

The best waves: Jaco has cheap hostels, luxury resorts, campgrounds and beach breaks – all walking distance from downtown. It’s a great place to post up and catch a couple with an easy post-surf beer.

A person carries a surfboard across a shady porch at a cabin or cabana situated right on a beach
Surfing isn't the first thing people think of when they think of Peru, so it's relatively inexpensive © Sean Jansen / Lonely Planet


With an arid and dry coast, Peru has miles of empty shoreline with point waves for the explorer or surf camp guru – not to mention the world’s longest ocean wave. With Lima sitting right on the coast, the international airport makes it a breeze for traveling surfers to get in, get around and ride a couple.

The best waves: Mancora, just south of the Ecuador border, has great waves within its proximity, with easy lodging and cheap amenities.

10 best beaches in Peru


Japan receives the same swells that send surf to the west coast of the US, with cold and snow conditions in the north and tropical climates in the south. Major international airports make Japan an easy trip, and a constant stream of swell breaking along its coast makes it clear choice for surfers.

The best waves: Chiba lies a short drive from Tokyo, curing even the most jet-lagged with fun surf right off the plane.

You might also like:
The most epic surf spots in the US according to pros
Surf's up at these beginner spots around the world
Top 17 beaches in the Caribbean

This article was first published Jun 11, 2019 and updated Jan 26, 2022.

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