Winter in Hawaii appeals to pretty much everyone. But for those interested in surfing, there’s more than just the usually reasons to visit the Aloha State. Surfers from around the world rush to Hawaii during the winter season to catch some of the best and biggest waves that these beautiful islands have to offer. With swell windows sweeping across 360 degrees, strong currents, and stronger wind, winter surfing in Hawaii is the ultimate bucket list item for novice and experienced surfers alike. Since the water temperatures in Hawaii remain constant year-round, it’s easy to jump into the ocean and ride waves for hours without worrying about how the temperature is going to affect your day.

To truly embrace ho’oilo — the Hawaiian term used for the winter season spanning between mid-November and April, it’s best to pick your destination wisely. Newbie surfers are encouraged to stay in designated areas to ensure they’re not overwhelmed by the growing swells found along the coastline of Hawaii, while experienced surfers tend to have more freedom to venture out to take on the massive 50-foot waves found in select areas. Whatever level you are at, here’s everything you’ll need to know when planning your trip and where you need to go for the surfing experience that best suits you.

Know Before You Go

 The Best Places to Surf in Hawaii in the Winter Season: A man is walking with a surf in his hands across the sea shore.

While Hawaii is renowned for its year-round surfing opportunities, destinations are slightly limited when you’re visiting during the winter. This is because select islands have better surfing opportunities than others once the seasons change. Before you book your plane ticket, be sure to research which beaches you want to visit while you’re in Hawaii. Beaches found on Maui, Oahu, Big Island, and Kauai are suitable for year-round adventures whereas the other islands are best visited during the summer season. Once you have a general idea of which island you want to visit, it becomes easier to lay out the plans for the rest of your trip.

For skilled surfers, planning your surfing trip to Hawaii between mid-November and February is advisable since you’re going to encounter the biggest waves between these months. Novice surfers can still visit Hawaii during this period, but the waves are known for being more powerful which elevates the potential for danger if you’re learning the ropes. Planning your trip to Hawaii between March and April is a better bet if you’re new to the sport but want the opportunity to encounter this surfing phenomenon. Surf lessons are typically available in most locations and scheduling a few while you’re in the area may help you build your skill set and prepare you for more experienced opportunities next year.

For Newbies: Try Not to Wipe Out at These Surf Spots

The Best Places to Surf in Hawaii in the Winter Season: Surfing at Sunset.

Learning how to surf is a lengthy and complicated process, but this doesn’t mean you should limit yourself from experiencing some of the best waves Hawaii has to offer. Sticking to the southern shoreline of Hawaii is best for those with limited experience because the swells in this area are tamer than they are along the northern coastline. The best bet here for novice surfers is to find flights to Honolulu, on the island of Oahu. The neighborhood of Waikiki, situated within the greater limit of Honolulu, is home to several notable surf locations for you to enjoy when you’re still learning the craft.

Roughly 15 different surf spots exist within Waikiki alone, which makes this the perfect destination since you become immersed in a different experience with each spot you visit along the shore. Bowls, Canoes, and Inbetweens are recommended spots in Waikiki for newbie surfers since the waves are smaller and easier to manage. Several restaurants and surf shops are found in this picturesque neighborhood, giving you the chance to enjoy traditional cuisine and gain the most from your time in Hawaii without traveling from one region to another. If you’re looking for some added assistance while honing your surfing skills in Waikiki, contact one of the surf schools in advance and arrange a few lessons. This helps you traverse the seas with a growing sense of confidence and opens the possibility of trying more challenging spots as you make your way along the coastline.

You may also like: Bucket-List Worthy Things to Do on Your Visit to Honolulu

For Pros: These Waves Have Your Name Written All Over Them!

The Best Places to Surf in Hawaii in the Winter Season: Surfer on Blue Ocean Wave in the Tube Getting Barreled

Skilled surfers have more flexibility when it comes to planning a winter trip to Hawaii. Destinations along either shore of Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Big Island are desirable since each island provides the surf community with an abundance of exciting opportunities. Some of the best surfing spots, though, are found along the stretch of Seven Mile Miracle. This premier surfing haven is located on the north shore of Oahu and encompasses the best peaks that Hawaii has to offer. If you’re on a time crunch, be sure to stop at one of these select locations along the Seven Mile Miracle:

Haleiwa Beach Park

One of the best spots on the Seven Mile Miracle is the beach found in Haleiwa. Be advised: Haleiwa is home to a reef that is difficult to navigate around if this is your first time in the area. When the surf begins to grow, it’s crucial to get your bearings straight before you rip across breaks at this popular destination. Each wave and peak at Haleiwa are formed by the reef, and the riptide is influenced by this ebb and flow. Be sure to watch for the riptide when you’re surfing these 4- to 15-foot waves to avoid being pulled further out to sea than you originally intended. Once you slip into one of the massive barrels at Haleiwa, you’ll be able to cruise for a longer period than you would in other areas.

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach in Oahu is another popular stop along the Seven Mile Miracle and is known the world over for its right-hand waves and endless space. Waves at Sunset Beach are typically fast, which makes them harder to breach at times. The hollow waves in this location reach anywhere between 15 to 30 feet and are difficult to manage but rewarding once you do. This spot is less crowded than others and gives you the chance to enjoy a full day of uninterrupted surfing. Be sure to work on your paddle strength before pulling up to Sunset Beach to ensure you can handle anything this spot has to throw at you throughout the day.

Waimea Bay

Surfers who are looking for the ultimate experience, and the ultimate test of their skills, must plan a trip to Waimea Bay on the north shore of Oahu. Waves at this exhilarating surf spot range between 40 and 50 feet! Expert surfers are usually the only ones who barrel through this area, and rightfully so. You must have years of experience to tackle one of these massive, exciting waves at Waimea. Like Sunset Beach, Waimea requires excellent paddling strength prior to your arrival. Before you surf through these massive waves, you have to paddle through the Waimea Shorebreak, which is known for its quickness and power.

If you’re looking for other destinations along the Seven Mile Miracle to traverse after spending time at Haleiwa, Sunset, and Waimea, take a trip over to the Banzai Pipeline, Off The Wall, or Backdoor to experience some of the best surf spots in Hawaii.

Are you a avid surfer planning a trip to Hawaii? What areas are you looking to catch some waves? Share your plans with us in the comments.

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About The Author

Sam Cohen

Sam is a writer and editor based in New England. She enjoy learning new languages, drinking lattes, and spending time with loved ones. Sam is an avid reader who practices yoga daily and tries to laugh as often as possible.