The Best Surf Beaches and Where to Take Surf Lessons in Kona, Hawaii
In old Hawaii, the ocean was revered as a sacred place and he’e nalu (surfing) was the art of Ali’i, or royalty. Surfing was considered a spiritual experience, with ceremonies performed beforehand to ask the Gods for favorable surfing conditions and strength to conquer the waves, on boards painstakingly hand-crafted from sacred trees. Heiaus (temples) were built in honor of the art, including Ku’emanu Heiau in Kona.
Kona - our hometown - offers unique surfing with its historic surfing spots and beautiful reef breaks. Waves of crystal clear water roll over vibrant coral reefs with colorful fish and sea turtles. Kona’s small town vibe means there’s less people in the water and more opportunity to connect with other surfers and enjoy being immersed in nature. If you’re interested in catching some waves during your stay, here is our guide to the best surf spots for beginner to intermediate surfers and where to take lessons in Kona, Hawaii.
The best (and safest) way for a beginner to experience the thrill of surfing is to take a lesson. There are many surf schools to choose from in Kona. They provide experienced instructors for one-on-one lessons or group lessons. Foam-top longboards, water shoes, and rash guards are provided in most instruction packages. A few of our go-to surf schools include:
For those who have more experience surfing and would like to give it a try on their own, a rental board is easy to come by. Kahalu’u Surf and Sea, mentioned above has a shop conveniently located right across the street from Kahalu’u Surf Beach, which is a great option for a rental if you don’t have a car to cart your board around. Miller’s Surf in downtown Kona, and Kona Boys offer rentals and tons of awesome gear for sale, but you’ll need wheels for transport. If you are looking for a SUP paddle board rental, snorkel gear, or other water toys you can generally find one from one of these companies too.
If you are traveling with your own surfboard, we have plenty of storage space at the hostel. Just ask us at check-in. If you are traveling with multiple boards or a lot of extra gear, contact us ahead of time to arrange storage space.
Kona has many awesome surf breaks. Here is our shortlist of the best surf breaks for beginner to intermediate surfers who are visiting the area. Please note that we are located right across the street from Banyans surf beach, but this surf break is for advanced surfers only.
Undoubtedly the best easy-access, beginner-friendly surf spot in Kona. Many of the surf schools mentioned above are located at Kahalu’u Beach Park, where they do business out of their company van or truck. The gorgeous reef at Kahalu’u creates a perfect, slightly offshore break in relatively deep water. While there are some rocks along the shoreline to keep an eye on, there are no submerged large obstacles to have to worry about navigating around. Ku’emanu Heiau over looks this historic surf break, which was used by Hawaiian Ali’i to pray for good surf.
The entrance for surfers is next to the little blue church, right across the street from Kahalu’u Bay Surf and Sea. Limited parking is available for surfers along the side of the road, with overflow parking by the snorkel beach. The Kona Trolley stops here at the bus kiosk.
Amenities: lifeguards, bathrooms, showers, picnic tables, parking, info booth, surf webcam
Conditions: favors SW swell (ideal in summer), best at/around low tide, good lefts and rights, beware of sea urchins
Pine trees has very consistent surf, which makes it one of Kona’s most popular surf beaches with locals and visitors. The Bay, on the far south side, is best for newer to intermediate level surfers. Many local families bring their kids here to learn to surf. Commercial surf lessons are not given here, so it’s best for surfers who have at least some experience and are comfortable in the water.
This spot can get pretty shallow, so beware of the reef and don’t put your feet down to avoid getting cut. There is a channel for entering and exiting the water which you will see other surfers using. As you drive into Pine Trees from the highway, hang a right and then left. Once you reach the coast, you’ll pass more advanced surf breaks on the northern end before reaching The Bay, across from the bathrooms. New bathroom and shower facilities are another bonus at this spot.
Pine Trees is popular for camping and can be extremely crowded during the weekends. If you wish to camp, make sure to reserve in advance. To beat the crowds for surfing, come on the week-days. There is a decent amount of parking available during the week and sand for lounging. Some shade is available if you show up early and grab a spot under the Naupaka trees.
Amenities: parking, bathrooms, showers, NO lifeguards, camping (with permits)
Conditions: favors WNW swell (ideal in winter), decent at all tides, good lefts and rights, beware of rocks/urchins/locals, beginners avoid during large swell, strong rip currents with large swell
Lyman’s is a left point break for intermediate to experienced surfers. It breaks when the swell is considerably large, so it’s not ideal for beginners. There is no beach here and parking along the side of the road is limited. During the winter months, a massive northwest swell can create a long break across Lyman’s bay to the neighboring break, Banyans. In big surf conditions, this is a prime spot to watch local pro surfers do their thing. Lyman’s (historically Kamoa Point) has the remains of a surfing Heiau, Haleaaaama heiau, and surf viewing platform from ancient times.
Amenities: showers, parking, NO lifeguards
Conditions: favors WNW swell (best in winter), not ideal for beginners
For something a little different, check out Magic Sands for some bodyboarding or bodysurfing. This sandy little beach creates a fun (but sometimes dangerous) shore break. The surf here is unreliable and varies throughout the year with no seasonal pattern. During large swell events, the sand disappears from the beach, hence the name “Magic” Sands. When the waves are up, you can watch expert bodyboarders and bodysurfers performing incredible acrobatics in the enormous surf.
Amenities: lifeguards, bathrooms, showers, parking, picnic tables, beach volleyball
Conditions: favors WSW swell, decent shore break surf at all tides, beware of dangerous shore break
Before You Go
Ask a lifeguard about conditions, rip currents, and submerged rocks in the area
Abide by the motto: “when in doubt, don’t go out!”
If you surf, you already know. Here’s a short note for the newbies on surfing etiquette. Come with good vibes. Be respectful to locals who surf at the break every day. Never “drop-in” on somebody else’s wave. If you are paddling for a wave, make sure to check around you that someone else hasn’t already caught the wave behind or to the side of you. Look out before you take off on a wave for surfers in front of you. If you are inexperienced, stay on the inside, especially when there is big surf. If you do run into someone, check to make sure they are OK. An apology with a smile goes a long way.
Save the Reef
A current alarming phenomenon in coastal waters worldwide is the bleaching of coral due to increased ocean temperatures and chemical pollution, among other variables. Kona’s beautiful reefs are at risk.
One simple way that you can help is by only using reef-safe sunblock. Many of the chemicals found in sunscreens cause coral bleaching and infertility in reef fishes. Yikes! The least-toxic type of sunblock is a non-nano particle, mineral-based product. As many locals (especially surf instructors) will say, the best sunblock you can buy is a long-sleeved shirt and a hat. Rash guards and hats are an excellent, water-proof, non-toxic way to protect both yourself and the reef while you play in the waves. Also remember, whatever other products you put on your body/hair will end up in the water. The Kahalu’u Bay Education Center is a great resource to learn more about reef-safe sun screen and more. Help us keep Kona’s reefs vibrant for future generations.