By Ohana Surf Project

Hawaii, renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and cultural richness, also boasts some of the world’s most spectacular surfing destinations. For those enthralled by the thrill of surfing, Hawaii presents an unrivaled array of waves, ranging from the formidable giants for seasoned pros to more forgiving swells for beginners. This guide will navigate you through the top 10 biggest wave surfing destinations in Hawaii, each offering a unique surfing experience that encapsulates the essence of Hawaii big wave surfing.

Pipeline: The Iconic Surf Mecca

Nestled on Oahu’s North Shore, the Banzai Pipeline is more than just a surf spot; it’s a rite of passage for every serious surfer. The Pipeline’s perfect, hollow barrels are formed by three distinct reefs, creating a left (Pipeline) and a right (Backdoor) that challenge even the most experienced surfers. While it’s revered for its surf contests and legendary rides, the Pipeline is also notorious for its dangers, with a shallow, sharp reef lurking beneath the surface.

Honolua: Maui’s Crown Jewel

Honolua, located on Maui, is often referred to simply as “The Bay.” This spot is the Island’s most famous surf destination, known for its thrilling rides and daunting hold-downs. Home to the final contest of the women’s World Championship Tour, Honolua has seen local legends like Carissa Moore and Coco Ho dominate its waves. The wave gets crowded on good days, reflecting the locals’ pride and protectiveness over this surfing treasure.

Haleiwa: Gateway to the North Shore

Haleiwa, or Ali’i Beach Park, is a powerful right-hand wave that serves as the first encounter with Hawaii’s surf for many tourists and visiting surfers. Hosting events like the Hawaiian Pro, Haleiwa offers both fun-sized waves for casual surfing and powerful walls for more aggressive riding. However, the shallow reef and the notorious Toilet Bowl section add an element of danger to this famed break.

Sunset Beach: The Ever-Changing Canvas

Sunset Beach, another gem on the North Shore of Oahu, transforms from a tranquil swimming spot in summer to a formidable surf location in winter. Its consistent waves, varying in size, have made it a long-standing venue for surf contests, including the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. The break’s unpredictability, especially with west swells, adds to its allure and challenge.

Pe’ahi (Jaws): The Big Wave Pioneer

Pe’ahi, better known as Jaws, stands as a colossal titan in the realm of big wave surfing. Situated on the majestic island of Maui, this surf spot is nothing short of legendary, offering awe-inspiring waves that can rise to staggering heights of 30-60 feet. These waves are not just massive but also exquisitely formed, making Jaws a bucket-list destination for the world’s most daring surfers. The lore of Jaws extends deep into the surf culture, largely due to the groundbreaking feats of pioneers like Laird Hamilton. These trailblazers have not only conquered its mighty waves but also revolutionized the techniques and equipment used in big wave surfing.

Makaha: The Birthplace of Big Wave Surfing

Makaha, on Oahu’s west side, holds a special place in surfing history. As the birthplace of big wave surfing, it has witnessed the evolution of the sport since the 1940s. The break is a complex network of reefs, with the popular Bowl leading to the inside reef and a powerful shore break. The Makaha International Surfing Championship, a testament to its legacy, is held here.

Sandy Beach (Sandy’s): The Shorebreak Haven

Sandy’s, located on Oahu’s enchanting southeast shore, stands as a premier destination for bodyboarders and bodysurfers who are drawn to its powerful shorebreaks. This beach is renowned for its stunning natural beauty juxtaposed with its inherent danger, making it a thrilling spot for extreme water sports enthusiasts. Sandy’s offers a diverse array of breaks, each with its own distinct character, challenging even the most skilled surfers with their unpredictable nature. These breaks range from Full-Point to Pipe Littles, each presenting unique challenges and opportunities for adrenaline-fueled rides. For those seeking the thrill of mastering formidable waves and executing high aerials, Sandy’s is an unparalleled arena.

Waikiki (Queen’s): The Playful Paradise

Queen’s in Waikiki serves as a serene oasis amidst Hawaii’s more intense surfing destinations. Ideal for beginners or those in search of gentle, elongated rides, this spot is steeped in history and was once a beloved retreat for Hawaiian royalty, adding a touch of cultural richness to every wave ridden here. Its gentle, rolling waves offer a forgiving environment for novice surfers to find their footing and for seasoned surfers to enjoy relaxed, soulful sessions. The accessibility and user-friendly nature of Queen’s have made it a highly frequented spot, often bustling with a diverse mix of locals and tourists. This blend of easy waves and rich history creates a unique surfing experience, making Queen’s a cherished and iconic spot in the heart of Waikiki.

Banyans: The Big Island’s Surfing Hub

Banyans, in Kailua Kona on the Big Island, caters to surfers of all levels. Known for its consistent waves year-round, Banyans shifts from a playful wave at 1-3 feet to a more challenging break when the swell grows. The local surfing community here is vibrant and welcoming, yet respectful surfing is a must.

Ala Moana Bowls: The Town’s Left-Hand Wonder

Ala Moana Bowls, a man-made left-hand reef break in Town, is a product of harbor construction but has become an iconic surf spot. Favored by legends in the 70s for its tuberiding potential, Ala Moana Bowls is a world-class wave that offers exhilarating surfing experiences, particularly during south swells.

Riding the Hawaiian Waves

Hawaii’s surfing destinations are as diverse and dynamic as the islands themselves. Each spot not only offers unique surfing experiences but also reflects the rich cultural and historical tapestry of Hawaii. Whether you’re an experienced surfer seeking the thrill of big waves or a beginner looking to start your surfing journey, Hawaii’s waves welcome you with open arms and endless possibilities. Embrace the spirit of aloha and the adrenaline of surfing as you explore these top 10 biggest wave surfing destinations in Hawaii.