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Riding the Waves: Discover the Best Surfing in Maui

July 10, 2024

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Maui is a Hawaiian paradise known for amazing experiences. You can snorkel around incredible coral reefs, watch for koholā (humpback whales) and honu (sea turtles), visit unique and fun tourist attractions (like us at Maui Ocean Center), and relax at some of our fantastic hidden beaches. But beyond our postcard-perfect scenery, lies a haven for one activity many people come to Maui for—surfing.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro carving down monstrous swells or a curious beginner taking your first tentative steps on a board, Maui has something special to offer for all levels. Even if you’re only spending one day in Maui, riding a wave or catching a surf lesson comes highly recommended by locals and visitors alike.

We’ll offer up the best surf spots in Maui for everyone and call out a few for beginners. Plus, we got all the surfing goods regarding seasons, where to get gear, and of course, how to keep our oceans safe for everyone to enjoy.

 

The Best Surf Spots in Maui 

Honolua Bay

Located just north of Kapalua on Maui’s northwest shore lies an awesome surf break with powerful waves. Winter is the better season to surf as long, hollow waves roll in from north westerly swells. It’s definitely more of an experienced surfer haven given the ocean dynamics and wave size. A shallow reef also creates a challenging environment so knowing how to navigate the reef safely is a must.

 

Pe’ahi Jaws Surf Break

Located on Maui’s remote north shore, Pe’ahi is a big-wave surfing mecca that attracts the world’s most courageous and skilled wave riders. You won’t find folks paddling into these waves, but rather being towed by jet ski to reach their surfing destination. Waves here can reach heights exceeding 70 feet. With waves this big, it’s important to have the right gear, a strong wave reading ability, and the ability to hold your breath and be comfortable in such conditions. If you’re not one to ride the waves, feel free to enjoy the view of them from Pe’ahi Overlook.

 

Kahului Harbor

Kahului Harbor offers a great challenge for experienced surfers seeking powerful waves. North and northeast swells transform this exposed reef break into a surfers playground. While the lack of crowds can be enticing, be mindful of the strong currents, potential for large swells, and shallow reefs. 

 

Honokōhau Bay

Honokōhau Bay, located northeast of the famed Honolua Bay, offers a nice alternative for experienced surfers seeking powerful right-hand breaks. This exposed reef break boasts long, workable walls ideal for carving turns, but the presence of boulders and a shallow reef bottom demand advanced skills and real care for your surroundings. Winter brings the best swells, but offshore winds are important for clean waves. Be prepared for crowds, as Honokōhau does attract its fair share of surfers.

 

Olowalu Beach

Olowalu Beach offers a hidden gem for intermediate surfers on Maui’s west side. This scenic location has consistent wave formations, with both left and right breaks peeling off the reef. While not totally recommended for beginners, the waves at Olowalu are generally manageable for those with some surfing experience. Be aware of occasional strong swells during the summer season and potential kiawe thorns—inch-long thorns from the kiawe tree—hiding in the sand. You’ll want to bring sturdy footwear as you wade into the water.

 

Best Surfing Spots in Maui for Beginners

Breakwall at Lāhainā Harbor

The Breakwall is a popular spot for beginners given its smaller wave size and more friendly conditions. The protected harbor minimizes currents and is ideal for learning how to pop up and ride. Plus, there’s easy access to parking and rental shops as the Breakwall is located right next to Lāhainā Harbor. Be mindful of the shallow reef in some areas that can impact falls. Large crowds are also common given it’s a popular beginner spot.

In August 2023, significant portions of Maui were impacted by severe wildfires. This catastrophic event was not only fatal, but has left Maui and its residents rebuilding. Much of the damage was done to Lāhainā.

Visiting Maui not only allows you to share in our culture and the ‘ohana spirit, but your financial impact continues to help Lāhainā and other areas affected rebuild. We at Maui Ocean Center have continued to stand with those affected by the devastation and hope for the day when we are fully rebuilt and thriving as the strong Hawaiian community we are. We are Maui Strong.

As you plan your trip to Maui, please visit the County of Maui’s website for up-to-date information.

 

Grandma’s in Wailuku

Located near Wailuku, Grandma’s in Maui offers a relaxed vibe and gentle, rolling waves perfect for beginner surfers. The protected reef break produces long, forgiving rides ideal for practicing pop-ups and balance. It’s important to keep in mind that the lack of strong currents can also mean less wave frequency, so you may need a high degree of patience depending on the day. With few amenities and the possibility of crowds—especially on weekends—Grandma’s is best suited for those seeking a mellow introduction to a Maui surfing experience.

 

Launiupoko Beach Park

Launiupoko Beach Park is a great spot for surfers of all levels. But beginners will enjoy the consistent, gentle waves and plenty of space to practice pop-ups and maneuvering. This family-friendly beach has excellent amenities like restrooms, picnic tables, and BBQ grills, so you can surf and spend the day in the sun. Parking can be a challenge so be sure to arrive early to secure your spot.

 

Cove Park

Tucked away in South Maui is a sheltered area for beginner surfers. Cove Park’s sandy bottom and small, rolling waves create a user-friendly environment to learn how to pop up and ride. Protected from strong currents and open ocean swells, Cove Park fosters a sense of security for first-time surfers looking to have fun and learn. It’s a popular spot for surf schools so expect crowds most days.

 

Pā’ia Bay

Pā’ia Bay entices surfers with its consistent, head-high waves just offshore. This exposed beach break offers fun rides, but keep in mind the potential for strong currents and urchins hiding in the rocks. Fins are recommended for better control, and it’s best to leave venturing out to more experienced surfers who can handle strong waves and potential hazards.

 

Best Surf Lessons in Maui 

Surf lessons offer a great way to both enjoy surfing and learn about ocean awareness.  Surf instructors act as your safety net, teaching proper paddling techniques, wave selection, and overall ocean respect. They’ll guide you through the fundamentals of getting up on the board and riding waves, minimizing your risk of injury.

Learning independently takes time and practice, while lessons provide a structured environment with expert coaches. Instructors assess your strengths and weaknesses, offering personalized guidance that accelerates your learning curve. Surf instructors on Maui are also local experts who know the best spots for your skill level so you have fun regardless of how well you do.

To find a good surf lesson spot in Maui, you can start by researching schools online. Check out schools with experience catering to your level, offer your preferred lesson style (group or private), and prioritize safety. Online reviews will be your go-to guide to get a sense of the instructors and the overall experience.

One surf school to consider is The Next Step Surf Coach. They offer customized surf lessons and teach you everything from reading the ocean to how to paddle and catch your own waves. They also have spots to take you based on your skill level.

 

Important Maui Surfing Info

Maui’s Surf Seasons

If surfing is your goal, Maui has two distinct surf seasons to consider when visiting. One falls in the summer between May and October, and the other is in the winter between November and April.

Swells tend to be smaller and more manageable in the summer, making this time ideal for beginners and intermediate surfers. Trade winds consistently blow from the northeast, creating glassy conditions on south-facing beaches like Kīhei and Keawakapu.

Your winter months tend to have larger northwest swells roll in, attracting experienced surfers. South-facing shores become exposed, while north-facing breaks like Honolua Bay and Pe’ahi Jaws Surf Break experience some powerful waves.

 

Where to Rent

This will largely depend on where you are. Look for surf shops scattered across Maui, particularly in popular surfing areas like Kīhei. These shops will offer surfboard rentals, wetsuit rentals (if needed), and sometimes leash and rashguard rentals. There are also online platforms you can reserve and rent surfing gear from that make the whole process convenient.

Some important points to consider when renting:

  • Board type: Longer boards tend to be more beginner friendly. Shops will help you here if you tell them your skill level.
  • Board size: Consider your height and weight when choosing a board as size helps catch waves and maneuver among them.
  • Rental duration: Choose the option that aligns with your plans so you’re not stuck with the board or the rental payments longer than you want to be.
  • Additional gear: Check if your rental comes with a leash and rashguard because if not, you may have to find these separately.

 

Surf Smart and Protect Our Oceans

Embrace “surfing smart” practices by respecting local surfers, paddling out in turn, and choosing waves that match your skill level. Always check weather forecasts, understand local currents, and never surf alone. Pack a properly sized surfboard and reef-safe sunscreen for a safe and eco-friendly experience.

Minimize your environmental impact by using reusable water bottles, packing minimal-waste snacks, and disposing of trash responsibly. Please respect our marine life by giving them ample space, and use reef-safe sunscreen to help protect our delicate coral reefs from harmful chemicals.

Surfing in Maui offers an unforgettable connection with nature, but it also comes with a responsibility to protect this precious environment. By “surfing smart” and adopting eco-conscious practices, we can all play a role in keeping Maui’s waves clean and healthy for future generations.

When you’re done catching waves, come by and see us. We have amazing exhibits, tours, and marine life waiting for your attention. Book your tickets online one day in advance and save $5 on admission!

BOOK TICKETS TODAY

When traveling to Maui there will never be a shortage of things and places to see. Make sure you’re always abiding by local and cultural laws when exploring the natural beauty of Maui and most importantly, relax! That’s what you came to do after all. 

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