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Hawaii’s Most Challenging Surfing Breaks

Whether you’re a veteran surfer or just want to watch the action from the beach, you’ll find plenty of options in our list of prime surfing beaches in Hawaii.

Aug 12, 2009
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Hawaii offers plenty of big waves to enjoy.
Hawaii offers plenty of big waves to enjoy.
Waimea Bay is the first real big-wave spot in Hawaii.
Waimea Bay is the first real big-wave spot in Hawaii.
The Pacific Ocean offers several surfing opportunities on Kauai, including at Hanalei Bay.
The Pacific Ocean offers several surfing opportunities on Kauai, including at Hanalei Bay.

Hawaii is known the world over for the quality of its waves for surfing. But if you’re new to the islands, you may wonder exactly where the best spots are to catch a few waves or to watch the pros ride in the breakers. Here’s a roundup of some the island’s most challenging breaks.


Ma‘alaea Bay, also known as Freight Train, is the world’s fastest peeling wave—almost impossible to make. North of Kihei, next to Ma`alaea Harbor, this right-hand reef break gets up steam only on a peculiar summertime south swell.

Popularly known as Jaws, Peahi, northeast of Paia, is renowned for hosting gigantic seven-storey, early-winter surf—and tow-in surfers of equal magnitude. Take binoculars.

Honolua Bay, is a point-break atop Maui’s western lobe that favours big, winter northwest swells, sweeping in around Moloka‘i. This world-class break peeling right barrels for well over a quarter-mile.

North Shore, O‘ahu

Waimea Bay is the first real big-wave spot in Hawaii. So naturally, it’s the venue for the Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational, a contest celebrating the late-surf icon, Eddie Aikau, held only when wave faces top 12 metres. It’s best on northwest swells.

Northeast of Waimea, Sunset Beach is a heralded contest venue where waves break consistently from a half a metre to 6 metres. This location is cover art on the Beach Boys’ Surfin’ USA album.

Just south, Ehukai Beach is the world’s most famous surf spot, or least its most hazardous. Close to shore, winter swells summersault over a shallow, spiky reef. Cut right to surf Backdoor. Cut left, and this ferocious wave invariably swallows you; then, if you’re worthy, it spits you out. This is Pipeline.


Hanalei Bay spills a long, glassy right-hander over reflections of lush, mist-shrouded shoreline mountains. This north-shore point handles west and northwest winter surf up to 7.5 metres.

Poipu, near the Kaui’s southern tip, breaks best at 1 to 2.5 metres during the summer months.


Molokai is mysterious. Yet, it’s generally known that Sheraton, at the west, takes winter west or northwest combers. Halawa Bay on the east works on north and northeast swells. Between each, a summertime south swell may find Kaunakakai Wharf. Pack lunch and a first-aid kit.


Kona’s leeward lava rock coastline sees fair surf. Try Banyan, off Alii Drive, or venture north of the airport in a four-wheel-drive to Pine Trees.


Manele Bay, the Valley Isle’s public harbour, offers a left-hand point break that, given the right summer swell, can be impressive.


One Comment about Hawaii’s Most Challenging Surfing Breaks

  1. Clive SACHER says:

    I am looking for a nice beach resort hotel to share my 70th birthday with my family.there are a few young children.Mexico or Hawaii or a Asian venue.
    Please could you suggest a few places

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