5 Places Not Named Waikiki to Learn to Surf in Hawaii

People come from all over the world to learn to surf at iconic Waikiki Beach, in the shadow of Diamond Head and the city skyline. It’s world-class for a reason—there are a ridiculous number of breaks nearby and the relaxed culture is excellent. But along with that comes the crowds and the hustle of Honolulu. Looking for something different? Check out these other beaches where you can learn to surf in Hawaii.

Hanalei Bay, Kauai

This small beach town is known as the main hub for activity on the North Shore of Kauai, and also for its access to the Na Pali Coast and other attractions of the area. But one thing it doesn’t get enough credit for is its mellow surf. Good for beginners and intermediates most days, several rental shops await with boards and lessons. The views from the water are spectacular, especially looking west to the mountains.

White Plains, Oahu

While most first-timers flock to Waikiki, you can do something a little different on Oahu. Cruise west to White Plains, where small rollers over a sandy bottom are the specialty. You can take lessons and rent boards nearby, so no need to travel with one from your hotel. The crowd will mostly be locals. After or before, cruise up Oahu’s west side to discover some off-beat beaches and communities.

The Cove, Maui

In Kihei, The Cove is Maui’s equivalent of Waikiki. Its small but consistent waves are the best Maui has to offer for beginners and its proximity to Kihei town means that renting a board and getting an instructor are easy. There are plenty of places to stay in the area for walkable daily access, and plenty of places to keep you busy at night—no high-rises needed.

Pine Trees Beach, Big Island

Just up the coast from Kailua-Kona is Kohanaiki Beach Park and Pine Trees Beach. There aren’t actually pine trees there (there’s some local legend about someone confusing the mangroves for pines), so don’t dwell on the name. But it’s a great spot to post-up for a day. Bring your board with you from Kailua-Kona (no rental places nearby) and enough food to keep you happy throughout your surf day. If you want to spend the night, there are campsites available.

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Bringing the family along with you? Have kids who want to learn to surf? Just south of Lahaina, Launiupoko is a beginner break that’s good for families, including easy access and small, fun waves. Popular with local families, longboarders and paddleboarders, visitors can enjoy the local culture. You should rent your board in Lahania or Kihei, as Launiupoko is just a pull-off on the Honoapiilani Highway (near mile marker 18).

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