The best places to surf in the Caribbean
Say the word surfing and a lot of travelers will talk about places like Hawaii, California, Australia, and even South Africa. However, there are many of the world’s best surfing sites to be enjoyed in the Caribbean region. As one expert said, it is the consistent “swells, offshore winds and reefs have made the Caribbean one of the world’s most popular surfing destinations. There is huge variety to the surfing in the Caribbean. Over 2,000 islands conspire to create something for every type of surfer no matter the style or level of skill.”
Of course, with mention of offshore conditions, it is important to remember that the Caribbean has a peak surfing season, which applies to the region though it may vary slightly from island to island. The typical season for good surfing conditions is November to April. This overlaps with what meteorologists call Hurricane Season (typically ending in November), but is really when cold weather fronts move along the eastern coast of the U.S. and create lots of swells that eventually reach the Caribbean!
Surfers in the area also know that tropical depressions that hit from June to November can create excellent surfing conditions, particularly along the western coast of Barbados. However, all areas can enjoy amazing waves during such periods. So, let’s take a look at the best spot for you to visit this year when you are eager to hear the phrase “surf’s up!”
Playa Granda, Costa Rica
Technically more a Central American rather than purely Caribbean spot, it is ranked as one of the best (if not the best) in the world. The experts from the Travel Channel describe Playa Grande (the most popular destination for surfing in Costa Rica) this way: “known as one of Costa Rica’s best surfing spots. It also happens to be home to the second-largest nesting ground of the largest marine reptile, the Leatherback Turtle.” So, head here if you want supreme surfing conditions and the opportunity to spot the impressive turtles!
The region is a well-developed surfing destination, though, and the Puerto Viejo area in the southern coastal region of Limon is also earning a big reputation for its world-class surfing conditions, with some even saying it has some of the best waves in the entire Caribbean region. The Guanacaste area, as well as the Punta Arenas area, also have surfing towns and destinations, with Tamarindo and Jaco very popular options.
If you are eager for year-round warm water and steady breezes, it is the Pacific north coast area around Guanacaste that is for you. If you don’t mind surfing during the rainy season, the Pacific coastal area is the right spot.
The island of Barbados is home to some of the most beautiful beaches on the island, as well as the best surf. Why? Experts agree that it is the breaks along the east coast, and the enormous limestone boulders just offshore from Bathsheba Beach that make it the “world class Soup Bowl’s right hander.” The non-stop trade winds and an annual cycle of Atlantic Ocean storms and hurricanes conspire to create enormous waves and draw lots of expert surfers. The beach, too, has a surfer’s low-key and casual vibe, and so it offers up a great spot to soak up the sun while watching experts at play.
While the conditions at Bathsheba have it described as one of the most surf-friendly spots on the planet, other beaches in Barbados offer up good conditions, too. There are the beaches of the Brandons area, such as Sandy Lane, Batts Rock, and South Point. The western coast is home to Maycocks Beach, as well as Hull and Tropicana Beaches. The northern coast offers Duppies Beach, Freight’s Bay, and Fosters Funland.
It is important to note that Barbados is unique among the rest of the Caribbean islands because it is around 100 miles east of the major Atlantic chain of islands. It is also home to some of the world’s best surfers because of its year-round conditions.
Boston and Bull Bays, Jamaica
Very few travelers would associate the island of Jamaica with high mountains (though it is home to a peak towering more than 7k feet) or with surfing. However, many travelers make their way to Bull Bay along the southeastern coast and Boston Bay along the north. Both have been delivering up excellent surfing conditions for decades, but it remains a “small local scene,” according to many experts. Travelers are welcome to enroll in the island’s surfing camps and experience great conditions in a casual, comfortable setting.
Playa Preciosa, Dominican Republic
Half of the island of Hispanola (the other area belongs to Haiti), the DR is not one of the most commonly considered spots in the surfing world. However, it is where the Caribbean and Atlantic meet, and this makes it a great place for surfers to encounter Atlantic Swells. In addition to that, the Dominican Republic has an enormous stretch of coastline with a handful of different surfing destinations. There is a brisk trade in local guides bringing surfers to lesser-known sites, but if you want to dive right in, head to Playa Preciosa, where a thriving surf culture already exists.
Experts here say that the southern area of the DR is great for sprint and summer surfing while the northern coast is ideal for winter and fall. The north coast is home to Rio San Juan, Puerto Plata, Naugua, Cabarete, Las Terrenas, Sosua, and Samana. In the south is where Playa Los Patos and Guibia in Santo Domingo, or the Barahona beach of Playa Bahoruco are found.
Though this island is not as well-known as other Caribbean hotspots, it promises excellent surfing and kite-surfing. Antigua’s southeastern and Atlantic coast at Turtle Bay offers the best swells from the west, though many find success with big breaks at Sand Haven and Galley Bay, both just south of the popular Dickenson Bay area.
So, whether you are a beginner heading to Jamaica for its gentler conditions, or a full-blown enthusiastic professional looking for the best waters in Barbados, you’ll find plenty of Caribbean destinations with excellent surfing to enjoy.