Hawaii is literally the birthplace of surfing, and Oahu still offers some of the greatest surf spots world over. All surf enthusiasts must consider the Oahu North Shore a bucket list trip, and even beginners will find waves to ride in Waikiki.
Surfing is found in the very heartbeat of Oahu, and the island is full of passionate devotees and casual enthusiasts. Which makes finding a surf camp both very easy — and incredibly hard. With surf camps on every corner and beachfront, choosing the right one is not a simple task.
In this guide, you can find some of the best camps Oahu has to offer, as well as some advice about visiting the area. Plan a trip today, and discover the real home of surfing.
1. Surf HNL
Beginner’s will absolutely love the experience of learning to surf with Surf HNL. Head to Ala Moana for a secluded spot not far from the busy streets of Waikiki, and learn to surf on stretches of wave you have all to yourself.
The warm waters are welcoming to newcomers, and the atmosphere is incredibly supportive. Small group lessons means instruction feels personalized, and you can advance fast thanks to tailored feedback.
If you’re feeling a little board-shy, then Surf HNL is a fantastic way to start.
2. North Shore Oahu Surf School
All the instructors at North Shore Oahu Surf School are locals, and they really understand the waves. Located at the stunning Hale’iwa on the North Shore, you can learn from instructors with an incredible depth of knowledge.
You’ll notice how quickly you advance, with lessons catered to those of all ages and skills.
3. Go Nuts! Hawaii Surf Camp
The Go Nuts! Surf Camp is located on V-land beach, one of the most famous surfing beaches in the world. Each winter, the pros call this place their home, finding some of the biggest breaks around. But don’t let that intimidate you.
The surf camp is friendly and welcoming, taking you to waves that accommodate your skill level.
4. Pata Sudaka Surf Camp Hawaii
Pata Sudaka has taken the surf camp to the next level. This adventure experience combines professional surf lessons with hikes, snorkelling, yoga, skateboarding, and all kinds of fun activities.
Regular trips out give you an opportunity to explore this fabulous island, from both the water and the land. The location of the Pata Sudaka Surf House moves with the season, so you always get the best waves going.
5. Lumi Surf World
Located in Waialua on Oahu’s North Shore, Lumi Surf World combines the thrill of surfing with calming yoga. The surf camp is run year-round, featuring top quality instruction and a real community atmosphere.
A surf camp for people of all skill levels, it takes place at the heart of the Seven Mile Miracle — perhaps the top surf destination in the world..
6. Lani Surf
Daily surf lessons on the iconic beaches of Oahu’s North Shore greet you at Lani Surf. Beginner’s can get to grips with the kind waves at Puaena Point, or travel down the road to some equally impressive breaks, depending on the conditions.
Even those with no experience on a board should be riding by the end of their first class, thanks to careful help from excellent instructors. At Lani Surf, surfing is about the body and the mind. You’ll finish the trip feeling invigorated, both mentally and physically.
7. North Shore Surf Girls
If you’ve never been surfing before, the idea of getting out in front of everyone, leaving solid ground, and committing to a wave can seem more than a little intimidating.
North Shore Surf Girls was founded with the aim of taking away that fear, and making surfing an inclusive experience. Surfing with the North Shore Surf Girls is safe and fun, and you’re guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face.
Lessons take place at either Puaena Point or Chun’s Reef, depending on the waves.
8. Waikiki Beach Services
Waikiki Beach is one of the best places to learn to surf, with waves that are just the perfect height for beginners. This stunning location has seen many surfers catch their first wave, with help from the patient instructor’s of Waikiki Beach Services.
This surf school has been running since 1955, so there’s plenty of experience to be found here. If you’re curious about surfing, but not sure if you’re ready to commit, kind and patient instructors will help you tap into your passion.
9. I’m Your Trip Yoga and Surf Camp
There’s so much to do on Oahu, and the I’m Your Trip Surf and Yoga Camp lets you experience (nearly) all of it. From road trips to yoga, meeting sea turtles to searching for dolphins, this is a surf camp with a difference.
Every moment that isn’t packed with adventure is spent in fabulous Waikiki, where you find welcoming locals and a vibrant aloha spirit. Professional surf lessons with video analysis builds confidence on the waves, for a trip that’s completely unforgettable.
10. Surf Hawaii Surf School
Surf Hawaii is an intense experience, but the total commitment to the surf lifestyle is an incredible way to spend a few days. Opt for the surf and yoga camp, to push your body to the limits and discover more about yourself.
Located on the North Shore, in historic Hale’iwa, this is a surf destination for those dedicated to the craft. Book the North Shore Surf Tour to learn something about the island as well.
Meal Price Range
Food prices are high across Hawaii, so be prepared to budget. Oahu is considered to be the cheapest of the islands, with a huge amount of restaurants and cafes to choose from. However, with most of the food imported from the mainland, even grocery costs can be surprisingly high.
The best thing to do is head away from the beachfront. Although average prices on Oahu are high, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a bargain. Look for food trucks and stalls, which often offer restaurant quality food at a cheaper price.
Typical Hawaiian food tends to be hearty portions, so you do get a lot for your money. Try local dishes such as Loco Moco for breakfast, and it will keep you full for a long morning on the waves.
Unless you live on Oahu, the waves are always a flight away. And flying with your board is a nightmare. Luckily, renting equipment on Oahu is easy. There are shops everywhere, and if you search hard enough, you just might find a bargain.
As with most things in Hawaii, equipment rental is on the expensive side. Shop around if you’re determined to save money, because the market is competitive.
Many surf camps will include equipment rental in the price.
One advantage to surfing on Oahu is that less equipment is necessary. Warmer waters mean wetsuits are rarely required, and with almost every beach offering fabulous breaks, travel is minimal.
Prepaid SIM cards
If you’re travelling with a US SIM card, it should work in Hawaii for no extra cost. However, if you’re on a limited plan, you may want to give the provider a call to check the details.
Purchasing a prepaid SIM card on Oahu is relatively easy in the major tourist spots, and inexpensive. But if you want a better deal, it’s worth looking online for a US SIM card before jetting off.
There’s good WiFi in café’s and restaurants on Oahu, so another way to save money is to turn off roaming, and only use internet messenger apps.
Public transport on Oahu is pretty good, with regular buses running across Honolulu. Known as TheBus, it travels to all the major tourist spots for a low cost.
Taxis and ride-share services are also common, although more expensive than the public transport options.
There are also plenty of tours, including by boat or by land, to use for exploring Oahu.
The best way to travel around Oahu is with a rental car. Rental car services are prolific, with good prices available.
For many surf camps, transport to beaches is included in the initial price.
Although renting a car on Oahu is easy, paying for gas can be off-putting. Hawaii is known for having gas prices higher than the mainland US, and that’s a trend that’s unlikely to change. The cost of transporting the gas overseas adds to the price.
Cars are popular forms of transport on Oahu, so gas stations are common.
Types of Risks
There is a wide variety of waves to be found on Oahu, from easy rolling beginner waves, to the ones that intimidate even the pros. North Shore beaches are home to many winter surf competitions, and the waves can top 30-feet.
If you plan on surfing during the winter seasons, be careful to only attempt waves you can handle.
Only swim at beaches with lifeguards, or with qualified instructors. If there’s no one in the water, there’s probably a good reason to stay out.
We can’t surf 24/7, so you’re likely to spend some time exploring the gorgeous natural features of Oahu. Always keep to marked trails, and follow the rules. Not only will it protect the wild beauty, it also keeps you safe.
Theft is an issue on Oahu, so keep valuables either in the hotel, or on your person at all times.
How to Prepare
Visitors from the US do not need a visa to enter Oahu. All that’s needed is a valid form of photo ID.
Visitors travelling from outside the US will need either a visa or an ESTA, depending on where they’re travelling from. The requirements for visiting Hawaii are the same as the mainland US.
An ESTA permits a visitor to spend 90 days in the US. A longer trip would require a more extensive visa application.
The recommended vaccines for travel to Oahu are: tetanus and rabies. If a traveller has not already had these vaccinations, they should before travel.
Mosquitos are a problem year round on Oahu, and particularly during the summer months. There is no malaria risk, but Dengue outbreaks do occur. No vaccines are recommended, but make sure to carry mosquito repellent.
Language And Currency
The local currency in Hawaii is the US dollar, which is accepted everywhere. But be aware that prices tend to be higher.
Hawaii has two official languages: English and Hawaiian. English is spoken everywhere, with most surf lessons provided in the language. There are many languages spoken across Oahu, thanks to a diverse population.
You may encounter Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, and German, among others.
Checking Surf Forecast
Surfing is good on Oahu year round, although different parts of the island benefit from different seasons. The North Shore experiences massive breaks in the winter months, and this is when the pros flock. In summer, breaks are smaller, and friendlier for beginners.
The South Shore is best in summer, and is a fantastic place to learn to surf.
With so many wonderful breaks across the island, the surfing is nearly always good somewhere. Surf conditions are closely monitored, and it’s easy to access online where the best waves are that day.
If you join a surf camp, they’ll often check the surf forecast and head to the best beach that day.
Be sure to purchase travel and surf insurance before heading to Oahu. In some cases, surfing is covered under general travel insurance (that’s just how popular the sport is).
Anything Else You Need To Know
Surfing is competitive on Oahu, with people queuing up to catch the best breaks. If a novice gets in their way, some particularly enthusiastic surfers are unlikely to alter their paths.
Most surf camps and schools will teach about wave etiquette — and make sure to pay attention to what they say.
It’s important to protect yourself from the sun when visiting Oahu, and to regularly reapply sunscreen. Only reef safe sunscreen is allowed, so be sure to check if it meets regulations.
Surfing is integral to the spirit of Oahu, with quality surf camps to be found all across the shore.