California was one of the first surfing spots in the US and is considered one of the best surfing spots in the world.
It’s not hard to see why – from its incredible waves and beautiful beaches to the uniquely Californian surfing culture, it’s no wonder surfers from around the world flock to California to hit those Pacific waves!
Meanwhile, San Francisco is one of California’s most beautiful cities due to its charming neighborhoods, and stunning bay location.
It is often referred to as the United States’s most ‘European City,’ most likely thanks to its compact development and the fact it’s easy to walk around.
Sitting on the edge of a peninsula and with striking views of the gorgeous blue bay, San Francisco not only has famous landmarks, parks, and restaurants for you to enjoy on your trip but fantastic surfing opportunities too.
If you’re new to surfing and want to have a couple of lessons while in San Francisco, then look no further than our top 10 picks below. These schools offer everything from camps to one-off lessons that you can enjoy single or in groups.
You’ll also find below our guide to traveling to San Francisco, which tells you everything you need to have before you go, and how to plan your budget.
After taking a look at some of our picks, we’re sure you’ll agree that a trip to San Francisco is made all the better by grabbing a surfboard and hitting the waves!
Hokali Surf School
Offering one-on-one lessons, couples lessons, and lessons for groups with a maximum of 4 people, Hokali Surf School is located on Pacifica State Beach.
Their certified coaches are patient and knowledgeable, and you can book lessons easily online. What’s more, by learning to surf with Hokali you’re also supporting good causes.
For every lesson booked, Hokali donates to Ocean Conservation NGOs.
San Francisco Surf Lessons
San Francisco Surf Lessons cater to all kinds of groups, from corporate events to birthday parties.
So if you’re looking to arrange a fun, team-building event with work, or book a memorable beach birthday party learning a new skill, get in touch with San Francisco Surf Lessons!
It is a bit pricey at $100 for one class, but San Francisco Surf Lessons provides all the gear you need.
Adventure Out is the place to go if you want to try out pretty much any outdoor activity in San Francisco. As far as surfing goes, they have a wide variety of classes and camps to choose from.
They have 1-2 day surf clinics catering to children and teens, as well as Surf Camps for children and young people, and a Yoga and Surf Workshop.
This retreat takes place in Santa Cruz over 2 days and consists of daily 1-hour yoga lessons, and 3-hour surf lessons taught by knowledgeable, supportive teachers.
The workshop aims to combine the peaceful, and grounding practice of yoga with the fun, exhilarating activity of surfing!
Big Dog Surf Camp
Big Dog Surf Camp was founded by Ian Glover aka ‘The Big Dog!’ He started surfing at the age of 15 and fell in love with it immediately. He also fell in love with teaching his friends and family and soon wanted to share his knowledge and expertise with strangers.
His motto is “all you have to do is want it, and I will take care of the rest,” and he runs his surf camp with that motto in mind.
For the last two years, Big Dog Surf Camp has taught people of all ages and experience levels with patience, understanding, and a lot of fun!
Ladies Shred is a female-focused surfing and skating school based in Marin County. It was founded by instructor Lilja, who teaches women and girls of all ages with a teaching style focused on mindfulness, compassion, and conquering fears.
Camp Marin is a summer camp for 9-13-year-olds that not only teaches surfing but other outdoor activities such as mountain biking and zip lining. It was founded by Cooper Ronald, who grew up in Marin County and wanted to share his love of the outdoors with the next generation.
University of Surfing
If you have some surfing experience behind you and want to brush up on your skills, the University of Surfing may be the place for you! They promise to increase your wave count, as well as your confidence!
Sea, Surf & Fun
Sea, Surf & Fun is the first French surf school in California to teach in both English and French and is located in Half Moon Bay, 30 minutes south of San Francisco, near the famous Maverick’s surf shop.
Open Ocean Surf
Offering private or group lessons, Open Ocean Surf is also located in the Half Moon Bay area.
Their instructors are available all year round including holidays, and their surfing camps for children not only teach surfing but also help children develop environmental awareness and ocean safety.
Surf School Santa Cruz
Surf School Santa Cruz has a wide variety of classes on offer, from a private surf lesson that focuses on individual needs and the basics of surfing, to private group surf lessons that cover surfing fundamentals, etiquette, safety, and proper stand-up.
San Francisco can be a pretty expensive place to visit. Below you’ll find all the information you need to budget accordingly.
Meal Price Range
When it comes to eating in San Francisco, you’ll be spoiled for choice for food from all around the world! From the wonderful taquerias in Mission to the abundance of Thai, Chinese, and Japanese restaurants in the area.
If you’re looking to avoid breaking the bank, we warn against heading to the Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhoods as these areas cater to tourists and the food tends to be overpriced.
The cost of a meal does vary in San Francisco, but the average cost of food is usually $32 per day. An average meal in San Francisco usually costs around $13 per person.
Meanwhile, breakfast prices are normally cheaper than lunch or dinner prices, and sit-down restaurants are usually more expensive than fast food or street food prices.
While most of the surfing camps mentioned provide all the equipment you need such as boards and wetsuits, some are located near well-known surf shops for you to rent the equipment yourself.
Prepaid SIM Cards
Mobile WiFi, SIM cards, and rental cell phone packages can be picked up straight from San Francisco International Airport.
Compared to other cities in the U.S. San Francisco is relatively easy to get around without a car. However, the public transportation system can be rather confusing and complicated.
Still, using public transport means avoiding San Francisco traffic and the time spent searching for parking.
If you’re staying in San Francisco for a few days or a couple of weeks, the most practical and economical way to get around would be to get a day pass for up to 1-7 days.
These allow unlimited travel on all the buses, streetcars, and cable cars in the city, but do not include BART. Or, you can purchase the SF Visitor Passports that give you unlimited travel for 1, 3, or 7 days.
If you’re a first-time visitor, however, then getting a 1 or 2-day pass on one of the Hop On Hop Off bus tours gets you to where you need to go while also teaching you about all of San Francisco’s landmarks!
In May 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that gasoline prices averaged $4.177 a gallon in the San Francisco/Oakland/Hayward area.
This makes San Francisco a particularly expensive place to buy gas, as at $4.117 a gallon those living in San Francisco pay 35.4% more than the $3.041 national average.
Types of Risk
Home to Fisherman’s Wharf, a huge Chinatown, Alcatraz, and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco truly is a great place to visit.
But while San Francisco is a relatively safe place to visit, like any big city there are places to avoid. San Francisco does have lower rates of violent crime than other populous cities in the U.S.
However, other crimes such as theft (like pickpocketing and bag snatching) do occur and car break-ins are a particular problem too.
How to Prepare
If you’re traveling from outside the US, then below you will find all the information you need on things like visas and currency.
But if you’re traveling from within the US you’ll also find handy information on travel insurance and also where to find the surf forecast for San Francisco.
If you live in the US, then you don’t need to worry about obtaining a visa to travel to San Francisco.
However, if you’re traveling from countries such as the UK or Canada you will need to meet certain travel requirements in order to visit the United States.
If you’re a UK citizen you will need to apply online for a travel visa in order to be permitted to enter the US by land, air, or sea.
Meanwhile, Canadian citizens generally do not require a visa to enter the US directly from Canada if they are visiting the country or studying there. Canadian visitors are generally granted a stay in the U.S. for up to six months at the time of entry.
Unlike some countries, you do not need to have particular vaccines to visit the US. However, you should make sure you’re up to date on all routine vaccinations before you travel.
Language and Currency
The currency in San Francisco is the US dollar.
English is the official language of San Francisco. However, 41.1% of San Francisco speaks a language besides English, which is higher than the national average of 21.9%.
The most common non-English language spoken in San Francisco is Chinese (this includes both Mandarin and Cantonese), and 18% of the overall population of San Francisco are native Chinese speakers.
Meanwhile, 10.% of the population speak Spanish.
Checking Surf Forecast
To check the surfing forecast in San Francisco, you should visit surfline.com. Surfline provides surfing forecasts from all around the world.
Established 35 years ago, Surfline was originally designed to provide surfing forecasts, but now provides forecasts for offshore cruisers, anglers, and all kinds of boating and fishing enthusiasts.
Thousands of people around the world use Surfline daily to make safe, informed decisions about heading out to sea, and for surfers, it’s a great way to determine the chances of you catching the perfect wave!
Surfline is also affiliated with MagicSeaweed and Buoyweather, two other great forecasting resources.
Although purchasing travel insurance is optional, it does make sure you don’t lose money on prepaid travel expenses if your travel plans go awry.
Many credit cards offer some sort of travel insurance coverage. However, not all credit card travel insurance includes medical or dental coverage, nor emergency evacuation coverage.
These three are arguably the three most important and protective types of travel insurance. Also, you sometimes need to meet specific conditions before applying for full coverage.
So it’s important to take out a travel insurance policy rather than relying solely on your credit card.
You should consider a travel insurance policy that can reimburse you if your plans go wrong. There are plenty of robust policies out there that cover a wide range of potential issues.
There are even policies that allow you to cancel your trip for any reason at all.
The better travel insurance companies out there will reimburse you for medical expenses, baggage loss, evacuation to your home country, and more, for an affordable price.
We recommend choosing companies that can protect you from financial loss if your trip is canceled or interrupted for reasons beyond your control.
While many average travel insurance policies include surfing as an activity, it still may be worth looking into additional cover. You should especially consider specialist insurers who offer dedicated travel insurance for surfers.