Now that summer has finally arrived, it’s time to head to the beach. Some weekend warriors are regularly hitting the beach; others might be looking for something to do now that the mountain snow has melted. Either way, surfing is a great way to get some exercise while enjoying the sun, sand, and the water.
If you want a new beach to try out, we’ve rounded up a list of our seven favorite surfing cities in the US. Plus, we review the most innovative ways to travel with surfing gear so you can focus on having fun at the coast, not the tiny details.
Our 7 Favorite US Cities for Surfing
From coast to coast, there is something for every surfer. Whether you want to try out a few close to you or explore an entirely new part of the country, this list has it.
Santa Cruz, CA
Santa Cruz is one of the most popular surfing destinations in the country. Here, you can find waves to accommodate every level of surfer. Pleasure Point is the most famous surf spot in Santa Cruz. Due to the crowds, this break appeals to those who know how to share the waves but also when to cut in.
For a more chill experience, head over to Cowell Beach for clean waves and a relaxing atmosphere. If you’re a history buff, head to Steamer Lane, known for the choppy and intense surf and the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum.
Don’t forget to bring your wetsuit, though - Santa Cruz is known for its chilly waters. We recommend a 4/3mm during the Fall/Winter/Spring, and you can probably get away with a 3/2 during the summer.
When you’re done surfing for the day, head over to Humble Sea Brewing and try out one of their delicious IPAs and rotating food truck options.
Grab a quick bite after surfing: Taqueria Los Pericos is just a few blocks from downtown Santa Cruz, and their tacos are off the charts.
Grab a pint: Craft beer geeks should check out Shanty Shack Brewing. This nano-brewery has plenty of outdoor seating, and it’s dog friendly.
Best local surf shop in Santa Cruz: Freeline Surf Shop is a locally owned surf shop started by the Mel family in 1969. If you are looking for a massive selection of products, expert advice, and even rentals, then Freeline is your spot - bonus points for being located a few blocks from Pleasure Point.
Cocoa Beach, FL
Surfing in Cocoa Beach is beautiful, and the city has world-class surfing school options if you're looking to boost your skills. If you're road-tripping with your family, younger kids might love the Ron Jon Surf School for private and group lessons.
Check out 2nd Light Beach to connect with the locals (and take advantage of free parking). Although the waves in Cocoa Beach are generally much calmer than those in Santa Cruz, you might be able to catch a medium swell at Cocoa Beach Pier.
With consistently warm waters, most surfers can get away with a 2/1 during the winter and rock boardshorts and a neo top during the rest of the year.
Located on Florida's "Space Coast," Cocoa Beach is only an hour's drive from Orlando, which means you can drop the non-surfers off at Disney World while you enjoy the beach.
Grab a quick bite after surfing: Head to the Tiny Turtle for Caribbean-inspired food after lapping up some waves.
Grab a pint: Grab an IPA from Dirty Oar Beer Company. It’s located just across the bridge in Cocoa, Florida.
Best local surf shop in Cocoa Beach: Head to Catalyst on the south side of town for a local feel. If you want selection, head to Ron Jon’s and prepare to have your mind blown. Ron Jon’s is world-famous, and they have just about everything you would ever need for a good time at the beach.
Pacifica is home to the Bay Area's best beaches for surfing. Linda Mar State Beach is a picturesque and beginner-friendly surf destination with incredible amenities. This spot boasts showers, restrooms, and surf lessons. Linda Mar welcomes leashed, well-behaved dogs with open arms, and parking is $7 per day per vehicle.
Punch in Rockaway Beach in your go-to map app for big swells. Even highly experienced surfers take caution; the sneaker waves and rip currents can pose a formidable opponent.
This section of Northern California is known for its natural beauty and cold water, so don't forget the wetsuit, booties, and gloves.
Looking for something to do after spending your day at the beach? Make the quick 15-minute drive over the hill and into San Francisco, where endless food and drink options are available.
Grab a quick bite before surfing: High Tides Cafe and Crepery have been filling up surfers' bellies since 2010. Load up on the Surfer's Delight Breakfast platter, or get a Breakfast Burrito to-go on your way to Linda Mar.
Grab a pint: Drop by Pacifica Brewery after a long day at the beach and enjoy the incredible outdoor patio and delicious cuisine - the beer is also pretty darn tasty. Check out the Perfect Conditions Hoppy Pilsner or the Simcoe 1000, a Hazy West-Coast style IPA.
Best local surf shop in Pacifica: Sonlight Surf Shop has been a Linda Mar staple since 1985. They have plenty of surf gear, board rentals, and board demos.
Encinitas promises the best waves and a welcoming surfing community. Swami’s Reef is famous worldwide for its epic winter surf, beloved by high-performance longboard and shortboard athletes. This San Diego hotspot is physically taxing — after spending all morning in the ocean, head to Swami’s Cafe to catch up with fellow weekend warriors.
For overnight van parking in San Diego, try the Mission Beach parking lot across from Belmont Park (bathroom amenities included). You can also head to the San Elijo State Beach Campground, offering security and dump stations. Overnight campers have access to potable water and a store for firewood and snacks. Just make sure to plan ahead: Reservations are required six months in advance.
Still looking for a campsite for the night? Apps like iOverlander can connect you with free spots in the area.
Grab a quick bite before surfing: Coffee = check. Breakfast Bagel = check. Head over to Pannikin Coffee & Tea before hitting the beach.
Grab a pint: Grab a post-surf brew at this downtown Encinitas hotspot - Culture Brewing focuses on IPAs, but they’ve also got a wide selection of other libations.
Best local surf shop in Encinitas: Pop into Hansen Surfboards if you need to grab any supplies on your way to Swami’s.
Narragansett Town Beach is the ultimate chill surf scene. Summertime is incredibly crowded, with locals and tourists soaking up that Vitamin D.
The surf stays pretty small throughout the summer, presenting a nice reprieve from heavy waves. The swells are consistent, and the water and beach are beautiful. It’s a perfect spot to unplug and disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Grab a quick bite after surfing: Head to the Bike Stop Cafe after the beach and grab one of their famous wood-fired pizzas.
Best local surf shop Narragansett: Narragansett Surf & Skate - This east-coast surf staple has been around since 1966. This shop is the spot for lessons, rentals, and new surf gear.
Pacific City, OR
Surfers in Pacific City frequently go straight from the water to Pelican Brewing (with their wetsuits still on). This Oregon coast hotspot features a picturesque beach, sand dunes, and Haystack rock. Pacific City is also known for its large fleet of Dory Boats that come straight up onto the sandy beaches after fishing early in the morning.
Cape Kiwanda is a favorite among locals and has consistent large swells. These W and W-NW swells are ideal for intermediate to advanced surfers. Travelers who love some friendly competition should head up in September for the world-famous longboard competition.
The winter swells in Pacific City can crest at up to 12 feet, and campfires are allowed on the beach, so surfers can quickly warm up after battling the cold Pacific ocean all day.
Grab a quick bite after surfing: Just steps from the beach, Ben and Jeff’s Burgers & Tacos is a great option for a quick bite to eat by the Cape Kiwanda surf spot. We recommend the fish tacos, but you can’t go wrong.
Grab a pint: Pelican Brewing has arguably the best spot for watching the sun set into the Pacific, and their beer selection is excellent too.
Best local surf shop in Pacific City: In the same building as Ben and Jeff’s, Moment Surf Company also happens to be a few steps from the beach, and they’ve got rental gear, wetsuits, and all the other surf essentials.
The Jetty is a common spot for all surfers but is an excellent place for beginners since it has consistent waves and a sand bottom. The Groins is a superb spot for intermediate surfers, with left-hand point break and medium to large swells.
Lastly, the Cove is a go-to beach for advanced surfers. The swells here can get too large for surfing, and if that happens, the beach provides a charming spot to sit and watch the waves crash over the beach.
Grab a pint and a bite: Blackbeard’s Brewing is the local craft beer and pizza spot.
Best local surf shop Westport: Steepwater Surf Shop is the town's biggest and most famous surf shop.
Transportation Between Cities
We think the best way to get from beach to beach and back home again is with your adventure van.
Easily customize your load out for the optimal coastal weekend with these features:
Adventure vans are like tiny homes; space is a valuable commodity. Boards, wetsuits, towels, portable showers, and other surfing gear can take up a lot of space.
Make sure you have an elevated bed system to make the most of the space inside your van. It splits your van into two levels so you can store your board underneath your sleeping space.
Avoid the Mess
Lastly, you might want to consider tools to keep your van clean, especially since a surfing trip means a lot of sand. If you treat the van like it’s your home, complete with a “no shoes inside” rule, the step extension will be extremely helpful. This stainless steel addition attaches to the step into your van, giving you a space to throw your sandy shoes.
Another essential tool for surfers is a portable shower. Some beaches lack a space to rinse off, and it’s always nice to have a shower space just for you. There are plenty of van shower options to choose from, so we are sure you will find a size and price that suits your needs.
The Wrap Up
Veteran surfers and casual beachgoers alike can agree on one universal truth: there is nothing like watching the sun rise (or set) over a misty blue shoreline. No matter which beach is on your upcoming travel itinerary, it’s time to load up and head to the sand and surf for some “vitamin sea.”