Are you a beginner or intermediate surfer? Are you looking for gentle spots to practice your skills on? Then take a look at this top 10 list of intermediate friendly surf spots in the world.
Of course, it all depends on swell size and other weather conditions if a spot works for you or not. Yet in general, these places have relatively soft-landing features (meaning: low risk of losing skin or breaking bones when wiping-out) and gently crumbling waves (as opposed to those that only crash on your head).
Note: this list is based on personal experience during travels/surfing around the world. It runs from 10 to 1, with 1 being the ‘best’.
Intermediate Friendly Surf Spot #10: Playa Roca, Leon, Nicaragua
An hour by public bus from Leon, Playa Roca is a black sand beach with little development. There are a couple of restaurants, but it’s better to bring your own food. Surfboard rental is easy, there’s a surf shack on the beach. They rent out surfboards for $10 a day.
Apart from the 2 (pretty big) rocks close to the shoreline (at mid tide), it’s a mostly sandy bottom. Best surf around mid to high tide.
How to get there: take the public bus from Leon, which leaves at the fruit market, northwest from the city center. Costs: $4.
Where to stay: Malinche, Leon. Run by the friendliest people in the world. Costs: $15/night for a private double room with shared bathroom.
Intermediate Friendly Surf Spot #9: Daku, Siargao, The Philippines
Southeast in The Philippines lies Siargao. Hart of the Filipino surfing scene. The island has a laid-back vibe; surfing, fishing and yoga are the main daily activities for tourists (and many locals/expats).
Daku is a point-break, so it does have a reefy/rocky bottom. However, the wave generally crumbles pretty slowly, it’s a fat(ter) wave, and they even take beginners out there around high tide. Funny: the waves run parallel to the beach. You don’t go to the beach though, you jump off a boat.
How to get to Daku: take a 15 mins boat ride, which is best to share with at least 2 other people. The boat waits for you while you’re surfing. Costs: $3 pp.
Where to stay: Ocean 101. A surfer’s resort, at backpacker prices ($9 for a private double room with ensuite bathroom), clean, big, and full of potentially new friends.
Yoga: check out the Hippie Surf/Yoga School (5 mins walking from Ocean 101) if you want to rent boards or take a yoga/surf lesson.
Intermediate Friendly Surf Spot #8: Kudat, Tip of Borneo, Malaysia
Soft, white sand beach, crystal clear, turquoise, water and mellow waves. The Tip of Borneo is a little paradise – when it works. The surf season is generally from October to March.
How to get there: best to take a minivan or a shared taxi from Kota Kinabalu. It’s quite a long (and bumpy) road, but you forget all about it as soon as you stick your toes in the soft white sand.
Where to stay: homestay next to Tampat Do Aman Restaurant, basic huts right on the beach. You can roll into the ocean from your bed. Costs: $10/night for a double room with private bathroom.
Intermediate Friendly Surf Spot #7: San Juan, La union, Urbiztondo, The Philippines
A six-hour bus ride from Manila, San Juan offers a variety of surf spots. Get off at the San Juan Surf Resort and you’ll find an easy surf spot right in front of you. Sandy bottom, no dangerous rocks, longboardable waves.
They call this the surf capital of the Philippines. Dozens of surf shacks on the beach rent out (long) boards for $10 a day.
How to get there: in Manila, take any bus to Laoag, Vigan, Abra, Ilocos Sur & San Fernando, La Union. The (six hour) bus will stop in front of the San Juan Surf Resort.
Where to stay: there are plenty of places to stay, but San Juan Surf Resort is by far the best. Clean, comfortable rooms, private bathroom for around $40 a night.
Intermediate Friendly Surf Spot #6: Popoyo, Nicaragua
The most beautiful, long, wide and white sand beach of Nicaragua, Popoyo is just gorgeous. A relatively mellow wave (especially compared to the dumping waves of Playa Santana in the south), it does break over a rocky reef. Surf it close to high tide though, and you’ll be fine. Mid tide is also very nice.
How to get there: from Rivas, take a taxi for $25. Depending on where you stay, let the taxi take you to your hotel.
Where to stay: Buena Onda at Playa Santana has very comfortable rooms, clean and beautifully decorated. It’s more a luxurious resort. Costs: $50 for a private double room with private bathroom / $15 for a dorm bed. You’ll have to walk 30-40 mins to the Popoyo surfbreak though, but it’s a nice walk across the beach. Or, stay at Magnificent Rock, that’s only 5-10 mins walking.
Be careful, there’s a lot of petty theft in the area.
Intermediate Friendly Surf Spot #5: Whangamata, New Zealand
Whangamata (to me the pronunciation sounded a lot like ‘fockamatta’, see the comments below for further explanation) is a gorgeous white sand soft beach in Coromandel, the northeast part of New Zealand. It’s a bay, and with a western wind and a big enough swell, you’ve got perfect (slightly fast) peeling waves.
How to get there: like anywhere else in New Zealand, it’s best to rent your own car (possible from $20 a day). Or, check out the bus timetable.
Where to stay: Palm Pacific Motel. Right in the city centre, only 5-10 mins walking to the beach/surf break. Two bedroom units go for $100 a night, but if you share (3 people), it’s almost the same price as staying in a hostel.
Intermediate Friendly Surf Spot #4: Gerukpuk, Lombok, Indonesia
Mawi (southwest from Kuta, Lombok) is a bit more challenging than the other spots in this list, but it’s just so pretty. The waves break over a sharp reef, with lots of stones and boulders- especially the right hander. The left is ‘easier’. Low tide is a no-go, wait at least till mid to high.
If you want a more gentle spot, try Gerukpuk in the southeast of Kuta. You have to take a boat (15 mins) to get there, but the waves break over a nice soft bottom with lots of seaweed cushioning.
How to get there: from Kuta, rent a scooter, it’s the best way to go. The road to Mawi is drop-dead gorgeous, just the ride alone (30 mins) is worth going there. Gerukpuk is a 20 mins (end of the road is pretty bumpy) scooter-ride from Kuta, with an extra 15 mins boat ride.
Where to stay: Yuli’s Homestay, Kuta. A lovely hide-away with comfortable, beautiful cabins set around a huge green garden with swimming pool. Owner is super friendly. Costs: $30 a night for double room, private bathroom and breakfast. Bring earplugs, cause there’s a Mosque that starts at 5.30am (as do all the other Mosques everywhere else on Lombok).
Intermediate Friendly Surf Spot #3: Playa Maderas, Nicaragua
Also a bit faster wave, Playa Maderas offers you a nice challenge. If you wipe-out though, the bottom is soft and sandy. No hazardous rocks or reef. High tide is more mellow. Get there early though (5/6am) because it’s a local favourite. If you’re lucky you can see Eagle Rays, dolphins and whales.
How to get there: from Rivas or from the Costa Rican border, take the bus to San Juan del Sur. Then, at Casa Oro (in the middle of the small town centre), take a shuttle for $5. It’s a 30 mins (very) bumpy ride.
Wherever you stay in Playa Maderas – except when you’re staying at the beach, but I won’t recommend that unless you enjoy filthy hostels -, be ready for a steep walk every day when you go to the beach. This hill might be the most hated hill in Nicaragua.
Where to stay: Casa Maderas, in between Playa Maderas and Playa Marsella (which is excellent for fishing). Super friendly staff, nice cabins (though they can get noisy – depending on the type of cabin) and a laid-back vibe. Costs: double room with private bathroom is $39, a dorm is $17.
Buena Vista Surf Club is also a very nice option, they have beautiful cabins right in the jungle, with a spectacular view. Just a bit more expensive though ($120 a night), but worth it.
Yoga: there’s yoga everywhere around Playa Maderas. Try Casa Maderas (I taught there, so I’m absolutely biased) with its gorgeous yoga deck. $10 a lesson.
Intermediate Friendly Surf Spot #2: The Point, Raglan, New Zealand
One of the longest lefthanders in the world, and featured in ‘The Endless Summer’, Raglan is a goofy’s wildest dream. The waves break over boulders and rocks, and just peel perfectly to the left. Carefully make your way down the rocks, and enjoy your session. You might even get a visit from a killer whale (they’re harmless).
How to get there: same as Whangamata, best to rent a car.
Where to stay: absolute no.1 is Solscape, a somewhat hippie style accommodation. You can sleep in old train cabins, or rent the bigger houses (‘Summer’). Very nice, friendly staff, kitchen, big terrain, 3 mins driving to The Point.
Yoga: they normally have an in-house Yoga Teacher (just not when I was there, so I did it on my own).
Intermediate Friendly Surf Spot #1: Bali, Indonesia
To me, the winner is still Bali. It’s too hard to pick just one (even two) surf spots, because the whole darn island is just so awesome. It has everything, for everybody. Whether you’re a beginner, an intermediate or an advanced surfer, Bali has it all.
Just to name a few: Medewi, Balian, Tanah Lot, Punch, Echo, Old Mans, Batu Balong, Balangan, Playgrounds etc. All very suitable for intermediate surfers.
How to get there: same as Lombok, rent a scooter. Just don’t drink and drive, be careful on sandy roads, wear a helmet, carry your international driver’s licence, and off you go!
Where to stay: lots of homestays. For $20 a night you get a super comfortable room, aircon, tv and private bathroom.
Don’t want to go at it alone? Join Jess at a Surf & Yoga Retreat.
Wanna dive deeper into Indonesia’s surf spots?
Do you have any other spots to add to this list?