We don’t all have the freedom and flexibility to galavant off in search of waves or dash off on “see ya later” last-minute swell dash… life just gets in the way. Work, money, family duties… you know the score. But what if you could combine your next surf trip with some good old family time? Well, you’re in luck… turns out there are some epic places to score world-class waves and keep the fam happy at the same time. But before we dive into the best family surf destinations, what does the phrase mean?
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What Makes a Great Family Surf Trip?
While I travel solo most of the time, I was recently trying to organize a family trip and while I was “researching” or desperately trying to sway the destination discussion in favour of wave-rich islands in the tropics, I found the best family choices all have the following criteria.
You don’t want to take the wife and kids into some sketchy war-torn nation deep in Africa, or jungles of Central America to surf some remote virgin wave. You want warmth, infrastructure, friendly locals, and low crime rates–somewhere you and the fam can relax.
We all travel on different budgets, but the best family-friendly surf towns, all offer a wide range of accommodation options, from plush hotels and luxury villas to budget apartments, whatever the family budget, you want to find somewhere fitting!
Easy Surf Spot Access
I think this is one of the main ones! Having the luxury of running out for a quick morning or dusk session means you can wet the gills and not have to be gone for hours at a time. During my family trip to Madeira in Portugal (while not the easiest access) I got up early and surfed for an hour or two first thing, The closer and easier, the better. We’re talking, staying on the beach, and paddling out to the waves in minutes type vibe–the winning family-friendly surf spot combo!
Things to Do
Chances are the non-surfers among you don’t want to hang out on the beach all day, and family surf ventures are about more than surfing. By selecting destinations with other cool thing to do, not only makes your trip better but keep everyone happy. Whether it’s the ability to dip into the city, go hiking, or see some cool wildlife, it’s a vital component to any family surf destination worth its salt!
The Best Family Surf Destinations
Costa Rica has drawn surfers for decades. A truly dream destination–palm trees, sun, warm waters, fun waves, nature… you know the score. Oh, and it’s one of the safest countries in Latin America. While Costa Rica certainly isn’t one of the world’s cheapest surf destinations, you can stay right on the beach, in epic surrounds! We’re talking fun because peaks, minutes from your door.
Check out Santa Teresa, Dominical, Playa Hermosa, and Tamarindo. All beautiful beaches, with sick waves. Then head to land for waterfalls, wildlife, and volcanos–frickin epic! For information on surfing in Costa Rica, check out my full guide to Playa Hermosa, Santa Teresa, and Dominical.
Unless you’re reading this in Australia, NZ is a long way from just about anywhere. However, don’t let that put you off! Once you’re here, the land of the long white cloud is custom-made for families, looking for waves and outdoor adventure. With a low population, NZ combines nature, landscapes, and the title of one of the safest nations on Earth. Piha, Raglan, and Mount Maunganui are some of my favorites, all within a two-hour drive from Auckland, both with world-class waves on the right day. In summer, NZ is all about the outdoors and the best way to maximize your trip is to book a camper, and hit the road. Check out JUCY campers. A true outdoor surf adventure.
Back over the ditch, Australia is another fantastic family surf destination. If anywhere was designed for families who want to surf and live the beach life, it’s Australia. Seriously, the number of setups, with amazing waves, clean beaches, and parks/BBQ areas is insane. There’s just the perfect combination of weather and amenities to keep the groms entertained for days (no iPads needed here). Like NZ, Aus is all about the outdoors, and I’d highly recommend renting a camper and road-tripping up and down the East Coast, Start with Coolangatta, Noosa, and Byron, and if time allows head south to Sydney’s Northern Beaches or inland to the Blue Mountains. Thank me later.
Many see Bali’s crowds and rapid development as a negative, but from a family perspective, this means you can stay in luxury villas, close to the beach for a fraction of what you can anywhere else in the world. If you’re looking for an affordable family surf trip, an amazing private villa with a pool all while among the most warm and welcoming people on the planet, you can’t go wrong with Bali.
Portugal is another excellent family surf trip, with so many epic waves all over its coast. Ericeira and Peniche, have all the infrastructure you could ever need for a surf trip. Accommodation, surf schools, shops, restaurants, and cafes are everywhere! The weather is also great most of the year and the cost of living is refreshingly low for Western Europe.
The dream of all dream trips! Hawaii is the ultimate surf trip destination and an epic one to take the kids! Some of the most perfect beaches on earth, perfect (and scary) waves, and tropical year-round create the perfect combination to hang out on the beach. The North Shore is an incredible area to experience and while you might not be snagging Pipe bombs between family duties, the beach is stunning and very comfortable when you’re too scared to surf 😉
One of the cheapest surf destinations out there, Sri Lanka could be an epic choice for a family surfer. In all major surf towns, you can stay minutes from the waves in great accommodation. Towns like Arugam Bay and Hikkaduwa are two of my favorites, both are laid-back beach towns with hotels right on the sand. For classic Sri Lankan point breaks, head to Arugam (between April and October) and keep the fam happy by hanging out at the beautiful Baby Point, and for beach breaks and a-frame reef action, head south, to Hikkaduwa and Midigama.
The Maldives is another bucket list trip and one every surfer needs to check out at least once. The maldives are ideal for families, and an easy spot to surf whenever you want and retreat to the most stunning beaches and shallows you’ll see anywhere. If your budget allows, stay at one of the resorts, which will give you and the crew everything you need for the most comfortable and memorable stay in the Maldives, check out the island of Thulushdoo for some more affordable options. Check out my full guide to surfing in the Maldives here, or my budget guide over on YouTube.
There are some epic family-friendly surf destinations, out there, many more than what I’ve included on this list, but start with some of these and start making for one of the most memorable surf trips ever. These spots all combine the comforts and conveniences, you need on a family trip and put you a stone’s throw from some of the world’s best surf spots. Any questions please fire away in the comments.