Local April 30, 2022

O’ahu’s Best Surf Spots

When it comes to sports in Hawaiʻi, surfing reigns supreme. Native Hawaiians didn’t invent surfing—other Polynesian societies were simultaneously experimenting with boards on waves—but Hawaiians certainly mastered and later popularized the concept of he‘e nalu, or wave sliding, aka surfing. It remains an integral part of Hawaiian culture and local society today. Here are my favorite surf spots on Oʻahu.

Note: Surfing on Oʻahu can be dangerous, so be sure to heed ocean safety signs and bear in mind your personal health and fitness before you paddle out. Remember to also be respectful of your fellow surfer.


Pipeline is the most famous surf break in world. I’m not a surfer and I’m familiar with this fabled North Shore spot! Pipeline is home to the Billabong Pipeline Masters, a big-wave surf contest held each year on Oʻahu, where the world’s best surfers compete. During the winter, this surf break is for experts and professionals only.


This surf break is the epitome of Waikīkī surfing. Queens got its name from Hawaiʻi’s last ruling monarch, Queen Liliʻuokalani, who resided near the surf break. This surf spot is popular with visitors trying to catch their first wave, as well as locals who live nearby. Surfing legends like Duke Kahanamoku grew up riding these waves. It’s a crowded spot, so watch out!

Ala Moana Bowls

Ala Moana Bowls has long been considered one of the best waves in town. This is my son Jon’s favorite place to surf! Ala Moana Bowls is a left-breaking reef wave that’s man-made. It was formed in the 1950s when the Kewalo Basin and the Ala Wai Small Boat Yacht Harbor joined together. Coral and dirt were extracted during construction, thus forming a “bowl” and creating its iconic tube waves. Respected surfers like Buttons Kaluhiokalani, Larry Bertlemann and Gerry Lopez frequented Bowls, as it’s known, creating a new style of surfing in the 1970s.


This is one of the most consistent South shore breaks. Publics gets its name from the public restroom facilities that used to exist adjacent to the beach. The surf break is a left-breaking wave and during the summer, when the swells rise on the South Shore, it becomes one of my son Jon’s favorite breaks. Beware: Publics can only be surfed during high tide since the area becomes too shallow to paddle in or out during low or medium tide.


Located on Oahu’s west side, Mākaha is a powerful break with a storied history. The break is thought to be birthplace of big-wave surfing and home to the Mākaha International Surfing Championship, first founded in 1954. Renowned Oʻahu surfers such as George Downing and Buzzy Trent pushed the boundaries of surfing here, catching towering swells. During its tamer days, you can spot bodyboarders and paddlers in outrigger canoes, in addition to surfers on short- and longboards, all enjoying the waves.