Surfing is one of the most popular ocean sports in the world. And it started right here, in Waikiki.
In the Hawaiian language, Waikiki translates to "spurting water/fresh water springs." Waikiki was given its name because of the fresh streams that flowed down from the Ko’olau mountain range. As this natural spring water met the ocean, spurts of water would spout, creating a smooth, clear area for people to swim and surf.
Surfing was once an exclusive sport of the Ali’i (Hawaiian royalty). It was revitalized in the 1900s when the first generation of “Waikiki Beachboys” began popularizing the activity as Hawaii emerged as a top travel destination. It wasn’t long before Waikiki Beach - and surfing - was on the map.
One of those beachboys - the legendary Duke Kahanamoku - is known as the father of modern surfing. The surf breaks made famous by Duke are the same spots that locals and tourists alike still love surfing today.
There are a multitude of surf spots within a two-mile stretch of Waikiki, starting at iconic Diamond Head and heading down to Fort DeRussy Park. Here’s a look at our favorites.
1. Rockpiles | First on the list is Rockpiles. This spot is great for shortboarding and longboarding alike, but it does break over a shallow reef. Watch out for vana (sea urchins) on the reef.
2. Kaiser's | This favorited surf spot is always packed with locals, despite the long paddle out. The wave at Kaiser’s is prefered by shortboarders, although some longboaders are still loyal to the break. Paddle out from the small beach fronting Rockpiles.
3. Fours | To the right of Kaiser’s - and straight out from the US Army Museum of Hawaii - is Fours. Unlike some of its neighboring surf spots, Fours only comes alive when the surf gets big. Then, you’ll find it gets crowded with surfers and bodyboarders alike.
4. Threes | Looking for that iconic Waikiki surf vibe? Look no further. Threes - named appropriately because it’s the 3rd recognizable surf break in Waikiki - is a perfect right break that holds its shape, crystal blue water, and a sandy bottom. The surfers here tend to be less territorial than at the neighboring Kaiser Bowls, too. Oh - and if you’ve seen Endless Summer, this wave might look familiar.
5. Pops | Technically called Populars - because it’s, well, popular - this break is known by locals as Pops. It’s a far paddle out to the break, but both longboarders and shortboarders find it worth the extra effort. The spot has a sandy bottom and a long right break.
6. Canoes | Canoes is a quick paddle from neighboring Queen’s. The break is one of the most beginner-friendly surf spots in the area. Not surprisingly, Canoes is typically quite crowded with longboards, catamarans, paddle boarders, and yes - canoes too.
7. Queens | Queen’s Surf break is notoriously one of the best waves in Waikiki - especially for longboarders - and is the go to spot for surf contests in Waikiki. The break was named after two of Hawaii’s Alii that frequented this surf spot: Queen Kaahumanu Queen Lili’uokalani.
8. Publics | Publics is located between the Waikiki Aquarium and Queen’s Beach. This break has a dedicated following, although it’s not usually as crowded as some of the other spots in this roundup. Due to its location, this exposed break can get pretty choppy, unlike some of the more protected breaks in the area.
9. Tonggs | One of the best waves for beginners, and know for featuring a friendly crowd. Tongg’s offers a gentle left break that’s especially perfect for longboarders. Plus, it’s typically not as crowded as some of the other spots.
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