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World's 50 best surf spots
The breaks and the tubes that make wipeouts worth it
Get wet and try not to wipe out, at these 50 best surf spots.
Whether you like rocky cliff faces, standing in awe at the pros charging some of the best waves in the world or getting lost searching for little-known breaks, we have you covered with everything from epic waves to beautiful, small glassy swells.
So whether you’re a beginner or an expert, here’s where to get on board.
This list was compiled by Jade Bremner, an avid surfer who has surfed many of these locations, and using contributions from other professional surfers. Thanks also to surfing-waves.com for their assistance.
1. Pipeline, Oahu, Hawaii, United States
Here it is -- the daddy of all waves. It’s the site most surfers will never be good enough to surf, but dream of riding its perfect crest.
Aptly, it’s located at the island that created surfing, and is one of the heaviest waves in the world, scaling over six meters over a shallow base of razor blade table reef. If you’ve got the balls, charge this flawless water tube and experience one of nature’s finest creations.
Getting there: Fly into Dillingham Airport on north shore and get a taxi or drive to Ehukai Beach Park in Pupukea (expect to pay around US$50 for airport transfers).
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2. Supertubes, Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa
In second place we’ve picked the right-hand ride of your life. J Bay offers long fast barrels off this intense point break and has plenty of choice with the bay divided into sections: Kitchen Windows, Magna Tubes, Boneyards and the mecca of all waves: Supertubes.
Expert surfers flock here for rides up to 300 meters long.
Getting there: Eastern Cape province of South Africa, about an hour’s drive southwest of Port Elizabeth.
3. Uluwatu and Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
Bali has to be in the top three surf beaches, but it’s a hard task deciding which break on this paradise island takes the crown. The island attracts the gnarliest surfers from Australia and Hawaii plus beginners from across the globe; all of whom can enjoy these perfect glassy faces.
With fewer waves than there are surfers, time-wasters may feel the brunt of aggressive locals at Uluwatu. But on the other hand, beginners at nearby bay Kuta are often cheered on by the more jovial locals while in the water.
Getting there: Fly into Denpasar Airport and get a very reasonably priced taxi down to Kuta for US$6 or US$12 to Uluwatu.
4. Superbanks, Gold Coast, Australia
Another of the world’s finest breaks, you may well have the ride of your life on this section, which will produce tubes and solid walls. By all means fill your boots, but save some energy for the two-kilometer walk along the beach back to your car.
Getting there: If you’re coming from overseas fly into Brisbane and pick up a car at the airport (www.brisbaneairportcarhire.net.au) for around US$46 per day.Drive down to Snapper Rocks, look for signs to Coolangatta and then turn off at Kirra and make your way to Greenmount or Snapper Rocks.
5. Mavericks, California, United States
The wave of legends has been surfed by only the most gutsy board riders; this mammoth peak forms due to hair-raising storms out to sea and reaches bone-chilling heights of 25 meters.
To surf here, we recommend you bring your jet ski (and a tow-in expert) and some life insurance. In 1994 skilled Hawaiian big-wave surfer Mark Foo died surfing this point. Those surfers who do conquer its peak will join a small club of over-achievers.
Getting there: Fly in to Half Moon Bay Airport and you’ll find Mavericks three kilometers from shore, off of Pillar Point Harbor, north of Half Moon Bay, Princeton-By-The-Sea. The only way to reach this wave is by boat or jet-ski, but be warned, come at it at the wrong angle and you’re fish food.
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6. Lima, Peru
To the right of Miraflores shopping center (and the pier) a few locals rent surfboards to brave backpackers. Although the pebbled beach and gray water doesn’t look entirely appealing, the range of surf along this coastline is second to none.
Waves range from a meter and up, and at the pier waves break in three sections; large, medium and small (great for all abilities of surfer), while being constantly clean, long rides. Warning: try not to swallow the sauce or you’ll end up with a dodgy stomach for days.
Getting there: Fly directly into Lima and cab it to the Miraflores shopping center for around US$10. From there you’ll have a spectacular view out to sea and probably butterflies because the waves look that good.
7. Hossegor, France
Located on the Atlantic, this expert surfing spot has been dubbed the "surfing capital of Europe," so naturally the rich and the famous have mansions and holiday homes near the beach (previous owners include the likes of singer-songwriter Jack Johnson).
People come from miles around to watch the pros ride tubes, and heavy walls break on the unnervingly shallow sandbank. Tubes here rival Hawaii, but come minus the coral.
Getting there: Fly into Biarritz Airport and grab a taxi for approximately US$90 or hire a car for US$35 a day and follow the E70 and A63 up to Hossegor.
8. Cloud Nine, Siargao Island, Philippines
This dramatic and powerful reef break, which crashes onto shallow razor sharp coral, offers right and left death rides to those who dare.
Those who do will experience a slice of paradise, or magic mushroom-like hallucinations, as the wave wraps over them like a Cornish pasty shaped cocoon of water. Don’t slip, or your skin and bones will be ripped to shreds by the ocean bed.
Getting there: Fly in to Manila and get an internal flight with airlines such as Cebu Pacific to Siargao for as little as US$30.
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9. Sultans, North Male, Maldives
A consistent reef wave that’s absolutely pumping in the spring. The rocks here can be hazardous but if you go with a live-aboard outfit such a Surfatoll.com, you’ll be in good hands.
These expert wave spotters will also deliver you to some of the finest points that are working on any one day, across the Maldives’ painfully beautiful 1,190 coral islands.
Getting there: Fly into Male airport and get your live aboard company to pick you up from there. Trips range in duration and price. Visit www.surfatoll.com for details.
10. Honolua Bay, Hawaii, United States
A right-hand squeaky-clean point break should keep you occupied, but getting to it is tricky business. Locals may tell you to "go back home" and your valuables may get nicked from your car while you’re in the sea, but a little cash is a small price to pay for a world-class ride like this which comes with the added bonus of spotting whales.
Getting there: Fly in to Kapalua West Maui Airport and, depending on where you’re staying, you may get a free shuttle from the airport all the way to the beach, or just get a taxi directly there.
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11. Montanita Beach, Montanita, Ecuador
Not many travelers make it to, or even know about, this spot on the west coast of Ecuador. The majority head straight to the Galapagos Islands and miss this hidden spot (which wasn’t even on the map a few years ago).
There are only 1,000 locals in Montanita and they’re among the friendliest bunch of surfers we’ve met in a surf spot. After pounding right-hand breaks, get to know them during the awesome après-surf on the village’s bar strip, where you can also grab a fresh fruit cocktail or a Tibetan massage.
Getting there: Fly into the nearest city Guayaquil and get the superb CLP air-conditioned bus service from the center of town, which departs five times a day and takes just under three hours. It costs approximately US$10.
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12. Manu Bay, Raglan, New Zealand
Made famous in the 1960s when it was the location for the cult surf flick "Endless Summer", atmosphere is key at this sleepy town. The bars and cafés play surf videos and serve New Zealand’s finest healthy smoothies and fresh cakes.
When you’re feeling pumped head down to Manu, which works from one meter to about three (and offers the occasional barrel if you’re lucky). The waves on this wide-open bay can get heavily blown out but it’s a mellow place to wait for the surf to pick up, you may even meet a veteran or two that starred in the original movie.
Getting there: It’s only a two-hour drive south of Auckland, or get the InterCity bus from Auckland to Hamilton Central then the Busit/Gobus Route 23 to Raglan. The journey will cost around US$30 in total.
13. Riyuewan, Sanya, Hainan, China
China is not exactly known for its beaches, let alone its surfing, but at the southern tip there’s a gigantic island offering untouched tropical beaches with consistent uncrowded waves (you’ll most likely be the only ones there).
Local outfit Surfing Hainan will guide you to beginner’s spots such as Riyuewan Bay and other lesser-known locations. Re-charge after your surf by eating fresh fish from the day’s catch cooked spicy Hainan-style at the local café just off of Riyuewan Bay.
Getting there: Your best bet is to fly into an international airport in China, such as Fuzhou, Guilin or Shanghai, then get an inexpensive local flight from local booking agencies www.c-trip.com or www.elong.net for as little as US$50 to Sanya airport. Riyuewan is a two-hour drive from the airport or stay in Sanya and get a local surf tour company to take you there.
14. Surfrider Beach, Malibu, United States
Grab a longboard and surf Beach Boys style on these small perfectly formed crests where Johnny Fain and Miki Dora once surfed in the 1950s. However, expect it to be absolutely rammed for exactly this reason.
Getting there: Fly into Longbeach Airport or Los Angeles International Airport and head to the Pacific Coast Highway.
15. Mentawai Islands, Indonesia
The bays around these 70 islands off the western coast of Sumatra in Indonesia will blow your little surfer mind. Our four picks are the northern and southern points of Pagi plus Siberut.
If you position yourself here you’ll be hit by a barrage of beautiful waves. But the only way to get to them is via boat. Live aboard and follow the island’s surf for a week.
Getting there: Fly in to Soekarno-Hatta Intl Airport and pre-arrange a boat charter with local companies on the island such as www.mentawaiislands.co.id. Prices range depending on the length of the trip and size of the boat, email them for a quote.
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16. Cloudbreak, Tavarua Island, Fiji
The heart-shaped islands in the South Pacific offer something for everyone -- from the hardcore surfer, down to waves you’d push your toddler onto.
Cloudbreak, however, is strictly for experts. You’ll have the ride to remember on this brutal, hollow wave formed about 1,600 meters off the coast, which holds for up to 500 meters and reaches 10 meters in size.
Getting there: First fly in to Nadi International Airport then organize a stay at the Tavarua camp for USUS$170 per night, including meals and accommodation in a simple wood and straw hut, and they will organize boats directly to the point (www.tavarua.com).
17. Joe’s Point, Sur, Oman
The Middle East is still very much unexplored as a surfing destination, but Oman’s long stretch of coast facing the desert on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other boast miles of breaks waiting to be ridden.
Joe’s Point is suitable for both beginners and experts with a sand bar to the right and rock bottom to the left. Rides here can last up to 40 seconds. Compared to the rest of the Middle East, climates at Joe’s Point are forgiving. When neighboring Dubai is hitting 45 C, Sur in Oman is often in the low 30s and the water is a comfortable 25 C.
Getting there: This desert break can only be reached by car. Fly in to either Dubai and cross the border into Oman traveling down highway 23 (journey will take approximately 10 hours) or fly into Muscat and head along the coast for four hours on highway 17 towards Sur until you reach Asyllah.
18. Watergate Bay, Cornwall, England
It’s less famous than Fistral Bay but has even more English charm, is less crowded and equally as surfable, with waves ranging from 30 centimeters to three meters. When you’ve finished there’s a cute bistro on the beach where you can tuck into delicious steaks and locally sourced fish.
Getting there: Fly in to Newquay Airport and get a taxi straight to the beach for around US$40 or road trip it on a long scenic drive in the Cornish countryside from the A30 into Newquay.
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19. Backdoor, Hawaii, United States
An expert spot only, the reef bottom creates potent, hollow, fast and intimidating world-class tubes. Epic, but not quite as epic as its neighbor, Pipeline; if you’re not Kelly Slater you’d be a lot safer experiencing this break from the beach.
Getting there: Fly in to Dillingham Airport and the drive along Kam Highway and you’ll find it opposite Sunset Elementary School and Ehukai Beach Park.
20. Pasta Point, Maldives
One of the most famous waves in the Maldives, this break refreshingly offers both left-hand rides and 100 meters of pure tube riding out to sea. But, there is a catch: you have to be a Dhonveli Beach Resort guest to experience them. A stay on this exclusive island can cost up to US$343 per night.
Getting there: Fly to the Maldives and Dhonveli resort will arrange transfers from the airport.
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21. Tamarindo Beach, Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Perfect for beginners through to experts, this half-kilometer stretch of beach with warm water waves reaches heights of three meters. It’s surrounded by nature and you’ll no doubt see howler monkeys swinging through the trees or parakeets screeching in the background while you’re patiently waiting for the next wave.
Getting there: Fly into Tamarindo Airport and get a taxi to the beach for roughly US$35.
22. Bundoran Beach, County Donegal, Ireland
The cold doesn’t deter die-hard fanatics from these shimmering green waters that produce rolling waves from the moody Atlantic, shaped by bouncing off of the headlands and flat rock reefs. Surf here and the charming Irish locals will offer tips and advice.
Getting there: International flight should transfer at Dublin or Belfast and get a domestic flight to Sligo Airport. Rent a car (www.ebookers.com) and drive along the N4 highway to Bundoran.
23. Gold Coast, Australia
We’ve cheated a bit here and suggest you road trip up the east coast of Australia as there is so much choice on offer.
Each bay is set up for the Australian national sport and you’ll be able to rent boards in most locations and ride the lip at points such as the beginner's break at The Spit Marina or Sydney Harbour, Main Beach, plus Mermaid and Narrowneck (artificial reef) in Queensland.
Getting there: Fly into Sydney, Brisbane or Queensland and rent a car so you can pick and choose your waves to suite your taste. Car hire costs approximately US$40 a day, we’d recommend getting a few buddies involved to make it worth your while.
24. Fistral Beach, Newquay, England
It’s particularly "nippy" as the locals would say, and a good wetsuit is vital in the winter, though the hardy can get away with a short wetsuit during British summertime and enjoy surf surrounded by the quaint local countryside on a long sandbar offering consistent left and right rides.
Spectators, meanwhile, can enjoy a number of surf competitions sponsored by Quiksilver, Billabong and Redbull. Get down to the beach early if you’re looking to surf empty waves, come lunchtime the white-water will be full of beginners flailing around.
Getting there: Fly to Newquay Airport for as little as US$35 from London. From the airport the beach is a around US$15 cab ride (www.newquayairporttaxis.org).
25. Hanalei Bay, Hawaii, United States
Set in a white sandy horseshoe-shaped bay, Hanalei is the largest on Kauai Island, particularly pretty with waterfalls in the background. This spot is not all style and no substance -- pros love it for its overhead tubes and consistently fine waves.
Getting there: Fly into Princeville Airport and get a taxi, which is only five kilometers away from the beach.
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26. Carrapateira, Portugal
This lovely left-hand Euro break, with plenty of shelter from the rocks, can reach up to three meters during mid-high tide but best of all it’s usually empty. If you run out of steam, there’s always the nudist beach just along the coast.
Getting there: Fly in to Faro Airport, which is around 80 kilometers away, rent a car at the airport or get a taxi.
27. Rincon, Puerto Rico
Surfing has made this once-sleepy Puerto Rican town on the Caribbean Sea famous, but there’s still opportunity to get barreled with the locals after a 10-minute walk down the famous green hill, a great place from which to spy the best surf.
Getting there: Fly into San Juan or get an internal flight to Rafael Hernandez or Eugenio Maria De Hostos Airport and go cross-country to Rincon.
28. Sao Francisco do Sul, Brazil
This decent quality sandbar below San Paulo, on the east coast, is where they hold Brazilian surfing competitions. Amazingly, it still has a fun-loving atmosphere, plus some nice bars from which to watch the surf until sunset and savor some seriously tasty local grub.
Getting there: Fly into Joinville-Lauro Carneiro de Loyola Airport; Sao Francisco do Sul is 75 minutes' drive away. Get a taxi along the BR-101 and BR-280 which will cost around US$15.
29. Pedra Branca Ericeira, Portugal
At this sublime surf beach situated 48 kilometers north of Lisbon on the Atlantic coast, you’ll find a sleepy fishing village-cum-surfer town with six kilometers of stunning beach including the sandbar Sao Lorenzo and the epic Pedra Branca reef break. Come here to charge one of the best waves in the county.
Getting there: Fly into Lisbon and drive or cab it 32 kilometers to this choice surf beach in west Portugal.
30. Killer Point, Taghazoute, Morocco
Discovered by hippies in the 1960s, this southern Moroccan village makes for an utterly unique surf trip. Soak up the fusion of Middle Eastern and African culture and traverse this perfectly peeling wave, breaking over a cliff shelf, which was named after all the killer whales spotted in the area.
Getting there: Fly in to Agadir Airport and either get the no. 32 bus into Taghazoute for US$1.50 or take a speedy taxi for around US$17.
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31. White Beach, Okinawa, Japan
One of the only sandbars in the region, this super fun spot is suitable for everyone, and for this reason it’s packed at the weekends. Practice here and move to the epic nearby reef breaks including Aha-Yoko or Suicide Cliffs nearby once you’ve perfected your technique.
Getting there: Fly into Okinawa Naha Airport and take a 20-minute taxi ride for around US$20 to the beach.
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32. Les Cavaliers, Anglet, France
Flanked by two rocky girders, use the channel at the right-hand side to paddle into this killer wave, which works perfectly in offshore winds with west swells. Make sure you stay out of the locals’ way -- they can be uncharacteristically aggressive if you steal their waves.
Getting there: The best way to reach this point is by car, and it’s only a short drive from neighboring airport Biarritz. If you’re looking for a surfer’s lodge try Anglet Youth Hostel offering rooms or camping facilities and an international surfer vibe.
33. Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia
Popular among European backpackers, let the weeks roll by in this mellow town where the bars religiously play reggae (they even have a festival dedicated to it) and find waves along a 70-kilometer stretch of sandy and rock bottom beach for all levels of riding ability.
They’ve also got shark nets here so you can surf in safety, but look out for the sunken ship.
Getting there: Ballina/Byron Airport is only a 30-minute drive away and regular shuttle services will take you right into town.
34. Tofino, Vancouver Island, Canada
The surfing capital of Canada offers a fun, picturesque break on the west coast of the island and is surrounded by a looming rainforest. It’s suitable for all abilities and stances, just be sure to bring a thick wetsuit -- it can get pretty chilly out there.
Getting there: Fly into Vancouver then drive to the car ferry at Horseshoe Bay and cross the water to Vancouver Island, then head along Highway 4 to Tofino over the region’s lakes and mountains.
35. Ponta Preta, Maio, Cape Verde
In Portuguese "Ponta Preta" means black point, and if this was a ski slope it would most definitely be a black run. This point break, over-exposed reef, offers salivating rides during winter for expert surfers.
Getting there: Fly into Cape Verde and book a trip with surf outfits such as www.nomadsurfers.com, who’ll either direct you to the nearby of Vila do Maio or provide transfers.
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36. Special K, Samoa
A perfect intermediate peak for all surfers, Special K sits 500 meters off the southern coast and is best reached by boat. It’s beautiful and peaceful out there in the middle of the ocean, a great place to limber up for the big boys on the rest of the island.
Getting there: Fly into Samoa Airport and organize a surf excursion with a surf outfit such as www.wavehunters.com who offer trips for US$45 for four hours out to breaks such as Special K.
37. Biarritz, France
At the same time California surfing was going off, France had its own little revelation. People have been surfing this spot since the 1950s, and it’s a spot that pumps all year around due to the ferocious North Atlantic swells making their way down the Gulf de Gascogne.
Getting there: Fly in to Biarritz Airport and taxi it over to the famous bay or get a bus for around US$2.
38. Coconuts, Samoa
Jump on a villager’s boat and head into the belly of the beast. Even professional surfers will be close to cacking their boardies at this classic wave, which breaks over live coral and on top days offers 150-meter rides.
Getting there: Fly in to Samoa airport and position yourself on the south side of the island. Organize a trip with your guesthouse, or a local surf outfit such as CoconutsBeach Club who run surfing camps in the area.
39. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Buxton, United States
Set on the east coast, this spot has been going off since the 1970s and is renowned for its decent surf caused by deadly hurricanes, which have over the years caused numerous shipwrecks -- giving it the nickname "the Atlantic graveyard."
Getting there: Fly in to Norfolk International Airport and hire a car to get you to Cape Harreras (try ABCO Auto Rental: +1 252 473 4508), the journey will take around two hours.
40. Bondi Beach, Sydney
A fantastic Christmas spot where Aussie families will gather for a barbecue and a surf, you can’t beat Bondi’s location near the city. Businessmen even venture down here at lunchtime to break up their day in the water.
Getting there: Fly into Sydney Airport and either get the airport express train or a taxi if there are a few of you (it’s cheaper) for around US$40.
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41. Black’s Beach, San Diego, California, United States
One for seasoned professionals, Black’s Beach is one of the most powerful breaks in California and comes complete with strong currents, so is not suitable for beginners.
San Diego’s best surfers flock here, which should give you some idea of the frequency and quality of sets, but be warned -- it can get crowded at the weekend.
Getting there: Fly to San Diego International Airport. Take a cab to the Torrey Pines Glider Port and expect a 15-20 minute walk to the beach. Best to follow a local, as this spot can be hard to find.
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42. The Bubble, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
On the north shore off the coast of El Jablito, this expert right-hand tube works best when it’s head high to double overhead, and it’s an awesome, if a little short, left-hand ride.
The only thing that lets this reef break down (like many of the waves in the Canaries) are the unfriendly and aggressive locals who’ll not voluntarily give you a turn on "their" wave -- you may find yourself in a paddling race to get a shot at riding this classic face.
Getting there: Fly into Fuerteventura Airport and hire a car from around US$95 a day (try www.recordrentacar.com) while there and make your way north towards Corralejo. Alternatively, get a taxi from the airport for US$80 straight to the beach (most taxi drivers will know the point).
43. Surfer’s Point, Barbados
On the southernmost tip of the paradise island with crystal clear waters sit fun hollow and fast beginner-to-intermediate peaks scattered along the bay facing both left and right.
Getting there: Fly in to Grantley Adams International Airport, then hire a car and drive through the Oistins area and take a right at turn at the junction towards Enterprise. Take the next right then the next left and you’ll come to a pink house and a bunch of cars parked on the right. From here you should see the bay.
44. Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka
Not just a great surf spot with a right hand peak, here you’ll share the beach with wild monkeys and elephants that graze in the forest near by, and the friendly Sri Lankan people will steal your heart.
Getting there: Fly in to Colombo and travel 200 kilometers east by car (www.rentalcarsrilanka.com) to this surf beach.
45. Open Beach Umm Sequim, Dubai, UAE
Not a destination known for its surfing possibilities (yet); but to the right of the Burj Al Arab you’ll find soft sandy beaches and crystal clear warm water, plus clean swell nearly every day during the winter months.
Getting there: Fly in to Dubai airport and head straight for the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab; the open beach is to the right. From the airport it takes around 20 minutes by taxi and costs around US$15.
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46. Surin Beach, Phuket, Thailand
Yes, you can actually surf in Thailand and though it’s not a world-class spot, we’ve included it in the list due to its fascinating location. Where else can you surf in warm opaque waters, eat fresh pad Thai in the street and dive into the raucous nightlife after your surfing session?
Getting there: Fly in to Phuket Airport and get a taxi to Surin Beach for US$15, it sits around 15 kilometers north of the raunchy nightlife area of Patong.
47. Fulong Beach, Taiwan
Situated in northeast Taiwan, Fulong Beach has a great camping spot nearby and produces thrilling right- and left-peeling waves from the sandbar.
Waves range from one to two meters and are empty. Intrigued locals will often stare in awe while you surf. Entrance to the beach is 90NTD (US$3) for adults, but includes use of all the facilities.
Getting there: The best way to get around Taiwan is by scooter; fly into Taipei and rent a bike at a local store or get the Taiwan Railway to Fulong Station and an inexpensive taxi from there straight to the beach.
48. Baja Malibu, Baja Norte, Mexico
Though a polluted spot (don’t swallow the water), this exposed break works when the winds are offshore and from the east. Ride both right and left and fall onto a sandy base, just beware of strong rips in the area.
Getting there: Fly in to either Abelardo L Rodriguez International (Tijuana) Airport or San Diego Airport; both are about 25 kilometers away from Baja Malibu.
49. Eisbach, Munich, Germany
The most unusual wave on our list is formed on an artificial river next to the city's main park and is completely and utterly land-locked.
This one-meter standing wave (meaning you don’t move along the river but surf in the same place) is caused by fast pumping water hitting a large rock and forming a crest. As long as there is enough water this ride will never stop, unless of course you fall off it.
Getting there: Fly in to Munich Airport and get a taxi to Englischer Garten; the wave is at the southern edge of the park next to Haus der Kunst.
50. Big Wave Bay, Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong
Comparing Big Wave Bay to some of the beauties on this list seems like sacrilege, but let us explain. If you’ve got kids, you can’t find a cuter spot.
Families lay out picnics, the weather is peachy and dads push their toddlers onto their first waves. Good wholesome beach fun. Just keep your grommets away from the rocks at the right side of the bay during high-tide; there can be a nasty shore dump onto the rocks.
Getting there: Fly into Hong Kong airport and get a taxi for between US$20-30 or get the no.9 bus from outside MTR Shau Kei Wan for less than a dollar.
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