Worldwide beginner surf destinations
Even though our surf camp is in the Dominican Republic, we are also surfers ourselves and have travelled extensively in the search for waves to catch. Based on our experience, here are our beginner surf destinations worldwide for beginner, intermediate and expert surfers.
Our own place, Swell, is located on the North coast of the Dominican Republic. We chose this location after having visited many countries around the globe which might be suitable as a place to build a surf camp.
The criteria we rely on to see if a surf destination was suitable to build a surf camp retreat is:
- Consistency of surf
- Are there waves for multiple levels of surfers?
- Are there any dangers in or out of the water?
- Ease of access to the waves
- Distance to an international airport
Consistency of surf
To be suitable as a beginner surf camp destination we wanted a place where our guests would be able to surf at least 300+ days of the year.
The North coast delivers on this, with at least 340+ days of surfable waves at Playa Encuentro.
Waves for multiple levels of surfers
Of course not everyone is a beginner surfer, so a suitable destination for a surf camp needs to cater not just for complete beginners, but for intermediate and even expert surfers. Fortunately for Swell once again Playa Encuentro delivers; there are multiple waves and different peaks, all within a short walk from each other. From mellow inside beginner waves to big barreling waves on shallow reefs for expert surfers + everything in between.
Are there an dangers in or out of the water?
Playa Encuentro is a very safe spot to surf or to learn to surf because there are no dangers in or under the water. Tidal differences are minimal so getting injured from the reef bed is almost impossible. There are no dangerous rips or currents at Playa Encuentro, so there’s no danger of being dragged out to sea.
Neither are there sharks or other dangerous sea life (for example crocodiles, as seen in certain parts of Costa Rica) so the Dominican Republic scores very highly on this element of our criteria. It also helps having very warm water year-round, so another bonus point is scored there.
Ease of access to the waves
‘Highway surfing’ is not a term that surfers want to be using as it means they are constantly on the search for waves, without finding them. Again, the Dominican Republic’s waves score highly on the ease of access criteria; it’s only a journey of 10 minutes to a charming surf beach.
Distance to an international airport
Just as with the afore-mentioned highway surfing we also wanted to minimize the travel time for our clients, so we wanted to be close to an international airport. Our location in Cabarete is just 25 minutes from Puerto Plata international airport. Santiago International airport (airport code STI) is one and a half hours away. Santo Domingo international airport (airport code SDQ) is also an option, with buses running north every hour during the day.
Because Cabarete and Playa Encuentro tick all the above boxes, that’s where we put our own purpose-built surf camp. We didn’t say anything about the criterias of food, beauty of beaches, additional activities or a party scene, but Cabarete has all of these too, so it remains our firm No.1 even when some other countries might have more ‘perfect’ waves.
We have clients who come and visit us year after year, and always at some point they ask us ‘is there any other surf camp destinations that you can recommend to me, since I want to experience a new country?’
As mentioned earlier, we have visited more than 20+ surf destinations and countries over the last 25 years.
Here is our opinion on some of them:
Costa Rica is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and surf tourism is also very present here. There are some fine surf camps and surf resorts in Costa Rica, suitable for an awesome surf holiday.
- Pretty country and scenery
- Good surf spots
- Politically safe country
- Plenty of flights to Costa Rica from lots of countries
- On average 40 to 70% more expensive than a surf holiday to the Dominican Republic
- Travel time from airport to the beach can be between 3-8 hours
More info on surfing in Costa Rica as a surf destination for beginners:
Nicaragua is less popular than it’s neighbor Costa Rica. Because of political turmoil, tourism only started to take off 20 or so years ago.
- 30-40% cheaper than Costa Rica
- Offshore winds create clean surf conditions
- Not a large variety of good beginner surfing spots
- Travel distances between surf spots is long
- Recent political unrest is causing real instability
More info on surfing in Nicaragua
Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing. Year round warm weather and water and great beginner waves around the south coast of Oahu make it a great place to have your first surfing experience.
- Beautiful scenery and beaches
- Safe place to visit
- Plenty of other activities besides surfing
- Great surf for expert surfers
- Very expensive (there are only a few surf camps but they are pretty basic and tend to be double or triple the price of Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.)
- Very, very crowded in the water leading to well-known local aggression.
More info on surf camps in Hawaii:
If you are based in Europe then one of the most popular place where people go surfing is Portugal. The long, exposed coastline with plenty of beaches is very suitable for surfers of all levels.
- There are plenty of cheap and basic surf camps (tend to be more suitable for 18 to 25 year olds)
- Variety of surf spots suitable for people of all levels
- Surf & culture & city life close to Lisbon
- Cold water year round to you need to bring a wetsuit
- There are 100’s of surf camps and schools so it’s surfboard mayhem at times.
- Surf schools tend to teach in very large groups; often 20 students to one surf coach
- Cold air temperature between November and April
More info on surf holidays in Portugals:
Bali & Indonesia
Indonesia is widely regarded as one of the most blessed surf countries in the world, with 100’s of world class surfing spots along its many different islands.
- High quality surf for surfers of all levels
- Stunning scenery & culture
- Reasonable cheap surf camps and surf resorts
- Bali surfing beaches are close to the airport
- Some of the best expert surfing waves in the world
- Unless you live in Australia, it’s going to be a long flight
- Heavy rainy season between December and March
- Crowded beginner spots
More info on surfing in Bali
The above is our personal opinion of several trips to each and one of the above countries. It’s also far from a definitive list, as there are many more countries in the world who cater for the beginner surfers with suitable surf camps and surf resorts. Other places that you might take into consideration are:
Sayulita Mexico: A charming fishing village just north of Puerto Vallarta; not super consistent for surf, but when there are some waves it’s great fun.
Canary Islands: Off the coast of Morocco are a cluster of islands which are part of Spain. Great winter climate and some fun surf spots.
Maldives: Not cheap for a surf trip, mostly boat charters, but pretty water and fun waves.
If you have any questions about surfing destinations, feel free to send us a message; normally, we’ve been there and can tell you if it’s suitable for you. If you prefer to come back to us in the Dominican Republic at our Surf Retreat , just send us a message with your dates.
Enjoy the waves wherever you go!
Jeroen & Clare
Owners Swell Surf Camp