Best Cruise Ports for Surfing
As the immortal Beach Boys taught us way back in 1961, “Surfing is the only life, the only way for me.” It’s nearly impossible to explain why the act of paddling out into the waves on a big, floating board only to have them push you back toward shore can be so all-consuming. You just have to try it for yourself.
Luckily, cruise ships visit some of the best places in the world to ride the waves. Beginners can book surf-school excursions to get their feet wet for the first time. More experienced riders can grab a board and go. Whatever your level, check out these, cruising’s seven best beaches for catching waves:
(Tauranga, New Zealand)
The beaches around Tauranga have lots of surf schools to teach beginners … and plenty to lure experienced riders into the swell as well. The waves at Arataki, only 10 minutes from the cruise port, break both left and right (whichever direction you’re comfortable riding) and will hollow out into tubes when the weather’s right — super fun without being super challenging. It’s a popular beach, so keep an eye out for swimmers.
Blue Point Beach
One of the greatest surf lessons in the world is just sitting at one of the oceanfront cafés in Uluwatu and watching the locals take long, apparently effortless rides on waves that seem consciously designed with surfers in mind. You can also rent boards to experience bliss yourself. Kuta Beach might be closer to the cruise port in Benoa, but the long, easy swells of Blue Point Beach are more than worth the 40-minute drive.
(San Juan, Puerto Rico)
San Juan’s beaches host dozens of surf schools, mostly on the eastern side of the city. Playa Aviones, for one, has world-class waves only 12 miles east of the port. But try getting away from the crowds by heading to the national park 25 miles to the west (outside the city traffic, it takes about the same time). At Cerro Gordo, there’s a well-traveled public beach ideal for stand-up paddleboarding and snorkeling, but if you walk to the east end of the beach, up the hill by the campground (which has many shaded picnic tables), you’ll find a more secluded cove. The ground is rocky, and pay attention to signs listing local conditions, because the area does have occasional rip currents. The break off the point is more than worth the walk.
(Cabo San Lucas, Mexico)
The same underwater canyon that makes Cabo San Lucas a perfect deep-water port also funnels long swells toward the beaches. The result: big, fast waves. Zippers, at the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula, is the famous break here — but local crowds and overhead wave-sizes make it a little forbidding for newcomers. About 30 minutes north of Cabo is Old Man’s, also known as Playa Acapulquito — easy waves, predictable breaks on the reef bottom, so a perfect spot for all levels to ride, with surf hotels and schools nearby.
(Punta Del Este, Uruguay)
The west side of the Punta Del Este peninsula boasts a sheltered bay with calm waters; the east side is home to Uruguay’s famous Hand in the Sand sculpture and waves that can literally be described as “tubular.” La Boca is where the Rio de la Plata empties into the Atlantic, creating some interesting sand bars, which in turn make great waves — when the weather is just right. But at Playa Brava, the waves are more consistent, and the beach is right downtown, near restaurants, shops, and other tourist highlights. Expect a sandy bottom with few rocks and peaks between 2 and 7 feet that occasionally form fast, fun tubes.
Cruisers calling on Kauai have a lot of Hawaiian culture to look forward to, including some of the friendliest waves on the planet. Fun for beginners and pros alike, the southerly swells at Poipu Beach are smooth and consistent. It’s easy to understand how the sport could be invented on these islands if this is what the waves are like! A handful of surfing schools are ready to introduce anyone to the wonder of catching a ride. Even if all you want to do is watch, the sand is soft, the trees are shady, the curving coastline creates natural wading pools, and there are shops, bars, and eateries within easy walking distance.
(Moreton Island, Australia)
If you’re lucky enough to have your ship call on Moreton Island (or overnight in Brisbane), you’ve reached a water-sport paradise. In addition to fishing, beachcombing, and diving the Tangalooma Wrecks, you can also take a board up to Yellow Patch off the Bulwer North Point Road, where a series of sandbanks create long, right-handed breaks with impressive views of the sand cliffs.
By Grant Balfour
Photo: Ingram Image