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Big Island Surf Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Surfing The Island of Hawaiʻi

Hawaii Island or Big Island isn’t well known for its surf, tourists usually travel here to see the active volcano or snow on Mauna Kea.


However, Big Island has a lot to offer in terms of surfing. There are a plethora of breaks mostly residing on the west side of the island in Kona. Big Island also has a rich surf culture and boasts professional surfer Shane Dorian.


The Big Island is also known for being laid back both in waves and locals than some of the other islands. Big Island is filled with reef breaks and beach breaks and has something for everyone.



What’s So Special About Surfing on the Big Island?


Waves


Big Island is a great spot for experienced surfers and even for people just learning. On the west side in Kona, spots like Banyans will usually turn on during the summer and can sometimes catch some northwest swells during the winter. Big Island reefs are usually reserved for experienced surfers and there are breaks like Kahalu’u that are better for beginners. Due to the size of the island it might be difficult to travel to another side to find waves so it’s important to find spots on the west or east side that fit your skill set.


The Surf Culture


What the Big Island lacks in waves it makes up for in culture and history. Spots in Kailua-Kona like Lyman’s and Kahulu’u were once reserved for the ali’i or Hawaiian royalty to surf.


The heiau in front of these spots were used by ali’i to pray for waves. Today, the culture remains rich, Shane Dorian being Big Island professional surfing’s poster child.


Dorian contributes quite a bit to the Big Island surf culture and holds the annual Banyans Keiki Classic.


Despite being the largest island the Big Island surf community is tight knit.


Most surfers stay in their respective areas like Hilo or Kona but the sense of pride and localism is very present.

The 5 Best Surf Spots on the Big Island

Banyans

Banyan’s is perhaps the best break on the Big Island.


On the west side of the island in Kailua-Kona, Banyan’s is an A-frame reef break that’s extremely popular among locals. It’s known for being able to break year round, catching south swells in the summer and west and northwest swells during the winter.


The experience required can vary based on the conditions. It breaks over a pretty shallow reef so when it gets bigger it should only be surfed by more experienced surfers. However, when it's smaller it’s a great longboarding and beginner wave. Kona locals are fairly protective of this break so humility and etiquette are required.


Honoli’i

Honoli’i is on the east side of the Big Island not far from Hilo.


It’s a rivermouth break that usually picks up north swells and gets good during the winter.


The wave breaks over a reef but is located right off of a beach.


The summer is slightly more friendly for beginners but again winter draws in the Hilo surfers.


It’s primarily a right but also offers a fair amount of opportunities to go left.


When Honoli'i gets big it can be extremely hollow and offer a few opportunities to get tubed.


The local vibe isn’t too bad but like anywhere in Hawaii, if you’re not from the islands be respectful.


Kahalu'u

Located on the Kona coast of the Big Island, Kahalu’u Bay is a great spot for beginners. There are three different peaks at this reef break and the further outside the more advanced they become.


Even the outside peak is a fairly slow rolling wave so most intermediate surfers can take it on. Kahalu’u is capable of picking up a south swell during the summer and bringing in some legit waves.


During the summer Kahalu’u is a great place for intermediate surfers to show off their best line or turn.


Due to this spot being a popular beginner spot where a lot of surf lessons take place there is no serious localism taking place.


Pine Trees

Pine Trees is an exposed reef break in Kona that may not be the best wave on the island. What it lacks in quality it makes up for in consistency.


Pine Trees will typically give you something to surf. It does pick up north northwest swells the best so winter is usually the best time of year for Pine Trees.


There are a variety of rights and lefts to surf at this reef but the left usually prevails as the better wave. It usually works year round and is best for shortboarders of intermediate skill.


The crowd can be decently heavy because of the consistency and this also tends to be a popular spot for Kona locals.


Lyman’s

Lyman’s is on the Kona coast of the Big Island and is another great wave for intermediate to advanced surfers.


It’s primarily a left, making it a great high performance wave for goofy footers.


The reef usually gets ripable during the winter when it catches northwest swells.


There’s not much parking or beach so this makes it another popular spot for locals.


This spot shouldn’t be surfed by beginners or people who aren't familiar with Kona.


The crowd can get heavy with locals on the weekends and when it's pumping. Overall this is a great shortboarding wave for goofy footers.


Big Island Surf Guide

Big Island may not have the amazing waves of Oahu or Maui but it still has plenty of consistent breaks along its volcanic rock coasts.


Both in Hilo and Kona, there are a variety of waves that are perfect for beginners and advanced surfers.


Being the youngest island it’s reefs and coasts aren’t as formed as some of the reefs on other islands but it still has an amazing surf culture that deserves to be fully immersed in.

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