USA & Canada | Destination Guides

Surf's Up: The 6 US Beaches With the Biggest Waves

The biggest waves in the US are waiting for you – but are you ad your board ready for them? 

The US coastline has way too many big wave spots to showcase, but both the Atlantic and the Pacific sides have seen some of the biggest waves in the US — and the world.

So grab a surf board, zip up your bodysuit, and paddle out from one of the US beaches with the biggest waves you’ll ever ride. 

Pe‘ahi | Hawaii

Surfers riding wave on Jaws surf break, Hawaii

If you’re planning on surfing in Hawaii, you’re going to need a bigger board at Pe‘ahi in Maui. 

Also known as Jaws Surf Break, it’s the biggest surf break in Maui, hosts some of the biggest waves in the US, and is one of the big wave spots waveriders covet in the entire Pacific Ocean. But timing in everything at Jaws.

You can surf Maui throughout the year to your heart’s content, just don’t expect monster waves. In fact, there’s a small window of approximately two-weeks when Jaws really lets loose and starts unleashing swells between 40 and 60 feet. Once, a brave boarder rode a 70-footer, the biggest wave ever surfed at Jaws.

It might pale in comparison to the 100-foot behemoths at Cortes Bank off Waimea, but you’ll be a local legend all the same if you’re slaying anything above 50. 

Looking for waves a little farther from home? Check out Trafalgar’s Southern Spectacular tour: 10 days in New Zealand where you’ll watch the waves crash along the Punakaiki coastal forest and hear the sea spray through the 30-million-year-old blowholes.

Half Moon Bay | California

Close up of surfer riding wave surrounded by water

Feel like chasing mavericks? California is calling. People plan entire vacations just to come and surf one of the most dangerous waves in the world. 

Massive swells can hit 60 feet in the winter months, but these mavericks operate on their own schedule, which is why many surfers hunker down in the area between November and March. 

If you’re new to the sport, you’re welcome to come down to Half Moon Bay, too. Half Moon Bay Jetty is appropriately named Surfers Beach because it has smaller waves ideal for beginners. But if you’re only eyeing the big one, head offshore near Pillar Point Harbor and get ready to ride the biggest waves in the US.

Surf’s not the only thing that’s up in Cali. Join our Northern California tour and spend 8 days touring the Golden State’s national parks, seaside towns, and stunning wine country. 

Ruggers | Rhode Island

Surfer riding big wave

Quaint seaside shacks, tasty lobster rolls, and a calm walk across a foggy beach. 

If you’re not from New England, you can easily forget that the coast of Rhode Island isn’t just a relaxing vacation spot for beachgoers. Surfers from around the region descend on Newport, the Ocean State’s big wave spots. 

Granted, some of the biggest waves in the US only hit this part of the coast when winter storms and hurricanes roll through, but Newport has plenty of reliable beaches for your surf sesh. Ruggles, for instance, has right breaking swells, but it’s got a rocky bottom and despite being one of the biggest wave surfing spots on the East Coast, locals and advanced riders are better suited for the swell than a grom. 

Why not watch the waves roll into Newport after spending time vacationing on the Cape? Trafalgar’s Boston, Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard tour gives you an 8-day getaway in coastal New England.

Nelscott Reef | Oregon

wave in ocean

Technically, the closest beach would be Canyon Park, but those who know anything about the Nelscott Reef Big Wave Classic know that you won’t want to start wave riding until you’re half-a-mile offshore. 

If huge waves of 20 feet or more scare you, then stick to the beach. Swells out there can hit heights of 25, 40 and even 50 feet or more, dramatically increasing your chances of finally shredding a giant wave of 60 feet plus. 

Grunge music, killer waves, and hip cities: spend eight days exploring the Pacific Northwest on Our Scenic Seattle, Portland and Oregon tour. You’ll ride down the Oregon coast and get a look at the waves with your own two eyes.  

Galveston | Texas

Who said anything about surfing the biggest waves in the US from the land itself?

Head down to the Lone Star State and hang tight before you hang ten. Instead of running right into the waves crashing on the shore, call up a charter company for a unique surfing experience. You can take a boat ride out to the Galveston Shipping Channel and ride the huge waves created by the supertankers. 

A little extreme for your tastes? Experienced surfers will still find thrills closer to dry land, albeit a little farther south on South Padre Island. This corner of Texas was built for the discerning surfer: waves here are consistent, well-formed, and quite sizable thanks to the drop in the continental shelf. 

So next time someone says the surf in the Gulf isn’t as good as the ocean, tell them not to mess with Texas. 

Check out another Gulf Coast state that rocks the boat: Louisiana. Our Taste and Sounds of the South tour takes you from the bayous of New Orleans to the streets of Nashville in search of great grub, rockin’ music, and Southern hospitality.

Palm Beach | Florida

Woman cycling along coastal road, palm beach, USA

We’re not trying to take anything away from Cocoa Beach and Florida’s Space Coast, but you may find more consistent waves down south in Palm Beach. 

Multi-million-dollar mansions aren’t the only things lining the shoreline. Waveriders come from all across the Atlantic seaboard to carve up the swells. It’s totally acceptable to surf in front of the fabulous Breakers hotel if you’d like. Flagpole and Reef Road are excellent spots as well. 

Reef Road will rock your board, to say the least. With 15-footers, it’s one of the best big wave spots in all of the Sunshine State.

See what all the fuss is about on the Pacific Coast when you explore the American West. Our Western Discoverer tour is a two-week adventure through California, Arizona, and Nevada that lets you see the stars in Los Angeles and over the Grand Canyon.

Give your favorite surf spot a shout out – whether in the US or anywhere else – in our comments section below

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