Want to know the best beaches to hangout with the family and hit the waves? We’ve travelled the world seeking out the best spots to surf with our kids. And we’ve tapped up other experienced surfing families to find out which family surf beaches are top of their list. Whether you want barrels or beach breaks, a spot to spectate from the shade or a beachside café, here’s some inspiration for your family beach adventures in 2020.
Surfer Jade is mum of three groms growing up in the waves of Nicaragua. World traveller, pilot and owner of a boutique surfing resort, Jade’s favourite family wave is:
Just around the corner from Malibu Popoyo, this is our go-to spot for family surf days. Parents and competent surfers can surf the world-class reef break, while the kids can surf the mellower rivermouth or play around in the water. My four-year old caught her first wave here and we all had cake in the Finca Popoyo bar afterwards to celebrate. The beach bar is also what makes it a great family spot – as there’s always somewhere to watch the waves, chill out and enjoy good food and drink while the rest of the family are in the sea.
When should I go? Dec-Apr for dry weather, smaller swells and family-friendly waves
Where is it? South-west Nicaragua
Are there any hazards? Reef and rips.
Always seeking sun and surf with their three children, Matt and Jess Cook relocated to Costa Rica for 6 months when their youngest, Sunny, was just a few months old. So it comes as no surprise that their fave family surf beach is in Central America:
There are a few beaches that go by the name of Hermosa in Costa Rica. But it basically translates to ‘beautiful beach’ – of which there are many in this surf-lashed country. However, just north of the main stretch of coastline where surfers flock in Santa Teresa, this particular Playa Hermosa is the one we fell in love with for family surf days. With rolling, manageable waves from mid-to-high tide, and more hollow waves as the tide dropped out, it’s ideal for intermediate and advanced surfers – bang on for us. The kids loved playing in the shallows and bodysurfing, there’s the rustic beach bar of Rocamar for beers, burritos and beach fires, and nearby you’ll find tidal rockpools for some dreamy wild swimming.
When should I go? Nov-Apr, for sunshine and medium swells.
Where is it? Santa Teresa, Playa Nicoya, Costa Rica.
Are there any hazards? Hollow beach break at high and low tides.
Tim and Elaine Uff have travelled from the Canaries to the Caribbean with their two teenage sons, but they keep coming back to Sri Lanka for their tropical wave fix. Their all time favourite beach is:
A paradise horseshoe bay, Hiri is a dreamy destination where turtles pop up between waves and the crescent of sand is fringed with palm trees and jungle. Its long left-hander is the sort of mellow reef break that lures surfers to Lanka. Plus, on a decent swell, there’s also a right-hand peak on the opposite side of the bay. If you’re learning or you’ve got young children, you’ll love the inside beach break, where you can surf from dawn to dusk, pushing the kids into little peelers and cooling off in the shallows. It’s super-cheap to hire boards on the beach, and there are plenty of cool beach bars where you can lounge in the shade.
When should I go? Dec–Mar is perfect for beginners, with smaller swells and warm, dry weather. More experienced surfers should try Aug–Dec.
Where is it? Dickwella, Southern Province
Are there any hazards? Crowds, shallow reef on the left-hander.
8 year-old Leo Lawrence has grown up by the beach in Cornwall. A keen surfer and bodysurfer, he’s mastered shore breaks from Spain to Sri Lanka. His favourite spot is:
I was six when we stayed in Kabalana. I’ve never surfed so much anywhere in the world. Mum would get up for a sunrise surf on the reef break out the back, then we’d have breakfast and hit the waves together. Mum would bodysurf alongside us or push our little brother into waves. He stood up on his first wave here when he was three. We’d usually stay in the sea until the sun went down, taking breaks for fresh coconuts and watermelon from the beach vendors, or chilling out in the beach cafés eating seafood and chocolate rotis. When it was really hot we’d go back to our air-conditioned room to play Lego and Uno. I loved being in boardies in warm water, and we met really lovely local boys on the beach to play with.
When should I go? Dec–Mar is perfect for smaller swells and warm, dry weather.
Where is it? Ahangama, Southern Province
Are there any hazards? Rip currents, large groups of beginners.
Celine Bennet travelled the world on the pro kite-surfing tour before taking up surfing, settling in Cornwall and co-founding Family Surf Co. Having travelled far and wide in search of waves with young children in tow, her favourite beach is:
Not all family surfing beaches have to be the sort with easy waves where the kids can hop in and catch the surfing bug. When both parents surf and you’re on the road with young children, it’s about having an adventure you can all enjoy. Which means finding epic waves for tag team surfs, on beaches where the whole family will love spending time. That’s why Maycocks is top of our list. It’s an awesome right-hand reef break and not one for beginners. The kids love the 10-minute walk through the jungle to get there, spotting monkeys on the way. There are plenty of palm trees to shade under the rock pools to splash around with the kids, while taking turns to catch those reeling rights. Pack up a picnic and make a day of it.
When should I go? Nov-Jun, needs a north swell to work
Where is it? Northwest Barbados
Are there any hazards? It’s a reef break so watch out for urchins.
Marine Biologist Angie Abell has surfed since her late teens. Her one year-old son is already a bona fide beach baby, having already travelled from the Canary Islands to Australia and many surf destinations in between. Angie’s standout family surfing beach is:
This easy left-hand reef break is great for all levels of surfers, and works consistently on the hurricane swells they often get in Barbados. It’s great for the family as you can sit with the kids and watch from the shade of the trees. We like to lounge on the sand, playing with Marlon and sipping on a rum punch, while taking it in turns to surf the mellow waves in clear blue water where turtles often pop their heads out to say hello. Brandon’s is really close to the hub of Bridgetown, and Barbados is a fantastic island, with lots of surfing families on the beaches at weekends.
When should I go? Oct-Jun, with bigger swells from Nov-Mar.
Where is it? Nr Bridgetown, Barbados
Are there any hazards? Crowds and reef.
14 year-old Lauren Sandland is one of the UK’s most promising pro-surfers. She spends a lot of time travelling and surfing with her parents and her brother. Having recently been to California to represent England, she fell in love with:
Of all the places I’ve surfed in the world my favourite for families is Huntington Beach, in Los Angeles. The waves are great fun and there’s a good vibe in the water. Plus there’s all sorts of wildlife to spot including pelicans, sea lions, dolphins and stingrays. There’s also loads of other stuff to do, like beach volleyball or skateboarding along the front. Just up from the beach are plenty of shops and restaurants where you can enjoy amazing food and drink, and soak up the So-Cal surf vibes. I guess for me, what really clinches the deal is also that you’re only half an hour away from the famous Trestles. So I also got to surf a world-class wave – and was lucky enough to score it when it wasn’t too crowded.
When should I go? Spring and autumn to avoid the summer crowds and heavy winter swells.
Where is it? California, USA
Are there any hazards? Crowds, rips, jellyfish, locals
10 year-old Spurway has visited a few long-haul destinations, but still rates Portugal as his number one surfing destination. His favourite beach is:
There are lots of beaches in Sagres where you can hunker from the wild, west coast swells, but my favourite for the family is Mareta. Close to the centre of this surfy town, this is a beautiful beach break for all ages and abilities, with a couple of beach cafés for a well-deserved ice cream. Being much more sheltered than the west coast, the main peak can get quite crowded, but there’s always a quiet corner if you’re happy to take a smaller wave or simply sunbathe and watch the surfers. It’s a great beach to hang out on for the day. Mum could splash around with our 5 year-old brother while we hit the waves. We also did races and cartwheels along the shoreline to warm up – the water can still be quite cold in spring.
When should I go? Apr–May or Sep–Dec. It’s usually flat during summer.
Where is it? Sagres, Algarve
Are there any hazards? Rocks at high tide, large surf school groups.
Hayley Lawrence has travelled with her surfing tribe from Spain to Sri Lanka, but Portugal is the location she returns to again and again. At the heart of Europe’s first surfing reserve, she loves the variety of waves around Ericiera, especially:
PRAIA DO SUL
While many of Ericeira’s surf breaks are rocky and more suited to experienced surfers, there are plenty of sandy beaches and easier waves, such as Foz do Lizandro and São Julião. But if you want a combo of an accessible point break with safe lagoons for the kids to play in, we love the central location of Praia do Sul. It’s a great beach to tag team surfs, while also being able to bask in the sun, tuck into Portuguese pastries from the beach café and splash around in the rock pools with the kids. You often get skim-boarders sliding into the shorebreak, and you’re footsteps from the cobbled streets of Ericeira. So it’s a great location to soak up the lifestyle of this Portuguese fishing village that’s been infused with the surf and skate culture.
When should I go? Spring and autumn are best for medium-sized waves.
Where is it? Ericeira, Portugal
Are there any hazards? Rocks; and you can get a shore dump.
Hailing from Kernow-fornia, James and Pamela Waters have followed their love of surfing and beach life from the likes of Portugal to Indo and Australia. Always planning their next trip with their two groms, they still haven’t found anywhere that beats their home beach of:
One of the most popular and consistent surf spots on the outskirts of Newquay, the rolling waves at Watergate Bay are perfect for longboarders, beginners and all levels of surfers. Family beach life is an absolute breeze on this two-mile stretch of golden sand, where you’ve got a water sports academy and plenty of beachside amenities. These include the Watergate Bay Hotel, with its surf in/surf out access, indoor infinity pool, spa, kids’ clubs and hot tubs on the decking. It does get busy during the summer months, but we prefer to visit at low tide when there are miles of beach. You can always find a quiet corner to picnic, dip in the rock pools and surf until the sun goes down.
When should I go? Year-round – the Watergate Bay Hotel offers a sanctuary stacked with family facilities for all weathers.
Where is it? Cornwall, UK.
Are there any hazards? Summer crowds, weaver fish (summer only) and rips.