Of all the Hawaiian Islands, The Big Island is the one least associated with surfing. That being said, it is Hawaii, so of course there will be surfing. Many of the surfing spots on the Big Island are secret and, because the island is so large and relatively unpopulated, they will likely remain a secret for some time. Ask the locals where they surf and you’re likely to get the runaround. If you choose to explore on your own, a four-wheel drive vehicle is often the only way to access many of the remote surfing spots.
Known as the Orchid Isle, The Big Island is the youngest of the Hawaiian Islands and sits on an active volcano. In fact, it is still growing, and is already more than twice the size of all the other Hawaiian Islands put together. Kilauea Crater emits volcanic vapors that can produce some beautiful, fiery red sunsets; on the downside, when mixed with fog, this same vapor creates a Big Island phenomenon called “vog,” which can be a breathing hazard. And then there are the tremors and the earthquakes. That’s life on The Big Island, a mysterious, remote, awe-inspiring, breathtaking, and other-worldy “heaven on earth.”
Shane Dorian, a pro surfer with 11 years on the circuit, was born in Kona, as was Conan Hayes, a younger pro following in Shane’s footsteps. Supposedly, there is a spot in Kona that resembles Oahu’s Backdoor Pipe, although the exact location will not be revealed here. The first practical body board, officially called the Boogie Board, was tested on a Kona surfing beach called Honl’s by inventor, Tom Morey, in 1971.
On the Kailua-Kona (west) side of the island, Pine Trees is a regional classic for experienced surfers, and a local favorite that also has a bay area for beginners. The main spot in town frequented by local families is Banyans. Kahaluu Beach dishes up some fun waves for all surfers, and, teeming with green sea turtles and other marine life, is also a popular snorkeling spot.
If you’re looking for white sand beaches on the Big Island, you’ll have to head to Hapuna Beach along the Kohala Coast on the northwest side. Known as one of the best beaches in the entire world, Hapuna is great for swimming and snorkeling when the surf is calm. But when the waves are high, only expert surfers and bodyboarders should enter the water due to strong riptides and a heavily pounding shorebreak. The actual surf break is located further out from the beach, at Hapuna Point. If you’re really experienced and are able to make friends with local surfers, have them take you to the Kohala Lighthouse, a world-class, epic right and left reef break. But don’t go alone.
As it is with Hawaiian Island surfing in general, use caution and pay attention to posted warning signs. Since the island is so big, there may not be a lifeguard on duty even at a popular beach; always practice the buddy system.
BIg Island Hawaii Surf Breaks