Like the rest of Southern California, Los Angeles is famous for its sun, sea, and surf. Embrace the surf culture in this corner of the Golden State and gain insight into where to find Los Angeles’ best waves, surf shacks, and trendy beach bars.
Los Angeles, CA is a famous surf haven attracting millions of visitors to its white sand beaches that hug its 70-mile Pacific coastline. Surfers of all levels flock to Santa Monica, Venice, and Manhattan Beach, while the point breaks of Palos Verdes and Malibu are ideal for advanced riders.
Los Angeles truly lives up to its reputation as the best American surf city. There’s something for everyone and all seasons. Get to know this buzzing megacity to find the best waves and spots to hide out when the lineup gets a little too crowded.
The 15 Best Surf Spots in Los Angeles, CA
This vibrant Californian city boasts a beautiful coast with plenty of surf spots. With its subtropical-Mediterranean climate and year-round wave consistency, Los Angeles is the capital of the surfing lifestyle. These are the 15 best surf spots in Los Angeles, CA.
This town is renowned for its stunning cliff-top villas creeping over Californian bluffs to meet palm-speckled coves and bikini bodies on the sand. The best waves wash into the stony coves of Brooks Street and Thalia Street, producing beefy right-handers capable of entertaining even the Kelly Slaters in the lineup on their day.
The problem is that good swells are few and far between. Laguna Beach is overprotected, with a headland to the south that blocks summer swells, an island to the west that interrupts fall and spring swells, and the LA beaches that catch northwesterly winter swells.
2. Newport Beach
Newport is known to have breaks that can be erratic, but some of which are classic south California fare. It’s excellent for both punchy winter swells and summer south swells. The Wedge and the Blackies peaks are the top spots; sometimes hollow, sometimes cruisy for the loggers.
3. Huntington Beach
A mere 45-minute drive from downtown Los Angeles, Huntington is one of the best-known surf towns on the West Coast. The pier boasts the best break in town, with south and north options that work of different swells. Although Huntington Beach is notoriously crowded, the surf is well-worth the busy lineup.
4. Cabrillo Point
While good surf days in Cabrillo Point are rare treats, Palos Verdes Peninsula’s southern end boasts some promising waves. Storm swells roll in and create excellent sets ranging from fast to positively cruisy, depending on the dominant compass direction. Cabrillo Point is the ideal spot to escape busy lineups since it is never crowded.
Lunada Bay is a cove in Palos Verdes Estates renowned for its waves, though the conditions have to be just right to catch the right-hand point break. The powerful westerly swell makes Lunada’s waves tricky for beginners but ideal for those looking to challenge themselves. Furthermore, it is best to surf with a local since resident Lunada surfers are protective over their elite lineup.
On a clear day, the dusty blufftop offers views of the bay and Catalina Island. It’s a great place to unwind at the end of the day and watch the sunset.
6. Palos Verdes
Palos Verdes Cove is a long boarder’s paradise. It boasts light and cruisy waves that can go both left and right, but the length of the ride is the reason why Palos Verdes is beloved amongst the locals. Palos Verdes is ideal for intermediates looking to practice green waves.
Furthermore, the preserved kelp forests offshore ensure excellent water quality. The lineups can be busy, but your only company will be the local seals if you arrive early enough.
Be sure to visit Haggerty’s between November and April since it is one of the best spots to feel the full force of the northwest winter swells. Lower Haggerty’s is the most remote area and has a gentle drop into a soft left-hander. As the wave progresses, you reach the main peak, which can be chaos, with people dropping in right on your head.
Upper Hags is the most challenging peak and requires at least five feet of swell to even look at it. That’s best left to the experts, especially since the water is over a shallow reef.
8. Torrance County Beach
Torrance County Beach is the beginning of a long stretch of beach breaks that spans most of Los Angeles’ western side. Like many western beaches, the waves at Torrance County Beach are best in winter.
Peaky crests appear and disappear over the choppy waters, but if you can catch a smooth Santa Ana wind, you might score good A-frames with fast lefts and rights. Rougher swells may necessitate a retreat down to RAT Beach, which is a little more protected from the swell’s powerful westerly element. It is best to go when there is an approaching high tide, but keep an eye out for rip currents.
9. Redondo Breakwater
The Redondo Breakwater is unlike any other in Los Angeles. In the winter, it comes in strong on westerly and northwesterly swells. However, you should save this spot for when the waves are at least eight feet since those conditions transform it into one of LA’s only big-wave spots.
Look forward to ferocious, slabby lips that crash left off the side of the breakwater and barrels that call for a sharp bottom turn. Because the shore whitewash is rough, you won’t want to get stuck on the inside here. This spot is reserved for experts.
10. Hermosa Beach
Hermosa Beach is the undisputed kingpin of Los Angeles’ South County, home to some of the city’s most iconic surfing spots. However, it may not be the spot for you if you’re in search of gnarly barrels off the point. Hermosa Beach offers plenty of fun on medium to head-high swells, and there is more than enough mush and closeouts when the swell is powerful.
Furthermore, having multiple peaks helps spread the crowds since Hermosa Beach is usually crowded. On rare occasions, you’ll get a high, hollow set with a diagonal barrel for a few seconds.
11. Manhattan Beach
Manhattan Beach stretches nearly two miles from the end of Hermosa to the start of El Segundo, and the entire length of the beach is surfable. It has a plethora of peaks for both beginners and intermediates. They turn left and right, forming sandbanks beneath the waterline. It works best in southwesterly and northwesterly swells, so it’s consistent year-round.
Because Manhattan Beach is a small-swell spot, closeouts will be your worst enemy. The creep in is possible at any height above six feet, but it is more likely on direct westerly swells. The pier attracts the top waves of the day, even though they are steep take-offs into fairly hollow waves on the south side of the timber.
12. El Porto
Many South County surfers prefer El Porto Beach because it has more size and power than its neighbors to the south and north, which means barrels frequently fire here when the rest of LA is less promising. The waves are heavy and challenging, which requires a lot of focus on alignment after your bottom turn.
Unfortunately, El Porto suffers from severe pollution and receives heavy backwash on certain tides because of the nearby industrial plants.
13. Venice Beach
Venice Beach is better known as a counterculture hotspot in Los Angeles. It served as a breeding ground for grunge bands and rock artists throughout the twentieth century. However, the image is softening because of ongoing gentrification and an influx of big money. None of this changes the fact that the waves are excellent.
The waves are generally short and intense performance rides suited to five-fin shortboard setups. They are regularly hollow but prone to walling up steep and closing without warning. Gentler waves can be caught off the pier and near the breakwaters. Keep an eye out for rips and steep drops that are a hazard to your board, as there are many breakages every day.
14. Santa Monica
Santa Monica is the well-to-do northern part of Los Angeles, where the Pacific Palisades villas keep watch over the city. With friendlier locals, this is an excellent place to learn to surf. Wait for smaller swells before hitting the whitewash. A good secondary swell can provide some fun rides on the foam.
You’ll occasionally get fat shoulders out back and by the pier, but the ride won’t last long. The lips come over as they do in Venice Beach, and you’ll be bathed in foam in no time. But it’s still a lot of fun, especially on mid-sized winter swells of four to five feet.
Malibu is unrivaled in terms of surfing. The groundswells that roll in off deep underwater canyons out in the Pacific feed some of the best point breaks in the entire United States. However, it also offers beach breaks and a gorgeous surf town setting that is all glitz and glamour.
When is the Best Time to Surf in Los Angeles, CA?
The summer weather and Golden State atmosphere attract tourists to Los Angeles from June through August. This makes finding solitude between Palos Verdes and Malibu virtually impossible. The main groundswell direction is from the SW channel, which is less than desirable for surfing in LA. T catch better waves during the summer, head to Huntington Beach, Malibu, or Santa Barbara.
Fall welcomes the main NW and W swell systems, while offshores from inland deserts bring Santa Ana winds. This makes fall the best season for surfing in Los Angeles. Furthermore, the thin lineups and warm water mean you can enjoy the waves well into November.
The NW swell systems remain during the winter months, ideal for surfing in Los Angeles since the region has a westerly orientation. The sets in Luanda and Haggerty’s have the potential to be nothing short of perfect during the colder months. Because of the wind, the best days are few and far between, but most days are surfable. Gear up in boots, gloves, and a hood to keep you warm all season.
It is best to take advantage of the remaining northerly swells in April, which is ideal for catching some nice shoulders on the Santa Monica and Hermosa Beach piers. The disadvantage of spring is the proclivity for onshore winds. There’s no desert-fed Santa Ana here; thus, closeouts can be expected on the longer beach breaks.
Where To Shop, Eat, and Live Surf Culture in Los Angeles, CA
Regardless of where you launch your board, a day spent riding the ocean waves will undoubtedly leave you in need of some rest and relaxation. So, where do the people of Surf City go to refuel?
Neptune’s Net is one of Malibu’s secret gems tucked away along the coast and is the perfect spot for fried fish, tacos, or a cold beer after a long day’s surf. Playa Provisions is ideal for early morning coffees or a sweet treat before heading out into the water. Check out Naja’s Place in Redondo Beach for legendary burgers, fries, and refreshing craft beers.
Los Angeles boasts several surf shacks that are just the place to kick off your flip-flops and hang your towel after riding. In the heart of the surf culture of Huntington Beach, you’ll find The Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel. However, if you’re open to laid-back hostel living, check out House of Trestles in San Clemente. For an exclusive and luxurious Malibu stay, book a room at Surfrider Malibu.
There is no better way to remember your trip to The Golden State than to take home some merchandise. Treat yourself to some new gear at Bay Street Boards, the highest-rated surf and skate store in Santa Monica Boulevard. If you’re interested in taking up surf lessons or kitting yourself out with some new gear, head to Poseidon Paddle and Surf School.
Los Angeles, California, is world-famous for its palm-lined streets, perfect weather, and a plethora of surf spots. With nearly 300 days of sunshine each year, the warm Southern California weather attracts millions of visitors to the white sand beaches that hug 70 miles of the Pacific Ocean coastline.
Surfers of all levels flock to the local beaches of Santa Monica, Venice, and Manhattan Beach, while the cobblestone point breaks of Palos Verdes and Malibu are better suited for intermediate and advanced wave riders. No matter your skill, Los Angeles is bound to give you a dream surf.