The Best Surfing Museums in the US (CA, FL, HI)

Are you interested in the history of surfing? Do you want an overview of what surfers have been riding over the past century? We’ve put together a list of the best surfing museums in the most well-known surfing locations, Florida, California, and Hawaii. 

Whether you’re traveling or just want to take a virtual “road trip,” these surfing museums will educate and entertain you!

Honolulu Surfing Museum

If you’re headed to Hawaii, you’re already prepared for some of the best surfing in the country. While you’re there, head to the Honolulu Surf Museum where admission is free and the tide is always in. 

This museum is inside the Beachcomber Restaurant, and you can enjoy a drink while you relax and take in the sights. At the Honolulu Surfing Museum, you’ll find the original boards from Silver Surfer and Apocalypse Now. It’s the ultimate homage to surfing culture in the home of surfing!

Feel free to wear your sandals and board shorts to this museum, as the venue has no rules regarding dress. For bonus points, wear your Parrothead t-shirt. Jimmy Buffet himself has stopped into this museum and helped it grow into the surfing museum it is today. 

Santa Cruz Surfing Museum

Whether you believe Santa Cruz or Huntington Beach to be Surf City, USA, there’s no doubt Santa Cruz embraces its surfing history. The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is located in the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse on West Cliff Drive, and it’s a great stop for locals and tourists alike. 

In this museum, you’ll find photos, boards, and other artifacts celebrating the city’s rich surfing history. The museum boasts displays dating back as far as 100 years, and the museum itself has been in existence for a quarter of a century. In keeping with their Surf City reputation, Santa Cruz opened the doors of this museum in 1986, claiming to be the first surfing museum in the world. 

Check out boards from the soul surfing 70s or redwood planks from the 1930s. Then be sure to make a donation to help keep the museum open; it’s a non-profit that’s free to the public. 

Florida Surf Museum

On the east coast, you’ll want to take a trip to the Florida Surf Museum in Cocoa Beach, Florida. This museum was launched in 1999 as a grassroots project. Originally, the museum was located in a tiny space, but as locals’ donations rolled in, the museum space expanded. 

At one point, the Florida Surf Museum merged with the East Coast Surfing Hall of fame. Now, however, the museum is once again independent and is now home to hundreds of boards, magazines, photos, and trophies. 

This museum takes a give-back approach to the surfing community. The organization regularly hosts charity events, scholarships, and drives to benefit non-profits. Before you visit, be sure to check out the Florida Surf Museum’s website and Facebook community, where you’ll find fascinating articles and surfing-related stories. 

California Surf Museum

Thousands of visitors to California flock to the California Surf Museum in Oceanside each year. This museum is one of the most frequently “updated” museums in the country, with new exhibits being added regularly. 

The Evolution of the Boogie Board, an Expanded Timeline of Surfboards, and Kelly Slater’s Surfboard (and story) are just a few of the items on showcase at the California Surf Museum. The organization also regularly hosts galas and fundraisers; your participation allows the museum to continue to grow. 

If you’re part of a school group or just want to bring a larger group of people to see some surf history, the California Surf Museum will host you. Contact them for rates and packages. Otherwise, admission is very inexpensive—this is a great budget-friendly activity for visitors to Oceanside. 

Surfing Florida Museum

Not to be confused with the Florida Surfing Museum, the Surfing Florida Museum is located in West Palm Beach. Currently, they allow visitors to take a “virtual visit” but you’ll certainly want to visit in person if you have the chance. 

The most notable exhibits you’ll view at the Surfing Florida Museum are the photographs. In the 1960s and 70s, M.E. Gruber began to photograph surfing culture. Over 5,000 slides were included in his collection and were all but forgotten about when Mr. Gruber passed away. After his death, the family passed on to family friend Fred Salmon, and the museum was born. 

The Surfing Florida Museum places emphasis on the surf culture of West Palm Beach, so this museum offers a great opportunity to learn more about the area. In addition to the photographs, you’ll find recorded spoken histories, historic surfboards, and more. 

Summary: Best Surfing Museums in the United States

The United States is home to some of the best surfing museums in the world, from California surfing museums to locations on the gorgeous islands of Hawaii, where this sport initially took root. This list contains just a sampling of the museums curious surfers can visit. Check them out to discover surfing memorabilia, surf music, surfing heritage, and more.