South Africa’s incredible 2,500km coastline, where the icy Atlantic and balmy Indian Ocean melt into each other, not only offers scenery to take your breath away, but it also has some of the best places to catch waves in the world. Whether you are a beginner dipping your toes into the waters of the surfing arena, or an experienced wave rider looking for a challenge, South Africa has it all.
Each spot presents its own unique characteristics, feeding the soul of the curious traveller with discovery, adventure, and learning! We encourage you not only to glide on the surf, but to sink into the surrounding culture, get into the languages, the history, the food, and taste what South Africa is all about.
Here are some of the most popular beaches to try out:
Starting with the beach furthest up the West Coast, we have Elands Bay.
This is the perfect place for advanced surfers looking for high performance waves and adventure, but without the crowds. A westerly swell, prominent in the summer, produces a worthy left point break that can afford rides of up to 150m long! It is great for speed runs, carving, and epic lip turns.
The water here is nothing short of freezing, so it’s a good idea to gear up with a wetsuit, hoodie, and booties. Be sure to do some exploring while in Elands Bay, which has incredible rock paintings in the Elands Bay Cave and one of the country’s few freshwater lakes, Verlorenvlei, home to an abundance of bird life. About a three-hour drive from Cape Town, this one requires some commitment, including: a decent car, some friends, and at least one night of accommodation while up there to maximise the journey.
Just a 30-minute drive from Cape Town, between Melkbos and Bloubergstrand, lies Big Bay beach. This is a favourite because of the friendly atmosphere, chilled vibe, and casual coffee shops to enjoy after a surf.
An east to south easterly wind creates ideal conditions for surfers of all levels, with smaller waves for beginners, and plenty of larger ones for those with more experience. Winter mornings are best for surfing here, when the crowds are at a minimum and you can enjoy most of the beach to yourself. For lunch, head off to the Cape Town Fish Market, where you can get a large variety of South African seafood dishes made with only the freshest fish and a Japanese twist!
Dungeons, Hout Bay
Continuing the tour along our coastline, you’ll find Dungeons just off Hout Bay. This one is reserved for dare-devils who are advanced in their surfing, pumping adrenaline with the 15 to 30-foot high waves that are produced during a winter storm surf. Dungeons is on the list for the world’s big wave locations and is legendary among surfers who have tackled it. You’ll need to head out by watercraft, which is the only way to access this epic line-up.
Hout Bay itself has a few gems to explore, including the popular Clay Café, where you can relax in the sun with a cup of coffee while painting your own unique pottery, World of Birds, the largest bird park in Africa, and Snoekies, a beloved local seafood restaurant in Houtbay’s harbour, which has lovingly served the community since 1951. The vibrant Bay Harbour Market is an explosion of culture and history and is a definite must when you are in the area. For a little more time in the water, join a snorkel session with the Cape’s amiable seal community!
Long Beach, Kommetjie
Kommetjie, albeit a small village (about 40-45 minutes from Cape Town), offers awesome outdoor adventuring opportunities. Hiking trails in the area reward you with incredible views, while the surf has one of the most consistent breaks in the country.
Long Beach is the place to visit if you are looking for sweet left and right breaks that scratch the eternal surfer’s itch. Conditions are pretty great all year round, although summer serves up some of the best waves with the breath of the famous southeaster.
Make sure to bring your own gear as there are no board rentals or surf shops nearby.
Recognised as Cape Town’s oldest surf hangout, Muizenberg serves up sun, fun, and great surfing.
‘Muzies’ is a character-filled seaside village largely home to a bohemian community who take time to appreciate the beauty of the natural environment. Located on the edge of False Bay, just 30 minutes from Cape Town’s CBD, this is a spot that should be on every curious traveller’s list.
The shallow waters make this beach ideal for beginners. Surf schools like Gary’s Surf School, Learn 2 Surf, and Stoked School of Surf offer board and gear rentals for the day as well as lesson packages. But again, if you are an experienced surfer just looking for a good ride, Muzies has something for you too, especially if you are a longboarder! The winter north-westerly creates an awesome southeast swell, making June the best month to surf here.
Because of how exposed it is, Muizenberg can get a bit uncomfortable when the summer southeaster pulls in. Nonetheless, if you do a bit of a read before heading out, it’s still a great spot to explore and surf.
Durban is easily one of the favourites among South African surfers because of its warm waters, year-round mellow weather, and consistency in waves (there’s hardly ever a day where the surf isn’t good!). It caters to surfers on opposite ends of the experience spectrum, with gentle swells south of Umhlanga for beginners and epic, bigger waves near New Pier, Dairy Beach, and North Beach. Durban sure isn’t known as the Bay of Plenty for nothing!
Beyond its energetic surf vibe, Durban has a host of activities and attractions to keep you curious!
Walk through the Durban Botanic Gardens which, established in 1849, is the oldest surviving botanic garden in Africa. Filled with indigenous and exotic plantings from subtropical regions, the gardens offer a colourful learning experience. The Umgeni River Bird Park and uShaka Marine World share a window into some of the rich life teeming in Durban, while the Indian Quarter on Grey Street satisfies adventurous pallets in search of some of the most aromatic and flavourful food from Chinese, Pakistani, Indian, and Somali cultures.
A great crowd-free option on weekdays, Green Point is located north of Scottburgh on the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal.
This is an exposed point break that, like Durban, has quite a consistent surf. A swell from the south is ideal, conjuring a cranking right hand point break that makes it a worthy contender for competing with more famous surf spots along the coast.
Cape St. Francis
If you’re looking for a few awesome point breaks or shore breaks, Cape St. Francis should be among your places to visit. On very special days, Cape St. Francis pulls out the big guns, with its famous Bruce’s Beauties wave that is able to roll on for kilometres! This is perfect for challenging yourself, while improving skills and working on technique.
Have some fun in Cape St. Francis by enjoying a fine dining seafood experience at Joe Fish restaurant and bar before hitting the beach. Delve into nature and history by visiting the old Seal Point Lighthouse, or taking a walk through one of the area’s four nature reserves – Cape St. Francis Nature Reserve, Seal Point Nature Reserve, Sel Bay Nature Reserve, and the Irma Booysen Flora Reserve.
Fun fact: In summer, Cape St Francis is the only place in South Africa you can watch both the sunrise and sunset over the ocean.
Stretching between the Mtamvuna River in the north and the Great Kei River further south, this is a vast region of untamed beauty. Many visit the Wild Coast for its scenery, which is made up of story-book cliff faces, secluded beaches, and lush green rolling hills. It has some special features, including the Silaka Nature Reserve, opportunities for whale watching and birding, and a host of hiking trails.
For surfers, Wild Coast combines a picture-perfect background with an awesome, well-exposed point break (especially during dry, warm summers), which is particularly notable at Ntlonyane or ‘Breezy Point’.
And finally, a surf list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of the most renowned surf hubs on the African continent – J-Bay.
Placing in top positions for the best tubes worldwide, J-Bay has seen its fair share of surfer celebs and hosts the annual J-Bay Open, operated by the World Surf League. A couple of stellar breaks to try out include Kitchen Windows, Boneyards, Impossibles, Magna Tubes, and SuperTubes, where rides can be as long as 300 metres!
It is important to be weary of locals in J-Bay who can be a little protective over their turf. Be mindful, but don’t miss out because of them. Other cool activities to explore include sandboarding, visiting the Jeffrey’s Bay Surf Museum or the Jeffrey’s Bay Shell Museum, and spending some time at the African Dawn Wildlife Sanctuary.
Curiocity is a home for the curious traveller. We encourage exploration, questioning, open-mindedness and a sharing of knowledge and experiences as humans engage in the world and each other. Keen to tour South Africa’s beaches? We’ll sort you out with accommodation at one of our African Hybrid Hotel Backpackers. Book your stay and get ready for some wild adventures!