Are you planning a surf trip to California?

This section is written after many hours of research, multiple surf trips to California, local knowledge, and most importantly my first hand experience.

For the purposes of this travel section I will use the term Surfari:

A Surfari is a surf trip to multiple destinations.

I have been surfing for 14 years, traveling for 25 years and as I am living inland, simply put: when I surf I have to travel.  I am an expert traveler and enthusiastic surfer, by reading this section you will learn a few of my tricks and where to go for an amazing Southern California Surfari.

I plan surf camps every year to Maine for my club and I have planned the best Surfari in Southern California.  Everyone who came with me on my last California Surfari benefited from my love of the Southern Californian surf scene, my love of travel and my budget conscious planning.  It truly was an amazing experience and it is the inspiration for this section.

Californian surf culture goes WAY back to the first men who brought surfing to mainland America.  You have to respect that.  Some people who still surf in California everyday are people who shaped surfing and influenced surfers world wide.  You ever own any gear from O’Neil?  Hit up the break in front of Jack O’Neils house.  Want to share some waves with influential shapers or surfers? California is the spot to do it.  A little respect goes a long way, and a friendly smile will get you one back.

Think of surfing 5-7 foot Rincon as skating out into center ice during a Canadians practice, you won’t just start shooting pucks around so when you swim out respect the fact that some of these surfers are pro’s or semi pro’s just out there practicing. They don’t really want to worry about hitting you as you swim through the middle of the break, respect that this is their practice time and you’ll be fine.

San Diego Region

Simply Amazing.  Many people will say yea but Huntington beach is better, or drive 45 minutes north to San Clemente and Trestles, I like Laguna’s Brooks street…. ect ect ect… None of those have the 2 most awesome things about San Digeo and Pacific Beach: The awesome surf, and Mission Blvd.

(Click Here to search for hotel options in San Diego)

Where to Surf in Pacific Beach:

In front of the Banana Bungalow is great.  Big beach, nice easy waves, it’s great.

The popular option for advanced surfers is the north side of the Crystal pier, good waves but REALLY good surfers surf here.  Let them have their space.

Tourmaline:  A longboarding wave that attracts everyone on a longboard from miles around.  Not uncommon to see about 100 people here on a decent day.  Go take a walk down and look at Tourmaline.  It’s at the north end of Pacific Beach.

Take a look here for your hotel needs. Remember to book on Mission Blvd, or anything walking distance to Crystal Pier.


Oceanside is a town about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego that gives easy access to Pretty much all of the famous Southern California surf spots. It’s no wonder why many shapers and surf professionals set up shop here.

Oceanside is an interesting community with a lot of military influence. Army stores, dry cleaners specializing in service uniforms, barbers offering $7 military cuts, and a few dive bars pretty much make up main street. As far as surf shops go there are a few but the only shop in my opinion is Real Surf, owned by shaper Shawn Ambrose, an expat Canadian from Newfoundland, who is always up for a chat, showing off his latest surfboards (made in shop by hand by Shawn), and if you mention looking for a good place to eat he might join you for dinner at the Fish Joint.

As far as surf spots in Oceanside go you have 2 main options: The Pier, and the Jetty.  The Pier is fantastic on the south side but pretty competitive.  Go a few minutes walking down the beach and enjoy some nice breaks with less crowds.  The Jetty is pretty fun to watch on a good day, and a great place to surf for intermediate and advanced surfers.  Have some respect for the locals, it’s a good chance they are Army dudes or semi pro/ pro surfers in training.

The beach at Oceanside is great, long, nice sand, good surf, nice boardwalk and they have evening fire rings that always bring a nice crowd.  Here is our view of the beach from our balcony at the Southern California Beach Club.

 Hotels and Where to Stay:

Unfortunately as is the case with much of California, to get a prime location you have to pay a bit.  Sure you can stay a few minutes inland on the highway but the hotel and the area might be a bit dodgy.  To bring it into a Montrealers perspective think staying in New Jersey as opposed to Manhattan.  It’s fine for a night or two but making a weeks vacation of it is not the best unless you only need a place to sleep.

Motel 6 Downtown Oceanside

The Motel 6 Downtown at 909 North Coast Highway in Oceanside has a fantastic location only a few minutes walk to the beach, is cheap, and seems decent. I have not stayed here but I have biked by it many times and the location is great, the property looks well maintained and I’d have no problem booking here next time I go.  Click here for current prices.

Southern California Beach Club

It’s primarily a timeshare hotel so you have studio rooms and 1 or 2 bedroom condo’s that they do rent out as hotel rooms as well.  The rooms are nice, you have a living room, full kitchen, bedroom, and if you are on the ocean side, a beach front balcony.  They have BBQ’s, a roof top Hot tub, free bikes, safe parking and movies.  The location can’t be beat.  Unless you have timeshare you’ll pay for the awesomeness but it will be a perfect home base for your week long Surfari. Click here for the current prices.

Huntington Beach


Surf City USA.  This is the home of the US open and HB is known for miles of beach that has more beach breaks then you can count.  It really does deserve the title of Surf City USA.  With surf this good it’s not surprising the only pic I have is from the water. Oh well, what can you do.

There’s a beach break for everyone, great hotels, and great apres surf spots to eat.  Taco Tuesday’s are awesome.

There is the famous surf shop Jacks right at the pier that has really good sales and is worth checking out.  HB is a fun place to surf, enjoy the sand, surf, shop, and eat and drink. The main strip has a tonne of bars and restaurants, reasonably priced and are lots of fun.

Brooks St. Laguna

Brooks st

Brooks Street in Laguna is actually the first true reef break that I have surfed.  It was high tide, there were a handful of people out, and it was about 3-5 feet of amazingness.  We surfed into the sunset and just sat for a few moments on the steps in awe.  It’s pretty easy to find.  Just look up Brooks st in Laguna, and your there.

I’d high recommend checking this spot out if you are an intermediate or better surfer, and make sure it’s high tide as it can get shallow.




Umm… Go there!  Take the time to visit this spot.  It’s legendary for good reason.  Just go.  It’s right up near San Clemente, on a part of the San Onofre State beach.  Pack your board, sunscreen, and have one of the best surfing days imaginable.

In Short

Hope you enjoy your trip!  I hope this has inspired you to visit California.  Remember this list is not complete, and you will definitely find gems of your own but use this list to get you started!