9 Summer Surf Trips That Are Open for Business

Matt Rode

by on

Updated 57d ago

Although the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, with new variants causing recent surges throughout the world, many countries have now reopened to tourism. However, just because these countries are officially open doesn’t mean it’s easy to visit them. Some are only open to tourists who are fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, while others mandate a multiple-day quarantine upon arrival, making it difficult to get the timing right when chasing swells.

That being said, there are a number of countries that have fully lifted entry restrictions in a bid to jumpstart their faltering tourism industries—and a handful of these have great surf during the Northern Hemisphere summer.

Here's a list of the best of them:


Mexico

© 2022 - Mark Kronemeyer

The season is just starting to kick off in Mexico, and the next five months will be ripe for the chasing. Whether you are looking for rippable righthand points, XXL beach breaks, or logging perfection, you can enter Mexico without a vaccination or COVID-19 test, with no quarantine required.

Where to surf
Beginner: Sayulita
Intermediate: The points around Salina Cruz
Advanced: Playa Zicatella

What boards to bring
Anything from a longboard or retro fish to a shortboard or big-wave gun.

Where to stay
Puerto Escondido if you are hunting XXL barrels. Salina Cruz if you want rippable, point-break perfection. Puerto Vallarta for a mellower, family-friendly trip.

What to eat
The three Ts—tacos, tortas, and tequila.

What to avoid
Theft, cartel wars, driving at night.

Down-day activity
Most surfing tourists miss out on Mexico’s mountain areas. Hike a volcano or experience a temescal (Mexican sweat lodge).

Vibe check
The well-known spots are crowded with both locals and gringos, but everyone is pretty happy, so it’s less eggy than you’d expect with the masses of people.

Rough cost
Anywhere from $500/£400 to a few grand, depending if you drive or fly down, and if you go feral or fancy surf camp.


Maldives

© 2022 - Erick Proost

April through June is prime season for the world’s most popular group of atolls, when the pre-monsoon wind remains light and consistent swells sweep up from the Indian Ocean. The Maldives is eager to see tourism return to pre-pandemic levels and is allowing anyone to enter the country without a PCR test, regardless of vaccination status.

Where to surf
There are tons of great intermediate-level waves in the Maldives, with some of the best-known including Pasta Point, Sultans, Honky’s, and Chickens.

What boards to bring
A couple of shortboards and something fun for the small days.

Where to stay
There are three main zones—the Male Atolls, the central atolls, and the southern atolls. For the most part, you’ll need to stay at a surf camp or on a liveaboard.

What to eat
Fish curry, fried yams, lobster.

What to avoid
Central and Male atolls once the northeast monsoon winds kick in.

Down day activity
Relax on the boat or in a hammock, reading a book or resting your surf-out arms. Snorkel some of the most pristine water on the planet.

Vibe check
The popular areas get quite crowded, but virtually everyone there is a visiting tourist, so there’s not much localism.

Rough cost
Since you will most likely be in a resort or on a liveaboard boat, expect to spend a few thousand dollars/pounds per week, plus flights.

Seychelles

© 2022 - Ming Nom Chong

Although the Seychelles don’t have the surf quality of some better-known island groups in the Indian Ocean, they make up for that fact in beauty and lack of crowds. If you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path surf trip to a far-flung archipelago, all you need is a negative PCR test.

Where to surf
Grand Anse, Intendance Beach, Anse Guallete.

What boards to bring
Shortboard, fish, longboard.

Where to stay
Mahe and La Digue are the two main surf zones.

What to eat
Seafood, coconut curry, anything made of banana.

What to avoid
Flat spells.

Down day activity
The Seychelles are renowned for their natural beauty. Snorkeling, bouldering, and lounging are all popular ways to pass the time on the archipelago’s picturesque beaches.

Vibe check
There’s a local surf scene and a handful of visiting surfers, but the vibe stays pretty mellow since the area is a bit off the beaten path.

Rough cost
Independent travellers will spend around $1000/£800 per week, while all-inclusive resorts are around double that.

South Africa

© 2022 - Kirstin Scholtz

South Africa became notorious for its strict COVID-19 policies during the early months of the pandemic, even outlawing surf for an entire season. Thankfully, those days are long gone. All you need to enter Africa’s most consistent surf zone now is a negative PCR test.

Where to surf
Intermediate: Jeffreys Bay, Elands Bay.
Advanced: Dungeons, Cave Rock.

What boards to bring
Your quiver will depend on the waves you are planning to surf, but could include anything from a longboard to shortboards to rhino chasers.

Where to stay
Cape Town for the big wave crew. Durban for beach breaks. Jeffreys Bay for Jeffreys Bay.

What to eat
Cape Malay curry, biltong (dried meat), boerewors (local sausage), chakalaka.

What to avoid
Inner-city crime, sharks.

Down day activity
See the big animals, enjoy the sights of Cape Town, and explore the Transkei.

Vibe check
South Africa has a vibrant surf scene, which is a nice way of saying that all the main surf zones are pretty crowded. That being said, there are a lot of waves along South Africa’s coast, and even more swell. If you are willing to drive a bit farther and explore lesser-known spots, you can easily surf alone.

Rough cost
Depending on your comfort level, expect to spend between $500/£400 and $1500/£1200 per week.

Costa Rica

Central America’s favourite surf park, Costa Rica has based its economy almost entirely on tourism for the past 40 years and was one of the first countries to go to a no-restriction model after the pandemic hit. That means you can fly into Costa Rica exactly as you did back in 2019, without PCR test or vaccination.

Where to surf
Beginner: The beach breaks in Nosara.
Intermediate: Pavones, Witch’s Rock.
Advanced: Playa Hermosa.

What boards to bring
Longboards, mid-lengths, shortboards—basically everything except big wave gear.

Where to stay
Nosara and Santa Theresa are popular with beginners and backpackers. Jaco is a bit rougher, but Playa Hermosa has barrels. Pavones is isolated, but home to one of the longest lefts in Central America.

What to eat
Gallo pinto (a rice and bean dish), sopa negra (black bean soup), casado, agua fresca.

What to avoid
Crime, crowds.

Down day activity
Check out the national parks, lounge on the beach, check yourself into a yoga retreat.

Vibe check
It’s crowded just about everywhere, with the vibe ranging from aggro to “live and let live.”

Rough cost
If you are travelling independently, expect to spend around a grand a week. All-inclusive resorts are more expensive.

El Salvador

© 2022 - Billy Watts

Another Central American staple, El Salvador is known for its long, rippable, right-hand points breaking over sand and cobblestone. It is one of the easiest countries to chase swell to this summer, with no COVID-19-related travel restrictions.

Where to surf
Beginner: Sunzal.
Intermediate: Punta Mango.
Advanced: Punta Roca (although it’s more of a high-end intermediate wave).

What boards to bring
Whatever you enjoy riding on rippable, head-high point breaks.

Where to stay
La Libertad is the main zone, with numerous quality right-hand point breaks. The east coast is less crowded and has more room for exploration.

What to eat
Pupusas, tamales, pastelitos de carne, quesadilla Salvadorena.

What to avoid
Crime, localism.

Down day activity
Hike Santa Ana volcano, explore Mayan ruins, visit a coffee plantation.

Vibe check
Lots of local surfers and even more visitors, so expect the point breaks to be crowded and a bit localised. The beach breaks are less busy, but also less perfect.

Rough cost
As with most Central American destinations, you’ll spend around $1000/£800 per week travelling solo and quite a bit more if you book yourself into a surf camp.

Nicaragua

© 2022 - Miah Klein

The land of all-day offshores, Nicaragua was one of the only countries to never officially close its borders during the pandemic. That being said, it remains relatively difficult to visit the country due to uniquely stringent test timing rules that have caused a number of major airlines to cancel their flights to Managua. While Nicaragua technically only requires a negative PCR test for entry, you have to take the test 72 hours before arriving in the country (as opposed to most other countries, which give you 72 hours before you board your final flight) and you have to upload your negative results 36 hours before you arrive in the country. This basically means that you have to do a rapid PCR test, which tends to be more expensive and less likely to be covered by insurance.

Where to surf
Playa Colorado is one of the best beach breaks in Central America, and the outer reef at Popoyo will appeal to the heavy water crowd.

What boards to bring
Shortboards, step-ups, a larger board if you plan to charge the outer reef.

Where to stay
Popoyo is the country’s main surf zone and enjoys the legendary all-day offshore winds. There are quality beach breaks and points up north, but they tend to blow out at around noon.

What to eat
Desayuna Nica (traditional Nicaraguan breakfast), gallo pinto, quesillos, vigoron (if you visit Granada).

What to avoid
Crime in the large cities, political unrest, despotic government leaders.

Down day activity
Tour Granada and Managua, hike the volcano, explore Lago Cocibolca.

Vibe check
Nicaragua is becoming more and more popular with traveling surfers, especially down south where the wind blows offshore all day. There is also a healthy local surf community, so expect to see people in the water. That being said, it’s less aggressive than many locations.

Rough cost
Feral travellers could probably get away with less than $100/£80 per day, but generally speaking you’ll spend a grand or two per week, depending where you stay.

Panama

© 2022 - Miah Klein

Yet another in a long list of Central American surf havens that are welcoming back visitors, Panama only requires a negative PCR test for entry (although they may require a second test upon arrival if you exhibit symptoms of COVID-19).

Where to surf
Beginner: Playa Venao.
Intermediate: Santa Catalina.
Advanced: Silverbacks.

What boards to bring
Shortboards, step-ups.

Where to stay
Santa Catalina and Azuero Peninsula on the Pacific Coast, Bocas del Torro in the Caribbean.

What to eat
Guacho (similar to risotto), ropa vieja (shredded beef), carimanola (fried yucca balls stuffed with meat or cheese), sancocho (Panama’s national dish).

What to avoid
The drug trade, inner-city violence, heavy currents/waves in Bocas Del Torro.

Down day activity
Check out Chiriqui Viejo River, Soberania National Park, and of course the Panama Canal.

Vibe check
Busy but not overwhelmingly so. Panama sees its fair share of local and visiting surfers, but the surf scene is a bit less developed than Costa Rica and El Salvador.

Rough cost
Less than $1000/£800 per week if you travel on a budget, around double that if you stay at a surf resort.

Peru

© 2022 - Sarah Lee

If you like long lefts, then Peru is likely high on your list of summertime haunts—but the country had some of the strictest border rules throughout the early months of the pandemic, effectively curtailing surf travel throughout 2020. This is no longer the case, as Peru is now allowing non-vaccinated travellers to enter with a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours—and just in time, as surf season in Peru is about to kick into high gear. Vaccinated visitors have it even easier, as they don’t require a PCR test.

Where to surf
Beginner: Chicama.
Intermediate: Lobitos.
Advanced: Pico Alto.

What boards to bring
Longboards, shortboards, SUPs, big wave boards—whatever works for the waves you are targeting.

Where to stay
Punta Hermosa for Pico Alto and the other reefs near Lima. Lobitos for some of the best left-hand point breaks in the country. Chicama for the longest left in the world.

What to eat
Peru is famous for its meat dishes, such as lomo saltado (stir-fried beef) and aji de galena (creamy chicken)—and of course the ceviche is amazing. Vegetarians might appreciate the various corn- and potato-based dishes. If you are feeling adventurous, try cuy (guinea pig).

What to avoid
Crime in Lima, fog and onshores in Punta Hermosa, crowds in Lobitos, altitude sickness in Cuzco.

Down day activity
Cuzco was the center of the Incan Empire and is definitely worth a visit, as is the nearby Sacred Valley (Urubamba). Machu Pichu is busy but incredible, while Choquequirao is a less-frequented set of ruins that requires a hike to access. Iquitos is a great option if you want to check out the Amazon, and Lake Titicaca is an interesting cultural site.

Vibe check
Lots of surfers—both local and visiting—mean that the main spots are all pretty busy. However, if you are friendly and respectful, you’ll get waves.

Rough cost
You could go bare bones for around $500/£400 per week, moderate to luxury accommodations, food, and transport will cost you a grand or two.