10 Best Places to Surf in North County

10 Best Places to Surf in North County

There’s no denying that surfing is an awesome activity. Whether you’re a pro or want to get initiated in it, North County is the perfect way to do it.

By Cristina TurnerCardiff Vacations 

There’s no denying that surfing is an awesome activity. Whether you’re a pro or want to get initiated in it, North County is the perfect way to do it. There are a lot of great beaches where you can enjoy the waves and the best part is that you can find spots that perfectly fit your skillset.

This being said, if you’re planning a vacation in North County and want to get out in the ocean and ride the waves, here are the best places where to do it:

1. Swami's Beach

This internationally renowned surfing spot attracts numerous surfers from around the world each year, especially during the fall-winter season when waves can go as high as 10 feet. It’s also a place charged with spiritual importance which can make your surfing experience even more relaxing and filled with inner peace.

Swami’s Beach is considered one of the best waves in California, with long walls allowing skilled surfers the chance to show off their best tricks and experiment with some new ones. Thanks to the cliffs, Swami is protected from winds that have the potential of ruining the surf experience at lesser breaks and therefore, even small days can be extremely fun.

This place is recommended for advanced riders, as the waves can be a little too harsh and difficult to control for a beginner. You should also know that because of the competitiveness of surfers trying to catch the big waves, bodysurfing and bodyboarding are not recommended. There is a higher level of physical preparedness required here as the distance from the beach to the main peak can be even several hundred yards.

2. Cardiff Reef

Known by locals as simply” The Reef” this is a popular spot for basically all levels, mostly for intermediate and advanced riders. Its popularity grew mostly in the 60s, now becoming one of the most beloved spots in the San Diego area. With a smooth and consistent wave shape that is given by a flat rock reef extending 50 yards from the shore, it makes for an awesome experience for anyone looking to just have fun riding the waves.

While you’re here, you can also visit the Cardiff Kook, the super famous statue depicting a surfer riding the waves. Its name was given by local riders as a derogatory term for a ”wannabe” surfer, being considered a poor and uninspired depiction of surfing. If you happen to be around during the holidays, you might also find it dressed up in some very imaginative costumes, so be sure to take a stroll and admire it after your surfing session finishes.

3. Seaside Reef

This is one of the most popular breaks in Cardiff. It’s a tricky reef that became popular in the 90s because of its fast takeout and soft shoulder. It’s recommended that you take some time to get to know the wave before you get more adventurous and experimental but once you do, you’ll totally feel the reward.

4. San Elijo Campground

This spot includes numerous reef brakes where it can be extremely fun to ride, especially with a smaller board. It’s a great mix of reef and sand which makes it easier to find the perfect spot for basically all levels. Pipes is probably the spot with the biggest popularity out here, thanks to the fact that breaking is more consistently all year round.

5. Del Mar

This is one of the most reliable spots to surf in the San Diego area, thanks to its good exposure to all swell directions, patchy reefs, and sand bottom beach breaks. The best thing about this place is that it’s not very crowded, even at the peak of the surf season so it’s easy to ride the waves undisturbed and experiment with new moves.

6. Oceanside

One could say that Oceanside is pretty much blessed if we’re talking about swell exposure all year-round, which makes it a very consistent spot for surfers. The main spot here is the Oceanside Pier where the break is pretty heavy, and the currents can be a little aggressive and you could find yourself swept underneath the pier. So, caution and experience are your best friends when choosing to surf in this spot. You can also visit the Oceanside surfing museum, which can be a fun thing to do especially if you’re traveling with kids.

7. Trestles

Located at the border of San Diego and Orange County, this amazing river-mouth point break makes you work a bit for your fun in the water. From the long hike from the parking lot to the fact that it’s usually pretty crowded with professionals, it can be quite a challenge to catch the perfect spot to ride the waves, but when you do it’s totally worth it.

8. Tamarack

This is a great spot to surf in Carlsbad. It can get pretty crowded, but the amazing thing is that despite it you can still find a good wave for yourself. It’s a sandbar reef brake that allows smooth rides into the shoreline.

9. Ponto Jetty

Located in South Carlsbad, this spot reaches its full potential during summer days, but the wave is pretty unpredictable with sandbars frequently shifting around. It’s definitely not a place for beginners as it can get a little too aggressive to be able to fully control it.

10. D Street

Located in Encinitas, this breach brake wave is a popular attraction for shortboard riders. It’s better for advanced riders given the fast and consistent wave and definitely a spot that challenges you to exercise your moves.

North County California is home to world class surfing spots that can only be matched by Hawaii’s North Shore or Portugal’s Nazare waves. No matter your surfing level and experience you will surely find great waves here all year-round.


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