A surf inspired road trip itinerary from your San Diego Surf School team
Even though summer has ended, the weather in California has not shifted to fall temps. It’s still warm and the water temperature hasn’t dropped yet. Although the seasons may be changing elsewhere, here it still feels like the perfect time to take a vacation. And what better way to embrace California vibes than to take a road trip up the coast? If you’re trying to chase summer for a little longer, Cali is the place to be. Luckily, the team at San Diego Surf School is well versed in California surf spots and we have created the perfect itinerary so you know where to stop on your road trip throughout the Golden State.
We’ve ranked the surf spots based on the overall vibe of the place based on a five wave scale. When debating whether or not to award a surf spot with a wave, we’ve considered the food nearby, accessibility to the surf, crowds in the water, how good the break is and the natural beauty of the location. This scale was heavily debated by the San Diego Surf School crew in order to give you an extremely accurate idea of the vibe at each beach.
Blacks Beach is a popular surf spot in San Diego. This spot is below UCSD so you’ll probably see students catching waves between classes, but don’t worry about getting in their way. Even though Blacks is a popular spot, it’s a wide beach and there are plenty of breaks down the shore so you don’t have to surf right next to a bunch of people. It’s a little bit of a trek but the walk down is beautiful. Once you’re in the water, you can sit and enjoy the view of the giant cliffs that meet the ocean shore.
Swamis is a surf spot you must try if you’re going to surf in San Diego. If you want to experience the San Diego beach town vibes, this is the place to be. It’s in a cute part of northern San Diego that has amazing food so you don’t have to worry when you’re hungry after getting out of the water. The surf is consistent and usually pretty inviting making it a good spot for beginners and more advanced surfers.
Trestles offers a lot of different options. While this is a little north of San Diego and on your way to LA, we think it’s worth the stop. There are different breaks to choose from; Upper Trestles is the most consistent while Lower Trestles has a defined reef break that provides good waves. Middles has decent surf making it a good spot for beginners. If you’re going to Upper Trestles check out Cottons and if you’re headed towards Middles you should try Church. Lower Trestles is known for its wave and has been the location for the WSL World Tour and the NSSA Nationals.
Laguna beach is a good place to visit if you want to do more than just surf. While there are great waves, there are plenty of other things you can do while you’re in town. To get to the surf, you can go through Thousand Steps Beach which is a scenic walk through nature. While it is a well known spot, it’s not usually busy. After your surf sesh, you can even jump into one of the natural hidden pools.
When thinking about LA, certain icons come to mind. Huntington beach reflects this vibe. It is the home of the Vans US Open Surfing Competition so you can surf at the same breaks as some of the world’s greatest surfers. The pier and the rest of the beach both offer nice waves that can be surfed year round. Afterwards, you can check out the town which is a great mix of LA and surf town vibes.
This is another spot that should be checked off your list if you’re going to surf in LA. Malibu is a consistent break that usually has a softer wave making it a great place for longboarders. It is also spread out so you don’t have to surf on top of anyone and instead have more room for yourself. While chilling on your longboard, you can admire the cliffs that make up the Pacific Coast Highway.
This beach is right in Isla Vista so it’s a perfect hub for college students. If the surf isn’t great, you can also go diving. The beach is dog friendly so your pup can hang out on the sand or catch waves with you. When the surf is good it can get nice and hollow so you might even get barreled!
As you might be able to tell from the name, you’ll also find students in the line up here when you paddle out. This break has some rocks north of the break which creates a really nice right shoulder. The waves are also really long so you can plan on a lengthy ride. Campus Point offers diversity because it’s a great place to longboard or shortboard.
While this is a little bit of a trek to get to, we still gave it five waves because it’s worth it. To get to this break you have to take a scenic drive through the countryside. Once you arrive you stumble upon a hidden beach along the sheer central coast. Because it brakes from the open ocean, the waves can get really heavy. This wave is not one to miss. Although this spot is kind of in the middle of nowhere, you can still find good food right by the beach.
Morro Bay is probably best known for its beauty. When you’re in the water, you’re right next to a giant boulder that creates a nice left shoulder. If you want to admire the boulder from farther away though, that’s possible too. This beach has a good break down the entire shore so crowds can spread out during a good surf day.
Unlike some of our other suggestions, Cayucos is a little less well known (so keep it on the downlow). This spot is mainly surfed by locals so make sure you respect the territory. Locals are always a good sign because they wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t a good break. There is a decent break year round and it’s also not too crowded.
Montaña de Oro
While it’s a little bit of a walk to get to this beach, you can take in all the beauty on your way there. Montaño de Oro is a consistent break so you can bet this place is going to be good all year. This is an exposed sandbar break making the waves really cool and when it’s bigger, the surf can get hollow.
You can show off your skills at Capitola because there will probably be spectators watching you from the walkway above. This is one of the more consistent breaks near Santa Cruz so if you just happen to be in the area, this is a good place to check out. It’s a soft wave so it’s perfect for longboarding although it might be crowded. Once you’re out of the water, you can wander around the town of Capitola and find all sorts of different shops to satisfy your surfing needs.
Cowells is in the middle of everything. When thinking of Santa Cruz, this spot probably comes to mind. It is right next to the famous boardwalk and wharf. This break is also east of Steamer Lane which is a famous surfing spot in Santa Cruz where surfing icons have paddled out. While Steamer Lane is known for its dangerous conditions, Cowells is a perfect spot if you want to get a taste of Santa Cruz. It’s a much safer spot to surf, the wave is great for longboarding and is located at the bottom of beautiful cliffs.
Davenport is my personal favorite beach in all of California so of course it gets five waves on our scale. While this break is relatively well known, it doesn’t seem to be based on the amount of surfers in the water. When you arrive you may see a few other surfers in the water, but if you’re looking for some alone time you can walk down the shore and find a good break that is far enough away from other surfers. It’s a beautiful beach with a few shops across the road for post surf snacks.
This is the closest break to San Francisco so if you want to visit the city you can hit up both places. Ocean Beach has amazing scenery and is in the middle of a surf town. If you’re looking for a cool vibe, this is a good place to go. There is a lot of space to spread out in the water because you can find fun breaks all down the beach.
Not only does Fort Cronckhite have amazing scenery, but it also has a rich history. This beach has old war time barracks on the beach because it was a US army post during World War II. The break is fun, it has consistent waves and you can check out the barracks while you’re in the water.
Pacifica (bonus points for the Taco Bell)
We’re ending on a strong note with Pacifica. This beach is super accessible and not very crowded even though it’s pretty well known. It’s probably because Pacifica is wide enough to spread out. It’s also a pretty spot to surf and you can find locals and visitors enjoying the water. Another huge plus is that it has one of the nicest Taco Bells in the nation located right on the edge of the sand. When you get out of the water after an awesome surf sesh, you can walk right over to get a chulupa at one of the most luxurious Tacos Bells known to man.
Now that you have an itinerary mapped out of all the places to surf on your next road trip, all you have to do is pick a week to go! The San Diego Surf School team put a lot of thought into selecting and sharing our favorite surf spots with you so hopefully you have some time to check them out. Once you do, make your way back to San Diego and let us know what you think! We always love to talk about our personal favorite gems that we’ve found along the California coast and would love to hear about yours too.
If you’re in San Diego check out our Nightmare on Law Street. Join the other groms, goblins and ghouls in our after school program from 3:30 to 5:00 for some spooky surf. Celebrate Halloween with your friend and get 10% off. Call today to reserve your spot to catch some wicked waves!