For a surfer looking to live the city life without sacrificing time in the water, Honolulu is an obvious choice. Isaiah Moniz airs out in Town. Photo: Tony Heff
For a surfer looking to live the city life without sacrificing time in the water, Honolulu is an obvious choice. Isaiah Moniz airs out in Town. Photo: Tony Heff

10 Best Surf Cities in the World: Honolulu

In no particular order, these are the 10 best urban options for a surfer

It's a sign of the times that seemingly all surf shops must now come equipped with a Slayer espresso machine operated by a pretentious barista. No longer contented to simply fondle a few handshapes and leave with bar of wax, surfers--particularly urban-based surfers--also need an exotically sourced pour-over from a third-wave coffee purveyor and a selection of artisanal baked goods, while they scope out new surf crafts. It's clear that the needs of surfers have evolved quite a bit since the post-war years of Kivlin, Quigg and company, content to eat canned meats and retire to improvisational thatched-roof shelters after hours of riding waves on the North Shore. Today, it seems that coast-adjacent, dense, urban areas best meet the needs of the contemporary surfer.

In the gig economy, cities--regional and global centers of industry, commerce, and culture--are where the jobs are. Modern cities have become walk-able, gastronomic and booze-centric, tolerant and progressive playgrounds for a Millennial generation primed to live and work in a more communal, stimulating environment. And when you stir in an accessible coastline and roughly a hundred days of ridable waves per year, a city can also provide a surfer a dynamic and balanced existence.

So in case you're considering a relocation opportunity, we pored over job statistics, surf reports, and city guides--taking into consideration surf proximity and quality, employment opportunities, and quality of life--to narrow down the world's best surf cities. The list we've assembled includes ten world centers, economic hubs revered for their cultural institutions where one can find a steady job and consistent-enough surf to satiate the most wave-obsessed among us. These are cities where, even if you're resigned to only surf with the weekend warrior crowd, you'll never be bored--provided you haven't handed over all your disposable income to some pretentious barista.

Next on the list…

Honolulu, Hawaii


You're in Hawaii. On Oahu. Do we really need to discuss further? OK. Yes, it's Town, but Honolulu's city center is close to the high-quality lefts of Publics. You can get cruise-y at Waikiki or pick up the pace at premiere Town spots like Ala Moana Bowls. And with the North Shore just an hour drive away, Honolulu's urbanites are never wanting for access to good surf. The water’s warm. The swells are prolific. And did we mention it's Hawaii? 'Nuff said.


Honolulu is not just the cradle of surfing-civilization, the city's downtown is a major portal for International business and a world financial center. As a shipping gateway to the Pacific, there are jobs to be had in transportation and logistics, finance, manufacturing, and all the other industries found in an globally important port city. With Internationally recognized research institution, University of Hawaii at Monoa located near the central business district, Honolulu is also a hub for research and development in oceanography, biomedicine and astrophysics. Even without a degree or experience in a high-skilled field, if you can mix a mean drink, garnish a steak dinner, fold a towel, park a car or teach a surf lesson, tourism accounts for $10 billion annually in Honolulu and there are lots of opportunities to service the more than five million visitors Oahu attracts each and every year.


Rent prices have grown exceedingly expensive in Honolulu, accurately reflecting the city's standing as a surf-town, world-city, and tropical paradise all rolled into one. From the hectic urbanity of the city's downtown and its thriving arts district, Honolulu residents can avail themselves of a true metropolitan experience, or head to the North Shore for more pastoral, though equally hectic, adventures. The pervasive Aloha spirit is also seemingly infectious, as Honolulu is one of the safest cities in America and also cited often as one of the most "livable" in the world.

Median Income: $79,000

Top Industries: Tourism, Transportation and Logistics, Military Defense, Research and Development

Median Home Price: $761,000

Median Rental Price: $1,700/month for a 1BR in city center

Population: 374,600

Water Temperature Range: 77-82F

Surf Spots:  Ala Moana Bowls, Waikiki, Kaiser's, Fours, Threes, Publics, Canoes

[Head back to tomorrow for our next reveal]


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