The Caribbean has so much more to offer than cruise ships and Sandals resorts, including some of the best surfing in North America. If you're not living on the West Coast, then getting to the famous surf destinations of Hawaii and California can be a major feat, especially with a board in tow. The Caribbean is a cheaper and more convenient trip for many.
This collection of islands south of the mainland is a prime location for any surfer, whether beginner, intermediate, advanced, or downright daredevil. From the Dominican Republic, which hosts 800-plus miles of coastline, to the varied waters of Jamaica, the Caribbean offers nearly every surf setting imaginable. All of them are accessible to tourists who don't mind doing some exploring.
Barbados is known for hosting people from all over the world for surf contests and conventions. On the northwestern point of Barbados lies Duppies, a surf beach known for its easygoing atmosphere, small crowds, and local flair.
On the east coast, the Soup Bowl (near the town of Bathsheba) is busier and has hosted international longboard competitions. The south coast, where the Atlantic and Pacific meet, is home to Silver Sands Beach and Brian Talma, Barbados’ famous “Action Man.” Talma’s DeAction Beach Shop is a great place to learn to surf (or kitesurf, or windsurf), as is Boosy’s Surf School on the aptly named Surfer’s Bay.
Costa Rica has some of the best waves in the Caribbean, especially in Puerto Viejo, located in the emerging tourist destination of Limon on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast. For surfers, it's well worth the long flight (and a long drive from the airport in San Jose) to experience this surfing mecca.
Veteran surfers flock to the Dominican Republic for its vast coastline (the longest in the Caribbean) and year-round waves. The southern part of the island is popular during spring and summer and winters and falls are best spent in the north, especially in the Puerto Plata and Cabarete area.
Another perk of the Dominican Republic is its diversity. It's great for standard longboard surfing, but also has locations that offer other surf-related recreation, such as La Boya (ideal for beginner-to-advanced shortboarding).
Jamaica is perfect for the beginner. Not only are there a plethora of Jamaican surf camps dotted along the coast, but the waters are typically calm enough to try it on your own.
Although not particularly known for its surf scene, Jamaica has a few places to catch some seriously sick swells. The famous Zoo break in Bulls Bay was wiped out by a hurricane in 2004, but there are plenty of alternatives in the Kingston area, such as the Lighthouse near the airport and Makka in the town of Yallah.
If you want a more tourist-friendly atmosphere, Boston Bay—the birthplace of Jamaican jerk cooking—is one of the oldest surfing spots on the island and well worth a visit.
For U.S. citizens, Puerto Rico is the most easily accessible surfer's island because it's a U.S. territory and no passport is required. Puerto Rico has hundreds of reefs, points, and beaches for surfing, making it a great place for family travel, especially because it is a densely populated tourist area.
The east coast towns of Aguadilla and Rincon are the most popular destinations for surfers. Rincon has some of the biggest and best waves in the Caribbean and is home to the acclaimed Rincon Surf School.