San Diego, California, one of our top picks for a May surf trip

Pack Your Bags: Where To Take A Surf Trip This May

The month of May sees consistent swell both above and below the equator, making it the prime time for surf travel.

Ashtyn Douglas-Rosa

While once upon a time it was fashionable to chase that “Endless Summer”, what most surfers have discovered is that it’s the winter you should be chasing. Indeed, in the Southern Hemisphere, May through August is primetime — globally — for coastlines below the belt of the equator. And May? That’s the kickoff month for consistent swell.

Can surf spots north of “the belt” get good in May? Oh, absolutely. For example, the same swells hitting Fiji or New Zealand or Oaxaca make their way up to the southern shores of Hawaii or California — they’re just not quite as large. Which is kinda great news for most of us surfers not concerned with the XXL stuff.

Regardless, in comparison to peak Southern Hemi winter months, you’ll find May to have fewer crowds, high swell consistency, and–for the best surf spots in the cooler zones–warmer weather and water. Here are our Top 8 recommended surf trips for the month of May. Now: Go get some!

1. Sumbawa, Indonesia

Surfers looking at a righthand point in Sumbawa

Where to: East Sumbawa (Lakey Peak zone), West Sumbawa (Super Suck, Scar Reef, Yo-Yos)

Wave type: Mostly hollow, world-class reefbreaks with a few, slower pointbreak-style waves

Swell direction: Southwest

Average water temp: 29C (85F)

Difficulty level: Experts-only shallow lefts like Super Suck, waves like Lakey Peak for intermediate surfers, and softer fare like Nungas for beginner surfers

Marquee wave: Lakey Peak

May perks: Similar to Bali, Sumbawa’s west coast and east coast see fewer crowds in May than in peak months like June through August

Surf Indonesia
A hand-picked collection of the best surf trips in Indonesia — focused on authentic experiences found nowhere else.

2. Oaxaca, Mexico

surfers waiting for waves in the surf destination of oaxaca, mexico

Where to: Puerto Escondido, Barra de la Cruz, the righthand pointbreaks around Salina Cruz

Wave type: Thumping beach breaks and tubing righthand, sand-bottomed pointbreaks

Swell direction: South-Southwest

Average water temp: 28C (83F)

Difficulty level: There’s something for everyone in this part of Mexico. Puerto Escondido can get 5X overhead, but a mile up the beach is a great left that’s actually super friendly and smaller for beginners

Marquee Wave: Puerto Escondido

May Perks: The first south swells of the season really start kicking in during the month of May

Surf West Oaxaca
A hand-picked collection of the best surf trips in West Oaxaca — focused on authentic experiences found nowhere else.

3. North Island, New Zealand

Group of surfers at Manu Bay in Raglan, New Zealand at sunset

Where to: The left-hand pointbreaks around Raglan

Wave type: Long, consistent left pointbreaks with a few beach breaks in the mix

Swell direction: South-Southwest

Average water temp: 17C (63F)

Difficulty level: Unless it’s a super-strong swell, the lefts around Indicators and Manu Bay are good for intermediate-advanced surfers, with some waves like Whale Bay that are a little softer

Marquee wave: Indicators

May perks: While it’s the beginning of their winter, May isn’t quite so cold (both water and air temps). You’ll definitely still need a wetsuit, though

New Zealand Surfing Adventures
An adventure into one of the most diverse weather systems in the world, with winds and swells constantly changing. Explore New Zealand with a team that will ensure you make the most of the...

4. Fiji

Big lefhand tube in Fiji

Where to: Tavarua or Namotu islands

Wave type: Hollow reefbreaks

Swell direction: Southwest

Average water temp: 29C (85F)

Difficulty level: Intermediate to advanced level for the bigger reefbreaks, but there are a few easier reefs and beachbreaks that accommodate learners

Marquee wave: Cloudbreak

May perks:  Swells rolling through the South Pacific this time of year aren’t quite as large (or, XL) as the June-August big-wave swells can get

5. Portugal

An aerial view of two surfers riding a perfect A-frame wave in Ericeira, Portugal

Where to: Ericeira

Wave type: Mostly great beach break peaks, mixed with some slabs, reefbreaks and pointbreaks

Swell direction: West-Northwest

Average water temp: 16C (62F)

Difficulty level: Fun, learner, sand-bottomed waves for beginner surfers to more advanced right points like Coxos and everything between

Marquee wave: Coxos

May perks: Not as many monster winter swells, i.e., more sun, warm water, and funner-sized waves

Surf Portugal
A hand-picked collection of the best surf trips in Portugal — focused on authentic experiences found nowhere else.

6. Southern California

Jake Davis surfing the Southern California surf spot Trestles at Sunset

Where to: San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles County

Wave type: Beach breaks and pointbreaks

Swell direction: South-Southwest/West-Northwest

Average water temp: 18C (65F)

Difficulty level: The whole spectrum. Beginner-friendly waves around San Onofre, longboarding jewels like Malibu, to punchier beach breaks around Encinitas, Huntington Beach and San Clemente for more experienced surfers

Marquee wave: Lower Trestles

May perks: While California sees year-round waves, May is a great month to visit. Still combo swell possibilities this month, so surf breaks like Blacks in San Diego or El Porto in LA could also work

Surf Orange County
A hand-picked collection of the best surf trips in Orange County — focused on authentic experiences found nowhere else.

7. El Salvador (West)

Righthand point in El Salvador Photo by Ryan Craig

Where to: Punta Roca, El Zonte, Sunzal, K-61

Wave type: Some of the best waves in El Salvador are reef-bottomed righthand pointbreaks of all levels

Swell direction: South-Southwest

Average water temp: 28C (83F)

Difficulty level: Some fun beginner waves around El Zonte when smaller, but right-handers like Punta Roca are for the intermediate to advanced

Marquee wave: Punta Roca

May perks: Similar to Nicaragua, El Salvador in May sees the calm before the summer month crowds

Surf El Salvador
A hand-picked collection of the best surf trips in El Salvador — focused on authentic experiences found nowhere else.

8. Costa Rica (South)

The long lefthand point called Pavones in Costa Rica

Where to: Either side of the Golfo Dulce along the Pacific coast

Wave type: Long left pointbreaks (Pavones-side) and long right pointbreaks (Cabo Matapalo-side)

Swell direction: South-Southwest

Average water temp: 28C (83F)

Difficulty level: While both waves can get over double-overhead, normally, Pavones is an intermediate’s paradise with beginner sections at the end

Marquee wave: Pavones, about 23 km south of Playa Zancudoan

May perks: Waves like Pavones in the south seem to get a more favorable angle of swell in May, equating with a longer ride — at one of the longest lefts on earth.

Surf Costa Rica
A hand-picked collection of the best surf trips in Costa Rica — focused on authentic experiences found nowhere else.

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