Home > California, favorite, travel, United States > Top 5 Southern California surf spots for beginners

Top 5 Southern California surf spots for beginners

Welcome to surfing!

Easy waves, chill locals and absent sea creatures make these spots ideal for kooks (beginning surfers).

Old Man’s at San Onofre State Beach, San Onofre: Low, slow-breaking peaks and paternal locals make Old Man’s at San Onofre Beach a perfect spot to learn to surf. There’s always someone on a ukelele starting an impromptu hula session.

The Vibe: Tailgate luau

Fees: $15 per vehicle. $35-60 per night if you camp on the campgrounds.

Call park for hours.


830 Cristianitos Road
San Clemente, CA

Bolsa Chica State Beach, Huntington Beach: You may find yourself fishing and hiking rather than learning to surf at Bolsa Chica. The hiking and biking trail follows along the Ecological Reserve and is a favorite with bird watchers. Soft, easy surf provides easy waves to learn on. Afterward, catch grunions (sardine-like fish found only in Southern Cal) with your bare hands.

The Vibe: Eco-friendly

Fees: $15 per vehicle. $35-60 per night if you camp on the campgrounds.

6am-10pm, daily


Pacific Coast Highway between Golden West Street and Warner Avenue

Huntington Beach, CA

Doheny State Beach, Dana Point: It’s won Orange County Register’s Peoples Choice for Best Camping Site 17 years in a row. The campground sells out 7 months ahead for summer so reserve early. The waves are a mellow 2-3 feet with stronger swells about 100 yards north for intermediate surfers. The kid-friendly vibe makes this the best place for your kid’s first wave.

The Vibe: Baby’s first wave

Fees: $15 per vehicle. $35-60 per night if you camp on the campgrounds.

6:00 am-10 pm, daily, year-round


25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive

Dana Point, CA

Mondos Beach, Ventura, CA: Consistent rolling waves and a sparse line-up during the week make Mondos an ideal spot for beginners, stand-up paddlers and longboarders trying to master toes on the nose. It does get crowded on the weekends but parking is free.

The Vibe: The get-along gang

Fees: none

The entrance to Mondos isn’t marked and getting there is word-of-mouth: Take 101 past Ventura, bear left through tunnel. Zero out the odometer when you exit the tunnel and go 3.4 miles. There will be a clearing between two rows of beach houses. That’s the entrance.

First Point at Surfrider Beach, Malibu: First, Second and Third Points are surf spots that are a combination of Malibu Lagoon and Surfrider Beaches. Getting to the Points is easier if you park at Surfrider. First Point’s waist high swells are ideal for beginners. It tends to be crowded but the guy next to you in line-up could be either a celebrity or a dolphin.

The Vibe: Down-to-earth famous

Fees: $3-10 per vehicle

310-457-9701 (surf report)

8am – sunset, daily

23050 Pacific Coast Highway

Malibu, CA

Additional Resources:

All state beach information can be found at www.parks.ca.gov.

Make campground reservations at Reserve America.

1-800-444-PARK (7275) or www.reserveamerica.com

Surfline.com has live surf cam, wave and water quality reports and more

  1. September 23, 2011 at 8:19 am

    I agree. Mondos in Ventura is an awesome place to learn to surf! Brings back good memories. For surfers that live further south I also like your San Onofre suggestion.

    Thanks for the article.


  2. January 4, 2012 at 6:36 am

    thanks for the infromation!!!!!!

  3. Pam Miller
    July 18, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Do NOT, NOT, NOT go to Malibu unless you’re an experienced surfer and are willing to show respect.

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