Last Updated on October 26, 2023
With over 1,700 miles (2,800km) of coastline and two oceans meeting at Cape Point near Cape Town, South Africa is a surfer’s paradise, and in addition to great waves, it has enough attractions to offer to keep you busy for months: city life along the coast in vibrant metropoles like Cape Town and Durban, incredible wildlife ranging from whale watching to the ‘Big Five’ in the National Parks, stunning landscapes that beg to be explored, and famous sights like Table Mountain or the Garden Route.
Plus, South Africa is still much more affordable than popular surf spots such as California, Hawaii or Australia. You can get world-class tourist experiences for less than ZAR200 (US$16), for example wine tastings for as little as ZAR50 (US$4) or a visit to the 20,000 penguins at Boulder Beach for ZAR60 (US$5). For more ideas what to do in South Africa beyond surfing, here is a list of 10 Things to Do in Cape Town for Under R200. Read on to find out what the top five surf spots between Cape Town and Durban are, when is the best time to surf and other things you need to know before you go:
Quick Guide to Surfing in South Africa
Top Five Surf Spots in South Africa
- Cape Town
- Plettenburg Bay and the Garden Route
- Jeffrey’s Bay
- Coffee Bay
Cape Town has several famous surf beaches, but Muizenberg is probably the most popular one for beginners and long boarders. There are ten beaches around Cape Town that are worth checking out, all very different in their conditions – you can find a full list of them here, including who they are best for. The best time for surfing around the Cape is in the winter months – June, July and August – with strong swells and yet warm water temperatures.
Plettenberg, often only referred to as ‘Plett’, is famous for its long sandy beaches and the beautiful 20 kilometer coastline of the city has caused many South Africans to buy summer residencies here. There are several surf beaches to choose from, with up to 12-foot waves. Plett is also home to South Africa’s best known wedge wave, making it a bodyboarder’s paradise.
Plett is part of the Garden Route, a 156 miles (250km) stretch of coast along the south eastern side of South Africa, from Storms River in the Eastern Cape to Mossel Bay in the Western Cape. As the name indicates, it covers an area of outstanding natural floral beauty thanks to a mild climate where temperatures never drop below 10°C, and rarely climb over 28°C in the summer. This makes the Garden Route popular for hikers and other nature-related tourism, but surfers love this area because of its many right point breaks and the ability to combine surfing with wildlife excursions, hikes and other activities.
Other popular surf spots along the Garden Route are: Mossel Bay, Still Bay, Knysna and Victoria Bay, one of the most famous surf spots in all of South Africa, thanks to its stunning long wave and most consistent right point break (300meters) along the Garden Route.
Jeffrey’s Bay, or short just ‘J Bay’, is often named as the absolute best surf spot in South Africa, even though the town itself isn’t the prettiest place. It belongs to a number of popular surfing bays along the Cape south coast (east of Cape Agulhas). The other bays are Stil Bay, St Francis, Mossel and Algoa-Port Elizabeth, all of which are worth a surf if you’ve got the time to stop there.
Tiny Coffee Bay (population: 258 people) sits on South Africa’s Wild Coast, 250 kilometers south of Durban. Coffee Bay is a hot spot for beginners, since waters here are warm and prices for surfing lessons are a fraction of what they are along the Garden Route or in Cape Town. The chilled vibe of the small town and the tight-knit surfing community make this a place where some surfers end up spending weeks in!
Looking at the density of surfers in Durban, one can say that Durban has become the unofficial surf capital of South Africa! The best time to surf here is between April and September, and the best waves can be found around Bluff Peninsula, along the 6-kilometer long Golden Mile, with Dairy Beach being the main surf beach. In addition to surfing, Durban is one of the most vibrant cities in South Africa, well worth exploring beyond the beaches. You can find some ideas on what to do in Durban in this article.
Other surf spots in South Africa
If you’d like to spend more time in South Africa, there are many more surf spots to check out! Some of the best ones include: Cape St Francis, Ballito, Strand, Elands Bay, Bluff, East London, Buffels Bay and Hout Bay.
What else to do in South Africa
Surfing is great, but there’s more to South Africa than just its stunning coastline. So if you are not strapped for time and would like to experience some of the attractions that are unique to the coastal area of South Africa, here are some additional ideas for what to see and do in South Africa:
- Go on a safari in the Garden Route Game Lodge
- Go cage shark diving in Mossel Bay
- Go whale watching at the Eastern Cape
- Visit the ostrich capital of South Africa, Oudtshoorn
- Visit the Elephant Park in Knysna and feed elephant orphans
- Climb Table Mountain in Cape Town
How to get to South Africa
The best cities to fly into are Cape Town or Durban. Ideally, you’d fly into one of the two, and out of the other, and check out all the best surf spots between those two cities.
How to get around in South Africa
The best way to get around is by car. The scenery is absolutely spectacular, with views over the rugged coastline and mountains rising right alongside the cliffs and beaches. It’s actually one of the best ways to travel South Africa on a budget! WikiTravel has a comprehensive overview on driving in South Africa, plus information on public buses and trains.
Rates for a rental car at Cape Town Airport start at US$12/ ZAR150 per day.
When to go surfing in South Africa
South Africa is a good surf spot year-round, but during the summer season (December – February) beaches can get pretty crowded, plus the swell is bigger the rest of the year, especially between March and September (on average 6-15ft / 2-5 meter swells).