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Places to Watch Big Hawaii Surf on Your Hawaii Trip

We are pretty sure that those who narrowly missed the insane asylum are busy out there, balancing on boards somewhere in far flung Hawaii.

Really, big wave surfers are either the superheroes, or the super nut-jobs of this world. Surfers on a good day are easily a bizarre set of people. These are the people who will squeeze every orifice into neoprene, urinate inside said neoprene to keep warm and then spend weeks picking sand granules out of their bum cracks.

But then, roll into the mix that some these people are choosing to paddle out into waves that are easily the size of a five story building – and you start to question sanity. Fifty foot waves.  They will make you do more than wee in your wetsuit. This is surf that goes off louder than bombs, that will beat you to a bloody pulp and, if you get one foot wrong – you are history.

Hawaii draws in the big Hawaii surf crowd – it’s a consistent powerhouse of pure liquid gold. Anyone who takes a trip to Hawaii shouldn’t get back on the plane without witnessing the fury and drama of ant-sized mortals trying to tackle and tame these monsters.

Take a peek at the best spots to catch the big wave show, from the safety of the sands, on your Hawaii all-inclusive patch of paradise…

Waimea Bay, Oahu for Those Who Laugh in the Face of Death

Waimea Bay, North Shore, HI

One of the most famous Hawaii surf spots in the whole of Hawaii, even the mention of Waimea Bay should be enough to make you weak in the knees, once you have seen the glory. It’s among the best beaches in Hawaii.

If the beaches of Hawaii were churches, then Waimea Bay knows how to throw down the best sermon. There is something holy about watching fifty foot rollers pound the shore, time and time again. You suddenly strike that uncomfortable feeling, deep inside, of how helpless you can be in the face of Mother Nature.

While Waimea Bay may not boast the biggest waves in the world, it is one of the original big wave spots that made legends out of surfers like Greg Noll. In short, it’s a must-see for a Hawaiian vacation steeped in history. If you don’t know why Greg Noll is so awesome, then now is the time to have an opening in your life…and who doesn’t want a big wave hero whose nickname was the Bull???

Jaws, Maui for Those Who Want to Tame Mighty Beasts

MAUI, HI - JANUARY 16 2016: Professional surfer Tyler Larronde rides a giant wave at the legendary big wave surf break known as "Jaws" on one the largest swells of the year.

Spielberg, eat your heart out. If you thought a snapping giant fish was scary, just wait until you feast your eyes upon the mighty beast that is Jaws.

The real name of this picture perfect Maui spot is actually Pe’ahi, which sounds a lot more poetic than the nickname. But, make no mistake, Jaws lives up to its label…it is a seething pot of giant thunderous surf, white water that gobbles up everything in sight and only a handful of daredevils paddling for their lives.

Lining the shoreline, spectators stand with beers in hand, mouths agape, as they watch the wild surf chew and spit out everything in sight. A Jet Ski pulls the hardiest of surfers to the take off. The whole thing leaves you with a strange mixture of butterflies and flat out terror.

Jaws is renowned for having churned up one of the biggest waves ever surfed. On January 15th 2016, Aaron Gold paddled for his life and caught the epic 40-60-footer. If you are still unsure as to why this would have the world spitting feathers, then check out the video…

Hanalei Bay, Kauai for Those Who Know That Danger Sometimes Sneaks Up

Hanalei Bay, Kaui

Big Wednesday seems to roll in just about every day, at the charming Hanalei Bay. The Garden Island of Kauai seems to be infamous for its chilled Hawaii trips, boasting an endless gauze of green, fragrant flowers and beauty beyond belief.

Yet, stand on the North Shore of the island, in the right conditions, and thirty footers will peel towards you, leaving you soaking in the fear of god almost as bad as cage diving with sharks.

The most infamous spots are aptly called Cannons and Kauai Pipeline. Cannons goes off like a rocket and Pipeline does exactly what it says on the tin – provides beautiful, big and busty barrels for world glass surfers to slide around.

Novices, and even those who think they are comfortable in big sets, should steer clear of these spots. Some areas around Hanalei Bay have a tendency to tempt you in with small giggly peelers and an aura of calmness. Then, after 20 minutes, the whole bay can be going off with close-out sets, sending everyone paddling back to shore and clutching flailing surfboards for dear life.

If you want to catch the big rumbly surf that marks Hanalei on the map for big swell surfers, then head to these shores in the winter.

Pipeline, Oahu for Those Who Know Not That All Monsters Come Supersized

Haleiwa, HI, USA - January 17, 2013 : Shot at Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu

This may not be hailed as one of the biggest wave locations in the world, but it does have a reputation for being one of the deadliest, which is way scarier if you ask us!

Pipeline has snagged the lives of more people than any other surf spot in the world. It’s that gut wrenching mix of pounding waves breaking right on the shoreline, jagged, razor sharp coral and incredibly hollow right and lefts.

Those who manage to catch a ride on pipeline are immortalized in the surfing world, but everyone should remember that this isn’t a wave to be tamed or even understood. It’s a wave to be worried about. Despite its incredibly raw reputation, it’s a break that is often crowded. You don’t go to Pipeline to see a monster wave, you go to stare death in the face.

Still, watching someone catch these impeccable waves leaves you breathless (especially from the viewpoint of parasailing in Waikiki), hanging on by a thread of hope that they make it out the other side. This experience is a far cry from those Hawaii holidays of just chilling on the sand and drinking Mai Tais. This is the other side to island life.


  • Elizabeth L

    Aloha! I’m Elizabeth L. At LiveYourAloha, I am responsible for writing about sightseeing tours and Hawaiian culture. For the last 12 years, I’ve been working as a tour guide in Hawaii. It’s been a great way to see the world and learn about new cultures. I love nature and the outdoors, and have even climbed two of the world’s highest peaks! Making connections and showing my visitors the incredible beauty of these beautiful islands is a passion of mine. When I’m not out giving tours, you’ll likely find me on an invigorating hike or enjoying local cuisine on the beach.