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Byron Bay, Raglan, Montanita, Mancora, Kuta and Taghazout – The Backpacking Surf Spot Showdown!

Having travelled and surfed around the globe I’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to find the ultimate backpacking surfing mecca – a place where rolling waves and beautiful beaches are complimented by cheap living, good vibes and amazing people.

At the moment there are 6 places which really stand out in my mind, 6 very different places  in very different parts of the world, but all of which I’ve spent prolonged periods of time at surfing and generally living the dream.

But how do they all shape up and which one suits you as a backpacking surfer? Well I thought I’d put them all together in a single post, tout their pros and cons and let you decide…


Byron Bay

surf travel byron bay australia
Byron – My Home Away From home

Location; Northern New South Wales, Australia

Situated in the surf filled coastline of Oz is Byron Bay – Byron Bay is a mecca for backpackers and surfers alike. Byron Bay is also the surf spot I’ve spent the most time in during my time on the road – and for good reason. Not only does it boast a whole variety of surf breaks for all levels of surfers and board types but the town is so laid back is almost horizontal.

With great weather and surf year round, a great hippy culture and heaps of live music it’s the perfect place to surf all day and party all night.

I’ve already mentioned the fact I think Byron is probably my perfect backpacking surf spot so I am slightly bias!

Alongside the amazing surf there are plenty of amazing things to do in Byron Bay too – from kayaking with dolphins to skydiving!

Surf; Point Breaks, Beach Breaks

Stand Out Spots; The Pass, The Wreck and Tallows

Level; All – from beginner to pros

Nightlife; Fully kitted up for backpackers!


Pros; Great weather, culture and a mixing pot for people from around the world. Consistent surf and good variety of surf spots

Cons; Australia is heaps expensive and in the summer Byron gets rammed, especially the main beaches and The Pass. When it fires the lineup boasts some shredding locals so you’ll be lucky to get a wave in!



surf travel raglan new zealand
Epic Lefts and Kiwi Hospitality

Location; North Island, New Zealand

About 2 hours drive south of Auckland lies Raglan, the sleepy beach side town which was put on the world surfing map in the Endless Summer 2.

The epically long left hander points wall up and are great for longboarders and shortboarders where as the black sand beach breaks offer up a few peaks for those looking for some fabled rights.

The town itself is pretty small and the locals are welcoming and easy going, with a few restaurants and the odd bar or two.

Life here revolves around the water – be it surfing, fishing or sailing and it’s the prefect place to kick back and loose track of time.


Surf; Point Breaks, Beach Breaks

Stand Out Spots; Manu Bay

Level; All – from beginner to pros

Nightlife; A few quiet local bars and one small backpacker bar


Pros; Quiet town and friendly locals. Much cheaper that it’s neighbour Australia and a bit more off the main backpacker trail for those seeking some rest bite. Goofy footed heaven!

Cons; Point breaks can get very crowded, and a small take off spot can result in a few frustrating sessions. Still not the cheapest place to base yourself. Can be a bit too quiet if you crave a bit more action, especially when the surf is flat. Chilly as hell in the winter!



surf travel montanita ecuador
Mojitos, Salsa and Board Short Surfs

Location; Southern Ecuador

I worked in Montanita for my first surf coaching job and I loved it there! The town is geared up for all the surf and fun of south america – with year round board short weather. The long beach has more than enough space to find some waves and the neighboring village of Olon is a quick taxi trip for those wanting something even more empty.

The iconic point serve up some awesome right handers whilst the numerous beach bars and clubs are geared up for a great post surf evening of mojitos, sunset and salsa dancing.


Surf; Point Break, Beach Break

Stand Out Spots; The Point

Level; All 

Nightlife; Heaps of beach bars, the infamous cocktail alley and a couple of fun nightclubs.


Pros; Cheap living, cheap drinking and amazing weather. Board shorts sessions year round and the local culture and food is incredible.

Cons; Shorter surfing season and is HEAPS busy during carnival weekend. Language barriers may be an issue for some people.



surf travel mancora peru
Long Lefts and Salsa Dancing!

Location; Northern Peru

A solid bus journey north from the capital of Lima lies Mancora, just below the Ecuadorian border. This area boats some of the longest left hand point breaks in the world and the one in Mancora has the bonus of a pretty forgiving sandy bottom.

As with all of south america the nightlife here is salsa driven and full of limb flailing fun. Backpacker accommodation wise Loki is the stand out place to stay if you want security, comfort and a spot slap on the ocean.


Surf; Point Break

Stand Out Spots; The Point

Level; More geared up to intermediate – advanced but smaller days are ok for beginners

Nightlife;  A good mixture of small bars and beach shacks


Pros; Good value for money, perfect for goofy footers, can handle a good range of swell size and lots of local culture.

Cons; Bit of a pain in the arse to get to (long bus journey from either Guayaquil in Ecuador or Lima in Peru), security can be a bit of an issue. Not a huge variety of nightlife. The locals can be pretty aggressive in the water so play it nice.



surf travel kuta bali indonesia
Bali – A Surfing Mecca and Right Of Passage

Location; Bali, Indonesia

Bali is a mecca and right of passage for any surfer and alot of people will find themselves in Kuta either at the start of their trip or as a base to explore to amazing breaks that litter the southern peninsula of Bali.

Kuta itself is a chaotic mash of mopeds, backpackers, surfers and beaches – but it’s a whole heap of good fun. Beginners can enjoy the calmer spots of Kuta Beach but the majority of spots around Kuta and heading south are a training ground for pros and those looking to really take their surfing the next level tackling razor sharp reefs, hollow tubes and some of the most awe inspiring surf on the planet


Surf; Beach Breaks, Reefs and Point Breaks

Stand Out Spots; Uluwatu, Padang, Airport Left (Kuta)

Level; Some beginners spots but mainly aimed at intermediate and advanced surfers

Nightlife; Whole array of beach bars, western bars and nightclubs


Pros; Cheap living and great variety for all levels of comfort and budget. Amazing local food and culture. Kuta itself is a great base to bounce around – whether it’s surf spots like Ulus or Padang or flat day exploring in Ubud. Great weather and world class surf spots.

Cons; Can get incredible heavy and busy in the surf. Kuta itself is pretty busy year round and can be very intense. Can be expensive to fly to if you’re not already in Asia.



surf travel taghazout morocco
Nicely Nestled in Northern Africa

Location; Southern Morocco

Another spot I’ve spent some serious time surf coaching at. Taghazout is a sleepy village about an hours drive north of Agadir where the heat of northern Africa combines with some amazing surf spots.

It’s probably the most spot rich destination I’ve travelled too – within 10mins drive of the town lies upwards of 15 spots covering all swell directions, skills level and stance. Whether it’s learning on Crocs Beach or pulling into barrels at the famous Anchor Point it’s got everything covered.

The bustling souks and local culture will satisfy the traveller in you and chowing down on a tasty tagine will keep you fuelled alongside a steaming cup of sweet mint tea.

It’s proximity to Europe and cheap flight paths make it a great getaway for a winter or for those wanting to be a bit closer to home.


Surf; Points, Beach Breaks and Reefs

Stand Out Spots; Anchor Point, Boilers

Level; All 

Nightlife; Taghazout is dry town so the partying is contained to the surf camps and roof terraces of your accommodation.


Pros; Easy to get to from Europe. Relatively cheap living costs. Abundance of surf and a long season. Winter weather is still sunny as. Heaps of local culture and flat day excursions.

Cons; Nightlife is non existent unless you’re at a surf camp. Moroccan culture can become a bit of a strain over long periods. Some spots (like Anchors) are pretty localised with some aggressive surfers.


And there you have it – my 6 favorite backpacking surf spots covering 4 continents and a whole variety of surf spots, cultures and skills levels.

It’s simply a case of picking where your preference lies – bit there’s something in there to pretty much cover any budget, style, surf level and travel plans!


Where in the world is your favorite backpacking surf spot – have you paddled out at any of mine? Feel free to share any hints and tips!

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