Surf in South America: Where to Go for the Ultimate Waves
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Surf in South America: Where to Go for the Ultimate Waves

9 min read

Oct 9, 2014

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By Joseph Olson

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Last updated on October 29th, 2020 at 11:38 am

Best Surf in South America

Surf in South America is one of the most popular oceanic sports on the continent. Thousands of miles of coastline with picturesque beaches that receive waves from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The ideal climate that most of the continent enjoys for a majority of the year and all the ingredients are there for ideal surfing conditions.

Join us for a look at the six countries with the best surf in South America and the locations within each where you might like to shred it up someday soon! Whether you are seeking a guide to surfing in Chile, surfing in Peru, surfing in Ecuador, or surfing in Brazil, this list has you covered.

Surf in South America – Peru

waves on the coast of lima at sunset

Surfing is a very popular sport in Peru with a long and storied history. In fact, it is said that the origins of the very sport itself might have come from the Peruvian coast. For proof, you can take a Lima city tour to see the pre-Incan ceramics that feature surfing images. It also helps that Peru and Polynesia (the more commonly rumored birthplace of the sport) likely connected at an early point in time. Peru has a wave for everyone, from beginners to the most experienced riders.

Peru is a place where people of all classes and backgrounds can participate, thanks in large part to cheaper and more widely available equipment than in decades past.

Mancora

Located in the northwest corner of Peru along the great Pan-American Highway, Mancora is known for a lively party scene, and some pretty good surfing too. A town of less than 10,000, the citizens regularly welcome more than a quarter-million guests each year. As such, the town has a very large number of nightclubs and eateries per capita, as well as ample accommodations. It’s very hot from December to April and the sunny weather during the remainder of the calendar makes for good surfing year-round. This spot also features the largest left point break in the entire world!

Surf in South America – Ecuador

canoe at a remote beach in the galapagos

Ecuador is full of great surf spots. One of them is even located over 500 miles from the main shoreline (the Galapagos Islands). With over 2,200 miles of coastline, ideal surfing conditions can be found virtually year-round. Ecuador is also one of the more inexpensive surf locations on the continent compared to relatively more expensive beach destinations in Brazil and Chile. Be sure to pack a wetsuit just in case though. The Humboldt Current can drop water temperatures below the usual 68 to 75-degree waves that beaches typically enjoy.

Montañita

This small town has a big reputation for surfing. Located along the fabled Ruta del Sol, the typical surf season is November to April. Two-meter waves can be found from January through March. The town hosts an international competition during Carnival in February each year. Just as the name ‘route of the sun’ suggests, the surrounding areas offer nice waves, partying and relaxation, and lots of great little beaches.

Galapagos Islands

Go on a Galapagos Islands tour and you’ll see the research work of Charles Darwin and breathtaking wildlife like the giant tortoise. Surfing is not typically a large draw for Galapagos tourism. But this can be advantageous for the novice rider looking for some space to practice far away from the often crowded beaches of the mainland.

The island chain benefits from its location on the Equator by receiving waves from both the north and south Pacific. San Cristobal is the epicenter of island surfing here, which can be done year-round. November to March is ideal Ecuador weather for swells, with the full season running November through May.

Combine Ecuador and Peru for one fantastic surf adventure or check out other surf spots in Ecuador. These include Atacames, Punta Carnero, Salinas, Manta, and Playas.

Surf in Brazil

surfers in rio de janeiro

Anyone on a trip to Brazil can see that this is a massive country with thousands of miles of surfable coastline and swells. The ideal surf conditions come down from the North Atlantic and up from Antarctica. We will focus on the southern part of the country where conditions are the most consistent. There is less concern over shark attacks as compared to the northeastern portion of the country.

Santa Catarina

Santa Catarina and Florianopolis are known for their resounding beauty. This is where some of the best surfing in South America can be found. Similarly, the cities here are considered some of the most modern and livable in the country, rating high for safety, cleanliness, and organization.

Surfing was brought to Brazil in 1928 when an American pushed off from Copacabana Beach in search of swells. The sport took off in the southern regions during the 1970s and has remained extremely popular ever since.

Swells occur all year, with the true season running April to October. The region also plays host to a good number of professional competitions and events such as the ASP World Championship each April. There are a lot of beautiful Brazil beaches here. Many surfers can find their ideal spot to drop in and ride a few waves. Just ask around and locals will usually help direct you to the best beach based on your experience level. Combine a trip to Brazil’s beaches with Oktoberfest in nearby Blumenau.

Surf in Chile

arica chile landscape

With more than 3,000 miles of coastline, Chile is sure to have at least a couple of spots worth paddling out to. Surfing is nearly year-round in Chile, with the exception of the winter months of July and August. A wetsuit is a good idea just about anywhere you go. Water temperatures typically hover between the mid-’50s and low 60’s (F). Nevertheless, Chile attracts riders from all over the world thanks to consistent six-meter waves that can be found in multiple locations.

Arica

One might not expect to find great surfing on the edge of a desert, particularly the driest desert in the world (the Atacama). But that is exactly what the oasis of Arica offers in the form of a delightful little seaside town. This region has been inhabited for thousands of years now, but surfing didn’t really take hold until the 1970s.

Arica is home to Playa Gringo,  named for a large number of Americans looking for the best surf in South America. Arica is in an extremely remote part of the world, so plan your trip carefully to avoid spending too much time on the trek and more time on the board.

The good news is that your money goes a long way, compared to the rest of Chile, which tends to be one of the more expensive countries on the continent, but also one of the most modern. Combine a Chile tour with nearby UNESCO city Arequipa, Peru, or a classic tour of La Paz, Bolivia

Pichilemu

While it might not be the easiest paddle out around, Pichilemu and the surrounding spots will let you take advantage of consistent left points that can rise up to 2-meters. The national championship is taking place here. The region is one of the best places to surf in South America. It’s cold, and a wetsuit is pretty essential.

However, the wide variety of conditions that can be found here provide a wave for people of all skill levels. Pichilemu is a popular destination for Chileans from the big city of Santiago. Also, many locals surf regularly in addition to the usual stream of visiting riders. Combine Pichilemu with a nearby trip to Santiago or an Easter Island adventure.

Surf in Uruguay

the coast of uruguay

Despite a considerable lack of reputation, the Uruguayan coastline can offer good surf. For that reason, for beginners, it can be an ideal spot for surf in South America. Starting with Solis Grande in the West and running through Barra del Chuy on the border with Brazil to the East, at least 20 great surf locations with more than 80 breaks can be found. Thanks to its low profile, Uruguayan beaches usually don’t get too crowded with surfers. There are also plenty of things to do in Montevideo and other areas of Uruguay. Combine a surf trip to Uruguay with a day trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

La Paloma

This little fishing village with a relaxed vibe and expansive beaches sits in the middle of the stretch of surfable Uruguayan coastline. The town of fewer than 4,000 people sits on a peninsula that juts out from the coastline, making for a wide variety of surfing conditions. The peninsula has created two bays as well as the waves that wash ashore. The best surf happens from October to May here, with three specific locations providing for occasional two-meter waves. Just south of the peninsula is Zonja Honda, and to the north, you’ll find La Aguanda and El Desplayado.

Surf in Colombia

nuqui colombia

Last on our list for surf in South America is Colombia. Colombia might not be as well known for surfing as some of its neighbors. But it doesn’t mean that a decent swell can’t be found along its coastline. The country is rapidly emerging as one of the hottest travel destinations on the continent. Also, it offers some interesting spots for a surf trip in South America. The Colombian coast is divided into two parts.  South of the Panamanian divide, the Pacific Ocean washes up on the shores of Nuqui, our final stop in the surf scene of South American.

Nuquí

Known for fishing and livestock, this remote destination is capable of stirring up some decent swells. If you’re up for making this trek, be sure to do so between June to October. During this time, you have the chance to add a whale watching tour. This is the migratory time of year and the waters of the Pacific team with pods of massive whales. Nearby surf spots include the Playa Olímpica and Guachalito near Terquito beach.

Ready to Surf in South America?

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Last updated on October 29th, 2020 at 11:38 am

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