5 of the Best Surf Spots in South East Asia
Southeast Asia seems like a rite of passage destination for most twenty-somethings these days, whether it be on a pre or post Uni gap year travel around Indo China, or for an extended break to Thailand. The amazing weather, top class nightlife and incredible value for money once you’re there are the key draws, but it’s also a ripe destination for a surf trip.
While Thailand doesn’t have many great spots, it does have a few on the west coast, and if you’re going for a prolonged trip it’s possible to head elsewhere. If you’re planning a trip to Southeast Asia and want to get on your board while you’re out there, then check out this guide on some of the top spots.
[part title="Bai Dai Beach, Nha Trang, Vietnam"]
Nha Trang is the hangout of Vietnamese celebrities, and a serious backpacker stop off for those zipping up or down Vietnam's east coast.
The best surf spot is at Bai Dai Beach, some 20km south of the city. Still, if you're staying in Nha Trang proper, transport there should be less than $5, and you can rent a wide range of boards (including paddle boards) at The Shack Surf School for about $10 an hour. Private lessons with an English speaking instructors costs more like $25 an hour.
Bai Dai is Vietnam's longest beach (the secret's in the translation of the name), and underdeveloped, so you'll find plenty of secluded spots to surf. The surf is best through the Winter.
Find out more about Nha Trang Surfing.
Surfing in Vietnam Video:
Cambodia is a fascinatingly divided country - the cities of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are polar opposites of past glories and recent tragedies - and it's a highly recommended stop off given it's quite easy to reach from Bangkok. Many visitors to the country head to Sihanoukville for the Cambodian style beach break on the Gulf of Thailand.
The premiere surf spot is at Bamboo Island, about a 25-30 minute boat ride from Sihanoukville. It's one of the more secluded beaches in the area, particularly for surfing, and there is no board rental here. Still, if you're itching for surf and it's the right time of year, you can head over from the mainland quite easily.
It's best to go in the rainy season (June - October) as there are monsoon swells. During the rest of the year the exposed beach break doesn't always work so you might want to head to another of our recommended places.
[part title="Kata Beach, Phuket, Thailand"]
Phuket is one of Thailand’s most accessible tourist destinations, with direct flights from UK airports. It’s also home to one of the seediest places outside of Bangkok in the form of Patong Beach. That's possibly worth a day or two if downing rum in strip bars are your kind of thing, otherwise you’ll want to head slightly further south to the beach at Karon.
It’s a chilled out town, with not a whole lot happening in the evening, but the waves can get pretty rough. Last time I went there weren’t really any beginner boards to hire, so unless your pretty decent even standing up on the rough swell can be a challenge.
Unfortunately, the rest of Thailand isn’t great for surfing, so if you’re heading down to Krabi or Phuket and want to catch some waves, then this is your best bet.
[part title="Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia"]
At over two miles long and with the backdrop of the biggest party town in Bali, Kuta Beach is actually a pretty good place to surf. It may not look perfectly enticing due to the dark water, caused by the black sand beach, but the waves here rival some of the best beach breaks in the world.
It can get a little busy with tourists in front of the main town, but just walk a few hundred yards and you can find a peak to yourself. If you're new to the sport, there are plenty of good surf schools, and the waves are never too big to get a start. Getting in the water is also a perfect way to wash off the inevitable hangover from a big night out in town.
Kuta, Bali Surfing Video:
[part title="Cloud 9, Siargao Island, Phillipines"]
The Phillipines is slightly off the standard backpacker trail, but given you can get a flight from Bangkok to Manila for $100, it seems a shame not to visit if you're on an extended break. Far more untouched that Thailand, the country boasts some of the world's richest and undiscovered beaches, as well as incredible surf.
The most famous surf destination is Siargao Island, accessible via a $45 flight from Manila or Cebu. Here you'll find the legendary Cloud 9 famous for thick hollow tube waves. It's also home to the the annual Siargao Cup, a domestic and international surfing competition.
While it's a challenge to get to if you're just aiming to stop off in Indo China, Cloud 9 offers one of the best breaks in South East Asia. It's also incredibly affordable for beginners - instructors come in at less than $10 an hour, and it's not a whole lot more for whole day board rental.