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The Big Island does not have the variety of great surfing spots found on Oahu or Maui, but it does have decent waves and a thriving surf culture. Local kids and avid surfers frequent a number of places up and down the Kona and Kohala coasts of West Hawaii. Expect high surf in winter and much calmer activity during summer. The surf scene is much more active on the Kona side.
Honolii Cove. North of Hilo, this is the best surfing spot on the eastern side of the island. It hosts many exciting surf contests. Off Hwy. 19, near mile marker 4, Hilo.
Kahaluu Beach Park. Slightly north of this beach park and just past the calm lagoon filled with snorkelers, beginning and intermediate surfers can have a go at some nice waves. Alii Dr., Kailua-Kona.
Old Kona Airport Park. This park is a good place for catching wave action. A couple of the island's outfitters conduct surf lessons here, as the break is far away from potentially dangerous rocks and reefs. Kuakini Rd., Kailua-Kona.
Pine Trees. Also known as Kohanaiki, this community beach park is among the best places to catch waves. Keep in mind that it's a very popular local surf spot on an island where there aren't all that many surf spots, so be respectful. Off Hwy. 11, Kohanaiki entrance gate, about 2 miles south of Kona airport, Kailua-Kona.
Hawaii Lifeguard Surf Instructors. This family-owned, lifeguard-certified school helps novices become wave riders and offers tours that take more experienced riders to Kona's top surf spots. A 1½-hour introductory lesson has one instructor per three students. Private instruction is available as well. If the waves are on the smaller side, they convert to stand-up paddleboard lessons for the same prices as surfing. 75-5909 Alii Dr., Kailua-Kona, HI, 96740. 808/324–0442 or 808/936–7873. www.surflessonshawaii.com. $75 per person (group), $110 (private).
Ocean Eco Tours Surf School. Family owned and operated, Kona's oldest surf school emphasizes the basics and specializes in beginners. It's one of a handful of operators permitted to conduct business in Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, which gets waves even when other spots on the island are flat. All lessons are taught by certified instructors, and the school guarantees that you will surf. If you're hooked, sign up for a three-day package. There's an authentic soul surfer's vibe to these folks, and they are equally diehard about teaching you about the ocean and having you standing up riding waves on your first day. Honokohau Harbor, 74-425 Kealakehe Pkwy., Kailua-Kona, HI, 96740. 808/324–7873. www.oceanecotours.com. From $95 per person; $270 for three-day package.
Orchid Land Surf Shop. The shop has a wide variety of water sports and surf equipment for sale or rent. It stocks custom surfboards, body boards, and surf apparel. The staff also handles repairs. 262 Kamehameha Ave., Hilo, HI, 96720. 808/935–1533. www.orchidlandsurf.com.