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; some have become famous surf champions. Expect high surf in winter and much calmer activity during summer. The surf scene is much more active on the Kona side.

Equipment, Lessons, and Tours

Hawaii Lifeguard Surf Instructors. This family-owned, lifeguard-certified school helps novices become wave riders at Kahaluu Beach Park and offers lessons for more experienced riders at Kona's top surf spots. A two-hour introductory lesson has one instructor per two to four 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, Hawaii, 96740. 808/324–0442; 808/936–7873; From $75.

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 west side 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 this operation, and they are equally diehard about teaching you about the ocean and having you standing up riding waves on your first day. Group, private, and semiprivate lessons available. King Kam Hotel, 75-5660 Palani Rd., Suite 304, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, 96740. 808/324–7873; From $95.

Orchidland Surfboards & Surf Shop. On Big Island radio stations, you're likely to hear the familiar voice of shop owner and local surf legend Stan Lawrence delivering the daily surf reports. Around since the 1970s, his shop, located in the heart of Hilo's historic district, is a veritable testament to Big Island surfing, with surf culture/Hawaiiana on the walls, along with vintage boards, old photos, and plenty of stories. The shop offers custom surfboards, body boards, and other gear for sale or rent along with the latest surf apparel. 262 Kamehameha Ave., Hilo, Hawaii, 96720. 808/935–1533;