20 Famous Places With the Biggest Waves in the World

The biggest waves in the world defy belief and showcase the raw power of Mother Nature. Here’s where to see (and surf) 20 of them.

Dramatic, awe-inspiring, and sometimes terrifying, the oceans have captured human imaginations for millennia. Their size and power are hard to fathom, but both are on full display when you see (or surf) the biggest waves in the world.

But where are they? Whether you’re chasing surf or simply love to witness the power of the seas, here are 20 locations around the world notorious for the size of their waves.

1. Margaret River, Australia

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Come for the waves, stay for the wine. Not only does Margaret River have some of the most beautiful waves in the Indian Ocean, but it also boasts a world-class wine region and several fantastic wineries.

The swell is top-notch. It even plays host to a leg of the World Surf League (WSL) World Championship. Expect waves up to 15 feet in the more turbulent Winter months. However, Margaret River’s positioning ensures remarkable surf all year round.

2. Pe’ahi, Maui

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The island of Maui in Hawaii might seem like a blissful beachy paradise, but a monster lurks in the waters. The surf spot of Pe’ahi on the Hawaiian North Shore has another name: Jaws.

This incredible surfing break is Maui’s most notorious and produces some crazy waves. These monsters can reach up to 60 feet in height! Head to the lookout on the Pe’ahi cliffs between early November and late March for one of the best places to see the biggest waves in the world.

3. Jeffreys Bay, South Africa

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Considered by many to be the best surfing spot in Africa, “J-Bay” sits right where the warm Indian Ocean meets the colder Atlantic Ocean.

This results in ideal conditions for giant waves. It plays host to the Supertubes, which is another stop on the WSL Championship Tour. It’s also an excellent spot to visit out of the water. The Kabeljous Nature Reserve is nearby, and there are other less tumultuous beaches to explore. You do have to watch out for sharks, though…

4. Mavericks, California

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Nestled in California’s popular Half Moon Bay area, Mavericks is one of the planet’s most feared and dangerous surfing destinations.

And with good reason, too! With waves that can reach up to 70 feet high, unpredictable swell, and sharks lurking about, this beast has claimed the lives of many surfers. Better, then, to enjoy the crashing water from a safe distance.

5. Belharra, France

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Right in France’s Southwest corner, deep in the Basque country, lies the charming and sleepy fishing town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. But, located 1.8 miles out to sea, the same can’t be said for one of Europe’s most legendary waves.

It emerges only under certain conditions and can only be reached with jet skis and a pro surfing team. If you time it right and get a good pair of binoculars, this majestic wave spot is as entrancing from the comfort of shore.

6. Puerto Escondido, Mexico

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“Mexico’s chillest surf town” is an excellent pick for a Summer holiday. Far less busy than Cancún or Playa del Carmen but equally as picturesque, this port town is frequented by people after a more relaxing break. And, of course, there are plenty of surfers.

The waves here are smaller – in the 10-foot range – but far more consistent. They break on the beach, making this a great place to see big waves close-up.

7. Cloudbreak, Fiji

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There is buried treasure off the coast of Tavarua island in Fiji: a giant submerged reef covering over 5000 square meters, perfect for throwing up epic waves.

The shape and orientation of this particular feature create ideal conditions for surfing. The long, barrel-like waves it produces are a hit with experienced surfers. Don’t let the calmer-looking seas lure you in, though. Massive 20-foot waves can appear out of nowhere in peak swell seasons.

8. Waimea Bay, Hawaii

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On the North shore of Oahu, Hawaii, Waimea Bay is a legendary surfing spot where daredevils have grappled with 30-foot titans since at least the 1950s.

Waimea Bay is one of the best places to watch some of the biggest waves in the world because it is a fully-fledged tourist destination. None of this jet-skiing out for miles to find the swell. Lounge on the beach with thousands of other holidaymakers and watch the spray fly.

The nearby Waimea River bursts its banks every Winter. As this time approaches, enterprising surf-chasers dig a path from the river to the sea to direct the water. The result is the Waimea River Wave, a stationary standing wave unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

9. Teahupo’o, Tahiti

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Another submerged reef lends surf and excitement to the Southwestern coast of Tahiti. The name loosely translates as “place of skulls,” and it’s apt. The so-called “heaviest wave in the world” is a deadly one that claimed the life of a pro surfer in 2000.

If that’s put you off getting too close, you’re in luck. Teahupo’o will host the surfing events for the 2024 Olympics, so you can observe these titanic walls of water through the TV screen.

10. Supertubos, Portugal

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Supertubos, found on the South side of Peniche, is a world-famous surf spot. Supertubos is a beach break – the waves peak close to the shore, making this a lovely place to lie on the sand and see some of the biggest waves in the world.

There are several pristine beaches, and the town has a great offering of food and nightlife. You can even use a live webcam to check the sea conditions before you arrive.

11. Mullaghmore Head, Ireland

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Mullaghmore Head’s towering cliffs and crashing seas are a sight to behold, like something from a Celtic legend. The surrounding headlands and quaint fishing towns are worth exploring at any time of year. But head down in the Winter to catch sight of the tremendous power of the ocean and the few surfers who brave it.

You wouldn’t know it from the picture, but the waves here can be 50-ft monsters. It’s also a much more colder location. The chilly Atlantic Ocean can fall to 46 Fahrenheit or below here.

12. Cortes Bank, California

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A barely submerged island in the North Pacific Ocean, Cortes Bank is a true sleeping giant. It will only produce under particular conditions. When the wind and swell are perfect, the forces of nature can create gargantuan waves up to 100 feet tall.

Located 110 miles off the coast of San Diego, this one is a challenge to access. Yet, in 2001, a secret mission called Project Neptune saw some of the world’s best surfers track down and ride this beast – one of the biggest ever surfed.

13. Trestles, California

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California is synonymous with the surfer aesthetic and nowhere captures this more than the collection of surfing spots known as Trestles. There’s such a long stretch of perfect water that it’s split into three waves: Uppers, Middles, and Lowers.

The latter is the only American stop on the WSL surfing tour and is such a renowned spot that it hosted 2023’s final. The waves are smaller next to some of the monsters on this list, but the water is beautifully glassy. The surf is so regular that the sight is almost hypnotizing.

14. The Cribbar, England

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Head down to Newquay on the Cornish coast to spot the biggest waves in the United Kingdom. The Cribbar’s name comes from the Cornish word “krib,” meaning “reef,” as the water breaks off a submerged reef that stretches from the shore.

Weather conditions must be spot-on for The Cribbar to roar into life, but when the forecast looks ideal, grab a spot at the lookout on Towan Head and settle in for the show.

15. Uluwatu, Bali

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The most famous surf spot in Bali, Uluwatu, is home to five distinct peaks, meaning there are waves to catch in various conditions. Combine this flexibility with the tropical scenery and beautiful resorts, and it’s no wonder Uluwatu is such a popular tourist spot.

You’ll find surfboard hire and surfing camps available for all experience levels, making this one big wave spot that everyone can enjoy. While not as immense as many on this list, the regular 8-footers feel more than big enough up close.

16. Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania

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One of the most dangerous and extreme surfing spots, the waves at Shipstern Bluff break over a nasty, jagged, barnacle-encrusted reef waiting to claim skin from unprepared surfers. And there are sharks, too.

In fact, Red Bull has twice hosted their “Cape Fear” event here. For the less risk-averse, hike through the stunning Tasman National Park to reach the remote cliffs. Your reward will be an epic view of the 30-foot behemoths crashing off the shore. The picture shows Cape Raoul, close to where you find this famous wave.

17. Dungeons, South Africa

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Cape Town is one of the best spots for surfing in Africa, and few places are more impressive than Dungeons. Named after a nearby colonial-era prison, the largest wave in South Africa takes no prisoners.

You can only get close to the monstrous waves with a jet ski, so the best viewing is from the top of the Sentinel, a peak that rises next to nearby Hout Bay. There’s a challenging hiking route up from the town, and it’s the perfect spot to watch surfers tackle this beast.

18. The Right, Australia

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Off the coast of Walpole in Western Australia, The Right generates some of the biggest waves in the world. Peaks can reach 20 feet, but The Right occasionally throws up some of the most colossal swells on the planet.

The exact location of The Right is a well-guarded secret to protect the surrounding environment. That makes Red Bull TV the best place for witnessing the excitement and the danger of this untameable beast.

19. Punta De Lobos, Chile

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Punta de Lobos is a popular coastal town just 3 hours from Santiago, Chile. The name translates to “point of wolves,” but the creatures it refers to are, in fact, the much less deadly sea lions that frequent the rocks.

Also seen in large numbers are surfers chasing the fast and hollow waves the area is famous for. Punta de Lobos provides consistent 10-foot waves to tackle. The area is a top surfing location in Chile, hosting several events throughout the year. Visitors can also enjoy whale-watching, hiking, and sunbathing when the surf gets too much.

20. Nazaré, Portugal

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Once a simple fishing town on Portugal’s Silver Coast, Nazaré was thrust into the spotlight when an American surfer named Garrett McNamara rode a 78-foot wave. This was a world record at the time.

Since his efforts, Nazaré’s Praia de Norte has become a veritable Mecca for thrill-seekers. An astonishing seven of the top ten biggest waves ever surfed were here. Big wave surfers have even singled out the location as the place where somebody will conquer the elusive 100-foot wave in the future. This new-found tourism buzz has made Nazaré a vibrant place to visit and an excellent choice for anyone seeking out the world’s biggest waves.

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Few sights on earth are as awe-inspiring as the biggest waves in the world. Indeed, many of these locations owe their fame to the sheer power of the waters around them. Whether surfing or simply curious, take a trip to any of these destinations for an unforgettable display from Mother Nature.


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Please note: Not every image portrays the wave location described.

Author: Simon Whitaker

Title: Writer & Editor

Expertise: Travel, Theatre, Gaming, Sports, Disney

Simon Whitaker is a freelance writer and copyeditor based in England. With one degree in Natural Sciences and another in Musical Theatre he considers himself a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, and his writing reflects his numerous hobbies and interests. Simon has been passionate about travel his entire life: From hurtling down alpine ski runs behind his Dad as a child to getting engaged in Singapore as an adult, he's collected a wealth of tips, tricks and recommendations that he loves to share.