Best Surf Trip

From Cape Town to Durban, South Africa

Mar 13, 2012
Outside Magazine

The stunning 1,000-mile coastal drive between Cape Town and Durban offers more consistently uncrowded waves than anywhere else in the world. Why? Southern Ocean storms produce southwest waves that start as raw, monster swells in spots like Dungeons and Sunset Reef near Cape Town, then mellow out along the coast at Mossel and Victoria Bays, ultimately feeding one of the best right-hand point breaks in the world at Jeffrey’s Bay, 423 miles east of Cape Town. Past Jeffrey’s Bay, there are ridiculously empty spots, like Seal Point and East London, all the way to Durban. Rent a VW bus in Cape Town through Lekker Camper (standard two-berth bus from $80 per day), which will drop off the vehicle at the airport, then check in at Surf Zone on Big Bay for surf reports, shark reports (attacks are a real threat in places), and last-minute necessities. Before hitting the coast-hugging N2 Highway, have a beer on the Bikini Deck at the Brass Bell and watch surfers take on sketchy Kalk Bay Reef. Then stop wherever the waves look good. Roughly halfway up the coast at Jeffrey’s Bay, take a break from the van and rent a room at the African Perfection Lodge, a surfer’s hangout that overlooks the famed Supertubes and offers B&B rooms, self-catering digs, or an entire house (from $54 per person per night including breakfast). Splurge at die Walskipper for some of the best seafood in South Africa. In the unlikely event that you hit a bad day—hey, you’re in South Africa. Go see the Big Five. 

Pavones, Costa Rica
Pavones’s location—far down Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, a jostling two-hour drive from the nearest airstrip—keeps its waves uncrowded. Services in town are limited to a couple of mini-marts, a handful of guesthouses, a beach bar, and one glorious half-mile-long left surf break called Rio Claro. Though most surfers come between March and September, when South Pacific storms bring swells across the ocean, it’s rare that the surf falls below waist-high at Rio Claro or the half-dozen other point breaks in the area. Rent one of four artfully simple stucco cabinas at Rancho Cannatella ($25–$35 per person), run by a laid-back American surfer and his Costa Rican wife, who offer lessons on blissfully empty breaks.