You know those videos you see of people riding waves, throwing hacks, and getting tubes for like a minute straight? There are waves out there where 1 single wave will provide the same amount of time standing up as every wave you’ve ever ridden in your whole life. From New Zealand to Bali to Costa Rica, after experiencing these places first hand, here is a guide to surfing 3 of the longest lefts in the world and what you should know about visiting these surf spots.
Table of Contents
Raglan, New Zealand
The Vibe: Kiwi’s are generally very friendly people. Raglan is a bit of oddity and the town is often populated with an equal ratio of tourists and locals. You will meet many nice travelers and locals while in Raglan.
The Wave: Endless Summer got I right, it truly is an utterly perfect wave. Speed, power, flow, and of course length are what make this wave so amazing. This is the ultimate performance wave. It’s not slow and mellow nor fast and hollow. The steep pocket makes for a carve-able face, or for less advanced surfers, a stokeworthy ride on the high line.
Related: Best Women’s Wetsuits for Surfing
Out of the water, both locals and tourists are very happy and stoked. But when it comes to the lineup, Manu Bay is competitive.
Localism is heavy in the lineups of Raglan, more so than even Trestles or Steamer Lane. While surfing there in February, comments like “Go back to California!” were spoken often enough for me to know not to cut someone off.
Locals just know the wave too damn well to give others a chance to think about turning on the wave of the day. If by some lucky chance a wave comes right to you, you better take it because you might not get another chance.
Unfortunately, as a tourist, you can’t complain and you should always be respectful to the locals. However taking note of this, you can’t hit the water without a little bit of competitiveness if you want to get a wave.
The Town: Luckily, the bad vibes stay in the water. Around town, people have a high quality of life and it shows in people’s friendliness. The town is surrounded by incredible nature like mountains, waterfalls, and forests.
Not only is the town cool hang out in, but it’s a foodie town too. There is a ton of accommodation to choose from. AirBnb’s in the area are really nice and pretty affordable. (PS click here and get $40 travel credit for you first AirBnb.) You can choose between staying closer to the break or closer to town. Either way, you will need a car to get around.
Who’s it good for:
- Experienced surfers who can handle an aggressive lineup
- Surfers who enjoy being surrounded by nature
- Surfers who like a small town feel (not a third-world village small town feel) and some infrastructure
- Surfers who want to enjoy good food and restaurants on their surf trip
Best time to visit: Year round
Most reliable surf report: Magic Seaweed
Related blog: 7 Things to do in Raglan
Pavones, Costa Rica
The Vibe: While Raglan is filled with tourists and localism because it is so accessible to traveling surfers, Pavones remains a hidden gem (so don’t go telling all your surf friends).
Getting to Pavones requires 6 hours of travel from the major airport, 1 of which is down a bumpy dirt road, AKA the filter. It’s due to this filter that Pavones remains relatively unheard of and the locals and few tourists who do know about it, want to keep it that way.
Pavones is not just an epic wave, but the jungle here is about as lush and raw as it gets—truly a “rich coast.” Pavones is a happy place for locals and visitors alike. Its the epitome of Pura Vida. It’s peaceful, rural, beautiful, and filled with an incredibly long left.
While Raglan’s lineup has an aggressive vibe, Pavones’s lineup is chill and stoked. The reason for this, I believe, is that the local surfers are just appreciative that even though it’s an epic waves, the crowds could be so much worse than they are. Due to “the filter,” the crowds have stayed low and only those who are willing to endure some lack of creature comforts (and the occasional scorpion in your room) get to surf the incredible wave of Pavones. This appreciative, respectful vibe leaves a wave for everyone.
Related blog: Why We Love Pavones
Unfortunately, Pavones isn’t going to stay hidden for long. In fact the 1 hour of dirt road I talked about used to be 3 hours of bumpy dirt road. Needless to say, this hidden gem is starting to be uncovered and if it weren’t already on the rise I wouldn’t be spilling the details and telling you all about it.
The Surf: While it’s not every day that Pavones delivers epic 30 second rides, it certainly happens often enough considering the crowd. The filter keeps the crowds low so you have a really good chance of getting waves every time you paddle out.
This is the ultimate wave for intermediate surfers, though advanced surfer will still have loads of fun here especially on a bigger swell. The wave really varies depending on the swell angle and size. More often than not, Pavones delivers an incredible peeling left with speed and power to make turns.
The How To: Pavones is accessed by dirt road and lies a stone’s throw from the Panama border. It’s not a rich town. The town consists of 2 markets, 1 tourist shop, and a few restaurants … that’s it.
Pavones is a retreat-style destination, where luxury and nightlife are not the focus. Visitors come for surfing, relaxation, and wildlife encounters, from scorpions to Scarlet Macaws and playful monkeys. Keep in mind the possibility of scorpion or snake sightings, but also enjoy the chance to spot fascinating creatures like sloths.
The most popular accommodation in the Pavones is the large resort called La Ponderosa. While this may be cool for those who don’t want ANY roughing it, retreat/hostel accommodation is much for fitting if you’re coming all the way to Pavones. The town has such rich jungle and nature that you won’t want to be stuck in a hotel room.
Casa Marea Alta is a personal favorite with private bungalows surrounded by insane nature and wildlife and has a shared kitchen making for a great community feel.
And even though we were super against the construction of Pavones Point condos, they are really nice and they’re with walking distance of the surf so they would be super cool to stay at too.
Who’s it good for:
- Surfers who just want to score epic waves and chill in a hammock
- Surfers who enjoy being surrounded by nature aaaaand scoring epic waves
- Surfers who are willing to drive way longer than other surf spot in Costa Rica because they want good waves and good vibes
- Surfers who like being surrounded by the Pura Vida spirit
Best time to visit: May – June
Most reliable surf report: Surfline
Related: How to Plan a Trip to Pavones
The Vibe: Medewi is a unique village even among Bali. Given the poverty of the town, it’s not surprising that there’s not much stoke in this village. However, people are still very friendly and will always smile and say hello to you. There is something admirable in the town’s ability to be content despite it’s lack of wealth.
They are welcoming to visitors unlike Raglan. However, since they do depend on the tourism for the money, you will often feel like you’re trying to be hustled into buying something.
The Surf: Medewi will be one of the most mind blowing waves you’ve ever ridden, but the crowd will shock you. This wave can get epic. 30 second rides are common. A sharp reef lined the ocean floor. And lefts peel across with speed and power.
Honestly, this wave is equivalent to Raglan but without the competitive, intense crowd.
On the other hand you will have to deal with surfing one of the world’s best waves alongside the biggest kooks ever.
Despite there being decent beachbreaks all along the coast, surf schools take out dozens of beginners a day and push them into waves right at the point. It’s completely mind boggling that the locals allow this.
It could be 6-8 foot and firing and surf schools are still going to be out there pushing people who have never surfed a day in their life into bombing 7 footers, cutting someone off in the process or worse, wiping out and having their huge foam boards flying all over the place and hitting people.
On top of that, when you’re not dealing with dodging the kooks, surf etiquette among the locals is practically unheard of. At famous breaks like Raglan and Trestles, surf etiquette is like the Bible. If there’s a rule for it, you follow. “Don’t you dare stand up on my wave if I’m closer to the point.” In Medewi, locals will cut you off without thinking they’re doing anything wrong.
I don’t know which is worse, Raglan’s aggressiveness or Medewi’s lack of etiquette. It’s not all bad though. Both of them are still worth visiting. If you time it right before the surf schools get out there and it’s working, the RIDE OF YOU LIFE is in store.
The How To: Medewi is not a town per-se…it’s a village. Medewi is nothing even close to Raglan. Medewi is a third world village that makes even Pavones look luxurious. This Muslim village is far west from the well known touristy areas of Bali, and this keeps the lineup moderately uncrowded, but without a flow of income from tourism it also keeps the town poor.
Accommodation mainly lies on one tiny street of hotels. If you stay at the more upscale hotels on this street and never leave, you would never know it’s a third world village.
Anything outside of that street experiences common water shutoffs and electric outages. Cooking your own food is ridiculous, there are no grocery stores and it’s cheaper to eat at Warungs anyway.
Because of this I don’t often recommend others to stay here long, a week at the most. However if you’re the kind of person who wants an intense cultural experience plus some epic waves on your surf trip, Medewi is for you.
Who’s it good for:
- Experienced travelers who want to see some new culture
- Intermediate surfers who want a long and fast but cruisey and easy wave
- Surfers on a tight budget and just want to surf some really good waves and don’t care very much about their accommodation or if you have a lot of money to spend, stay at Bombora overlooking the point.
Best time to visit: March – June
Most reliable surf report: Magic Seaweed
Tip: If you’re not necessarily seeking the worlds longest lefts, Canggu would be better than Medewi. Canguu had lots of really good waves that cater to the intermediate and advanced surfer and there’s much more infrastructure, nightlife, and it’s still cheap. The Best Place to Visit in Bali
We always recommend others to buy travel insurance for their surf trip in the case of injury before or during your trip. Travel insurance also covers airlines breaking your sports equipment which could be really helpful. Click here to read about the 4 times we made the dumb mistake of not getting travel insurance.
Got questions about surfing these 3 long lefts? Let us know in the comments!