Tag - surfing

Best Beaches for Surfing

Man with surfboard on beach ready to go surfing

Guest post by Sabid Chowdhury

What makes a great Surfing Spot?

Every non-surfer might consider it’s absurd how surfers group unitedly struggling for the same waves despite having the whole coastline to pick from. With apparently endless distances of crashing waves, why do surfers want to sit within such vicinity? The sad truth is that the best beaches for surfing are not created equal.

Beaches located only a stone’s throw apart can have an immense variation in wave intensity and surfing quality because of different sea bed qualities and the direction the beaches are facing.

The difference between Whitewater and Green Waves

In surfing terminology, we distinguish between whitewater and green waves.

The whitewater refers to the foamy water racing towards the beach after the wave has already broken. This is the place for beginners to learn basic surfing in a safe setting. The whitewater allows you to easily catch momentum with the surfboard and practice your balance and “pop-up” – the process of going from laying to standing on the surfboard.

Green water waves refer to unbroken waves. These waves require more practice, understanding of correct positioning in the water, and well-timed pop-ups. While more difficult to catch, the green waves give more playroom for twists, turns, and enhanced speed.

Different types of Surf Breaks

The features of a given surf location define whether a surf spot has a beach break, a point break or a reef break.

Beach Breaks

A beach break is characterised by waves breaking near the beach. Usually the waves are created from sand bars and shallowing waters that put pressure on the incoming body of water, making it rise up and eventually break. The advantages of beach breaks are that they are usually easily accessible from the beach and the whitewater waves offer good conditions for beginners. However, beach breaks are less reliable as the sea floor changes over time and the waves can sometime break very abruptly, making it harder to catch the green waves.

Point Breaks

Point breaks are the least common among the three mentioned surf breaks. It’s all about the angles as the swell direction is not perpendicular to the shore line, but rather along it. This makes the waves roll and maintain their energy for much longer than regular beach breaks. Point breaks often create reliable waves and attract lots of skilled surfers.

Reef Breaks

Reef breaks are created by reefs under the water and can be far from the actual shore, often making them accessible only by boat or after a long paddle. Reef breaks can be stunning to surf, but they can also be dangerous because of the hard and often sharp coral rocks. Surfers have to be aware of the tide and wave size to avoid rough injuries.

Best Beaches for Surfing

Here is our list of four absolute top beaches for surfing:

Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia
Pavones, Costa Rica
Hossegor, France
Fistral Beach, England

Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia

Kuta Beach is a beach break placed on the western surface of the thin neck of the island. Kuta is considered the most famous beach area in Bali. Kuta Beach is just moments away from the international airport of Ngurah Rai.

Being once a quiet and simple fishing center, Kuta Beach has developed over the last 30 years into a buzzing melting pot of local and foreign tourists, bars, restaurants, shops, and hotels.

Still, Kuta Beach still manages to captivate thousands of guests all year due to its beauty. During the high season from July to August, Winter and New Year festivals, Kuta Beach is loaded with tourists, who are looking forward to a fun and affordable vacation in Bali. If you want to surf in Kuta, expect to share the waves with the crowd. Head to Uluwatu, Medewi, and Keramas for less crowds, although Bali will always have a good number of surfers chasing waves.

Pavones, Costa Rica

Surfers going to Pavones pray for a southwest swell for perfect surfing situations. If the swells are kicking in, Pavones is one of the greatest surf spots in the country. Pavones offers a fantastic left-hand wave that surfers can ride for almost 3 minutes. After a long ride like this, you may have traveled more than one kilometer. Pavones is arguably one of the greatest surfing spots on the planet.

Take a look at the beautiful point break of Pavones in this video:

Hossegor, France

Considered among the best beach breaks in the world, Hossegor is a playground for experienced surfers. You will catch a good wave here whichever period of the year you arrive in. Still, there is great variety according to the season.

In July and August, the swells are small and pleasant, but the best ways right off the beach will still be occupied with surfers. September and October is arguably the best time to go for surfing here.

At times Hossegor has strong currents and lots of wind, so check your local surf report before heading out.

Fistral Beach, England

Fistral Beach on the north coast of Cornwall is a UK favourite, and a lot of the British surfers you will encounter around the world will call this spot their home.

Fistral Beach hosts a range of international and national surfing contests, and for a beach break, Fistral is surprisingly reliable in producing excellent waves. section seperator

Cover photo by Alex King, Unsplash.

Surfing New Zealand: A Wave Lover’s Guide

surfer taking a barrel wave in New Zealand

Guest post by Harper Reid

New Zealand has a thriving surf culture. The country’s diverse range of beautiful beaches attracts both tourists and locals who travel around the country in search of pumping waves. You never have to travel very far to spot a great surf beach in New Zealand.

new zealand surfer sitting on surfboard waiting for a wave

Photo credits: Tim Marshall

There are plenty of amazing places to surf in both the North Island and the South Island, which are suitable for varying levels of experience. Here are a few of the best surfing beaches you’ll find in New Zealand.

Muriwai Beach

Muriwai show with surfing waves and island in horizonPhoto credits: Tim Marshall

Muriwai is a hugely popular surf spot in Auckland, especially in the summer months. The rugged coastline stretches a total of 60 kilometres, offering an abundance of peaks for surfers. On days of huge swell, Muriwai is best left to more experienced surfers. The location is also well known for its gannet colony, which is worth the trip in itself.

Kahutara Beach

sunset surfing in new zealands Kahutara beach

Photo credits: Coastal Sports

Located just outside of Kaikoura in the South Island, Kahutara is a point break that produces great surf in most seasons except for summer. As the Hikurangi Trench is situated not too far offshore from the coast, the swells come straight out of the deep water, often producing hollow waves.

Colac Bay

Colac Bay of New Zealand

Photo credits: LAWA

Colac Bay is situated in the southern region of the South Island. The exposed beach break has perfect surf conditions almost all year round, but it’s best surfed with a northeasterly wind. The surf here is suitable for all abilities.

St Clair Beach

St Clair beach Dunedin New Zealand

Photo credits: Mattinbgn

St Clair beach is one of the most popular beaches in the South Island. It has good-quality beach breaks and frequently produces hollow waves. It’s also home to a great surf school. The best part is, it’s situated in the convenient location of Dunedin. If you’re in the South Island for a surf holiday, the best option is to hire a rental car upon your arrival at Queenstown airport.


Surfer riding wave at Piha New Zealand

Photo credits: Tim Marshall

Piha has built a reputation as one of the best surf beaches in New Zealand. It’s not far from central Auckland, so it’s nice and easy to get to. This black sand beach has consistently powerful breaks, making it a must for experienced surfers. As the rips can be pretty strong, beginners are usually advised to go out with an instructor.

Manu Bay

Surfers at Manu bay in New Zealand

Manu Bay in Raglan has become a world-famous surfing area. It first gained international attention after being featured in the 1966 movie, “Endless Summer.” You’ll find some of the most consistent and most accessible left-hand breaks here. Perfect waves allow for some of the longest cruises you’ll ever experience, and are also a great environment to learn and train under expert guidance if you’ve never surfed before. Apart from surfing, Raglan also offers opportunities for kayaking, hiking, and caving – making it the perfect place for an extended holiday.

Te Arai Point

Te Arai beach in New Zealand

Photo credits: Visit Wellsford

Te Arai Point is one of Auckland’s most beautiful beaches. Thanks to its consistent waves, the Point is a popular surf spot amongst locals. Along the beach, there are various peaks to choose from with both right and left-handers. This long stretch of beach is usually much less crowded than its neighbouring beaches like Pakiri and Mangawhai, so you can enjoy a peaceful surfing experience here.

Shipwreck Bay

Shipwreck Bay surfing spot in New Zealand's Ahipara

Photo credits: Pablo Garbarino

Shipwreck Bay is well known amongst NZ surfers for its long rides. You can almost guarantee excellent surf here on any given day. But on a really good day, you can sometimes enjoy a ride for as long as 3 minutes. Shipwreck Bay is located near the northern town of Ahipara, where there are a couple of great camping grounds, and some small B&Bs and budget lodges.

Surfing New Zealand Map section seperator

The only thing Harper loves more than travel adventures is writing about them. In the past, she has collaborated with travel and hospitality sites such as Tanoa Dateline.

Discover more of Harper’s work on Tumblr.

Harper Reid section seperator

Want to check out more surfing destinations? How about our Ghana beach guide presenting you with Ghana’s best surfing beaches. Stay tuned for more surfing guides.

Cover photo credits: Jeremy Bishop

Goa’s Beaches – Shattered Images & 10 Lessons Learned

Overview of one of Goa's Beaches, Small Vagator Beach, India.
Heading to Goa’s beaches, I was loaded with images and expectations of what was to come

Whenever I thought of Goa, I would picture trance music and neon disco lights. I would think of beaches full of international neo-hippies exploring their minds through yoga and meditation during daytime and through”magic mushrooms” during nighttime. The beaches – I expected them to be okay, but perhaps not too clean. Locals? Probably some tourism industry employees and middle-class youngsters joining the party.

Oh my Ganesha that image would soon be shattered

Our sleeper bus arrived in North Goa at Mapusa Bus Stand early morning. Calling it a sleeper bus is actually a stretch. There are nice and relatively spacious beds, but forget about the sleeping part. The road was bumpy, the driver was imitating a wild car chase, and when he hit the brakes, we would all slide feet first towards the front of the bus. From the bus station we wanted to rent motorbikes and aim straight for the beach. My embarrassingly long list of shattered assumptions of Goa started somewhere between the last footstep on the bus (left foot) and the first landing of my right foot on the asphalt.

Goa Lesson #1: No “helpful” crowds

Those scammers, touts, thieves, beggars, and Saddhus with magical powers all waiting for a bite of you as soon as you step off the bus – they weren’t there. We stepped out of the bus and into a calm morning. People were still only half awake and took no notice of us. We almost had to beg the motorcycle rental shops to open up and do business with us. This was a welcoming experience though, as we had braced ourselves for crowds of people wanting to share advice and sell us tours, transfers, and food.

Mapusa Bus Stand in Goa showing a little Indian shop and tea stall with plastic stools

A quiet arrival in Goa

We headed for the beach, first on bigger roads, then turning to smaller village roads. On those first kilometres, a number of drivers coming from the opposite direction would flash their lights at us. I wasn’t sure if something was wrong with the bike or the way I rode it, or if this was just a local way of greeting a foreigner. I soon learned, it was because I was driving with my lights on during day time. In my home country it is required by law, in India it is just silly. Hence the friendly signal that I was wasting lights.

I soon ran into my second lesson. I thought we were heading for Goa Beach, well…

Goa Lesson #2: Goa is not just Goa

Goa is not a beach, Goa is an Indian state with a coastline spanning just over 100 km (63 mi). The coastline is a mix of rocky cliffs, small bays, and beach stretches. There are more than 30 named beaches, and just like the Southeast Asian beaches, each of them have different features, options, and clients – even the ones located next to each other. This map will give you an idea of the long stretch of Goa’s beaches. Not all of the beach sections are mentioned on the map, and there is overlap between many of Goa’s beaches, since some of them cover long stretches.

Detailed Map of Goa's Beaches

Goa’s Beaches – a lot to explore!

Map provided by

We passed through small Goan towns on our way to the beaches. Goa was a Portuguese colony up until 1961, and the influences are evident in the colourful houses, churches, and old forts. If it wasn’t for the urge to reach the sea, we would have stopped in every single village to take photos and take in the village atmosphere.

View from the Portuguese Reis Magos Church in Goa, India

View from the Reis Magos Church in Goa

The first stop was Small Vagator. It’s not a pre-historic dinosaur, but a beach also known as Ozran Beach. When we arrived there was a Bollywood film shooting going on at the beach. Something else grabbed my attention…

Goa Lesson #3: Free-roaming cows also enjoy beaches

There were cows walking freely on the beach. Quite an interesting sight. What you thought was your partner putting suncream on you, could be a cow licking the salt off your sweaty back.

Cow on the beach in Goa, India

It’s not uncommon to see beach cows in Goa

We decided to move further south and search for a place to spend the night. We went to Anjuna Beach, supposedly the second most popular of Goa’s beaches after Baga Beach. Arjuna beach is 3-4 km (2-3 mi) long and is actually divided into three sections. This is where the hippies of the 60s and 70s experimented with alternative lifestyles. Today, it is still the party centre of Goa, and the accommodation and markets bear witness to this era. We wanted to find accommodation for the evening and leave our belongings, so we followed the advice of a friend.

Goa Lesson #4: Anjuna is Goa’s best beach… for some people

Friends don’t always know what type of beach experience you are looking for, and friends are likely to have their own idea of a great beach. Being a mantra of, we should know. A friend had recommended Curlies in the south part of Anjuna Beach – part restaurant, part psychedelic party house, and part accommodation. We followed the advise, although the beach was not overly impressive and the place looked too big for our liking. To be honest, we didn’t like the place, but we were tired after a bumpy night, so lying down a bit before exploring was needed. The accommodation was dirt cheap, but even though we had paid for private rooms, we had to share with the rats that night.

We explored Anjuna Beach and had to stop at the fascinating Tantra Beach Shack & Huts, which is a great reminder of the free-spirited hippie days at Anjuna Beach. Here you can eat, sleep and forever chill in a section of their decorated wooden scaffolding type structure. You can rent a “scaffold cubicle” right beneath the stars and with open views to the sea. They provide you with loads of pillows, blankets, and curtains to close for privacy and shade. Here, you can fit in as many people as you like. Tantra is in one of the quieter sections of the beach, with the parties going on on either side some 2-300 metre away. The beach on this stretch was clean and the sea inviting.

The Quirky Tantra Beach Shack and Hut on Anjuna Beach in Goa.

The charming Tantra Beach Shack & Huts

We would have loved to stay here for a night, but we wanted to go further south the next days to explore the South Goan beaches. First we went to Baga Beach. Even in the morning, the sand was too warm to walk on without flip-flops. Baga Beach, we were told, is the most popular among Goa’s beaches. Even this low season morning there were many local Indians at the beach, and this turned out to be another surprise.

Goa Lesson #5: Indian’s like beaching

In general, there were far more Indians enjoying the Goa beaches than expected. I had assumed that because light skin color is of importance in India, people would tend to not swim in the sea. I also though that there could be certain perceptions that swimming in the sea was dirty, could bring about rashes, or that you could be bitten by something. These are perceptions that are rather wide-spread in Southeast Asia at least. What we met was mostly Indian visitors at the beach, playing in the waves, enjoying sunsets, and going parasailing (quite popular at most Goa beaches).

Indians at the beach in Goa, India.

Indians enjoying one of Goa’s Beaches

Baga Beach was rather dirty. There were a lot of old bottle caps, plastic pieces, cigarette buds etc. mixed into the sand, and we were frankly  a bit surprised that a lot of Indians had chosen this beach. It did have a number of restaurants directly on the beach, and the beach is very wide.

Beach chairs and beach umbrellas facing the sea at Baga Beach, India

Baga Beach – pick your spot

We jumped on our motorbikes and rode along a stretch of highway, then on small roads to reach the northern beaches of South Goa. Our first stop was Velsao Beach. The beach was wide with soft light brown sand. This was the first of several beaches, where the absence of beach resorts struck me.

Goa Lesson #6: Are you sure this is Goa?

Especially the beaches of South Goa has long stretches with few or no resorts on or near the beach. There are usually both resorts and people near the small roads leading down to the beach from the villages. But if you walk a few minutes away from these, you will often find yourself with ample space on the beach. I would have thought that by now, Goa would be plastered with resorts laying side by side from north to south. That is not the case. Some areas you can even get the feeling that you have the beach to yourself. Undoubtedly, the tourist season will affect this, but if a near empty beach is what you are looking for, just head to Goa in the low season (April to September), and avoid the 2-3 most popular beaches.

View of forest, beach, and sea on an empty stretch at Velsao Beach in Goa, India.

No resorts and no people – yes, this is Goa!

We went for a swim at Velsao Beach. From afar, the waves looked average size – the kind of waves that are fun to swim in for all ages because of a little thrill now and then. Once we got in, the waves and the forces of the currents seemed a lot stronger.

Goa Lesson #7: Brace yourself for those low season waves

You may have heard that Goa has no waves to speak of. If that’s the case, it is probably because your informants went to Goa during the high season months from november to february. We went in the low season, and the waves were awesome! Again and again the powerful waves knocked us off our feet and washed us towards the shore. If you want to avoid tumbling around inside a wave, the trick is to dive below the waves if they break in front of you. You can then swim further out beyond the line where the waves break and enjoy the calm waters, although you may have to keep yourself afloat since the water is deeper here. We decided to stay just where the waves break, so we could body surf on the waves. Exhausting but extremely fun. Interestingly, we did not find any surfboard or bodyboard rentals anywhere, so if I were a restaurant owner at one of these beaches, I would throw in a little board rental service to expand the business.

Big waves approaching and retracting on a beach in Goa during low season

Wonderful waves in Goa during low season!

Goa Lesson #8: Surfer kids only

The nature of the powerful low-season waves also means that bathing is not child-friendly on Goa’s beaches. At least not for young kids who are not trained in handling big waves. For surfer kids it’s paradise. Be aware though, that it gets deep quickly, and you can easily be thrown headfirst to the ground if you are not in control. So bathing for children should be under surveillance and only in shallow waters.

With wet swimwear fluttering from our backpacks, we continued south on the motorbikes. We asked for directions to the beach along the way, and ended up at Vaddy Beach. Several colorful fishing boats were decorating the wide beach.

Colorful boats on Vaddy Beach in Goa

Colorful boats on Vaddy Beach

We checked out a nice resort with circular bungalows, and almost ended up staying there. But we decided to investigate the area a little before making our final decision. We actually backtracked and went a little further north to Benaulim Beach. We were met by a small crowd of people looking at a parasailor. From our days in Goa we quickly found out that parasailing is a very popular activity. For around 10 USD you can get a parasailing experience.

Parasailing at Benaulim Beach in Goa, India. The parachute has the colors of the Indian flag.

Parasailing – a common sight on Goa’s beaches

We passed a few larger restaurants located near the entry road to the beach. A few hundred meters north along the beach we found our accommodation for the night. A simple bungalow resort with 8-9 bamboo huts laying directly on the beach. We reserved a couple of bungalows and went back to take our motorbikes. Blue Corner & Coco Huts was exactly what we were looking for. Simple, clean, cheap, a good restaurant, and a stunning location. Time for eating, beach chilling, fighting waves, and relaxing.

View from balcony of simple beach bungalow at Benaulim Beach in Goa, India.

Our view from the bungalow

Hyped up about our lovely accommodation and refreshed from a good night’s sleep, we continued our journey southward to Cavelossim Beach. As we had done before, we parked our motorbikes, and walked a few minutes down along the beach. Then we had a large beach stretch to ourselves with most other visitors staying near the parking area where there were a few shops and restaurants. But even though we were on a less populated stretch, we were within sight of the coast guards.

Goa Lesson #9: Watchtowers, beach cleaners, and beach flag warnings

With each new beach we visited it became apparent that even during low season, beaches are generally very well kept and serviced. Most beaches have coastguards watching out for visitor safety and setting up beach flags at proper intervals to inform guests of the sea conditions. Some but apparently not all beaches have beach clean up crews. Twice a day they walk the beach and pick up any garbage on the way. As a visitor this is great. Unfortunately cleaning the beach regularly is necessary if you don’t want it covered in sea debris.

Lifeguard watchtower on a Goan beach in India.

Lifeguard post on one of Goa’s Beaches

Coast lifeguard putting up a yellow flag signaling safe swimming conditions at one of Goa's beaches

Lifeguard putting up a yellow flag for safe swimming conditions

Indian beach cleaners in Goa walking along the beach while tidying and picking up garbage.

Beach cleaners making sure visitors can enjoy a clean beach

We had a few more days at the beach, and since we were so satisfied with our accommodation at Benaulim Beach, we stayed there the next couple of days, and followed a lesson we had learned along our southward journey from the beaches of northern Goa and down to South Goa.

Goa Lesson #10: South Goa is best

We had consistently been told that South Goa was the best. Our informants were locals, visitors, shop owners – everyone. Unless you are up for partying, the general conviction is that South Goa has the most beautiful beaches and the less crowded ones. Based on our short flirtation with Goa, we agree. South Goa impressed us. Nice villages with colorful reminders of the Portuguese era, welcoming and clean beaches with a good mix of people, and a fine selection of restaurants serving tasty local dishes.

Most importantly, South Goa got us sucked into the rhythm of beachlife which goes like this:
breakfast  chillax swim snack read  lunch  swim  chillax  dinner  sunset watching plus cocktails  sleep  and then repeat.

More on Goa?

If you are looking for a quick overview of Goa’s Beaches? Check out these resources:

If you want to learn what else Goa has to offer outside beaches, a great starting point is “Goa Beyond the Beaches” by

Discovering Beaches on Nias Island, Indonesia

A fisherman's beach hut on the south side of Wunga Island Lagoon off the west coast of Nias Island, Indonesia

Interview with Sustainable Tourism Advisor, Björn Svensson

Sustainable Tourism Advisor, Björn SvenssonToday we are lucky to be joined by a professional beach surveyor! Björn Svensson has an impressive career as a tourism professional. On his ongoing journey in the world of travel and tourism, so far he has worked as a diving instructor in the Maldives and Thailand; managed dive centers in Egypt and the Maldives; produced visual and textual material for a number of tourism companies; guided walking tours and expeditions in Australia and Antarctica; worked with multi-lingual services for tourists and expats in Spain and the Netherlands, designed new ecotourism products, and done training, planning, and mentoring along the way. With him, Björn carries his Canon camera, and his talents of capturing the moment and craft the best compositions has resulted in countless features in magazines, guide books, and promotional material. We could go on, but you get the picture.

Today, Björn is working with Australian Volunteers International as Sustainable Tourism Advisor at North Nias Tourism Department off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.

NIAS ISLAND, Indonesia
Area: 5,121 km² (1,977 sq. mi.)
Location: 125 km (78 mi.) off w. Sumatra
Population: 700,000+ “Nihas”
Language: Li Niha & Bahasa Indonesia
Capital: Gunung Sitoli
Highest Point: 886 m (2,907 ft.)
Weather: Hot and humid
Coastline: From rocky to sandy, big waves on Western shore

 A:  Björn Svensson

 Q:  First of all, thank you for joining us. You are our first featured guest, and we are very excited to have this opportunity to talk to you. Before this interview, you revealed to us that you survey beaches on North Nias – professionally! What does that entail? And do you need any help?

 A:  Thanks for having me! Perhaps I should start with explaining why there was a need for a beach survey in North Nias. Up until a few years ago North Nias was a very undeveloped and inaccessible area, even by Indonesian standards. In March 2005 there was a huge earthquake that apart from killing hundreds of people also completely ruined any existing infrastructure. The earthquake recovery highlighted how undeveloped the area was, and in a few years many organisations jointly managed to rebuilt and modernize the region so that it is now connected and in step with the rest of Indonesia. North Nias is still pretty poor and tourism was identified as a way to create jobs and stimulate the local economy. The local government asked Australia for help, and that’s how me and my wife came to be here.

Before starting to promote and develop North Nias for tourism we needed a basic understanding of what was there, an inventory of places that would be suitable for tourism. Our main priority was to survey the coast, as we figured the beaches and water sports would be the most important drawcard for people coming to Nias. During the earthquake the whole island was uplifted, in some places 2.5 meters. This changed the whole coastline; some beaches disappeared while in other places new ones were created. Because of this it was necessary to visit every part of the coastline to see for ourselves what the current situation was, hence the “Beach Survey”.

Google Earth was a great tool, but it can be deceptive. Beaches that look great on a satellite photo can turn out to be too gravelly or surrounded by a mosquito-infested swamp. It’s also important to visit a place more than once. We found one area of the coast that was stunningly beautiful (in March) but when we returned six months later huge waves were pounding the beaches and it was dangerous to go anywhere near the water. For every beach we filled out a survey sheet with detailed information about the site. Most importantly we gave each beach an assessment where we outlined in what way the location could be suitable for tourism development, or in some cases not suitable at all. Many factors play into this assessment; accessibility, distance from the airport, environment, cleanliness, local community and land ownership to name a few.

Using boat, motorbike and most of all, our own two feet, we covered the whole North Nias coastline. It was a tough job (lots of sand in my shoes), but someone had to do it! I lost all my camera gear once when I was swept off a rock by a huge wave. We also had a number of spills with the motorbike on the many small slippery tracks, but luckily no serious injuries. By the end of the survey I had a pretty good tan, having spent months walking up and down the coastline under the blazing sun.

In total we assessed 52 beaches, and we “found” several new really nice beaches that our office didn’t even know about. We combined the beach surveys with a list of potential natural and cultural tourism sites and compiled it into a report for the local government. Highlights of this report have also been shared with tourism industry stakeholders with an interest in North Nias.
The Survey of North Nias is now completed, but in 2015 we will continue with the rest of the Island. If travelers want to share their photos and information about beaches they’ve visited in Nias this would be most welcome!

Beaches around North Nias

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Photo credits: North Nias Tourism – Björn Svensson

 Q:  I can easily picture riding on small bumpy dirt roads and discovering new beaches appearing from the wilderness. What an amazing and challenging job – certainly not for the frail-hearted! Other than surveying beaches, could you briefly tell us about your current role and concrete tasks in developing tourism on North Nias?

 A:  An important part of my role is capacity building, improving the skills of my colleagues at the local tourism department. Part of that is formal training in things like tourism promotion which includes photography, social media and web stuff. On a more informal level, I spend a lot of time talking about various aspects of tourism. Many locals have never been off the Island and have very little understanding of what tourists would find attractive or interesting on Nias.

Sustainability is another huge thing. I am trying to emphasize the importance of keeping tourism attractions clean. As a part of that effort we have organised beach clean-ups and training for the people who are in charge of this. We engage with the rather few local people who are involved in tourism and try to help them in any way we can. Another part of our job is to assist tourism industry stakeholders who are interested in North Nias, for example by sharing information from the beach survey.

 Q:  You mentioned that many locals might not be aware what actually attracts tourists to Nias. What is exciting, beautiful, and exotic to visitors, is most likely just “normal” to locals. In your opinion, what makes North Nias special – could you give us your 5 best reasons to visit Nias?

 A:  Okay, here we go:

  1. Miles upon miles of undeveloped beaches.
  2. World class surfing and great snorkeling.
  3. Get away from the crowds and go somewhere slightly off the beaten path; experience how places like Phuket and Bali looked like 30 years ago.
  4. The amazing and distinctly unique culture.
  5. The genuinely friendly and welcoming people of Nias.

There are many reasons to visit North Nias!

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Photo credits: North Nias Tourism – Björn Svensson. See more inspiring images here.

 Q:  Sounds like Nias Island has a lot of the things we beachers are looking for in a beach destination. Where is North Nias today in regards to tourism development? Can you give a profile of the “typical” tourist coming to Nias island? What sort of products and experiences does the island currently offer?

 A:  North Nias is probably the part of Nias Island that gets least visitors. I would call it the step just before “pre-emerging destination”. To be honest the facilities are pretty basic up here, and the visitors who come are mostly adventurous surf travelers. People who are prepared to “rough it” just to have a great wave to themselves. But things are changing, there are both local and foreign projects underway, and I believe in the near future there will be some very interesting bungalows and lodge type accommodations up here.

90% of the tourists who come to Nias today are surfers. Most of them are experienced travelers who don’t mind the basic facilities. The lack of WiFi and good Café Lattes is not a problem for them. Many of them are “repeaters” who come back year after year, often staying with the same family. The surfers are great for the people near the surf waves, but they are not doing much for tourism elsewhere on the Island. There are so many things to do and places to see on Nias.

If you visit Nias you could base yourself at one of the surf-destinations. This is where there the guesthouses and tourist bungalows are located. One of the “Must-Do” things on Nias is visiting one of the traditional villages in the south. There are amazing traditional buildings and statues all over the island, but the most accessible and interesting can be found only 20 minutes from Sorake Beach. The largest village is actually nominated for world heritage listing – and deservedly so, it’s stunning! You can also explore the island by motorbike or a hire car. Stop for a swim on a beautiful beach, do some snorkeling or cool off in a waterfall. Many visitors also really enjoy the laid back vibe and rural scenery that can be seen travelling around on Nias. It’s a rare glimpse of remote Indonesia that very few visitors to other places would get to experience. I have heard several visitors compare it to Thailand 30 years ago.

 Q:  Which opportunities do you see in terms of developing North Nias into a successful and sustainable tourism destination? And just as important, what needs to happen in order to fulfill this goal?

 A:  It’s pretty clear that Nias has huge potential as a tourism destination. We have only scratched the surface of things to do and see here. Apart from your normal leisure beach holiday I see lots of opportunities for water sports, ecotourism and adventure activities here. Wellness tourism (yoga, spa, massage) is on the increase worldwide and Nias being a very natural place would be perfect for it.
Nias is very safe and socially stable. A majority of the population are very positive to Western visitors. There would be no issues with foreigners in swimwear having a beer on the beach. Everyone I meet is very positive to tourism development, both government and the community. I see this as an opportunity for Nias, as tourists increasingly consider safety and stability when making travel plans. Why would you go on holiday to a place where people don’t like you?

Because of recent infrastructure development, Nias is not remote anymore. Within two hours flight, you have Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and further afield Bangkok and Jakarta. Apart from overseas tourists there is a growing middle class in Southeast Asia plus a huge number of expats. These groups often travel locally and are always on the lookout for new interesting destinations. They also tend to be quite active, and they wouldn’t go to Nias just to hang out on the beach. With a bit of improvement in accommodation Nias will be perfectly placed for these kind of travelers.
It is one thing to promote a place, and another thing to actually take care of the visitors when they eventually come. The most important thing that has to happen now (2015-2016) is improved accommodation and tourism services. There also needs to be diversification of tourism away from the surf areas. There are many beautiful beaches and islands in the north and on the east-coast which are currently very difficult to visit because there is nowhere to stay there. Everyone involved in tourism must lift their game in terms of service and professionalism. I think the current laid-back attitude works fine with the hard core surfers, but if they want to attract other tourists there needs to be improvement in these areas.

 Q:  It’s difficult to anticipate the long-term impacts of tourism and to satisfy stakeholders with individual priorities and worries. Could you perhaps reveal to us some of the dilemmas, if any, the sustainable tourism development of North Nias is facing?

 A:  Ideally sustainable tourism operations should be owned and managed by people from the local community. In most cases that is just not possible here. This comes down to lack of experience and funds. To put it bluntly very few people on Nias would know how to operate a tourism business. And very few locals would have the financial means to set one up to begin with. Most, but not all, successful tourism operations on Nias have foreigners involved to various extents. But if Nias can attract the right kind of foreign investors this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Well managed foreign owned tourism operations serve as “seed” projects, attracting visitors and investment to Nias. By employing and training local people they will play an important role in the capacity building of Nias tourism workforce.

Nias Island consists of 5 different districts, each with their own tourism department. This is a problem as there is no overreaching plan or tourism authority for the whole Island. More advanced destinations like Bali or Phuket are often managed by a Destination Management Organisation. At the moment there are some serious barriers to tourism development caused by the lack of cooperation between the districts, for example the incomplete ring road around the Island, or the management of the airport. On the upside, this issue is being discussed at the moment and we might have a DMO for Nias in the near future.

Another dilemma is what type of tourism Nias should have. There are many different visions, but which one is the best for Nias? With my background in ecotourism, I am biased towards sustainable low-impact eco resorts evenly spread around the island. Others are talking about conference hotels, casinos and golf-courses. What right do I have as a foreigner to tell a senior government official that this is wrong, especially if these projects would create lots of local jobs? I am here as an advisor, not an activist or a whistle blower. The best thing I can do is to try to keep highlighting the advantages of sustainable tourism development to as many people as possible. I remain positive as most of the projects I have heard about seem really good!

 Q:  In response to critical comments such as “aren’t you afraid that tourism development will ruin Nias?” and “is this not just wealthy countries expanding their playground and exploiting yet another poor destination?”, what will your answer be? Why bring tourism to Nias?

 A:  In Indonesia anyone involved in tourism is always referencing Bali, both for good and bad examples of tourism development. Our goal has never been to turn Nias into another Bali. No one wants Nias to become mass tourism destination where locals are being pushed aside by rampant development.

Around 9% of worldwide GDP and employment is directly linked to tourism. On many island economies it’s much more than that. Currently tourism on Nias employs less than a fraction of a percent (a few hundred people). We think it’s only fair that Nias gets to be part of the global tourism economy. It would make a huge difference for the people of one the poorest regions of Indonesia. If we look at the (both good and bad) experiences from Bali it should be possible to develop Nias into a really great place, both for visitors and locals.

 Q:  What “development critics” sometimes forget is that local residents often welcome tourists and tourism development as this can be one of a few alternatives to farming crops that are highly susceptible to weather and market demands beyond their control.

Let’s change the subject a bit. We hope that this interview will entice readers to see Nias Island for themselves. How do we book? What should interested readers do if they want to go to Nias Island?

 A:  It’s very easy to get to Nias these days. The gateway to Nias is Medan, the capital of North Sumatra and Indonesia’s third largest city. There are 7 daily flights from Medan to Nias. The flight to Nias takes just under an hour. Medan is connected to all the big cities in Southeast Asia. As an example, if you leave Singapore in the morning, you can be on the beach on Nias after lunch. Check out our website for flight details. Once you arrive on Nias there are plenty of drivers waiting for each flight that can take you wherever you want to go. Many visitors who book accommodation also pre-arrange their pick up.

 Q:  Excellent. It sounds easier than could be expected from looking at the location of Nias on the map. How can interested beachers find more inspiration and information about North Nias?

 A:  First stop would be our website We also linked photos of beaches to Google Map, so it is possible to find the exact location of the various beaches. Then there is our Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+ pages for which you can find links below.

 pinterest googleplus


 Q:  Thanks you for sharing your thoughts and insights with us, and good luck with the exciting challenges ahead.

 A:  Thanks for your interest in Nias Island. We will keep you posted on developments here on Nias!


If you are hungry for more information about Nias Island, there is now a new, up to date, and all encompassing website covering all about Nias Island. The website is called Be sure to visit it.