Biarritz surf is legendary throughout France – nay, the world! Strong W-NW swells power up this part of the Bay of Biscay to give reliable waves for all levels in the shadow of the Pyrenees.
Biarritz surf at a glance
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- Breaks that suit pretty much all levels
- Hedonistic after surf
- Loads of family-friendly surf school
- Some flat days in summer – but they’re rare
- Busy line ups
- Biarritz ain’t cheap!
This guide to the surf in Biarritz is just one part of our bigger guide to surfing in France
What’s in this guide to Biarritz surf?
An introduction to surfing in Biarritz
Like the Hossegor surf before it, Biarritz is one of the stars of the show on south-west coast of France. As a town, you might associate it more with millionaire yachts and chic spa hotels, but the waves are nothing short of epic. The reason? Well…just look where the town sits: Down at the end of the Bay of Biscay, spread between a series of wide bays and headlands that face squarely north-west, as if tailor-made to pickup the dominant swells coming in off the Atlantic.
There are a handful of breaks actually within Biarritz itself. In addition, you’ll have access to the famous spots of Anglet and beginner-favourite Hendaye if you’re willing to hop some public transport or have your own wheels in France. Either way, there’s a fantast range of different styles of wave. At the hardest end, you can catch hollow barrels with steep take offs and zippy rides. At the easiest, you have well-sheltered beach breaks that tend to be cruisy and mushy even when the rest of the region is high.
One of the best things about Biarritz surf trips is that they offer a fantastic blend of wave action, holiday vibes and nightlife. This is one chic town. It’s like the Atlantic coast’s answer to St Tropez. So, get ready to enjoy stylo cocktail bars on the promenade. Prepare for five-star hotels with saunas and swimming pools. Start dreaming about finishing surf sessions with a bout of haute cuisine. It’s that sort of place.
Where is Biarritz?
Biarritz is the premier resort town of the French Basque Country. Look for it right at the bottom of the Atlantic west coast, where the Bay of Biscay starts to bend into Spain. The Pyrenees Mountains rise just a little to the south of the town. The nearest major city is Bordeaux, which is about two hours’ drive to the north-east.
A guide to the Biarritz surf spots
Biarritz has a potpourri of surf breaks up its sleeve. Some might be just a stone’s throw from your Biarritz surf hotel near the main promenade. Others are a little further away. The variety of waves and wave quality means there’s usually something happening for all types and levels of rider. Let’s take a more in-depth look…
Over 4km of Basque Country coastline fringes the town of Anglet. The upshot? There are over 11 individual beaches and countless surf spots in these parts. They’re all a little different but the overarching theme is tide defence point breaks that can barrel and get hollow. That means this is a veritable playground for intermediates and up. Anyone comfortable with fast paddles and steep drop ins will love what’s on offer at places like Le Club or the tubey A-frame in Les Cavaliers. There’s too many spots to cover here, so we’d recommend checking out our dedicated guide to surfing Anglet.
Located at the northern end of the Grande Plage, Le Miramar is a single peak that gets its shape from the big rock stack out in the bay. It’s hollower and steeper than many of the other spots in the area, and comes in over a mix of sand and stone. That all means it’s generally better for intermediate and up. Le Miramar tends to have quieter line ups and offers some nice fast drop ins. Thanks to the cliffs that flank it, it’s a more protected peak than others so can work on larger winter swells.
La Grande Plage is the most famous spot in Biarritz. Situated right in front of the town, it’s overlooked by luxurious hotels and a bustling promenade. Dominant N-NW swells mean that it’s rarely not working. In addition, the protection from the headland to the north can help shape things up into neat walls when the rest of Anglet and the Hossegor surf is a blowout. When the sandbanks align nicely, Grande Plage can handle 1-3m. It’s got lefts and rights but can also turn mushy in the summer.
Crowds are always going to be the main hazard. Be sure to book a Biarritz surf hotel that’s within walking distance if you don’t want to get caught in the nightmare of parking! Dawn patrols are the best idea.
La Cote des Basques
La Cote des Basques is the break on the south side of Biarritz. It’s a fantastically mellow spot that oscillates between mushy whitewash for the total beginner to neat cruisy walls for the loggers. Although it’s a beach break, the best ride here is a long right that cuts across the bay from the headland, forming a sort of fake point break that works nicely when there’s some kick in the NW swell direction. One warning: Don’t even think about surfing at high tide. The swells come all the way to the cliffs then and injuries are common.
Marbella is the name that’s given to the far end of the beach at La Cote des Basques. It takes you a little further from the centre of Biarritz. That means line ups do thin out. But it also means you lose the shelter from the coastal headlands. Consequently, Marbella is a more exposed beach break that’s notoriously prone to closeouts. Rips can roll back into oncoming swells to flatten things out and create some mushiness. Best on a dropping tide on 1-2m swells.
Hendaye is the next major town around the Basque coast from Biarritz. It’s actually the last town in France before the Spanish border. The journey in is about 30 minutes on public transport and a little less in the car. Still, it’s a good spot to have on the radar because it’s usually working when the whole rest of the French Atlantic (the Biarritz surf included) is blown to pieces by onshores or big swells. It’s also a beginner’s paradise. It’s main break is a protected beach break with chest-high waves and plenty of practice territory. Nice and easy.
Pick the best Biarritz surf hotel…
It won’t be hard to come across a fantastic Biarritz surf hotel. This stylish Basque Country resort is filled with all sorts of chic stays. Some are the precise sort of sleek five-star palace you’d expect when you hear the name Biarritz. Others are more down to earth, affordable, and simple. There are also some accommodation options that have features specifically aimed at the surf crowd. Those are the ones we’ve focussed on below…
Hotel Saint Julien ($$)
There’s a warm Basque welcome on offer at the Hotel Saint Julien. A charming little guesthouse that’s nestled into the heart of Biarritz (midway between two of the town’s top surf spots), it offers simple but charming rooms with Wi-Fi and access to an outdoor terrace. Some also come with views of the Pyrenees or the Atlantic Ocean.
Hotel Edouard VII ($$)
Hotel Edouard VII is a stunning boutique option that’s wedged into the heart of old Biarritz between the beginner-friendly waves of La Cote des Basques and Grande Plage. It’s actually housed in a mansion dating from the 1800s, where Napoleon III is said to have been treated for ailments back in the day. Now, it’s looking damn fine, with vintage, kitschy interiors and a gorgeous terrace shaded by olive trees and flowers. AKA this one’s a corker if you’re planning a romantic surf trip with the other half!
Résidence Victoria Surf ($$)
Choose the studio with a seaside balcony and you’ll be able to fling open your French doors in the morning to check what surf’s pumping on the Grande Plage. That’s how close you get to the waves in this aparthotel. But the pulls don’t end there because there’s a communal pool and sunning area. To keep prices midrange, rooms are simple but cosy.
Hotel du Palais Biarritz – in the Unbound Collection by Hyatt ($$$)
Wow. Like…wow. This palatial hotel is Biarritz at its best. Seriously – when we say palatial we mean it, because it’s housed in a stunning complex that was built by the Empress Eugénie back in the heyday of the 19th century. Expect sumptuous rooms with uber-luxurious features, along with a spa, Turkish hammam, steam rooms, and – best of all for surfers – direct access to Grande Plage surf spot.
When to surf in Biarritz
There’s never really a bad time to surf in Biarritz. Board-touting travelers are forever flocking to this sleek corner of the Basque coast. The crowds come in summer, when the waves dip to their easiest level. In winter, the Atlantic gets way more moxie and rolls in a few thunderous storms that can cook up barrels from Anglet to Marbella.
Spring, summer and winter (April to September)
The spring and the summer are the main surfing seasons in Biarritz. That’s not to say they are the best surfing season. However, it’s when most people come. They’re drawn by (a) the fine weather and pretty sands of the beaches around the town and (b) the more relaxed and chilled swells that offer neat rides and fine conditions for beginners. Either side of the summer is better for intermediates, because there can often be a little punch left in the N-NW winter pushes. June, July and August see spots like La Cote des Basques get PACKED with surf schools and all levels of rider. During the height of the holidays, consider moving north to the wide beaches of Anglet or even beyond to the Hossegor surf and Landes.
Lots of locals do drop to short-sleeves and a rash vest on occasion in the warmer months. We’d say its 2mm territory mostly from July onwards. Spring storms might see you reaching for the winter gear (4/3) a few times throughout April and May.
Winter (October to March)
The Biarritz surfing November time gets things rolling for the winter season. That’s when the cross-Atlantic storms swells really start to pick up. Further north, the Hossegor surf will be pumping to double overheads on many a-day from November onwards. The Basque coast – home to Biarritz – isn’t quite as wild as that, thanks largely to the jutting headlands by La Cote des Basques and Le Miramar. Still, you can expect the largest walls of the year during this cold season, especially if you’re coming with the shortie and looking to the barrels in Anglet and beyond.
Water temps get low and wind picks up in the winter time – this isn’t the Algarve, remember! That means a god 4/3, booties and a hood are needed to surf in the middle of the winter in Biarritz.
Surf shops in Biarritz
You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to surf schools in Biarritz. Seriously, they are EVERYWHERE. But not all surf shops are created equal so here are a few that we’ve had good experiences with in the past..
Jo Moraiz is a short, salty walk from the main break at La Cote des Basques and Grande Plage. It’s an official stockists of major brands like Billabong and Nixon, which means you’ll find racks of surf fashion next to that all-important hardware. Boards are on offer – JS shorties and foamies alike. There are also wetsuits to match the season.
Rip Curl Pro Store Biarritz
The official outlet of the Rip Curl brand is a mainstay on the Biarritz seafront. It’s always loaded with the latest gear courtesy of the Aussie maker. The range of wetsuits is particularly great. There’s also loads of surf wear – hoodies, tees, boardshorts.
Roughly halfway between Marbella Beach and La Cote des Basques, Biarritz Paradise offers a whole range of rentals and buys to suit all levels. Short boards, foamies, first-time wetsuits, wax – you name it. The place also doubles as a surf school and has a range of flip flops and other fashion gear to boot.
Best places to eat in Biarritz
Bistros and Biarritz are a match made in heaven. Yep, you might have noticed that there’s plenty of money sloshing around this town – perhaps the abundance of luxury sailboats was a clue? That means some seriously upscale dining awaits after your surf. But, don’t worry, we’ve also listed some more down-to-earth spots for that chilled chow.
La Marine ($$$)
Calling all moneybag surfers or those on a honeymoon – La Marine is sure to impress! It’s a top-class, fully-fledged fine-dining bistro that proudly flaunts the creativity of the French coastal kitchen. Menu wise, that means saltfish accras and tuna steaks, all backed up by some surf and turf and Bordeaux wine labels for good measure. Expect to pay 25 EUR a head and up.
Casa Bixente ($$)
Casa Bixente is a regular recommendation for eating osaltfishut in Biarritz. Surfers will probably notice the sign before they notice the restaurant – the name is scrawled on a wooden bonzer! Dip in and you’ll find one of the best arrays of pintxos (that’s the Basque version of tapas) in the town, all for affordable prices.
Manatee bills itself as a modern tearoom. With a dash of the hipster about it, it serves up crispy pastries and healthy brunches for that post dawnie fill. The coffee is also wonderful. Interiors are chilled and stylish with an undeniable influence from the ocean about them. Cracking spot – don’t miss it!
Halles Market ($)
The Halles Market isn’t even a restaurant. It’s – just as the name implies – the local food bazaar of Biarritz. Delve in and you’ll be lost amid a sea of regional Basque delicacies and other southern French treats. It’s the place to shop for Provencal sauces, Spanish oranges, fresh veg and fruit, so great if you score a self-catering pad in Biarritz.
Things to do when you’re not surfing in Biarritz
Beautiufl Biarritz is much more than just a surf town. Mountains and wild drives are also on the menu for adventurous travelers who plot their next ocean jaunt to these parts…
Drive the Route de la Corniche
France’s answer to the Big Sur on the Pacific Coast Highway is this wiggling stretch of shoreline drive. It’s a real stunner, so you’ll want to have the camera fully charged. Things start in the handsome town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, home to a fantastic Baroque church. Then, you push south-west towards Hendaye, to find the likes of rugged Corniche d’Urrugne with its rock-ribbed cliffs and wild ocean waters crashing below. Dramatic stuff.
Pyrénées National Park
You need less than two hours to swap the Biarritz surf for the jagged spires of the French Pyrenees. Drive south-east along A64 and a couple of other country roads to reach the piece de resistance of those mountains: Pyrénées National Park. A mecca of alpine summits and pine-dressed valleys, it’s got glistening lakes and hundreds of miles of hiking paths. Yea…it’s gorgeous.
Check out our guide to surfing in France for more of the country’s famous surf towns
We’d love to hear any suggestions or additions you might have to this guide to Biarritz surf. We’re always on the lookout to make our posts better with in-the-know recommendations! Alternatively, for more information on surfing in France, check out our complete guide to hitting the waves in this coastal hotspot of Europe.