The Ultimate Guide to Hendaye Surf

by Tom Lacmundy

The Hendaye surf is the tamest and most beginner-friendly on the whole Basque coast. That makes the town a hotspot for surf schools. On bigger days, the pros will also be able to tear up glassy walls when everything else is blown out.

Hendaye surf and waves

Hendaye surf at a glance

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The good

  • Arguably the best beginner surf spot in France!
  • Sheltered spots for when everything else is blown out
  • Great surf schools

The bad

  • Getting busier year on year
  • Small days with zero waves in summer
  • You’ll miss out on France’s punchier beach breaks

This guide to surfing in Hendaye is just one part of our larger ultimate guide to surfing in France

What’s in this guide to Hendaye surf?

An introduction to Hendaye surf

Hendaye has risen to become known as one of the premier learner spots on the Bay of Biscay in recent years. It might only be a 30-minute drive from the famous peaks of Biarritz but it actually takes a lot more from its compadres over on the Spanish Basque Country coast. We’re talking peaks like La Zurriola in San Sebastian or the empty stretches of Asturias.

Basically, it’s all about the geography: The surf beaches here face north-west, not plain old west. That swivels them out of the dominant swells that fire up the heavy Hossegor canyons. So, when it’s reading double overhead closeouts further up the Atlantic, the Hendaye surf report is showing chest high and easy going. On top of that, you’ve got some lovely sand-bottomed beginner breaks right in front of Hendaye town itself. They’re a short stroll from the bars and hotels, so all easy to reach and accessible.

On top of all that, Hendaye is a pretty, chilled and enticing place. It’s gilded with grand 20th-century architecture and has a vibrant promenade. The mountains are just the back and San Sebastian and its tapas cafes are only a short drive across the border. In other words, there’s plenty to be getting up to when you’re not on the waves!

Hendaye surf spots

Where is Hendaye?

Hendaye is the last town you come to as you move south-west along the French Atlantic coast towards the Spanish border. Seriously – throw a stone from some parts of the promenade and it will land in the home of paella! More generally, Hendaye sits in the foothills of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques region, around 25km from Biarritz, and just 3km from San Sebastian (that’s where the nearest airport awaits).

A guide to the Hendaye surf spots

Hendaye has about four named spots, but two of those are on the same main beach that’s right in front of the town. The others come off submerged reefs to the north-east. They’re the ones that pick up the full whack of the NW in winter, so are usually better suited to intermediates and pros…

Les Deux Jumeaux

Sokoburu – Hendaye Plage

Paddle just a few metres to the west off the point at Sokoburu and you’ll actually be in Spain. That’s how close you come to the land of flamenco on this break. It’s literally the last in France, and that means its tucked right into the very base of the Bay of Biscay. Uber-sheltered so sometimes it hardly shows a wave at all. When things are big, it’s a fantastic beginner spot and a doozy for loggers, who love the mellow rides that can hold up for 50-100m.

Le Casino – Hendaye Plage

Le Casino is named after – you guessed it! – the large casino that fronts the beach at Hendaye. That puts it right in the middle of the bay. In fact, the spot spreads both west, towards Sokoburu and east, up to the headland. It’s wide and offers up multiple peaks. That’s great for beginners who want a plot to themselves to practice popping. For the most part, the waves here are mushy and cruisy. They rarely get big but can still be fun rides. Downsides include the surf schools that fill the line up, ann flat-as-a-pancake days in summer.

Les Deux Jumeaux

Named after the two stunning and rugged rock walls that jut from the Atlantic on the north side of Hendaye Plage, Les Deux Jumeaux brings up the intermediate offering within Hendaye itself. It might look like a beachy, but it’s technically a point, breaking right off an underwater rock reef. Things can get shallow (especially at low tide) so you should know what you’re doing. Easy take offs and best on swells of 1-2m. Les Deux Jumeaux also has perhaps the best surf views in town!

Vanthrax

The Vanthrax surf is not for the faint hearted. This is certainly the hardest spot in all of Hendaye. What’s more, it only works on heavy N-NW swells that are sure to see the whole rest of the coastline beefing up to breaking point. When that does happen, the wave is a uber-high wall that rips straight off a shallow reef and steep headland to create some seriously fast left-hand barrels. It’s recently gotten recognition from a few gun-toting big-wave surfers, but it’s also a favourite for boogers with a deathwish! Just to be safe, we’ll repeat: Vanthrax surf isn’t for the faint of heart!

Where to stay when surfing in Hendaye

With its little French markets, location near the Pyrennes, and golden-sand beaches, Hendaye has always been something of a favourite among domestic holidaymakers. Then came the surfers, adding cool boutique hotels to the mix of regal spa resorts that were already in the town. Check out some of our favourites below, all close to the breaks and perfect for a surf trip. We’ve tried to offer something for every budget.

Hotel Uhainak ($$)

A charming Basque Country hotel right by the best Hendaye surf spots

A really highly rated hotel that sits smack dab on the seafront, Uhainak offers somewhere cosy and convenient for those Hendaye surf trips. The superior doubles are the creme-de-la-creme of the rooms, what with their north-facing views across the Atlantic. However, all suites come with charming, homely decor and enticing beds. Most reviewers point how just how lovely the local Basque Country welcome is, too!

Bidasoa ($$)

A family-sized aparthotel with all the mod cons

There’s enough space for the whole family at this charming aparthotel. It’s set a mere 700 metres back from the surf spot at Deux Jumeaux, which means waves for beginners and intermediates at just a short walk. Inside, your crew can spread out between three different bedrooms, some with single beds in case you’ve brought the little ones in tow. There’s also a fully equipped kitchen, along with a swimming pool and sun-splashed terrace.

Hotel & Spa 4* Serge Blanco

Hot tubs and swimming pools for your post-surf sesh

There’s a whiff of the French Riviera about this gorgeous four-star hotel. Right down on the Hendaye promenade, it features modern and well-appointed rooms with big balconies and – for a lucky few – 180-degree coastal views. That’s all bolstered by the presence of a salt-water swimming pool, a full spa, a fitness centre, and a massage therapist on site. What more could you want after hitting that toss-me-around Vanthrax surf?

When to surf in Hendaye

Hendaye surf is actually pumping all year round. It might be smaller on the whole than a lot of France’s west coast, but that’s because it’s sheltered. The result? Flatter summer days cater to beginners, while strong winter swells here can survive when everywhere else is messy. Here’s a more detailed roundup of the Hendaye surf forecast you can expect in different seasons…

Seasons in Hendaye

Summer

May-September

The summer in Hendaye isn’t just warm and filled with good vibes, it’s also perfect for first-time surfers who want to get on the water. This is when the Hendaye surf schools do their best business, so be ready for big line ups in morning and afternoon. Swells dip to an annual low, which means this probably isn’t the place if you’re after rippable A-frames and barrels. Intermediates should go hunting up in Les Deux Jumeaux or make the trip to more west-facing Basque Country surf spots.

Autumn & Spring

March/April & September/October

The swell orientations and wind conditions are actually pretty similar in Hendaye either side of the summer seasons. After or before the strong NW winter pushes kick in, you’ll be given regular and shapely waves that hit shoulder and chest high. Things are rarely too heavy, especially in the more sheltered spots like Sokoburu. Moreover, there are just a fraction of the visitors there are in August or July, which means you get better deals on hotels and emptier line ups

Winter

November-February

We hope you have a good 4/3 wetsuit and booties, because the water in the Bay of Biscay can get chilly in the winter months. Swells also pick up considerably, thanks to faraway storms in the North Atlantic. That really adds punch to more exposed point breaks like Les Deux Jumeaux and means this is usually the season to chase those once-in-a-lifetime waves on the Vanthrax surf. Because it’s sheltered compared to many of the west-coast breaks, the Hendaye surf holds up well during the winter months. Sadly, that pulls in big crowds when elsewhere is blown out.

Surf shops in Hendaye

Hendaye is actually a relatively recent addition to the line up of surf destinations in France. You certainly don’t find the same spread of gear outlets as you do up in Hossegor. However, there are a few small-scale stockists for all you board, wax and wetsuit needs…

Nomad Surf Shop

One of the original surf outlets in Hendaye, Nomad has been around since the town started going mainstream in the noughties. It’s now branched out to offer all sorts of skate gear, but you’ll also get the usual wave hardware: wetsuits, soft tops, epoxy boards, fine – you name it. Location wise, it can hardly be beaten, because Nomad sits right on the main plage close to the breaks.

Surf School Gold Coast

Primarily a surf school, this ode to Oz also boasts a well-stocked selection of gear and threads. Foamies and bullet boards adorn the quiver rack. There are boardshorts galore. And you’ll find things like flip-flops, leashes and fins if needed. Look for Surf School Gold Coast right in front of La Casino surf spot.

Best places to eat in Hendaye

Been tossed around by the gnarly Vanthrax surf? Finished your first beginner sesh on Hendaye Plage? You deserve a bite to eat my friend. Here are just a few recommendations on the top places to chow down in this Basque Country beauty.

Chez Muñu ($$$)

Okay, so you might not save much money by spending an evening at Chez Muñu, but you will get a taste of the finest cuisine Hendaye has to offer. This is a chic Basque Country bistro that fuses influences from France, Spain and the Med to field a menu of tasty staples informed by seasonal ingredients. The stars of the show are the steak cuts, so it’s not the best for veggies!

Txirimiri ($$)

Get yourself a fix of that famous Basque Country tapas in Txirimiri. Drawing in influences from all across the mountains, southern France, and Spain, the menus here burst with the likes of bruschetta and scallops, fresh peppers and spicy potatoes. The location is also lovely, with fantastic summertime seating on the streets just one block back from the sand.

Things to do when you’re not surfing in Hendaye

Hendaye offers explorations in both France and Spain. That means all the surf beaches mentioned above, but also the wild mountains that rise with the Pyrenees and much, much more to boot!

Hike the Peñas de Aya

Basque Country

Hendaye is perfectly located for exploring the northern ranges of the Pyrenees. They hit a zenith close to the town with the Peñas de Aya, an undiscovered dash of rugged peaks that’s said to resemble the face of the emperor Napoleon! There’s oodles of hiking to be had. IN addition, you can look for agritourismo farms and rustic Spanish villages – yep, these mountains take you over the border!

Day trip to San Sebastian

San Sebastian

San Sebastian is one of the most immersive towns in northern Spain. It takes just under 30 minutes to reach from Hendaye on the cross-border train and even less in the car. The result? It’s a doozy of a day trip option between surf sessions. Get ready to delve into the immersive old town area, where the tapas (known as pintxo in this part of the country) are sure to get the mouth watering. You might also want to bring the board in tow, becyase SS has its very own top-draw surf breaks!

How to get to Hendaye

  • Fly: Biarritz-Anglet-Bayonne International Airport and San Sebastian Airports are both within easy reach Hendaye. Look for the low-cost connections with budget fliers like Ryanair and EasyJet for the best prices. Car rentals are on offer at both. Alternatively, Bordeaux Airport offers way more incoming options and is a tad over two hours’ drive from the surf breaks.
  • Train: Hendaye is the convenient terminus of the main coastal train link in France. That means you can ride the fast TGV all the way down from Paris. It runs several times a day, links with lots of the best surf towns on the Atlantic Coast, and costs around 85 EUR. Book in advance to get the best deals.

Check out our ultimate guide to surfing in France for more info on the best breaks this country has to offer

If you’re a local or a veteran surfer of Hendaye and have anything to add to this list, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. We always aim to keep updating this ultimate guide with the latest break info and city tips.

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