Surfing Portugal is something that should be on every bucket list! With golden-sand beaches, miles of uninterrupted Atlantic coast, legendary big-wave spots, and awesome beach breaks, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful corner of Europe.
- A HUGE variety of beaches, reefs, point breaks – you name it.
- Stunning coastline, facing both west and south on the Atlantic.
- Uber-fun surf towns with great schools, rental shops, and – of course – bars!
- It’s getting busier every year – come ASAP!
- Some pollution in the water around major cities.
- The water can be cold (wetsuit required!).
What you’ll find in this guide to surfing Portugal
An introduction to surfing Portugal
Portugal hasn’t become a surf mecca for nothing! Nope: Beach breaks, gnarly reef left-and-righters, colossal big-wave swells – it’s all here. People have been surfing Portugal for decades, but it’s only really now that it’s full potential is being noticed…
A whopping 1,114 miles of continuous coastline rings the country. It goes from the Spanish border in the south around the westernmost point of mainland Europe and finally up to the big bays close to Galicia. Along the way, there are countless breaks of all shapes and sizes – seriously, we’re not overexaggerating when we say there’s something for every type of surfer in Portugal.
The real key is in knowing where and when to go. There’s ample surfing in Portugal for beginners for example, with the likes of Peniche and the Algarve offering loads of spots. But you wouldn’t want to be caught on the Nazare trench come October, where the biggest swells on the planet crash over the headlands. Similarly, intermediate and expert riders will find loads to like in Portuguese surf destinations like Ericeira and Porto, but summers can mean only small waves, while some breaks are best left to the surf schools.
The best surf spots in Portugal
So, without further ado, let’s delve into the world of Portuguese surf spots. There are oodles and oodles of them – there’s over 1,000 miles of shoreline to get through, after all. Ranging from the Porto region in the north to the sun-kissed Algarve, they cross some seriously stunning parts of Europe. But the real bonus? Every place for surfing in Portugal comes with its own unique array of waves, reefs, and beaches. It can sometimes be like hopping from Bali to Biarritz in just a short drive. Yep – that good.
Porto isn’t so much a surf spot as a whole surf city. But it’s not just that either. Millions of visitors come here every year without a single wave on their mind. They come for the Harry Potter-styled libraries and tile-faced churches.
If you are bringing the board, then you’re in luck. There are loads of great surf beaches within reach. The best of them lurk to the south – Esmoriz, Espinho. But there are also some great spots to discover closer to the Galician border in the north, from dune-backed beach breaks Azurara to the long and uncrowded expanses of Agucadoura.
Check out our ultimate guide to Porto surf.
There are two pretty awesome barrelling waves that can kick off the jetties at Espinho. That helps to make this one of the most famous surf spots in the nort Portugal. The proximity to Porto has also nurtured a nascent surf camp scene. They tend to ride the town’s main breaks in the more chilled summer, and venture to nearby Esmoriz and beyond with learner groups.
Check out our ultimate guide to Espinho surf.
Costa Nova Beach
Known as a favourite beach escape just outside of the “Portuguese Venice” that is Aveiro, Costa Nova Beach has some lesser-known surf breaks. We wouldn’t recommend for a full-on surf holiday, but for mixing sunbathing with days on the waves, it’s a doozy. What’s more, Porto is within reach, and there’s loads of history to get through in the surrounding region.
Check out our ultimate guide to surfing in Costa Nova Beach.
Wowza! Prepare to be blown from the clifftops by the waves in Nazare. Clocking up peak-to-trough heights of 30 metres during the autumn, these are some of the most monstrous surf rides available on earth.
The big swells are the result of a deep underwater canyon that channels the Atlantic straight up and over the headlands here. It all really gets going in October, with the big-wave competitions typically running until April. On the main beach of the town in Nazare, you can also catch some fast barrels.
Check out our ultimate guide to Nazare surf.
No ultimate guide to surfing Portugal could possibly be complete without at least a nod towards Peniche. Sat on an island-like peninsula around 1.5 hours’ drive from Lisbon, this is a real favourite for all sorts of wave hunters. The joy is in the variation that’s offered.
Near Baleal in the north, you can ride sheltered beach breaks and good longboard waves by a golf resort. Further south are legendary barrels along the sands of Supertubos, with reefs and points to paddle out to in between. Peniche also comes replete with a bumping nightlife and well-seasoned surf schools.
Check out our ultimate guide to Peniche surf.
Think of Ericeira as two distinct surfing destinations. To the north of the town are coves crammed with rocky reefs, or beaches with high cliffs. They are the epicentre of a designated world surf reserve. They’ve got everything from zippy left-handers to high steep and hollow frames that curl into points.
To the south, meanwhile, is the beginner hub. That’s the province of some excellent beach breaks. Be wary though, because they can also get gnarly when the NW swells are working.
Check out our ultimate guide to Ericiera surf.
Areia Branca is a small surf town tucked into the coastline between Peniche and Ericeira. It’s not as well known as its neighbours (so less busy), but comes with a long beach break that’s got up to five separate peaks. Add on a few reef sections and reliable swell and this one could just be the place you’ve been looking for!
Check out our ultimate guide to Areia Branca surf.
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The surf in Cascais is pretty darn epic. You’ll need to ditch the town itself and look to the surrounding Estoril Coast. That has south- and west-facing beaches with pretty good reliability. They are busier than most of Portugal’s surf spots, but there’s a good vibe around on the Atlantic beaches. There’s also a great mix of breaks, from beginner whitewash to hollow wedges down in Carca.
Read our full guide to Cascais surf right now!
We’d say Lisbon is perhaps the single best surf capital in Europe. You can spend your mornings riding the wedgy A-frames at Carcavelos and use your afternoons to unravel the long history of the Age of Discovery in the city’s awesome museums. And there’s more, because a surf trip here opens up three coastlines. One’s up towards the Atlantic mainstays of Ericeira and Peniche. the other is right on the doorstep of the town itself in Estoril. Then you have the whopping 30-km beach break to the south, on the Costa da Caparica
Read our ultimate guide to Lisbon surf.
The Algarve has a reputation for being forever sunny. It is the hottest region in all of Portugal. And, yes, it’s a holidaymaker’s mecca. But it’s also a haven for surfers, who can pick between two very different coastlines.
In the south, you’ll catch places like Faro and Praia da Luz, which have decent breaks that are largely orientated towards beginners, all on golden sand by dramatic cliffs. Go west to Sagres (the best place to surf in the Algarve) and you also have access to the Atlantic, where some of the country’s finest points and beaches await.
Check out our ultimate guide to Algarve surf.
Aljezur is a really atmospheric Algarvian town that’s become something of a de facto surf capital for the north end of the region. It’s close to the legendary beginner and intermediate hub of Arrifana. However, we’d recommend venturing out to nearby spots like Bordeira and Odeceixe. A car’s a must but it’s arguably one of the best places to use as a base for your Portuguese surf trip.
Check out our ultimate guide to the surf in Aljezur.
The high cliffs of Carrapateira and the bordering beaches of Bordeira combine to create some of the most stunning places to surf in the western Algarve. We’re talking big, beefy shoulders to rip on the left-hand points, along with plenty of beach break swell for beginners and intermediates.
Check out our complete guide to surfing in Carrapateira
Arrifana is probably among the top three most consistent spots in Portugal. It’s also got arguably the Algarve’s most developed surf infrastructure outside of Sagres – surf schools, rentals, great villas and camps. The beach has two breaks – a pro reef and loads of peaks along its sand for beginners and intermediates. It’s best in autumn, but is also a cracker in spring.
Check out our complete guide to Arrifana right now.
Stunning Sagres soars on high cliffs before the full force of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a great place to feel the blustery winds and taste authentic Portuguese seafood. It’s also a mecca when it comes to surfing Portugal.
The reason? It’s down to two beaches, really. First up is Tonel, which has some high A-frames between its daunting headlands (a doozy for intermediates looking to improve). Then comes easy-going Mareta. It’s a light beach swell that breaks onto pristine golden sand – what more could you want as a beginner?
Check out our ultimate guide to Sagres surf.
Albufeira is a fun-loving town that was once just a humble fishing village. These days, it’s a major holidaying spot with good links to the uber-famous beaches of the Algarve. It’s not got the most consistent surf in the country (most people come to top up the tan) but it does have a few excellent spots for beginners.
Check out our ultimate guide to Albufeira surf
Faro is one of the lesser-known surf areas of the Algarve. It’s tucked to the east, close to the border with Spain. There, lots of protection from the dominant Atlantic swell leads to a load of beaches that are widely considered better for sunbathing than for ripping up A-frames. But there are a few exceptions, especially for total beginners looking to ease themselves into Portuguese surf with some easier waves.
Check out our ultimate guide to Faro surfing
A month to month guide for surfing Portugal
The seasons in Portugal can change the surf A LOT. Summer tends to be better for beginners. Spring and autumn are often hailed as an intermediate’s dream come true. Winters are harsh and heavy, but offer great consistency and you’ll rarely need anything more than a 4/3.
Surfing in Portugal in October time means meeting the brute force of colossal Nazare Canyon. These are the XXL waves for the daredevils. November continues to the trend, with some serious punch coming in off the open Atlantic. Down in the Algarve, you can still get hot days with calmer seas. Look to Sagres to enjoy the best of both worlds.
- Wear: 4/3 suits
Cold, often wet, but hardly popular at all. December is the time to go wave hunting in the Algarve. You might catch some swells and you can all but guarantee you’ll be the only one there!
- Wear: 4/3, with boots, hood and gloves
Winter storms batter the Portuguese coast. Things are rough and the waves can get high. Expert riders love to challenge the peaks of Nazare and the hardy surfers of the north coast cut their teeth in places like Esmoriz and Azurara. Down south, however, things can be bright and sunny in the Algarve. And there’s a little extra punch to the usually quiet beach breaks, which turns this vacation region into a surf mecca. Weather wise, things are changeable; sometimes downpours, sometimes chilly, occasionally dry and warm.
- Wear: 4/3, with boots, hood and gloves
As the days lengthen, the ocean torrents slacken just a little and opens up stretches of the Alentejo region. The Algarve is still excellent with good south swells twisting around the Sagres head. More sun also means you can thin out the wetsuit a little, but that’s only for the thicker skinned.
- Wear: 4/3
We think June is among the very best months to go surfing Portugal. It’s still not full summer, though it certainly feels like it – high 20s temperatures and oodles of sun! The crowds aren’t massive, but there are good vibes slinging around surf towns like Peniche and Ericeira. Swells facing in from the N and NW give some good waves to the coves of the Lisbon Coast and the Silver Coast at this time of year.
- Wear: 3/2 or 2mm
Portugal’s main holiday period. You’ll be in the line up if you go for any of the major surf destinations (Peniche, Ericeira, Sagres). Still, there’s loads of fun to be had – the apres surf bars are pumping for one! What’s more, the weather is simply divine. Regular highs in the 30s are tempered on the coast by onshore winds (not so great for the surf). You can often surf glassy walls that glisten blue and turquoise under the shimmer of the Iberian sun.
- Wear: 3/2 or 2mm. Some locals in rashies and shorts down in the Algarve.
An early onset of the autumn swells can sometimes see hefty waves channel through the canyons to Nazare. However, you usually have to wait for October for the real big waves. Surfing Portugal September time is an all round tamer beast. Waves do pick up all along the west coast in spots like Peniche and Arrifana. Crowds diminish fast and lineups are just a fraction of the size at the end of the month, save in hotspots like Lisbon.
- Wear: 3/2 or 4/3. Thicker towards the end of the month and up north.
Surf camps in Portugal
Portugal might just be the home of the European surf camp. With its chilled lifestyle, great weather, tasty food, and boho vibe, the country is the perfect place to come in search of a residential surf trip. There are oodles of these styles of accommodations all over the country. Some are well-established and have brand names you might recognise. Others are start-out, grassroots ventures that connect learners to local surfers.
There’s also a huge spread of surf camps in Portugal in terms of style. On the deluxe end of the scale, you can find boutique lodgings with views of – and walking access to – the waves. They usually pack in swimming pools, on-site bars, and suites with balconies. At the other end of the scale, it’s possible to bag budget surf camps that are built in the vein of traveler hostels. They’ve got buzzing social atmosphere, cheaper board rentals, and draw in instructors from all over the globe.
Some of our favourite surf camps in the whole country are listed below:
Noah Surf House ($$-$$$)
Wow. Simply wow. Seriously. We’re not often lost for words but the Noah Surf House manages it. Set on the dunes of Santa Cruz (that’s midway between Ericeira and Peniche and a town with great beach breaks of its own), it’s so cool. Timber-clad buildings house spacious family rooms and dorms alike, along with a few luxury doubles. Outside is the jewel – there’s an infinity pool overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, fire pits and more.
Hostel & Surfcamp 55 ($-$$)
Best for: Bargain stays with party nights in legendary Ericeira
Hostel & Surfcamp 55 is a fantastic budget option for stays in the International Surf Reserve of Ericeira. Super-friendly vibes abound in the common areas, the shared kitchen, and the huge gardens. Surf lessons organised on site and you get to join the in-house parties when the summer DJs come to town.
Bukubaki Eco Surf Resort ($$-$$$)
Best for: Something totally different immersed in nature
Bukubaki Eco Surf Resort hides in the lush green hills a few clicks back from the beaches of Peniche. It’s an oases of calm and luxury, offering a full spa and forested grounds complete with a swimming pool. You can rent family bungalows or go full eco with a tent.
Surfers Lodge Peniche ($$)
Best for: Couples who want comfort and the varied surf of Peniche on the doorstep
Man, the Surfers Lodge Peniche is some seriously slick stuff. It’s loaded with uber-cool suites and rooms done in Bali-style polished concrete with beautiful furnishings and boho art touches. But it also has the welcoming vibe of a casual surfer lodge. The local breaks couldn’t be better, either – Baleal (one of the best beginner spots in Peniche) is a two-min stroll down the road!
Next Level Surf Camp ($)
Best for: Affordable and fun surfing in Portugal for beginners
Next Level Surf Camp whisks you to a small whitewashed village just outside of legendary Peniche. You’ll be able to walk to the beach breaks around Supertubos every day. The accommodation is pretty standard hostel-camp stuff but it’s clean and affordable. The real pull is the hands-on surf tuition and the great mates you’re bound to meet during the stay.
Essential surf gear for Portugal
There are just a couple of things we wouldn’t head to Portugal without.
The trusty Go Pro is something we always keep handy whenever we’re surfing in Portugal. Make sure you get a good mount for it that sticks – we’ve had times when these things go flying on an autumn swell in Arrifana (scarrrry). The 9 is the newest and best of the bunch. It’s got 4k capabilities and you don’t have to faff around with the clip boxes of earlier Go Pros.
Oh how I wish I had a wetsuit changer and bag on my last surf trip to Arrifana. You either change in the carpark at the top of the cliffs and shiver all the way down. Or, you can take your stuff to the beach and then contend with the rocks and sand. Having one of these means you don’t get all sandy when you do the business. Nice.
Portugal ain’t Sri Lanka. You’re after cold water wax for most of the year and a decent base coat doesn’t hurt. Tried-and-tested Sex Wax is always a corker. This dual pack covers all your bases.
Travel essentials for anyone surfing in Portugal
- Currency: Euro (EUR)
- Population: 10.5 million
- Capital: Lisbon
- Language: Portuguese
Where exactly is Portugal?
You weren’t listening in geography class, ay? No worries – Portugal is easy to find. Just run your finger westwards across the map of Europe. See the country that caps off the land mass at the far end of Spain? Bingo. That’s it!
Portugal is surrounded on two sides by ocean and two sides by Spain. It borders the land of flamenco through high central mountains with rustic villages made of schist stone. On its shoreline, you’ll find the most westerly and most southwesterly point in mainland Europe. The capital, Lisbon, sits on the Tagus estuary roughly a third of the way up the west coast.
How to get to Portugal
It’s never been easier to reach Portugal.
Loads of low-cost airlines jet in and out of the country from the UK and beyond. They serve three main airports. There’s Lisbon Airport (the largest), which is great if you want to surf in tried-and-tested towns on the central coast or in Lisbon itself. Stacks of budget carriers head to the capital – think Ryanair and EasyJet and WizzAir. It’s around a 1.5-hour drive from the terminal to Peniche and less to Ericeira.
There’s also Faro Airport, considered the gateway to the Algarve (head there for surfing in Sagres and the south coast, but also Arrifana and the western Algarve). And then there’s Porto, which is great for hitting the more untamed swells of the northern Green Coast and untouched Silver Coast.
Long-distance train and bus connections also come into Portugal from all over Europe. The closest place to arrive from is Spain. It’s the next door neighbor, with frequent connections by land from cities like Madrid, Cadiz, and Vigo.
How to travel around Portugal
Navigating around Portugal itself should be easy. The main surfing destinations in Portugal are all linked via highways and train lines that roughly run along the coast. To give you an idea, it’s possible to go from Lisbon to Porto in under three hours. Along the way, you’ll pass oodles of smaller towns from where a short taxi or bus ride can whisk you straight to waves in places like Peniche or Esmoriz. The main motorway going south will mean drifting inland, but we prefer the slightly slower coast roads if you’re heading from Lisbon to the Algarve anyhow.
Because Portugal is such a doozy of a holiday destination, renting a car is also a fine choice. These days, lots of surf vans and bigger hatchbacks with boards tacked to the roof can be spotted along the coastal routes. There are great deals to be had from airports (think around €600-800 for a whole month), especially if you come during off seasons like spring, winter or autumn. We actually managed to rent a car for three weeks at just under €300 on our last trip in November. It’s the way we’d always look to travel.
Travel insurance for trips to Portugal
Portugal ain’t considered one of Europe’s top surf destinations for nothing. It’s got loads of spots, excellent reliability, and a fantastic surf culture.
If it’s tickled your wanderlust, it’s good idea to look into travel insurance in case something goes wrong on your surf trip. We’ve often used World Nomads. Their policies cover a range of adventure sports and activities. You can read more about their cover for surf right here.
All of the information provided about travel insurance is a brief summary only. It does not include all terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and termination provisions of the travel insurance plans described. Coverage may not be available for residents of all countries, states or provinces. Please carefully read your policy wording for a full description of coverage.
Think we missed something? Got something to add? Something to correct? This wouldn’t be the ultimate guide to surfing Portugal if it wasn’t forever being updated ! We’d love to hear any suggestions in the comments below. And feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about planning a surf trip to Portugal, whether you’re heading to the Algarve, to Lisbon, or the northern beaches around Porto.
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This guide is a part of our larger guide to the surf in Europe as a whole