The Ultimate Guide to Surfing Portugal

by Surf Atlas

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.

The good

  • 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!

The bad

  • 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

Surfing in 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.

Big waves in Nazare

Porto

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.

Nazare

Boat Nazare

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.

Peniche

Peniche 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.

Ericeira

Ericeira beach

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.

Sagres

Tonel beach in Sagres

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.

A month to month guide for surfing Portugal

October-November

Surfing Portugal 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.

December

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!

January-March

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.

April, May

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.

June

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.

July-August

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.

September

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. September is an all round tamer beast. Waves do pick up on the west coast in spots like Peniche. And – one of the reasons this is a top time to go surfing in Portugal – crowds diminish fast.

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, on-site board rentals, and draw in instructors from all over the globe.

Surfers on a beach in Portugal

Travel essentials for anyone surfing in Portugal

Quick facts

  • 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. 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. There’s also Faro Airport, considered the gateway to the Algarve (head there for surfing in Sagres and the south coast). 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 main 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.

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.


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 and added to. 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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