Albufeira surf is chilled and easy going – this is probably the best spot in Portugal for complete beginners. But there are some heavy winter swells to add a challenge, not to mention some seriously gorgeous Algarvian beaches for when you just want to kick it.
Albufeira surf at a glance
- Clean, glassy water
- Lots for beginners
- This is some seriously pretty coastline
- Lots of flat days in summer
- Can be unbearably hot!
- Tourist towns with Brits abroad
What will I find in this guide to the surfing in Albufeira?
An introduction to Albufeira surf
We won’t pretend that Albufeira surf is what put this part of Portugal on the map. It’s not. Not even close. While the towns of Ericeira and Peniche draw the gun-toting big wavers and hardcore shortboarders, this corner of the country has cut its teeth on good old-fashioned tourism. Once a tiny fishing village, Albufeira has exploded since around the 70s into one of the main sun, sand and sea getaways in Europe.
But there are waves to be had. Even the harbour breaks around quiet Praia da Baleeira are known to offer up some mushy swells on occasion. More likely, you’ll book onto a local surf camp and travel westwards near to Sagres to find stronger waves. Others will have their own camper and make a tour of the gold-sand beaches that unfold around Portimao in that direction, before escaping north-west to the legendary Atlantic beaches that are also within reach.
The bottom line? Don’t come to Albufeira if you’re looking to surf day in, day out. Come if you want a chilled holiday with great beaches and lively nightlife but may want to drop in a session on the waves here and there if the hangover allows.
Where is Albufeira?
Albufeira is considered the beating heart of the southern Algarve. It’s probably the best-known tourist town in the region (and that’s saying something). It lies roughly midway between Lagos and Faro, which are the two main gateways to this part of the country from the air. The main A22 motorway runs east to west just above the resort. To arrive from that, you’ll have to come off at Ferreiras and drive a little south on the Estrada de Ferreiras. Ferreiras is also where the nearest train station is located.
A guide to the best surf spots in Albufeira
Surfing Algarve has always been a challenge for those hunting big waves. That’s why we’d say stick to tried-and-tested places like Peniche if you’re after a pure surf trip. Down here, where the weather is sunny and only the strongest S-SW swells can get things truly pumping, you’re looking at much tamer beaches. Check out:
Don’t get too excited about seeing how close this one is on the map to Albufeira. The surf here hardly even registers on the Richter scale. We’d say 90% of days are flat. When there are good swells – typically northerly pounders that make it round in the winter – it’s a harbourside jetty that creates a few short and challenging rides. Basically, not worth even knowing about.
Praia da Galé
Thanks to its south-westerly orientation, Praia da Galé is probably as close as Albufeira comes to a swell magnet. On shoulder seasons it’s perfectly positioned for picking up the S-SW swells that shoot straight into the Algarve. During the winter, it’s sandbanks and reefs can actually handle the dominant northerlies surprisingly well. The result? Some epic days of A-framers on the shore that can even hold up to barrels. There’s a reef at one end where the locals usually meet. You’ll see a whole clutch of surf schools here. They get popular in the summer months when the waves are mushier and good for learning.
Vilamoura is known as one of the chicer Algarve resorts. It’s got glitzy hotels and golf courses coming out of its ears. It’s also only 20 minutes’ drive from Albufeira, which puts the beach-jetty break at Vilamoura-Falesia on the menu. This is a rare left-hand harbour option which can hold up well on bigger swells. Some hollow sections. Lots of air up for grabs in the winter. Popular with bodyboarders.
Praia da Rocha
On big (read: HUGE) swell days, the harbour at Praia da Rocha can cook up some big barrelling lefts. They come straight off the town’s jetty and move fast into the inside of the beach. It’s not the best wave but is good fun for more technical surfers. Don’t hit Praia da Rocha for surf in the summer months. It’s one of the most popular beaches in the region and is a parasol fest. But then the big town of Portimao is just behind, so what did you expect?
Praia da Luz
We’d say Praia da Luz is the first town where you can get a feel for what surfing Algarve is all about. You’ll have the pick of two classically Portuguese point breaks. One’s a left (on the east side of the bay) that has challenging drop ins onto a section little wedge over a rock bottom – great fun when its kicking. The other is a right that’s a notch down on the difficulty scale. In the middle, at least when it ain’t as flat as a pancake, you’ll catch sand-bottomed breakers that have nice whitewash for the surf schools.
Where to stay in Albufeira (with some good options for those who want to surf)
Albufeira is one of the Algarve’s most popular resorts. It’s got hotels and villas coming out of its ears. We’d say move around to Gale if you really want to be nearer the waves. For that surf-party-sun trip we talked about, try to stick to the hotels that are near to Albufeira Old Town (it’s by far the best place to be!)
Apartamentos Tucha ($$)
Within walking distance of the gorgeous Pescadores Beach and in the heart of the Old Town of Albufeira (the best place to be for nightlife and restaurants), Apartamentos Tucha offers a stay in a charming little Algarvian cottage. There are three rentals in all: A studio for surfing couples, and two larger flats for groups. All are stylish (white walls, modern furniture) and come with good WiFi and a spacious kitchens.
Velamar Boutique Hotel ($$)
Recently renovated Velamar Boutique Hotel is a good option for families and couples looking to enjoy the beaches and town life of the Algarve’s favourite resort. There’s a palm-dotted garden with its own pool. Rooms have breezy balconies and contemporary interiors. You’ll even find a games room with a billiard table.
Hotel Sol e Mar ($$$)
Every surfer likes to be right on the beach. Cue the Hotel Sol e Mar. It gazes right across the golden sands of Pescadores Beach down to the azure waters of the Atlantic. You’ll be able to hear the waves lapping against the sand when you go to bed! Other highlights include the indoor pool and the gorgeous breakfast/bar terrace – hello one of the best views in town!
The Albufeira surf season
There’s one general rule to remember about surfing Algarve south coast waves: Summer = small; winter = big. That might seem strange considering that the winter (November-March) swells are predominantly N-NW, but there’s such power in this quarter of the Atlantic that there’s usually enough to feed the points as they wrap around the Sagres headland. Summertime is usually really flat. Seriously, it’s sunbathers only on a lot of the beaches mentioned above. For beginners, we’d recommend trips in either April or October, when you will find there’s a tad more punch about. Better yet – get in touch with a local surf school and ask them how things are looking!
Things to do when you’re not surfing in Albufeira
Because Albufeira surf is hardly the headline act in this part of the Algarve, there’s oodles to do in the town on flat days. From gorgeous beaches to rollicking waterparks, there’s tonnes to get through…
Pescadores Beach is a sunbather’s, swimmer’s and photographer’s dream come true. Running beneath the cliffs right by the centre of Albufeira Old Town, it’s the main place to kick back in the high summer. The water is perfectly turquoise. The sand is a postcard-worthy shade of yellow. There are also loads of bars and fish restaurants dotting the hillsides just behind.
Go party on The Strip
Albufeira is known all over Europe for its wild nightlife. The hub of that is on Infante Dom Henrique, a road a little to the west of the Old Town. After dark, you can head that way for pumping karaoke parties and DJ sets. Things get going around May and don’t wind up until at least October.
This ultimate guide to Albufeira surf is always being updated and changed. If you think we’ve missed something or gotten something wrong, we’d sure love you to get in touch. You can use email or just drop a message in the comments below.