The Ultimate Guide to Algarve Surf

by Nuno D'Angelo

Algarve surf rolls through clean, warm waters along one of the most beautiful regions of Portugal. It’s primarily for beginners but has something for everyone.

Algarve surf

Algarve surf at a glance

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

The good:

  • This is a gorgeous region with beautiful beaches.
  • Sagres is one of the top surf towns on the continent.
  • Great for beginners.

The bad:

  • Inconsistent swells.
  • Good surf beaches are far apart.
  • Lots of holidaymakers.

This is a part of our greater guide to surfing Portugal

What you’ll find in this guide to Algarve surf

An introduction to surfing in the Algarve

Mention the Algarve and surfing ain’t usually what comes to mind. Sun-kissed beaches, high cliffs, green-blue sea waters, and pumping party towns are probably closer to the mark. But wave hunters shouldn’t discount this corner of Portugal. It’s got plenty going for it in the swell department. That’s especially true for beginners; the people who come to soak up a tan, chase their first peak, and practice their pop-up.

Sagres leads the way. It’s the only real out-and-out surf town in the region, with two great breaks right on its doorstep. Backing it up are places like Arrifana, where the right-hand point is a heavy set barrel that kicks up some serious challenges in the winter season.

However, the Algarve really shines for novices as you head south. The coastline there hosts popular holiday towns like Lagos and Portimao. But the golden beaches aren’t only for lazing with a Super Bock in hand. They can offer some top waves that are glassy and green, particularly from November to March.

Where is the Algarve?

The Algarve caps off the southern end of Portugal. It’s right on the south-western tip of mainland Europe as a whole, which means it faces the straight out to the Atlantic Ocean. That’s where the swell comes from. To the north is the lesser-known and huge region of Alentejo. To the east is Spain, and the surf towns of Cadiz and the south coast.

A guide to Algarve surf spots

The Algarve has two coastlines – one to the south and one to the west. The first faces the brunt of the Atlantic Ocean, so expect the waves there to be pretty heavy and hard, with reliable sets coming in most months of the year. On the south, meanwhile, rideable days are less common, but there’s way more shelter that makes for some good beginner locations.

Surf spots in the western Algarve

The western Algarve is arguably the best surf territory in the whole of Portugal. It’s got miles upon miles of stunning bays, most of them pretty remote. The waves are really reliable, because they have a swell window open to anything in the NW down to the SW channels. It can get big here, but there’s also plenty for beginners.

Surf west Algarve

Arrifana

Arrifana surf offers two distinct breaks. There’s a pretty reliable beach break that can often be a closeout on bigger days. That’s host to surf schools and everyone up to intermediates trying to improve their take offs. At the northernmost end of the bay is a point break. It’s always busy with local surfers when its working, thanks to the hollow sections that move superfast from left to right. If you’re heading there, beware of localism and shallow rock pools.

We have a complete guide to the awesome breaks at Arrifana

Aljezur

Aljezur is a lovely little town in the northern Algarve. It’s become something of an international surfer’s hub in recent years. There’s access to a handful of fantastic beaches, most notably the famous breaks at Arrifana (see above). You’ll need a car to explore the area, but it’s a great base for Portuguese surf trips. Personally, we can’t wait to go back.

Check out our full guide to surfing in Aljezur

Carrapateira

The cliffs of Carrapateira host some of the most spectacular lefts in the region. Can handle a lot of size and power but are mainly for experienced surfers from Autumn onwards. The beach here also has multiple breaks that can get peaky and hollow on harder days, but there’s plenty of crumbly stuff for beginners too. The whole place is also downright stunning!

Check out our guide to the Carrapateira surf today

Beliche

You’ll find Beliche huddled under dramatic cliffs to the north of Sagres. It’s one of the classiest waves in the whole region. Locals love it for its fat triangles that move slowly and present nice rippable surfaces. Add in some challenging hollow sections and nice walls that can handle a lot. On smaller days, beginners often come to enjoy the soft beach peaks.

Sagres

This is the kingpin of Algarve surf culture. Perfectly situated right at the end of the region, where it pokes straight out into the Atlantic Ocean, the town has two induvial beaches. Tonel is the one that most intermediates will head for. It’s a good beach break with reliable surf at low tide. On the flipside of the headland is Praia do Martinhal. Have that on the radar if you’re a beginner or elsewhere is blown out.

Have a look at our complete guide to surfing in Sagres – the surf capital of the Algarve

Surf spots in the south Algarve

The south Algarve has nowhere near the same consistency as the west Algarve. However, we would never write it off. There are actually some onerously quality break in the area, like the hollow walls of Zavial (hotly contested, mind you). When the winter is battering the Atlantic seaboard, it can also be one of the best places to seek shelter and catch some nice waves. The water’s warmer, too, and the weather is fine…

Surf south Algarve

Praia da Luz

Mostly a holiday town but facing a gorgeous big beach, Praia da Luz has two point breaks. One goes left and is fast and shallow. The other is a little easier going. Both waves hold up to around 5ft. Hazards include the reefs that ring around the big Rocha Negra rock. Only a short drive from the city of Lagos for easy access.

Zavial

A beautifully consistent wave that always seems to take the same shape, no matter the swell, Zavial breaks along the southern Algarve cliffs around 20 minutes’ drive from Sagres town. It’s not actually just a single peak, but a few. However, the headline act is that quick, barreling point break that usually goes right but can also throw up awesome A-frames. Gets busy. Lots of localism if you show you don’t know what you’re doing!

Albuferia

Albufeira is better known as one of Portugal’s buzzy resort towns. In the summer, it’s a party and R&R mecca. Access to some of the most stunning beaches in Europe is a major draw. However, surfers can enjoy lots of surrounding breaks, which tend to be suited mainly to beginners.

Read our full guide to surfing in Albuferia

Faro

Faro is the home the main airport in the Algarve. It also comes surrounded by long, wide beaches where the surf can sometimes sit up on a SW swell in the winter. It’s mainly beginner stuff, but there are some faster lefts on the harbours of Praia da Falesia for more experienced boarders.

Read our full guide to Faro surf right now

What we’d take on a surf trip to Portugal’s west coast

Wetsuits (men):

  • [WINTER – October to March] Billabong 4/3 Revolution Chest Zip | Eco-friendly thanks to Superlight Foam upcycling tech but still with the performance of a high-end steamer, this 4/3 is a cracker for 2021 in Portugal.
  • [SUMMER – April to September] C-Skins Session 3/2 | C-Skins have really impressed in the last few seasons and the 3/2 Session was our go-to for summer surfs in the Algarve last year. it doesn’t Dissapoint.

Wetsuits (women):

  • [WINTER – October to March] C-Skins Solace 4/3 | The blind-stitched seams reduce flushing on more hardcore days up the PT coast in this pretty impressive suit. Thick enough for anything between November and March most years.
  • [SUMMER – April to September] Rip Curl 4​/3 Flashbomb Steamer Wetsuit | A classic 3/2 Rip Curl steamer with the height of quality. Nothing entry-level here – it’s got that groundbreaking RC E6 tech. Awesome suit.

Some of the best surf hotels in the Algarve

The Algarve is no stranger to hotels and resorts. This is the most holiday-friendly corner of Portugal, remember? These days, you’ll also find places that are either out-and-out surf establishments or really well located for waking and hitting the waves…

Endless Summer Surf House ($-$$)

Surf-hotel-top-pick

Endless Summer Surf House gets you into the heart of the prime surf territory of the Algarve, above the beaches of Arrifana (great for beginners) and Monte Clerigo (intermediates+). It’s a stunning accommodation that attracts a crowd of young wave-hungry folk. The style is sort of boho boutique and there’s an on-site pool. It really is a corker. Book early for the summer – it usually fills up!

Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort Hotel ($$-$$$)

Best for: Family surf trips

Hit the two surf beaches in Sagres (one for beginners one for intermediates) by booking the highly rated Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort Hotel. It’s perfect if you’re coming as a whole family, thanks to it big suites that sleep six people or more. The pool is also a stunner, with sweeping views right across Martinhal Beach – you can check the quality of the swell from your balcony!

Salema Beach Village ($$-$$$)

Best for: Exploring the south Algarve with the potential for some surf

A series of self-contained holiday rentals ring a beautiful pool in this resort. Some of them are big enough to host groups of six, which makes it a doozy for surfing families. Beginner riders will also love the location, because it puts you within reach of lots of the good and mellow breaks on the southern shores of the Algarve. A car will be required.

Carrapateiramar Guest House ($$)

Best for: Intermediates+

Carrapateiramar Guest House offer a place amid some of the best intermediate and up breaks of the western Algarve. They’re rustic and simple pads really close to the ocean. A great escape from it all for couples searching for the region’s best waves…

A guide to the Algarve surfing season

The Algarve has one of the longest swell seasons of anywhere in Portugal. That’s thanks to its unique geography; one foot southwards, one foot westwards. Summertime generally sees things mellow out and the Algarve surf schools draw more beginners. Winter can be big, but it’s no Nazare – there’s usually something going for intermediates in the more sheltered bays.

South Algarve beaches

October – March

The best time to come to surf Algarve’s shores. When the ocean starts putting swells up through that all-important N-NW channel, there’s really nothing better than a morning session down on the southern Algarve or in the big beach bays that filter away from Sagres. They can go overdrive sometimes, true, putting closeouts into the unsheltered spots. But, generally speaking, the conditions are reliable, with more rideable days than not.

The seas do cool in the winter, but they are still the warmest in the country. A wetsuit and booties are probably needed. Winds come offshore to help with wave shape, and the weather tends to be mild and spring-like, save in the height of winter – Dec, Jan.

Wear: 4/3 – that’s enough to see you through the whole season unless you really feel the cold. We’d also pack boots and gloves for December and Jan.

April – September

The start of the busiest season in the Algarve means the coming of the tourist crowds. Places like Luz and Lagos will fill to bursting with sun seekers. Resorts like Albufeira will be nigh on unbearable. What’s more, the Atlantic slackens its power from autumn onwards. There’s not the same day-to-day surf hitting the south coast, and even the west coast can be unpredictable. Still, there are great sessions to be had, especially for novices who are keen on mellow beach breaks in warm, clean conditions.

Wear: 3/2 is the wetty of choice. Nothing else needed. Apart from a good sunscreen, of course!

Things to do when you’re not surfing in the Algarve

Be sure to check out the other draws of the Algarve when you’re not in the water. Here’s just a taster:

Party in Albufeira

party albufeira

Sagres might have some great après surf bars, but there’s no match for the hedonism of Albufeira in the midsummer. Think about bookending your Algarve surf trip with a few days in this pumping resort. The main strip has karaoke and loads of DJ dives, so there’s never a dull moment.

Praia da Rocha

Praia da Rocha

Perhaps the most stunning of all the seriously stunning beaches that fringe the Algarve, Praia da Rocha is one you’ll want the camera at the ready for. It’s framed by high cliffs of ochre and orange, washed by seas of see-through blue. There’s a big rock arch at one end and high stacks of stone that seem to jut straight out of the water. It’s simply beautiful.

How to get to the Algarve

Because the Algarve is such a big tourist hotspot, you shouldn’t find it hard to get there. Faro Airport is the main aviation hub. It’s a top arrival point for low-cost carriers coming from all over the continent. However, most of those run seasonally, which means fewer dates during the peak Algarve surf season of the winter.

Buses can take you to towns like Lagos, Sagres, Faro and Albufeira straight from Lisbon. They take a just shy of four hours in total and cost in the region of €20. If you’re driving, the time from Lisbon is usually cut to about three hours. But that’s only if you’re not tempted to make pitstops at the hidden Alentejo and northern Algarvian surf spots along the way!


This ultimate guide to Algarve 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.

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This is just one part of our larger guide to surfing in Portugal. Check that out for info on spots all across the country!

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