Just south of Peniche and close to Lisbon, Areia Branca surf breaks offer a range of different peaks over rock, reef, and sand.
Areia Branca surf at a glance
- At least five separate peaks along the beach
- Close to Peniche and lots of places to stay
- Vibrant little coastal town
- Some strong rips
- Tidal differences can really change the surf
- Reports that the localism can be terrible
This is a part of our greater guide to surfing Portugal.
What will I find in this guide to Areia Branca surf?
An introduction to Areia Branca surf
Just look at the location of Praia da Areia Branca. It sits roughly on the stretch of coast that connects Ericeira (a designated world-surfing reserve, no less) and the world-famous sands of Supertubos in Peniche. It’s obvious that this one was going to offer waves. The only question is what sort. The answer? Mainly beefy slabs of Atlantic water that rise heavy and break quick. Classic Portugal.
The small town of Areia Branca itself is a charm. It’s got cobbled streets that wiggle and weave around cafés and seafood eateries. There’s a good hostel in the middle of it all, along with access to a beachfront that runs for a whopping 16km in total. That’s where the waves are. In total, you’ve got about five separate spots to check out along the whole stretch. Most are sand-bottomed, but some are points and river mouth breaks that see a few rocks and boulders underfoot.
Geology aside, it’s the localism that’s the main downside here. Although the proximity to Peniche – about a 15-minute drive to the north – has helped bring in more travellers and even surf schools, the folk here are still noticeably more barbed than elsewhere. We’d say: bring a thick skin, pay close attention to the car, don’t go dropping in, and try to seek out the less-busy breaks.
Where is Praia Da Areia Branca?
Easy. As you drive north on the way to Peniche (everyone’s done that, right?) you take a left and hit the coast about 10 minutes before the famous Supertubos beach. That actually puts Praia Da Areia Branca in the region of Lisbon, not the Leiria District. The drive in from the capital usually takes about 1h10 minutes in total, providing there’s no traffic jam on the way out of the city.
The best Areia Branca surf spots
A lot of surf guides include Areia Branca surf on their Peniche surf map. That’s just how close these two spots are (it’s about 15 minutes’ drive from one to the other). However, we prefer to take them separately, not least of all because they are, officially, two different towns in two different districts of central Portugal. So, let’s take a look at a few of the spots you can expect to ride in these parts…
The main beach (Praia da Areia Branca)
You only need to stroll onto the sand from the main oceanfront road of Areia Branca town to find the main beach. During the summer, it’s usually packed with tanning bodies. In the winter, it’s a little wilder and windier. This is where you’ll find the most accessible peaks going. They are actually only a stone’s throw from the beer bars in the town itself.
Sadly, there’s little point trying to capture what they’re like. The shifting sandbanks and the unpredictable nature of the head-on Atlantic swell can create all sorts of shapes. One day, you might find heavy slabs of double above. On another, you could see glassy A-frames. It’s a roll of the dice, especially when you factor in the changes that the tide can bring – they are hefty!
Praia de Peralta
Praia de Peralta is the long beach that stretches south over the headland from Areia Branca. It’s quite the distance from the town, and relatively remote (we’d say bring the car). However, those who do venture to its waves will be rewarded with less-busy spots. They are strung out along several kilometres of pretty beachfront, all ringed by high cliffs. Again, the conditions here are unpredictable and the sheer variety of peaks means there’s a big range of wave styles. Generally speaking, you’re looking at catching big pushes from the N-NW swells in winter, with overheads and double overheads common. Watch out for hidden reefs and exposed sections on windy days.
There’s no official name for the breaks that assemble around the rivermouth here. However, the locals will know it as one of the most fun Areia Branca surf spots of all. When the sandbars align there, you can catch left- and right-handers that are zippy and really rippable. Ask in a nearby store for the prime tide times (it’s tricky to get right). Also, be wary of heavy rips and cross currents, particularly during the winter months.
Our pick of Areia Branca hotels
Terraços da Peralta – D ($$$)
The plush Terraços da Peralta – D sits just a stroll away from Peralta Beach. This villa consists of three double bedrooms, a lounge and kitchen for self-catering. With a pool overlooking the waves and a hot tub on offer, it’s a great place to relax after a long surf session. Perfect for groups of friends or a family.
HI Areia Branca – Pousada de Juventude ($$)
If you’re looking for mid-range accommodation in a perfect location, HI Areia Branca – Pousada de Juventude might just be the place for you. Located on the seafront, right behind the main beach, the hotel offers basic rooms at an affordable price.
West Coast Surf Hostel ($)
West Coast Surf Hostel is a top place for travellers on a tighter budget, and those looking to hang with other fellow surfers. The hostel is located a short walk from the main beach. If you’re a surfing newbie, try their surf tuition.
A guide to the Praia da Areia Branca surfing season
There are huge differences to be seen in the waves when the Praia da Areia Branca surfing season switches from summer to winter and back again. You’re looking at light, mushy waves compared to some cold slabs that can be a challenge to tame…
The winters along the coast south of Nazare are pretty well known for bringing some punchy N-NW swells. They come straight across the Atlantic and even work their magic on the beachies of Praia da Areia Branca. That should ring alarm bells to anyone who knows how fickle beach breaks can be. However, Branca can still stand up. That’s largely thanks to its interspersing of reef sections and decent offshores, which can help keep things in line even to 1-2m.
The slackening of the and the onset of the Nortada N-NW winds help to create some smaller, shapelier waves. Summer also brings hotter weather, so a 2mm or 3/2 goes fine in these waters. You can expect some heavy days with overheads, but the likelihood are smaller wedges that offer shorter rides. Areia Branca surf also has a tendency to turn mushy when small, creating some great conditions for surf schools and beginners.
Where to eat in Areia Branca
There are plenty of little cafes and eateries to enjoy in Areia Branca. The ones with the best view tend to crowd around the Passeio do Mar walkway by the beach, but there are other gems hidden in the streets behind…
Indian? In Portugal? You bet. Maharani is a highly rated eatery that churns out spicy dishes inspired by the east. It’s done in the style of a classic British curry house, so you won’t be short on tikka masalas and rogan josh. Inside is cosy but cool. Outside has some nice al fresco seating on the pavement.
Elegant little dishes with an eco-friendly vibe are the name of the game at Barraca Café. Smoothies, burgers, Buddha bowls – that’s the sort of creative, healthy and fresh foods you’ll find. The piece de resistance is surely that stunning view straight down over the waves of Praia da Areia Branca, though!
Things to do when you’re not chasing the Areia Branca waves
Staying in the area around Areia Branca puts you in a fun part of Portugal. Lisbon isn’t miles away (sightseeing, anyone?). Neither is the amazing surf town of Peniche (seafood, perhaps?).
One of the great things about choosing an Areia Branca surf school is just how close it is to Lisbon. Just 45 minutes’ drive to the south-east can take you to the heart of the buzzing Portuguese capital. We’d recommend taking a couple of days out of the trip to see it to the full. There are fascinating maritime museums, atmospheric areas like Alfama, and the buzzing nightlife district of Bairro Alto to boot!
Every surfer headed to Portugal should know Peniche! It’s one of the meccas for waves on this section of the coast. But it’s also a charming, whitewashed fishing town with some lovely beaches. You can reach it in just 20 minutes on the IP6 if you have your own car. (PS. On days when there are waves – be sure to take the board!).
This ultimate guide to Areia Branca 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.