The Ultimate Guide to Arrifana Surf

by Nuno D'Angelo

Arrifana surf is among the best beginner and intermediate spots in the western Algarve. It’s reliable, it’s fun and it’s in a darn gorgeous bay to boot.

Arrifana surf

Arrifana 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

  • Very consistent
  • Lovely beginner conditions
  • Stunning Algarvian beach

The bad

  • Gets dumpy at high tide
  • Reallllly busy
  • Parking can be trouble

This is just one part of our ultimate guide to the surf in Portugal

What’s in this guide to Arrifana surf?

An introduction to Arrifana surf

Arrifana Beach is often hailed as one of the jewels in the crown of the Algarve surf scene. That’s not because the waves are particularly spectacular. They aren’t, really. It’s because there’s a strong consistency here that keeps even the calmest of summer days offering something in the way of waves. You have the south-westerly orientation to thank for that. I turns the beach into a veritable swell magnet that picks up direct westerlies, wrap-aroudn NW winter swells, and the odd southerly when it happens.

There are actually two waves on offer Arrifana. The first – and by far the most surfed of the two – is the Arrifana beach break. We’d say it’s a middling to okay wave which really fits into the general Portuguese mold of quality over quantity. Then there’s the reef at the top end of the bay. Relatively fickle, it needs plenty of punch to get working but then comes in as a fast, reef right hander with extra hazards but a nice, quick, barrely ride to show for the risk.

Arrifana surfers

What we really love about Arrifana is the vibe – everyone’s a tad more chilled here than in other spots up and down the coast. There are great surf camps, a vanlife community who are always swilling beers with the sunset, and great cafes and villa rentals right by the beach. You’ll also get access to some stunning beaches and extra surf spots to the north and south, so a rental car is a good idea, though not neccessary.

Where is Arrifana?

Arrifana is just about as far north in the Algarve that it’s possible to go without crossing into the region of Alentejo. The beach itself is at the bottom of a south-west facing bay, completely surrounded by the protected reserves of the Costa Vicentina. The closest town is little Aljezur, some four miles as the crow flies.

A guide to the Arrifana surf spots

Check out the two main spots on Arrifana Beach itself, along with the popular places to get in the water to the north and south of this Algarve fav…

Praia da Amoreira

Amoreira at low tide

Amoreira has two spots. At low tide, the angle the of swell widens a little and you get fat A-frames with a more consistent left that runs from the center of the bay towards the cliffs. Works best on 8-foot+ so it’s not a beginner wave. At high tide it’s the left off the rivermouth that comes into its own. That’s got rides of over 100m from the start of the rip to the inside of the bay. Beware the pull of the undertow there where the river joins the Atlantic – it can really push you around. Smaller peaks exist for beginners close to the carpark.

Monte Clerigo

waves at Monte Clerigo

Monte Clerigo is a really cute little surf town at the end of a valley just south of Amoreira and around 10 minutes’ driving from Arrifana through the urbanization. It’s got two spots, one at its north end and one at its south end. The south spot is between two clusters of rocks that you can only fully see at low tide. It’s a nice reef left with a short but quick ride. The other is a more classic Algarve beach break, which gets fat and punchy on 5-foot+. There’s usually more of a line-up there but the paddle out, the winds, and the localism can be a bit rough.

Arrifana reef

Arrifana reef

This is the spot that really hits the headlines for good intermediate surfers in Arrifana. It comes off the cliffs right in front of the harbour wall on Arrifana Beach itself. Anything under 5 foot and you won’t even see it, because it takes some punchy swells (NW or even SW will work) to get it going. When it is up, it’s great. A very fast and hollow wall peels for rides of 30-50m. They’re zippy, fun and rippable. Hazards are all over, though – pay attention especially to how shallow it is (rock cuts are common and so are broken boards).

Arrifana beach break

Arrifana beach

When you hear the instructor tell you you’re headed to Arrifana surf, they mean the Arrifana Beach break. One of the most consistent and popular spots in the whole of the Algarve, this one’s a cracking place to learn, practice, or just ply your trade – it’s an all-level gem.

The north end of Arrifana Beach is often when the lineup will linger. It’s definitely the most consistent part of the bay, with a predictable right that rolls inside and a shorter left that goes to the outside. It’s usually best an hour either side of low tide, when the sets wall up a bit more. Crowds are the usual problem, but there’s not much localism.

The center of the bay becomes a real closeout risk on bigger days. We actually learned to steer clear of the spot, because it got heavy quick and you find your dropping straight in on the whitewash.

The south side of the bay by the rock stack is better but not as good as the north. On mid to low tide it’s a wedgy A-frame but you’ll want to catch the lefts that come into the bay and away from the rocks. At high, it’s a more sectiony peaks with a secondary swell that we loved practicing on as the closeouts hit in behind.

Vale Figueiras

Vale Figueiras waves

You’ll have to drive all the way around through Aljezur and down the Algarve coast road to get to Vale Figueiras. Some days – usually in the summer – it’s worth it because the spot sucks up a little extra westerly swell and has nowhere near the crowds of Arrifana itself. Some rocks underfoot but largely okay.

Where to stay when surfing in Arrifana

There are loads of reasons why Arrifana is considered to be one of the best beginner surf spots in the Algarve. One is the sheer quality of the lodges, hostels and villas right by the beach. Bag one of the ones below and you’ll be within walking distance (or a quick drive) of the breaks every morning.

Walk to the surf in Aljezur

House with 2 bedrooms in Aljezur with wonderful sea view furnished balcony ($$)

We won’t pretend that the House with Sea Views is the most luxurious accommodation in Arrifana. It’s darn nice, with real-stone interiors and a small kitchenette. But it’s the location that steals the show. Dawnies will be easy peasy because the beach is less than three metres away. In fact, this is literally the last cottage on the path down to the beach. You could throw a stone and hit that beach break!

Herdade Monte Do Sol ($$)

Herdade Monte Do Sol has five self-catering cottages just 1,500 metres from the beach at Arrifana. They are the perfect pads to return to after a day of surfing, with log fires and swinging hammocks. Each has its own small kitchen and there’s a shared on-site pool.

Oceanview Arrifana Beach Getaway with Pool and Jacuzzi ($$$)

Best for: Unforgettable group surf trips

OH. MY. GOD. Yea, we aren’t gonna lie, we’d LOVE a week in this beauty in the late autumn. Na, scratch that. WHENEVER will do! A huge outdoor pool. That chic interior. That bubbling Jacuzzi. It’s all perfect. So’s the location of the Oceanview Arrifana Beach Getaway, which is just a few short minutes’ walking to the top of the beach.

When to surf in Arrifana

Arrifana surf is pumping pretty much all year round. However it’s worth knowing how the waves change with changes in the Arrifana weather and whatnot…

Arrifana weather

Summer (June to August)

The western Algarve looks super gorgeous in the summer months. That’s hardly a secret, though, and you’ll find you have to share bays like Arrifana with thousands of swimmers. On top of that, the surf does dip away a little. It’s not awful because this one’s consistency means there are good wave days throughout June and July, they just tend to be smaller and less challenging. The upshot? It’s a great time for total beginners who want warm water and surf sessions between sunbathing sessions.

Wear: Rash vest and shorties or a 2mm.

Winter (December to March)

Winter can get pretty rough down on the western Algarve. Really strong storm systems across the Atlantic, particularly, those up around Iceland, can cook up huge swells that create 10-16 foot waves in these parts. We avoid those days, because the Arrifana surf is totally off then (and we’re scared). Other places like – Bordeira or even the Zavial surf further south – are likely to be more shapely. Lots of surf days in winter though, but the water’s cold.

Wear: 4/3 or 5/4. Hood might be needed on windy sessions.

Autumn (September to November)

Autumn is probably the best time to surf overall. The Arrifana weather remains pretty good. In fact, we just returned from a surf trip in November 2020 and were lazing on the beach topping up our tan at the end of the month! The swells start to shift more NW in general and that brings stronger things across the Atlantic. We had one or two days that were maxed out but 99% of the time it was in the 4-8 foot range and good, so long as you avoid the heavier closeouts in the middle of the bay.

Wear: 4/3, no boots required unless you in for the really long sessions

Spring (April to May)

Spring mirrors a lot of the quality of Autumn. However, it doesn’t have the same consistency overall (around 80-85% of days are surfable in Arrifana in May) and the water’s a lot colder. Still, crowds are reduced before the summer rush and the season only improves as you go along, with smaller, more glassy conditions the norm in May. You might have some days that are too small closer to June, but it’s actually rare.

Wear: 3/2 (towards the end of the season) or 4/3.

Surf shops in Arrifana

Arrifana has plenty of places to check if you’re in need of some hardware. We can also recommend making for nearby Aljezur, where there are a few other places. If not, the larger surf towns of Sagres and Vila do Bispo are the ones you’re after.

Aljezur Surf Spot

Probably the best-known local surf shop, the Aljezur Surf Spot has helped to brand the Arrifana surf. They have a cracking outlet in the small hamlet of Vales on the way to the beach from Aljezur town. It’s only a few clicks from the breaks, but you can get second-hand boards for knock-down prices, brand new pop outs, and local wetsuit brands with eco friendly credentials.

Arrifana Sunset Surf Shop

Also in the teeny-weeny hamlet of Vales, Arrifana Sunset Surf Shop is small but friendly operation. They mainly do rentals but have a decent wetsuit rail filled with Hurley’s latest and little extras like wax and tail pads and rash vests.

Best places to eat in Arrifana

Arrifana is packed with coffee shops and casual surf shacks. Some of our favourites (updated since our last 2020 visit) are listed below…

RESTAURANTE PRAIA ARRIFANA

There’s hardly a better location for a bite to eat overlooking the Arrifana surf! Seriously, RESTAURANTE PRAIA ARRIFANA, occupies a little whitewashed cottage literally a stone’s throw from the north end of the bay. The menu is casual Portuguese tapas and the evening hour is the time to go – folk dance and drink and there are cool samba bands.

Sea You Surf Café

Compact but fantastico, Sea You Surf Café sits at the top of the main road as it weaves over the clifftop from Arrifana. Eats include egg sarnies and soups, salads and quick bites. Drinks include white wines from Alentejo and even kombucha brews.

Things to do when you’re not surfing in Arrifana

Arrifana sits in a lovely part of the Algarve. There are hiking trails and quaint towns riddled with history just a stone’s throw from the surf breaks.

Aljezur new town

Explore the Aljezur old town

Aljezur is a picture-perfect Algarvian town that straddles a few ridges just west of the Arrifana surf. It’s an easy drive in – taking around 10 minutes – to see the Moorish-era castle and the charming cobbled lanes that wiggle through the old town and its chimney-topped cottages.

Praia da Amoreira Trail

Pull on the hiking boots and hit the Praia da Amoreira Trail. It’s a brill adventure through the valley that leads from the beach’s car park to the beach of Praia da Amoreira itself via headlands and woods. Takes around half a day but showcases lovely Algarvian flora, a shimmering river, and wild pine forests.

How to get to Arrifana

  • Fly: Faro Airport is the closest place to arrive in the region of the Arrifana surf. It’s just over an hour’s drive through the Algarve to the south-west. Lisbon Airport is over three hour’s drive to the north.
  • Drive: We’ll assume you’re coming in from Lisbon. There are actually a couple of ways to go, but we MUCH preferred the coast road. It’s longer by about 30 minutes than the motorway but has zero tolls and nicer scenery. Take it via Sines and then skirt the Costa Vicentina all the way to Aljezur where you turn off for Arrifana itself.

Travel insurance for trips to Arrifana

Aljezur has cracking beaches and some seriously reliable surf. If you’ve been tempted to travel here, it’s good idea to have 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.


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. Or, you can check out our bigger guide to surfing in the Algarve – the region that’s home to Arrifana.

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