The Ultimate Guide to Cascais Surfing

by Nuno D'Angelo

Cascais surfing offers a place to go and catch some beginner-friendly Atlantic waves close to Lisbon. It’s also perfectly located in a region with some cracking intermediate breaks.

Cascais surfing

Cascais surfing at a glance

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The good

  • Uber-cool town that’s close to Lisbon
  • Mix of south- and east-facing beaches
  • Beach breaks that get hollow but also cater to beginners

The bad

  • This whole coast can be busy
  • Some pollution after heavy rain
  • Localism can be a problem in some spots

This guide is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in Portugal

What’s in this guide?

An introduction to Cascais surfing

Cascais is one of the most popular surfing spots in the Lisbon area. More than that, it’s almost certainly the top beginner spot in the Lisbon area. The town itself is tucked into a bay on the western side of the Estoril Coast. It’s well protected from the oncoming Atlantic groundswells, so the central beaches – Praia da Ribeira, Praia do Tamariz – are more for the sunbathers and the SUP boarders.

This guide will focus on the beaches that stretch east and west of Cascais itself. They are some serious corkers, offering pretty heavy wedges and beach break barrels on the occasions that the Atlantic shows its teeth. Places like Carcavelos – a few stops on the metro from Cascais – are the stars of the show, but they can get busy with Lisbon folk. The good news is the Cascais surfing spreads north to the shores beneath the Sintra Mountians, too. Drive there and you can catch emptier waves in some pretty gorgeous bays.

You’ve also got to remember that Cascais is about having fun and surfing. The nightlife is pretty darn good. Grand casinos loom up above the sands. You’ll drink Sagres beers and enjoy some fantastic Portuguese food in the open-air eateries too. Lovely stuff.

Where is Cascais?

Cascais is the small town that lies along the Estoril Coast from Lisbon. It’s linked to the Portuguese capital by a comfy and fast railway line that takes about 50 minutes from the station in Santos. You can also drive it, but try to avoid peak rush hours becuase the roads in and out of town can be notoriously busy.

More generally, Cascais looks south into the mouth of the Tagus River. It’s just one headland around from the full brunt of the Atlantic Ocean, and there are other beaches to the east (closer to Lisbon) that angle perfectly into the swells to give fine surfing.

A guide to the Cascais surf spots

The Cascais surfing territory extends from the end of Lisbon to the rugged coastline that rolls beneath the Sintra Mountains. That means there are both SW and W facing beaches that pick up all sorts of different swells. Here’s the lowdown…

Praia da Ursa

Praia da Ursa is one darn stunning place to surf. It’s not really, strictly speaking, in the lineup of Cascais surfing spots. The more intrepid travelers will love heading up – the drive’s around 30 minutes but there’s also a bus that takes 45. You will need to trek the zig-zagging dirt track that comes down to the bay. The waves are real strong, getting the brunt of the westerly swell channel. The cliffs give decent protection and neutralise all the E and S winds. Rides are short, but it’s all about being able to surf in the shadow of the gorgeous Sintra Mountains.

Praia do Guincho

Praia do Guincho is the first of the major breaks that face west across the Atlantic Ocean. That means it gets WAY more swell than its compadres on the south. However, that also means it’s exposed to all the autumn and winter onshores, which can blow the whole place out in a jiffy. It’s a better choice for windsurfers when that’s happening, but summer can make Guincho a perfect beginner place with some nice, easy-going and forgiving waves that come in over sand with plenty of mushiness. Better for intermediates when it’s over 5 foot and swells come NW.

Praia da Ribeira

Praia da Ribeira is the main beachfront in Cascais town. It’s got uber protection from the southerly bump in the coast to the west, which interrupts pretty much all the oncoming W swells and leaves the water pretty flat. Some days can see S swells roll in and the local crowd will be on it straight away. Our advice? Discount Praia da Ribeira alltogether. It’s not one of the best of the Cascais surfing spots and will almost certainly not be working when you’re in town.

São Pedro do Estoril

São Pedro do Estoril is a high-quality beach break that rolls right off the headlands at the end of a lovely sandy beach. It’s popular but nowhere near as busy as Carcavelos nearer to Lisbon. You’ll often find the surf crowd out of Cascais coming in – the train takes just 20 minutes! Works best on a strong W swell with a large period. They’ll wrap around the rocks to offer sets of fun but often wobbly rides. There are a couple of spots to surf, with one larger wave out back and a few easier breaks closer to the shore. Works well for all levels.

Parede

Parede’s a stunning wave that needs bigger swells to get rolling. A few of the better surf crowd will peel themselves off the Carcavelos peaks when it’s going. They’re rewarded by a wedgy and hollow wall that’s a lovely right ride and supremely rippable. It’s close to Cascais and another stop on the train from Lisbon.

Carcavelos

Carcavelos is the top surfing on the Estoril Coast. A classic left point comes off the east end of the bay and gets pretty wedgy and fast at high tide. The west end of the bay, meanwhile, offers up a gnarly right that’s hollow big and uber-fun for experienced surfers when it’s 5-10 foot. Those are the two stand-out spots and they’re usually packed with the local crew who won’t hold back at the first sign of a snake. The middle of the bay is better for learners. When it’s 3-7 foot, you can get some decent learner waves on the secondary swell. We think it’s a bit closey out back there, and ALWAYS busy.

Where to stay when surfing in Cascais

Cascais ain’t no stranger to cracking hotels. It’s even got some places aimed especially at surfers these days…

Hotel in Cascais

Nice Way Cascais Hostel & Surf Camp

Surf-hotel-top-pick

The Nice Way Cascais Hostel & Surf Camp sits on the slopes of Monte Estoril behind the main beaches of Cascais town. It’s a fun-filled hostel-style dig with loads of atmosphere – especially around the pool after a long day’s surfing! Rooms have a posh feel to them, and you can organize surf trips with help from the staff. Easy.

Free Spirit House Cascais – Surf & Yoga Retreats

Best for: Rejuvenation

The Free Spirit House Cascais – Surf & Yoga Retreats will help you align those chakras while you rip up the Cascais surfing. A peaceful villa-style stay on the outskirts of the town, it has good access to Guincho and the west coast, along with its own glorious swimming pool.

The Albatroz Hotel

Best for: LUXURY!

Go on – you deserve it! There’s hardly a better way to surf in style down in Cascais than with a stay at the The Albatroz Hotel. It’s perfect for surfing couples who want to crank up the romance, too, what with a location right above the beach and sumptuous rooms that combine modern style with historic elegance.

When to surf in Cascais

The autumn is probably the peak period to surf in Cascais. We love it for the regular W swells and the warm waters. Summer is better for beginners, while winter should be left to the more experienced riders, as the waves can get big. Spring is a transition time that starts with great intermediate sets and ends with something better for those on the starter surf camps.

Summer (June-August)

Summer is long and hot in Cascais. It’s also bloody busy, with all sorts of travelers joining the Lisbon crowds on their great escape from the city to the beaches. You should also find that the surf ain’t at its best. Yes, there are some stay SW swells that’ll kick up and you’ll get glassy days on the beaches, but there’s a huge lineup waiting to pounce (usually unfriendly locals) and it’s never that punchy. Our advice? Try to head north to Guincho or even Ericeira if you want better reliability between June and August.

Wear: 2mm or a rash vest for some

Autumn (September-November)

The autumn is the key season when it comes to Cascais surfing. With stronger westerly swells kicking through up to the Tagus estuary, the beaches of the Estoril really get going. There are lots of surfable days on São Pedro do Estoril and Carcavelos, offering fast, sometimes hollow waves of between 5-10 foot. Watch the onshores from the W. If they dip then it could also be worth exploring north to the Sintra coast and Guincho.

Wear: 4/3 is the currency for the autumn in Portugal

Surfing in Portugal in spring, summer or Autumn? Don’t miss our guide to the five best sunscreens for surfers. It’s got the lowdown on the creme-de-la-creme of blocks with zinc oxide that have good UV protection and don’t mess with the ocean.

Winter (December-March)

Winter is the untamed height of the Atlantic storm season. It brings very good consistency, though quality on the waves can be an issue. It’s the rare time of the year that the central Cascais surfing will work – places like uber-protected Praia da Ribeira, for example (check the buoy height and watch for 13-foot plus to get that while it’s on). Our main complaint in December and January is the spike in rainfall. That can drag pollution down from Lisbon and wave goodbye to that nice summer water quality.

Wear: 4/3 usually sufficient. Take a hood, gloves and booties too.

Spring (April & May)

THe locals love getting out on the water in Spring. Cascais sees some lovely, warm and balmy days in Aprila and May. There’s still a trace of the strong S-SW swell coming in too, do there’s lots to surf. On top of that, you don’t get the full summer crowds. May is altogether calmer and we think it’s one of the best times of year to join a Cascais surf camp if you’re a total beginner.

Wear: 4/3 or 3/2

Surf shops in Cascais

Cascais is more of a come-and-chill destination than a full-on surf town like, say, Peniche. You don’t have so many dedicated surf stores in the area, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Check out:

POLEN

Drop into the home of one of Portugal’s most iconic shapers: POLEN. They’ve been going since 1988, so must be doing something right! The range of in-house boards is also perfect for the local Portuguese breaks, especially that extra-fat summer rider with its five fin setup. Bring on the ankle burners!

The Base Surf Store

The Base Surf Store is actually a little bit back from the main beach in Cascais. It’s not that easy to get to if you don’t have your own wheels, but it’s worth the trip if you’re after something new for the quiver – they have Chilli stock, Rusty, RVCA and more.


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 article is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in Portugal

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