Ericeira surf is arguably the best in Portugal. There are beaches here for all levels. The waves work all year round. And you get a fantastic selection of surf camps and surf hotels. It’s not for nothing that this one has been named and official World Surfing Reserve. If in doubt, you can’t go wrong coming here.
An introduction to Ericeira surf
An official Save the Waves reserve, Ericeira is up there with the very cream de la crème of Portuguese surf. The spots are spread over a series of bays and long beaches that all front the Atlantic. Some are swell magnets. Others are protected. They range from sand-bottomed beginner rollers like the ones at Foz do Lizandro to rugged reefs at the wedges of Praia do Sul and Coxos.
With a whopping 10 recognized spots packed into under 10 miles of coastline, you’re never likely to be short on places to go. What’s more, the reliability is unbelievable. Stats show that groundswells account for over 55% of the wave days here, meaning you shouldn’t have to contend with blown-out frames or bad conditions too much of the time.
The dominant swell direction swings from SW to NW. Prevailing easterly winds push plenty of offshore systems through – you can see it in the spray coming off the waves down on Ribeira D’Ilhas! Oh, and there’s a super-chilled surfer vibe to the town itself. Expect live-music places, great bakeries, and some brilliant surf schools and surf camps. In fact, a whole load of the very best surf camps in Portugal make their home here and we can see why.
To put it simply: Ericeira is probably the best all-round surf town in Portugal. It’s got a multitude of breaks (some say over 65!) for all levels and is rarely flat. No matter who you are or what you’re after, coming here with the board in tow is probably a great idea.
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This is a part of our greater guide to surfing Portugal
Surfing in Ericeira at a glance
When to surf in Ericeira: All year // What level: Beginner to pro // Type of surf spots in Ericeira: Beach breaks, point breaks, reefs
What’s in this guide to surfing in Ericeira?
Where is Ericeira?
Roughly a third of the way between the Costa Estoril – Lisbon’s main coastline – and the region’s other surf mecca of Peniche (better for beginners), Ericeira makes its home neatly on the central Portuguese coast. It’s one of the larger towns you’ll encounter as you head away from the beautiful Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. The town itself sits right on top of the famous Praia dos Pescadores – a gorgeous dash of golden sand that’s either side of the main surf breaks.
Getting to Ericeira
Ericeira’s proximity to Lisbon means it’s actually one of the more accessible surf towns in the country. Here’s a guide to how you can expect to get in…
- Fly: The closest thing you’ll get to a flight to Ericeira is a flight to Lisbon. They arrive at Portela Airport. It’s around just 30 minutes’ drive away. Airlines include low-cost carriers like Ryanair and easyJet. Connections in the off-season months of the winter can cost as little as £15 each way – you’ve just got to be sure to book early. We use Skyscanner or Omio to compare short- and long-haul flight routes throughout Europe. We think they are the cheapest and most accurate overall.
- Bus: It costs under €7 per person to get from Lisbon to Ericeira. Look for the station at Campo Grande, from where connections go regularly. Links are more often in the summer but do run all year. You can use Omio to plan and pre-book train and bus journey throughout Portugal.
- Car/van: Ericeira is well linked to the main A8 highway that goes through the heart of the Lisbon region. That, in turn, connects to the E1 motorway, which runs north-to-south through the whole country. The upshot? It’s easy to get in by car or van. The whole journey takes about 35 minutes from Lisbon and just under three hours from Porto. On top of all that, car rentals in Portugal tend to be CHEAP. We usually pay around $300 for a full month with a provider like Centuaro, but RentalCars is always our first port of call.
Ericeira the World Surfing Reserve
Ericeira became the first official Save the Waves World Surfing Reserve in Portgual back in 2011. That made it the second World Surfing Reserve on the planet!
There are three main requirements to get the honor, each of which the region has in bags:
- Wave quality – The Surfing Reserve covers the northern part of the town. As you’ll see later on, that’s the more challenging sector in Ericeira and it comes with world-class breaks like the Coxos barrel.
- Surf culture and maritime history – The Jagoz peoples who once inhabited Ericeira survived solely because of the ocean. That set them apart from the rest of Portugal’s ancient tribes, who combined living on the land with living on the sea.
- Environment – Ericeira’s surf coast is incredibly varied. You’ll see this when you travel north out of town – the shores oscillate between seaweed-covered rock reefs and soaring cliffs. It’s a mecca for marine life, from seals to sardines.
In total, there are seven waves included in the designated reserve area. As we’ve mentioned, they are generally better suited to upper intermediate and advanced surfers. The first is just north of town at Caves
Where to surf in Ericeira?
Ericeira has loads of surf! This isn’t a single-beach town where the line-up is crammed into a solitary bay. There are more than 10 separate places to head. Each has its own unique wave, whether that’s a curling Atlantic barrel section or a peaky sand break that’s ripe for a little ripping.
A few of the most popular options are listed below. We’ve divided them into north and south waves. That’s a good way of doing things because they northern Ericeira surf breaks tend to be harder and more remote. The southern ones lean towards first-timers and have better access to the old town.
Surf spots in north Ericeira
North Ericeira is the designated World Surfing Reserve and the area to go looking for the more challenging breaks.
North Ericeira is rockier and more rugged than the south. It’s the area to seek out the more challenging barrels and points, which really come into their own on those heavy NW winter swells.
Praia da Empa
One of the first waves you’ll encounter as you head north out of Ericeira town is the speedy reef of Praia da Empa. There’s hardly a speck of sand between the rocky cliffs and the ocean here, so watch out for exposed rocks.
Accessible on mid to high tides for a zippy, interior-tube right that’s sure to get the adrenaline pumping. Leave it to the pros!
The go-to arena for surf competitions in Ericeira for its reliable swells, Ribeira D’Ilhas almost always has something on offer. It’s on the northernmost edge of Ericeira, running under high cliffs at the end of a dusty track.
Where the ocean meets the land, it rolls over a series of concealed reefs. They sculpt the NW currents into a lovely, long right hander. There’s also an outer section (harder) that falls off right-to-left.
Breaking just in front of Praia da Pesqueira south of Coxos, Caves is one of the gnaly slabs that really showcase how heavy Ericiera’s World Surfing Reserve area can get on those winter swells.
When it’s punching in January and February, daredevils will scoot out here to try and steal backdoor sections on a pounding right-hander. It’s a frothing beast that reminds us of a mini Shipsterns, with occasional double up sections and a loyal following of bodyboarders who don;t mind getting lugged around.
Great to watch. Hard to surf.
Crazy Left is the left to the Coxos Right. It breaks under the big cliffs on the south end of the Baía dos Coxos. In fact, most people will park up near Coxos itself and paddle out in the same channel to get to the wave, which is fickle to say the least.
It like strong SW swells and any wind in the NE quadrant to work best. Any veterans of the Surfing Reserve here will tell you that’s a pretty rare combo for Ericeira.
When it does work, there will be an army of exceptionally good goofy riders crossing from Coxos itself to score the almond barrels that suck up off the very shallow reefs and filter into the channel. It’s always rippy but a really wild wave that’s part The Box, part something out of the Ments.
On days when Coxos is really pumping, it can feel like the full punch of the Atlantic is forced into its tubing right-handers. Big barrels are the name of the game. They wedge up and roll quickly over jagged reefs that are infested with urchins (boots are a must). Spy on how the locals paddle in and out before you even attempt to get in the water – it’s something of an art. Experts only.
Push out even further north that Ribeira and you’ll come to the rocky cove of Sao Lourenco. A gold-sand beach opens onto what some consider to be the some of the finest big-wave sets in the country. On large swells, this one’s a playground for the XXL crowd with their sights set on Nazare. When things aren’t pumping so much, you can expect the right-hand reef to generate some rides that top 150 meters in length. There might be zero crowds but it’s only really for experts.
Surf spots in south Ericeira
South Ericeira is less rocky, more sandy. It has the more beginner and intermediate-friendly waves.
Ericeira is a great location for all levels of surfer. The south of town is where the beginner breaks are. Head there to find the beaches that have the easier waves, particularly in the summer months when the NW swells dip and the mellower SW systems flock in.
The drive from Ericeira to Praia do Magoito is about 30 minutes and it takes you into the stunning Sintra Coast. Notice how the mountains looms up high here and the beaches are wedged between sheer-cut cliffs. That’s kinda’ great news on those windy summer and autumn days when the breezes threaten to mess all the swell up. Get here for high tide and you’ll have some of the best shelter in the area. The waves are intermediate and up. They break over a patchwork of rocky reef and cobblestone. Most come for the long right but there’s a short, hollowish left when it’s 5 foot+ here that’s great fun, plus a whole number of wedges to score along the bay, more as the tide drops.
Praia da Vigia
We’re actually big fans of Praia da Vigia. It’s technically just the southernmost cap of Sao Juliao (see below) but a full tide cuts this cove off so that you can only get there on a dusty country road that not all that many people know about. The waves are fun peelers that break over a rock reef-sand combo, offering neat rides of 40-50m on their best days. The focal point is an A-frame peak that offers very short lefts and longer rights into the sand right by the access point to the beach.
When the swell dips in summertime and other southern beaches are looking positively serene, there’s a chance you’ll catch a few great waves in Sao Juliao. In fact, it’s one of the true swell magnets of Ericeira. A classic beach break, you’ll catch loads of peaks extending down a large length of Portuguese golden sand. When things do start picking up, Sao Juliao can suffer from heavy closeouts and it’s not pretty.
Foz do Lizandro
Calling all beginners, Foz do Lizandro is the place to go! This handsome cove between the river mouth and the cliffs is known for its tame swells. It’s got a sand bottom, so there’s no worries about riding into any rock. Works best on a medium to low tide, as the retreating water expands the plane of the wave. Changes daily thanks to the movements of the estuary sandbars. Expect some flat, fat days with low swells. Sometimes, you’ll catch Lizandro showcasing a cracking left-hander that can hold up to 8 feet!
Lage dos Tubos
Lage dos Tubos is one of the more intermediate spots of southern Ericiera. It’s a reef break that can send long, marching rights that offer nice pitching walls for over 100m on good days. The spot likes a bit of N in the swell direction to get it acting like a point break and stretching those shoulders out even more. High tide works best. Bigger swells in winter often see it break up into an inside and outside, the out getting heavy and closey, the inside offering occasional hollow sections that are suited to more advanced riders.
Wait for high tide to push up and cover the rock reefs that run in front of this stretch of beach a very short drive south of the town and you can get left-right peaks that work in pretty much any swell that’s over 2-3 foot. It’s a great summer wave because it loves sets coming from the W channel. We’d put it down as a cracker of an intermediate option, because there are some sections with exposed reef that you’ll need to be wary of.
Praia do Sul
Beginners looking to graduate from Lizandro’s lazy lefts and rights should put Praia do Sul in their crosshairs. A typical southern Ericeira surf break, it’s neat and nice with glassy waters. Everything breaks over a sand bottom. There are peaks that move both directions. They offer rides that can extend as much as 100 metres across the bay. Chances are you’ve already seen this break on postcards of the town – the grand and luxurious Hotel Vila Galé Ericeira stands right above to make for a nice photo. You can stay there if you have the dosh!
Surf camps in Ericeira
If you don’t feel like planning all your travels and hotels and surf lessons separately, a surf camp in Ericeira is the way to go. There’s lots of them; some great, others not so good. Pick wisely to make the most of your time. We can recommend…
- Magikvanilla Surf Camp – A super highly rated (like 4.9/5) surf camp that’s not your run of the mill factory experience. These guys keep it to under five guests per instructor so you know you’re getting the attention you deserve. They operate out of a super-nice villa pad in the backstreets of Ericiera. Packages include video analysis, transfers to the beach, breakfast, and friends for life.
- Moka Surf House and Yoga Retreat – The Zen option. This surf-yoga camp isn’t in the buzzy heart of town but out in the chilled outskirts. Their packages are as much about relaxation as they are about upping your wave game. Yoga sessions take place in the Mongolian yurt and packages include five two-hour lessons and use of the in-house surf gear.
- Lapoint Surf Camp Ericeira – Just a mention of the name Lapoint Surf Camp Ericeira is usually enough to get goose bumps rising on any surfer’s neck. One of the most quintessential players in the surf camp industry, these guys offer the fully fledged wave holiday experience. Vibes are awesome, with loads of other surfers to chill with after your session. The style is lush, with chic interiors that spill onto an outdoor area with a pool and poolside deck. It’s our top pick in the region.
Want more suggestions? We’ve got you covered, with this complete run through of all the hottest surf camps in Portugal right now…
Where to stay for surfing in Ericeira
The ever-growing popularity of Ericeira surf has brought more and more surf schools and surf hostels to this town. But before the waves hit the headlines, Ericeira was a popular retreat for Lisbon locals looking for a bit of Atlantic breeze and sun.
The result? There are all sorts of places to stay here. They go from sleek five-star resorts with stunning views of the ocean to low-cost surfer digs just steps from the most popular breaks. A few options we have loved in the past include…
Ericeira Soul Guesthouse ($$)
This beautifully chic and modern aparthotel puts you smack back in the middle of Ericeira. The harbourside and pretty Praia dos Pescadores is right out front, while the surf spots are just to the north and south. However, when you lose from being a little further from the breaks, you gain in style. Doubles are brimming with organic woods and soothing tones of white. There are lovely walk-in showers. And just check out that breezy pool area with its sunbeds. Post surf chill, anyone?
Vila Gale Ericeira ($$$)
The plush Vila Gale Ericeira spreads over a plinth of salt-washed rocks just outside of the Praia dos Pescadores bay. It’s one of the grandest landmarks of the town, with regal doubles that overlook the Atlantic. And when you really want to feel like a jet setter? Hit the pool – it’s literally metres away from where the waves roll in!
Chill in Ericeira Surf House ($-$$)
If you’re after that classic Portuguese surf camp experience, you’ve found it at the Chill In. With a mix of bright and colourful doubles and dorms, it’s usually all easy on the wallet and generous on the good vibes. A 24-hour reception helps you organise everything from surf lessons to yoga sessions. Oh, and everyone meets everyone. It’s pretty cool.
Hostel & Surfcamp 55 ($)
Shared kitchen? Check. Bike rental? Check. Communal kitchen? Check. This low-key surf house has all the ingredients for an awesome trip to the Ericeira waves. The best bargains are on beds in the mixed dormitory, but all accommodations are a mere five minutes’ walking to the waves. An on-site board rental makes things nice and easy.
Step-by-step guide to planning your Ericeira surf trip right now
Step one: Book flights to the Ericeira surf…Lately, we like Omio for searching flights. It’s a nice interface and has lots of airline options. We also use Skyscanner because that sometimes offers deals that even beat going direct to the carrier!
Step two: Book your surf camp Book Surf Camps is the numero uno online booking platform for fully-fledged surf-stay packages on the internet right now. Then there’s Booking.com. That has consistently unbeatable rates for hotels and a nifty map feature that lets you check EXACTLY how close your hotel is to a surf break.
Step three: Get insuranceThis is kinda’ important. Not just for surf trips but for any trips. SafetyWing is great for nomad travelers. They offer rolling contracts that cover amateur surfing.
Step four (optional): Rent a car If you’re surf camping then you might not need wheels. If you’re not then we’ll just say this: We’ve never been on a surf trip that wasn’t improved by having our own car. Use RentalCars – they’re the best.
Step five: Enjoy!
When to surf in Ericeira?
We’d say autumn reigns supreme for surf in Ericeira. It’s got smaller crowds and strong, cross-Atlantic W and NW swells. Summer is warmer but better for beginners. Winter lends itself to far more experienced riders, while Spring is a mix of big waves and smaller waves, good for beginners up to experts.
This is when the famous reefs that string along the headlands to the north of the town really come into their own. The north and north-west swells can fire on all cylinders at this time of year, pushing power straight into Coxos and its neighbours. It’s the time for overheads and double overheads aplenty, with consistent conditions. Sadly, winds do pick up and there can be strong onshores.
- Wear: 4/3 and bring the boots, hood and gloves
Spring (April & May)
The weather calms a tad on the Atlantic coast of Portugal come the spring. Warmer days mingle with strong groundswell currents to give a last hurrah of the winter storm systems. That means regular 5-10 footers along the Ericeira coast, with punchy swells hitting the northern reefs. Later in the spring is prime for surf campers looking to hit Foz do Lizandro without the crowds.
- Wear: 3/2 and bring boots if you’re coming early in the springtime Ericeira surf season
A lot of the surf crowd is replaced by holidaymakers in search of sun and sea. However, this could be prime time to organise a surf trip to Ericeira if you’re a total beginner. The likes of Foz do Lizandro and Praia do Sul are likely to offer something to ride. It might be just chest-high and whitewash but that’s fun too. Occasional days with summer groundswells can be downright awesome on the Ericeira surf, with glassy conditions and decent barrels. Just don’t expect to find them empty!
- Wear: 2mm. No booties needed unless you frequent the reefs
Autumn (September & October)
The autumn is widely considered to be the prime season for surfing in Ericeira. The engine room of the north Atlantic really gets going in October, which is when Nazare fires up. Down here in Ericeira it’s tamer but still strong, with nice groundswell stats making virtually every day a rideable one. Things can get big, but it should be interspersed with lots of days at 3-5 foot that let the novices have a good day on the beach breaks, too.
- Wear: 3/2 at the start of the season. 4/3 at the end
How difficult is the surf in Ericeira?
Overall, we’d rate the surf in Ericeira as mid-level, intermediate-friendly stuff. The reason we get to that conclusion is that there’s stuff for total beginners, but also things for the WSL pros out there – this is a World Surfing Reserve, after all, remember?
What’s nice about it here is that the various levels of surfing are kinda’ neatly split up by geography. The harder breaks that pull in heavier swells via the deeper underwater canyons wait on the north side of town – think Coxos and Sao Lourenco. The easier waves where the surf schools usually go await to the south in the form of Foz do Lizandro and Praia do Sul.
Naturally, the other thing that really impacts the difficulty of the surf here is the season. Fall to early spring tends to be much more powerful and challenging. The summer, though, is almost never flat for very long on this part of the Portuguese Atlantic and we think it’s just about wonderful for starting to surf. That said, we’d probably recommend Baleal in nearby Peniche as a better beginner spot overall.
Surfboard rentals in Ericeira
The N247 road that links the countless surf spots in Ericeira is like a montage of surf schools and surf shops. You’ll find the bulk of the places to rent a board in the heart of the town and spread out between the more expert-ready coves to the north. However, you’ll also catch a surfboard outfitters down on Foz do Lizandro, the go-to beginner surf spot in the region.
Most people either bring their own board to Ericeira or rely on the stash in their chosen surf hostel or surf camp. If you’re booked onto a package then you’ll usually find that surfboard and gear rental is included in the cost of your stay. And that’s not just for the lessons you’ve booked. That also usually means unlimited use of the gear whenever you want to head to the beach on your own.
Should I rent a car to surf in Ericeira?
Probably, although you don’t have to.
Ericeira is actually one of the more accessible Portuguese surf towns for travelers who don’t want to rent a car. You can get here on public buses from Lisbon and then make it to most of the beaches by public bus. There’s even a sort of ski bus here for the surf. It’s called the Ericiera Beach Bus and runs loops around the main town beaches throughout the summer months. It’s cheap – costs like a euro per ride. But there are downsides – it can be delayed and it can be busy, plus it doesn’t go to ALL the beaches you might want to surf, particularly if you’re the more adventurous type.
On the flip side, having a car hire means you’re free to go anywhere you like. That’s an awesome power in this part of Portugal, when Peniche is only an hour to the south and Nazare only an hour to the north – you’re talking more surf spots than you could possibly hope to get through in a single holiday between the two of those, plus access to more secret beaches along the way.
The good news is that car hire in Portugal tends to be pretty cheap. That’s especially the case if you come in the shoulder seasons when the surf is better anyhow – we recently nailed a whole month’s rental out of Lisbon Airport for under $350. The car was barely big enough to squeeze in our board but hey ho.
We always use RentalCars.com to book our hires. We’ve found they’re the cheapest overall and usually have free cancellation. Every car hire company is different but we’ve had a good experience with Centuaro out of Lisbon Airport and they’re often bargains to boot!
Where to eat in Ericeira
There are loads of great places to grab a bite between sessions on the Ericeira surf. Just remember that you won’t always be within reach of the main town center, since most of the surf spots here are to the north or the south of the main town. It’s often a case of returning to the downtown to eat for the evening. Alternatively, pack yourself a lunch and have it on the beach between sessions.
- Dear Rose Café ($) – A simple and uber-cosy cafe with a lovely vibe in the middle of the Ericeira old town area, Dear Rose is a real fav of ours. Breakfasts are the speciality. The menu reads acai bowls and passion fruit drinks – enough to get you feeling all healthy just with a read over.
- Nalu Bowls ($-$$) – Nalu Bowls has a cracking location right above the beginner-friendly waves of Foz do Lizandro. They do a range of uber-tasty, uber-healthy poke bowls that are packed with fruit and oats. The coffee is also fantastico. Oh, and the seating is like a metre from the dunes within eyeshot of the waves. All nice.
- Balagan Ericeira ($$) – Balagan Ericeira channels the edginess of a proper Balinese-Bukit eatery, offering searing areas with a 180-degree panorama over the Atlantic Ocean. The menu is Middle Eastern-inspired. Expect the likes of spiced pumpkin and falafel, hummus and flatbreads. It’s a fantastic choice for veggies.
Travel essentials for anyone surfing in Ericeira
Before you get too carried away dreaming off the reefs and beach breaks of Ericeira, be sure to read on for a few helpful travel tips.
How to get around Ericeira
- Foot: Walk the old town – seriously, it’s one of the joys of being here. It might not take you to the Ericeira surf breaks, but there’s nothing like navigating cobbled lanes lined littered with cafés and bars.
- Bus: Some geniuses in Ericeira have stolen the idea of a ski bus from their winter compadres in the Alps. A dedicated shuttle now runs routes between Ribeira D’Ilhas and Foz do Lizandro in the south, connecting all the best beach breaks and spots. It’s a mere €1 for a ride. Each shuttle is armed with a designated surfboard storage spot. Nice, eh?
- Car/van: There’s loads of parking around the beaches in Ericeira. However, it’s normal for spaces to go super fast in the middle of summer or when the surf is working at a particular break. We’d also check ahead with your chosen accommodation that there’s parking available on site wherever you book.
What’s the currency in Ericeira
You’ll pay with euros (€) in Ericeira. This is Portugal – remember!
There are couple of ATMs around the centre of the town.
FAQs about Ericeira
Ericeira is considered one of the best places for surfing in the whole of Europe. It’s an official World Surfing Reserve and boasts something like 65 individual spots, with waves for all levels, from beginner right up to pro. The town gets consistent swell all year round, so there’s rarely a day without a wave.
The size of the waves in Ericeira vary a lot. During the winter, they can get really big, hitting 12-15 feet and offering barrels at spots like Coxos north of the town. In the summer, the swells tend to be much smaller. Between 3-5 foot is the norm then, making it a great time of the year for beginners and improving intermediate surfers.
Yep, Ericeira is a great place for beginner surfers. If you’re new to surfing, look to the beaches south of the town. They include Foz de Lizandro and others and they tend to be much more accessible, with smaller waves and sand bottoms. This is usually where the surf schools will come to practice.
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!