Espinho surf offers wave hunters a reliable wave in the region of Porto. It’s among the best spots in northern Portugal, especially for its top-quality harbor breaks. You’ll also find oodles of good surf schools in the area that shouldn’t break the bank.
An introduction to Espinho surf
Despite being in the less-popular north of Portugal, Espinho is still one of the major hotspots on the Portugal surf map. Along with Matosinhos and Esmoriz, it’s one of the most visited and popular Porto surf spots. And, like a lot of the places up in this lush and wave-lashed part of the country, it’s fair to say it can be a little hard going. Yep – this one’s really all about the 3m winter swells that can wall up off the big jetty and give tube rides from the breakwater to kingdom come.
Sadly there are some serious concerns with water quality, especially with all the light industry that’s clustered around Gaia in south Porto. What’s more, localism is rife. Thankfully, the Espinho surf extends to bays either side of the main break. Those are where you’ll find more accessible beginner waves and some of the other, lesser-known and, we think, generally more fun, Porto surf spots. This guide will cover the lot…
This is just one part of our main guide to surfing in Portugal
Espinho surf at a glance
What’s in this guide to Espinho surf?
Where is Espinho?
Espinho is about 16km from the centre of Porto. It marks the northern start of the so-called Silver Coast, a region that goes all the way down to Peniche nearer to Lisbon. It’s easy to access on urban trains from Porto itself. That means a surf trip here could easily combine with a trip to the Porto surf – waves like Matosinhos and Azurara closer to Spanish Galicia. If you want to hit the lot, it’s probably better to have your own car rental.
A guide to the surf spots in Espinho
Espinho surf is just a short train ride away from the bustling cafes and shops of downtown Porto. Thanks to its big, tubey lefts and rights, the town is known as one of the more reliable and challenging spots in the north of Portugal. But those sorts of conditions only come now and then. More likely, you’ll get wally, rippable waves off the jetties – good for intermediates and even beginners on occasion.
The northern beach Espinho is known as Praia da Frente Azul. It links the southern sides of Porto to the surf town with one long sweep of sand and reef. There are actually a few peaks to ride along it, but the most famous and reliable has to be the jetty break at the southernmost end. It’s works on the opposite swell direction to its compadre just over the harbour at Baia, but is actually a similar ride. Direction is left. Walls get big in winter and potentially hollow. It’s a real favourite for bodyboarders. Localism and pollution are to be expected.
Baia Beach is the surf spot tat first put Espinho on the map. It’s also sometimes called the Casino Right, because it starts at the huge shore break jetty in front of te town’s main casino. When it’s firing, this one’s a fast and hallow right-hander that holds up really well. It can take quite strong NW swells to get going, but even when it’s not a tube it’s a decent wave that can host intermediates. Main hazards are poor water quality and swimmers – they can come dangerously close to the surfers, especially towards the end of the ride.
Esmoriz is another famous surf town just to the south ofPorto. It’s not within walking distance of Espinho, but is linked by road and rail so should be an easy detour. The breakwaters and jetties drop away here to leave the shoreline a little more exposed to the Atlantic, meaning it’s a more classically north Portugal break. Peaks wedge up to big overheads on winter days and can A-frame across the bay. A popular spot that’s really nice for beginners in the warmer months. We surfed it in 2019 but sadly found the local rentals to be prohibitively expensive (50 quid for an hour – you what!?).
The best surf camps in Espinho
Don’t want the hassle and stress of planning your own surf? Book a surf camp in Espinho. There are some great options in the region, including one of the best eco-surf camps in the country. Check them out…
- 4 Day Flash Surf for Beginners in an Eco Surfcamp in Porto, Maceda – We’ve got a real soft spot for the Maceda Surf Camp. Life is simple here, in this eco hostel set deep in the fragrant Portuguese pine woods south of Porto. They’ve got a short, sharp 4-day package that includes 3 days of guided surfing with all equipment included, plus some new buddies for life that you’ll make while cooking marshmallows over the open campfire.
- 8 Day Surf and Fun for Beginner in an Eco Surfcamp, Porto, Maceda – The Maceda Surf Camp also offer this eight-day package. It’s better for improvers becuase you get a full weekk of surf tuition, meaning you’ll get practice on more waves and hopefully get all the way to the green breakers out back. Same great service; same great people.
Surf stays in Espinho
Espinho as plenty of hotels. That’s mainly because it’s a major beach resort for Porto locals during the summer months. However, there are also more and more out and out surf-related stays in the area these days. That’s what we’ve focussed on below…
The Beach Corner Guesthouse ($$)
The Beach Corner Guesthouse is a charming, locally owned B&B that welcomes you to a property only a short walk from Espinho beach. You can pick from standard doubles with shared bathrooms or private doubles with ensuite. The service always comes with a smile and there’s also an on-site restaurant and bar.
Espinho Beach 4 Stays ($$)
This is the perfect pad to bed down in if you’re planning a group holiday to the Espinho surf. It puts you smack bang on the seafront of the town, within eyeshot and earshot of the waves. The house can hold up to six surfers at once. Highlights include big, modern lounges and large dining areas – perfect for your post-surf meals together!
Hotel Praiagolfe ($$$)
Hotel Praiagolfe is a more classic sort of hotel stay but still right on top of Azul Beach for the surfers. You’ll get daily housekeeping and modern rooms with flat-screen TVs. There’s also an onsite sunning terrace with Atlantic views (check the surf from there each morning) and an indoor pool for after a day in the water.
Step-by-step guide to planning your Espinho surf trip right now
Step one: Book flights to the Espinho 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 Espinho
Espinho surf works most seasons, but there are definitely some times of the year when it’s better for the pros, and others when it’s better for the beginners. Check out the guide below to see what the wave calendar has in store for you.
Hardcore westerly swells and north-westerly swells start rolling across the Atlantic. Elsewhere in Portugal they are causing HUGE swells in spots like Nazare. In the north, the Espinho surf gets a nice hit too. It’s regularly double overhead in these parts and the main jetty breaks are always most likely to throw up tubes. Be warned that winter near Porto ain’t what it is in the Algarve. The water is colder and the wind is stronger. You’ll need a good wetty.
- Wear: 4/3 and boots, gloves and hood
Spring (April & May)
The spring has some bite left in it from the wintertime. There are many surfable days with strong groundswells coming in a W direction straight off the Atlantic. You should be able to paddle out and find something to ride that’s fast and challenging, and the lefts and rights of the main Azul and Baia beaches will be doing their thing to boot. It quietens down towards the summer. Crowds will also get bigger as you approach June.
- Wear: 3/2. Bring the booties and the gloves just in case
The warmer months and the high season in north Portugal brings the crowds with it. The Atlantic swells cool a lot, so you’re going to be more reliant on cross wind swells. That said, half of the days are surfable during the period from June to August. It’s also chilled and usually around chest-high. The result? Barrels are rare on Azul, but it’s high time to join one of those Espinho surf school for your first sesh.
- Wear: 3/2 or shorty
Autumn (September & October)
Autumn is fantastic for surfing in Espinho. The season is all about transitioning from the tame summer swells to the heavy Atlantic storm season. Further down the coast, spots like Nazare will be pulling in the gun riders by October time. But on the Espinho surf, the extra ocean punch translates into clean, glassy barrels. On top of that, the crowds are smaller and the prices in the local hotels are less. It’s just win win.
- Wear: 3/2 – the water’s surprisingly warm in the Portuguese autumn!
Surf shops in Espinho
Espinho has no shortage of its own surf shops. This is one of the main spots in the Porto area, after all. Some of the ones we’ve enjoyed dropping into in the past include…
Backdoor Shop is a surf shop with a difference. You won’t find shaped boards or hardware for your sessions here. You’ll find branded surf fashion and fancy threads to keep you looking dappa for the Espinho bars after a day on the waves. There’s also a little cafe at the site for your retail coffee on the go.
A little to the south of Espinho on the main road linking to the next surf town of Esmoriz, SURFACTORY has long been a go-to for boarders who’ve clipped their beloved ride. Fast repairs are just part of the biz, however. You can also find some BEAUTIFUL custom-made shapes – we drool at the longboards!
Best places to eat in Espinho
There’s a real hubbub about Espinho. Bars, cafes, cantinas, and fish eateries abound in the area. The few that we can recommend include:
Pão de Dó – Padaria & Coffee House ($)
You pre-surf cuppa’ joe simply HAS to come from this local staple. A mere four blocks back from the surf of Baia Beach, it’s a paint-peeling coffee joint with a twist of hipster vibe. There was a smile on offer whenever we dropped in, not to mention a tasty menu of bagels and buns.
Kurika is tucked into the blocks just a stone’s throw back from the beach. It’s all you could want from a traditional Portuguese seafood tavern. Salt cod, grilled catches of the day, fantastic prawns – you name. To eat local, eat here.
Mau Maria ($$)
Whaaat….sushi? In Espinho? Yep – this part of Portugal is rather multicultural on the food front, we’ll have you know. Grab a bite at this stylo Japanese fusion cafe and you’ll be chowing down on fresh hosomaki rolls right by the ocean. Nice.
Things to do when you’re not surfing in Espinho
Surfing isn’t the only thing on the menu in this corner of northern Portugal. Nope, there are city breaks and stacks of culture to get through, too. Check it out…
Espinho is about as close as it’s possible to go on the Portugal surf map without actually entering the city limits of Porto. So, a trip to that UNESCO-tagged city is a must. We’d even recommend basing yourself there, because there’s way more nightlife and culture, while trips to the breaks are a cinch on the train. Be sure to look for a hotel in the magical Ribeira district!
It’s about 40 mins or an hour on the train from Espinho to Aveiro. The town is hailed as the Venice of Portugal for its drifting canals and little gondola boats. There’s also a fascinating old nunnery and lovely tiled architecture. If you have your own car, we’d also say be sure to pack in the boards and pay a visit to Costa Nova Beach – it’s got decent waves and is usually totally deserted!
How to get to Espinho
- Fly: Aim to fly into Porto Airport. It’s the main gateway to the north of the country, and is well-linked to Porto city centre by train.
- Drive: Look for the A29 roadway. It goes straight past Espinho on its way into Vila Nova de Gaia, which is on the south side of the city of Porto.
- Train: Trains connect Porto’s Sao Bento station (an amazing, historic terminal) with Espinho all throughout the day. They run until after midnight, don’t take too long, and cost just €1.40 per ride. State-owned railway company Comboios de Portugal says they currently welcome surfers with boards on their services, but we’d still check ahead to make sure.