The Ultimate Guide to Lisbon Surf

by Rich Francis

The Lisbon surf awaits on the beaches just around the coast from the city. The closest waves are a short 20-minute train ride from the centre, but there are WAY more if you’re willing to travel a little.

Lisbon surf

Lisbon 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

  • Loads of beaches to pick from within an hour’s drive of the city
  • Combine a city break in an awesome European capital with surfing!
  • Cheap rentals and accessible urban surf spots

The bad

  • Weak summer swells on the Estoril coast
  • Localism – the city folk think they own these breaks and can behave like arses.
  • Some pollution issues closer to the city

Be sure to check out our full guide to surfing in Portugal!

What’s in this guide to Lisbon?

An introduction to Lisbon surf

It’s not actually that common for surfers to plan their Portuguese wave hunting around Lisbon. Most aim for the likes of Ericeira or Peniche, or even the Algarve, and use the capital as a simple entry and exit point. We can understand why. Lisbon surf isn’t the best in the country. However, it’s far from the worst, too. You’ll find a whole medley of pretty darn awesome spots to hit in the vicinity, along with some that are just a short train from the buzzy, culture-packed downtown. The upshot? This is PERFECT if you want a city break and surf destination in one!

The Costa Estoril is the jewel in the crown when it comes to Lisbon beaches. That strings westwards from Lisbon central and bends around a small headland that shelters the Tagus from oncoming Atlantic swell. The moment you’re past that, you’ll encounter fantastic places to surf, not least of all the bustling beach breaks of Carcavelos – one of the best in the region.

If you’re willing to head further afield, it’s a good idea to have your own car or book onto tours with a Lisbon surf school. That’s because you’ll need to be able to drive or seek out more hidden areas like Guincho and the da Caparica. We’s say its 100% worth doing. The undercurrent of localism, ridiculous line ups and – more recently – water quality in Carcavelos can leave a little to be desired.

Carcavelos at sunset

Where is Lisbon?

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal. It sits on the north side of the Tagus River estuary roughly one third of the way between the Algarve and Porto (the second-largest city that’s far in the north). The sprawl of the metropolis extends along the Tagus water to the east and a little to the west, before giving way to the Estoril coast, which is where much of the best surfing in Lisbon takes place. There are also suburbs and surf towns to explore to the south and the north, on the wilder Atlantic.

A guide to the Lisbon surf spots

There are pretty much thrre independent zones to think about when you come on a Lisbon surf holiday. The first – and the closest to the capital – is the Estoril coast. It’s the stretch of shore that goes from Lisbon to Cascais, all linked by direct urban train lines that cost only a few euros. Then you have the shores to the north. They are swell magnets, thanks to westerly orientation on the Atlantic. Finally, there’s the veritable surf playground south of the Tagus. A 30km beach break starts the ball rolling there and you get spots that have just a fraction of the crowds. That area’s collectively known as the Costa da Caparica.

Surf spots to the west of Lisbon

Carcavelos Beach waves

Carcavelos

The Carcavelos surf is probably the most famous of all the Lisbon surf. It’s a legendary urban break that’s practically within city limits – just hop on the train at Cais do Sodré and you can be there in 20 mins (the ticket is 2 EUR each way).

The waves are fantastically consistent, mainly becuase Carcavelos works on both NW and SW swells. That opens the summer and the winter, with the latter being better for experiened riders.

Waves differ across the bay. The east end holds more shape and size, offering hollow lefts under the old fortress. They are fast and slabby at points, with hard drop ins if you come straight off the lip. Middle of the beach mellows slightly and can throw in right handers when the swell is more W-NW.

Warning: there are ALWAYS crowds in Carcavelos. We visited in Oct 2020 and the numbers in the water were nothing short of ridiculous. Locals will cut you up and fling boards as bad as the kooks and still try to blame you for it. But thems the rules and what you gotta’ put up with for world-class waves so close to downtown Lisbon.

Bafureira

The section of reef that pulls off the headland just around from Carca is what offers the wedge lips of Bafureira. Best for intermediate riders and up, the spot needs good paddle power for a quick drop in zone that leads to A-frame lefts and rights. Watch out for rips, localism, and shallow boils.

Sao Pedro

Sao Pedro is one of the more secret spots on the Lisbon coastline after Carcavelos. It works best on SW swells, so mimics the feel of an Algarvian break on stronger summer days. Can be hollow and fast, but also mellow and mushy – it just depends on how much punch there is. Also worth a look in on big NW days when the Atlantic coast to the north is blown out.

Poca

The XL star of the Lisbon surf scene is probably Poca. It’s a rocky reef on the Estoril coastline west of the capital that need some strong Atlantic pulses to get working. When that happens, it’s for experienced surfers only thanks to high, wally waves that dump into shallow rocks.

Cascais

Cascais is a chic beach town and the home of some of the most famous Lisbon beaches of all. It’s linked directly by train to the heart of the capital, so getting here should be a cinch. There are actually a handful of designated surf spots in the town itself, although they are largely flat in the summer thanks to the Estoril headland. So, most serious surfers head for Guincho or Carca. Others won’t mind the more chilled waves of Praia das Moitas and the more local breaks.

Surf spots to the north of Lisbon

Surf spots north of Lisbon

Guincho

The wide and beautiful bay at Guincho is one of the first of the Lisbon beaches you come to as you bend around the point of the Estoril coast. That means it’s the first place you’ll pick up the full whack of the dominant N-NW Atlantic swell. The result? There’s extra size here, keeping the summer months surfable. There’s always a clutch of crowds when it’s working well, but its a favoured stomping ground of surf schools so don’t expect too much trouble with localism.

Winter swells mean Guincho gets quite gnarly on 10-foot days. Pros prefer it then, especially if the hollow right handers start kicking off the northern head. Summer is the province of learners mainly.

Praia das Maçãs/Praia Grande

Two spots separated by a rugged headland just below the soaring peaks of Sintra – sounds good, eh? There’s better news…these are among the most consistent surf spots int he whole Lisbon region. That’s largely thanks to their slight NW orientation. It pulls in any direct corss Atlantic swells and means those summer easterlies are square offshore. Winter is the best time, but watch out for strong winds that will blow the lot out. Macas has a little issue with localism, but Playa Grande is a real fav among Lisbon surf school attendees, many of which catch their first wave in these parts!

Ericeira

Ericeira is a surf town all on its own. There are direct buses from the capital that take around 1.5 hours but the drive is much shorter. It’s also one we’d totally recommend making if you’re planning a holiday ti check out the very crème-de-la-crème of the Lisbon surf. That’s because Ericeira has some of the most fantastic breaks in the region. There’s sand-bottomed Foz do Lizandro for the beginners, along with tubular Coxos for the pros. It’s endless. It really is.

We have a complete ultimate guide to surfing in Ericeira

Surf spots to the south of Lisbon

Surf spots south of Lisbon

Costa da Caparica

Costa da Caparica is actualy an umbrella name for a whole string of beaches that run to the south of Lisbon. Over this side of the Tagus Estuary things are noticeably quieter. You’ll rarely get the grouchy urbanite crowds of Lisbon to content with, and there are tens of km of sandbar waves to enjoy, with a pleasant backing of cork and pine trees.

Places to have on the radar include the Cova do Vapor – a jetty break that runs left off the very end of the Costa da Caparica with a sand bottom and nice hollow shapes. Praia da Rainha is better for beginners because it doesn’t wall up like the breakwater points on the north end of the sand. We’d recommend having your own car to explore this region to the full. Or, book onto a tour with one of the local Lisbon surf schools.


Lagoa de Albufeira Beach

The big rivermouth at Lagoa de Albufeira Beach helps to organise the sandbars to offer some good wedgey waves. When they’re good and on a NW or SW swell, these are punchy A frames that offer nice fast rides. On smaller days they can be rippable and mellow rides. The best thing? This is quite far from Lisbon – at least a 40-minute drive from the downtown. That means the big crowds of the Carcavelos surf should be a distant memory. Come to get sets to yourself – a rare thing in Lisboa!

Bicas

Bicas is an unreliable but powerful point break that forms off the southern end of the Costa da Caparica. Works well on direct W swells but hits its heights on a winter NW with a max out of around 12 foot. Look for the easterly offshores and expect a tricky paddlout.

Where to stay when surfing in Lisbon

Whether you’re on the hunt for a Lisbon surf villa or a sleek boutique, you can rest assured that the Portuguese has something on the menu. IN fact, we’d go as far as to say there’s one of the best accommodation selections in the whole of Europe for surf travelers in Lisbon…

Lisbon at night

The Indy House ($$)

Super-cool and stylo, the Indy House is one of a new breed of Lisbon B&Bs. It strikes a fine balance between the boutique and the affordable, but also offers a prime location in the city – in the spice-scented Indian quarter of Martim Moniz (our fav!). You’ll need to organise surf outings from here, or catch the train to Carcavelos, but it’s fantastic if you’re planning a Lisbon trip with a little surfing on the side.

LEGASEA – Cascais Guesthouse ($$)

Part boutique B&B, part hostel, stunning LEGASEA – Cascais Guesthouse is a stylish little spot to bed down on your Lisbon surf trip. It’s actually in Cascais along the Estoril coast, but that means you can access Guincho and Carcavelos with ease. It’s a super-stylish pad with understated luxury inside, a fantastic breakfast spread, and some dorm rooms that won’t break the bank.

Lisbon Surf Villa ($$)

You can get private rooms or dorm-style beds at Lisbon Surf Villa. It’s located south of the capital proper, on the gorgeous gold-sanded Costa da Caparica. That makes it a fantastic choice if you want to surf with smaller crowds. What’s more, the pad has a cracking surfer’s vibe with communal kitchen and a big outdoor space where you’ll meet and mingle with likeminded travelers during your surf trip.

Lisbon Waves Surf Lodge ($)

Simple but perfectly located on the Costa da Caparica, Lisbon Waves Surf Lodge offers doubles and twins just a stone’s throw from some of the best waves in the Lisbon region. There’s also a leafy garden and a sun terrace.

When to surf in Lisbon

Carcavelos surf rentals

Autumn (September-November)

It can take a while for the cold of winter to set in over Lisbon. Still, autumn is marked by a general increase in swell size and a decrease in water temperature. Don’t worry, you’ll still be in 4/3 and without boots and a hood in November. A lingering SW swell can help Estoril spots get going in autumn, but big days are to be expected on the Atlantic towards the end of the season as the sets start coming in from the north-west.

  • Wear: 4/3

Summer (June-August)

Summer is prime time for total beginners looking to hit the Lisbon surf school groups. Everywhere, from Ericeira to the Costa da Caparica is smaller than it is in the winter. Cut swell sizes mean much more approachable waves, but also the danger of pancake days. That said, we don’t think flat lulls are such a problem in Lisboa because there’s so much culture and history and nightlife to get through when the waves aren’t on.

  • Wear: 3/2 or 2mm

Spring (March-May)

Spring offers good consistency on the Lisbon beaches when it comes to surfing. A nice mix of groundswell and wind swell means that there’s usually a wedge to ride within the mouth of the Tagus estuary. Meanwhile, the tail end of winter storms can fire up huge wedges and barrels in the Costa da Caparica and up near Ericeira. Crowds are also WAY smaller than in the height of the summer.

  • Wear: 4/3 and bring the boots and hoot

Winter (December-February)

Wintertime Lisbon surf is best for expert and experienced riders. Stronger winds will often blow out the Atlantic but there can be regular barrels and fast and hollow rides from Guincho to Coxos when those go easterly (offshore). The Estoril coast tends to be fantastic in the winter with Carcavelos offering slabby lefts off the fort and the reefs nearby getting big and punchy.

  • Wear: 4/3 with boots, hood and gloves

Surf shops in Lisbon

You’ll never be too far from a surf shop in Lisbon. There’s an abundance right behind the beaches to the west, but you can also catch oodles in the city centre. A few of our humble recommendations are…

Quiksilver Carcavelos

Sat right on the prom right behind arguably the most popular of all the Lisbon surfing beaches, this official Quiksilver outlet has all the gear you could need, provided you’ve got cash to splash. The good news is you know everything’s authentic. Wetsuits, surf fashion, socks – you name it!

Malorie Knox Surfers

A unique, local surf brand and concept awaits at Malorie Knox Surfers. The style is one-of-a-kind, female-centric clothing that aims to empower women surfers to enjoy a life on the ocean. Simply fantastic and you must check it out! Boards are brill and made in conjunction with local shaper legends Lisbon Crooks.

Best places to eat in Lisbon

Lisbon has an OVERLOAD of awesome places to chow down. After a surf, we can wholeheartedly recommend…

Neighbourhood Lisbon

Run by two forever-smiling, surf-mad Aussie guys, Neighbourhood Lisbon is a cracking joint for a post-surf meal. The lunch menu offers spicy vegan burritos and poached eggos on avo, along with a range of craft beers from the region. Coffee is tasty as, too. Oh, and the location is just a block north of Santos train station, where you can hop off the train when returning to the city from Carcavelos.

BOUTIK

Chilled an easy BOUTIK is a stylish coffee lounge and surf shop in the streets north of the train line that links up to the Estoril beaches. The menu has creative and healthy brunches. It’s also an official Vissla stockist, but mainly does surf wear.

Coppola

Pretty new on the pizza scene in Lisbon but making some seriously good waves (read: dough), Coppola is a must stop for anyone into Italiano cooking. The pizzas are crispy but chewy – a sort of amalgam of Romana and Neapolitan, with creative toppings and Portuguese wines to match.

Things to do when you’re not surfing in Lisbon

There’s no shortage of things to do in Lisbon, that’s for certain. In fact, one of the reasons we love this city as a base for your surf holiday in Portugal is that it’s got so much going for it as a destination in its own right, even without the waves.

Visit Sintra

Sintra

Sintra is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site that hides up in the mountains behind Lisbon. It’s the most popular day trip from the capital so does get busy in the summer months. If you don’t mind crowds, you’ll be rewarded with majestic palace architecture and sweeping views of the peaks here.

Alfama

Alfama district

The Alfama neighbourhood is a must for any first-time visitors to Lisbon. It’s the oldest part of the city and comes topped with an age-old Moorish castle. The streets are a winding, wiggling mass of cobblestones that lead in all directions. You most definitely will get lost, but that’s part of the fun!


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 ultimate guide to surfing in Portugal

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