Matosinhos surf leads the way for many Porto surf schools, but it’s under threat from a new breakwater. Still, there are waves here for all levels, real close to the town center.
An introduction to Matosinhos surf
Matosinhos is the go-to playground for Porto locals and it’s been that way for some decades. Though we’ve been less than kind about the pollution and the localism here in recent years, there’s no denying that it’s a handy break to have. The spot is less than 20 minutes by car from the UNESCO core of Porto and about the same if you take public transport. That’s made it super-popular with city breakers who want to sample a little of the iconic Portuguese surf on a weekend away.
The waves themselves lend themselves to that vibe too. The added protection of a breakwater at the north end of the bay, along with patches of rock reef that temper swells to the south, mean that you get cruisier sets rolling through here. Add to that the fact that it’s a sand-bottomed spot and you begin to see why this is such a doozy of a stomping ground for Porto’s top surf schools.
Sadly, there have been moves to extend said breakwater from local government. The first rock was moved in 2021 and the construction of an extra limb to the jetty is thought to risk up to 60% of the swell power at Matosinhos Beach. That will no doubt be disastrous for the water craft. Sad times.
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This guide is just one part of our complete guide to surfing In Portugal
Matosinhos at a glance
- A break super close to the center of Porto
- Excellent for beginners
- Great surf schools
- The spot is now under threat from a new breakwater construction
- Pollution after heavy rains
- Some localism
What’s in this guide to Matosinhos surf?
Where is Matosinhos?
For all intents and purposes, you can look at Matosinhos as an extension of Porto. It lies on the northwest side of the town, some 20 minutes’ by car from the famous Ribeira neighborhood on the Douro River (the part of Porto you see in all the travel brochures!). The bit Porto Leixões cruise terminal marks the top end of the bay, giving way to a marina that’s also the reason fro the extending breakwater that’s set to play havoc with the surf in Matosinhos. To the south is the area of Foz do Douro, which has loads of rock-speckled beaches that are top for sunset beers.
The best way to get here is on the metro to Matosinhos Sul. Trains leave for there from the Sao Bento station in the heart of the city. You’ll need to walk a couple of minutes to the north to get to the main surf breaks after alighting.
Where to surf in Matosinhos?
Matosinhos Beach – Praia de Matosinhos – isn’t just one spot but several. And they are actually a pretty varied bunch. Arcing for around 1.5km from the breakwater int he north to the Castelo do Queijo in the south, the bay hosts a right-hander point, some beginner beach peaks, and even a lefty sandbank wave to cater to the goofies. Let’s take a close look at the lot, and any other surrounding surf breaks…
The jetty right at Porto Leixões
The right-hand point that starts on the inside of the Porto Leixões cruise terminal is one of the more fickle waves in the area. It’s often a whole lot smaller than the rest of the beach but does have much better shelter from winter N winds on big swells. Try this one when the rest of the beach is blown out or closing. The right usually doesn’t work in the summer and it’s likely to be the first causality of the jetty extension once it’s finished.
Matosinhos beach break
The center of Praia de Matosinhos is split between two beach breaks. They’re both best on a pushing tide with 4-7 foot in the swell. The northern ones are finer lefts and the southern ones are better for the rights. They each break onto a sand bottom and are the go-to spot for most of the local surf camps, largely thanks to the spacious whitewash that rolls in before the secondary swell.
Castelo do Queijo left
There’s no official name for the left that works on the south side of Matosinhos, but it’s right under the rocks that sprout the Castelo do Queijo. Go there to find the most reliable break on the whole stretch. It gets more action from the SW swell channels because the jetty from the port doesn’t hang over. The best days see about 4-8 foot and a decent winter E wind to keep it offshore. When that happens you can score fun, occasionally hollow, rides. The pollution also thins out nicely this far from the refinery and port.
Praia Cabedelo do Douro
You’re no longer in Matosinhos her but it’s worth mentioning because Praia Cabedelo do Douro is one of the only other places where you can surf in central Porto. It’s on the south side of the river mouth and it’s generally unreliable, mushy stuff, although decent for casual sessions in the spring and fall. Summer can be flat.
Espinho is one of the best-known surf towns in northern portugal. Like Matosinhos, it has harbor walls that will offer nice point-break rights. Thankfully, the ones here aren’t in danger of being lost to construction. There are also regular competitions here and some nice beach break waves for beginners. Many of the surf schools in Porto will make the trek south to Espinho to search for swell.
We’ve got a complete guide to surfing in Espinho – check it out right now
Where to stay when surfing in Matosinhos?
Matosinhos is the epicentre of the surf-school and surf-camp scene in Porto. That means you shouldn’t have a shortage of places to stay. The area also happens to be right on the edge of the main cruise terminal, plus close to the best urban beaches around. That means hotels, hotels, and more hotels. Here are our accommodation suggestions…
Porto Sea Apartments
The Porto Sea Apartments get you within eyeshot of the main beach breaks and lefts at the south end of Matosinhos Beach. They are nicely done up and offer windows and patio spaces form where you can check the state of the swell. They also have the added bonus of fitted kitchens and lounge spaces.
Four Points by Sheraton Matosinhos
The Four Points by Sheraton Matosinhos is a great option if you want the added comforts of a tried-and-tested chain hotel. It’s super new and really well designed, with bright, colorful lounge, bar, and lobby spaces. The main reason we love it is for the walking access to the beach breaks.
Matosinhos House Surf & Beach
There are two bedrooms and space for up to four surfers at the Matosinhos House Surf & Beach. It’s within walking distance of the beach and is nicely done up with a boho bedroom and kitchen for you to cook at. We’d say it’s the best option for two couples or a small family.
Step-by-step guide to planning your Matosinhos surf trip right now
Step one: Book flights to the Matosinhos surf…We use Skyscanner and only Skyscanner for this. The reason? We’ve always found it the best site for comparing deals from basically ALL airlines and somehow seems to offer deals that beat going direct.
Step two: Book your surf lodge. There’s Booking.com. That has consistently unbeatable rates for hotels and a nifty map feature that lets you check how close EXACTLY that hotel is to particular breaks. Or Book Surf Camps, which is the numero uno online booking platform for fully-fledged surf-stay packages.
Step three: Book surf lessons and other activities For advance booking, you can use GetYourGuide or Viator. To be fair, though, we usually just leave this until we’re there – it’s easy to book in person in most surf destinations.
When to surf in Matosinhos?
Matosinhos is like the rest of Portugal in that the autumn and the winter are the best times to surf. Strong NW swells are needed to get the waves properly pumping. They turn on in earnest around October time and stick around until March-ish. Don’t be shy to come in summer if you’re learning. The surf schools in Porto operate all year round. There might be some super-flat days between May-August but that will give you time to explore the city itself. Plus, the surf camps here know where to go to squeeze sessions out of days with even a foot or two in the swell charts.