The Porto surf coast is still relatively undiscovered territory. Come here to find uncrowded beach breaks near a cool, culture-rich city.
Surfing in Porto at a glance
- Plenty of beach breaks for the beginners.
- Small beach towns with their own surf schools.
- Beach towns not the prettiest.
- Cold ocean – thicker wetsuits might be needed.
- Some pollution in the water (especially closer to the city).
This is a part of our greater guide to surfing Portugal.
What you’ll find in this guide
Introduction to Porto surf
Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal. Laced with cobbled lanes on the side of the Douro River, it’s also steeped in history and culture. You can come to taste potent port wines. Head in to explore grand imperial-era castles. And there’s salt cod to taste and handsome tiled churches to see in the acclaimed Ribeira neighborhood.
But, for wave lovers, it’s the wild surrounding coast that’s the real pull. That swell-bashed region means that Porto surf spots unfold to the north and south of the city. There’s a good variety too. They go from the sand-bottomed bays of Azurara to the speedy tubes of Espinho and beyond.
The result is that Porto is home to some of the best surfing in Portugal for beginners and casual riders. Long runs of beach breaks help with that. And so do loads of chilled surf camps and hostels that keep the good vibes a-flowing.
But there are also more spicy waves for advanced folk and even experts, particularly in the more gnarly winter season. In fact, the locals here like to think of themselves are a hardier bunch than their compadres down in the Algarve. It’s a reputation built on the cold waters of the Atlantic and punchy, untidy swells that will often make you work for your ride.
What are the seasons for surfing in Porto?
October – March (Intermediates)
Winter storms can bring heavier swells across the Atlantic. There’s increased rain and run-off, too. This all makes for harder conditions and steeper/faster waves. Best suited to intermediates.
May – September (Beginner)
The Porto weather really comes into its own in the spring and summer months. Beaches start to sparkle. Daytime highs in the 20s and 30s become common. The ocean even warms a little (you can leave the booties behind). This is the perfect Porto surf season for beginners and intermediates.
What are the best Porto surf spots?
Porto sits on the cusp of the Silver Coast and the Green Coast. The first boasts the lion’s share of the surf spots to the south. The other is wilder and lusher, with a sprinkling of great swell locations to the north. A selection of other Porto surf spots sits within striking distance of the center of the city itself…
Lovers of classic Portuguese beach breaks will adore Esmoriz. A small town that’s tucked between a series of wide, forest-backed sands, it’s laced with peaks of all levels. Beginners might want to head for the local surf schools, which offer starter lessons in the whitewash. Out back, a mix of wind and groundswells can bring lefts and rights at different angles. In short, Esmoriz is a perfect Porto surf option if you’re looking for variety and good surf camps.
Of all the surfing around Porto, Esphino is the one you’ve likely heard of before. Arguably the most famous spot in all of northern Portugal, it’s a heavy, curling tube when working. Overheads bring zippy walls that quickly barrel from a breakwater going left to right. Locals love it and demand first dibs. In summer, the crowd swells with tourists and a couple of surf rentals set up by the beach.
Matosinhos is the Porto surf spot of choice for city locals. Wedged between the 15th-century Castle of Cheese (don’t ask!) and a wide breakwater, it’s linked to the town center by municipal metro. There are actually two separate breaks here. The protected harbour wall is good when the rest of the surfing near Porto is blown out. Then you’ve got the outer break that is almost always working but often packed with a line-up of locals.
Hugging a wide arc of sand around an hour’s drive north of Porto, Azurara draws in regular punch from the Atlantic. The waves are reliable but don’t come expecting Hawaii. Onshore winds are common in the summer and the waves tend to slosh around a bit. That said, there’s decent protection from the harbour wall on the estuary to the north. And this one has some of the cleanest water of any surfing around Porto.
The small village of Cortegaca is linked to Porto by direct train. Surrounded by pine forests and sandy dunes, it soon spills into the Atlantic on a wide beach. There, you’ll catch a couple of reliable breaks. They peel left and right when they work. During the winter, it’s common to see overheads and the occasional barrel. In the summer, things are easier, with fatter, rippable A-frame peaks that attract softies.
Where can I find surfboard rentals in Porto?
Matosinhos beach is the place to go to find surfboard rentals in Porto. It’s the closest area to the city center with its own array of surf shops and outfitters. Av. Norton de Matos runs parallel to the beach. Check there for rental outlets that offer day-long or week-long hires. In the summer, there are also likely to be pop-up surf rentals on the beach itself.
If you’re planning on heading further afield, to one of the surf spots around Porto (see above), then you shouldn’t have to lug a board from the city to the waves. Most of the local breaks are near a smaller surf town. Esphino, Esmoriz, Azurara – they all have surfboard rentals of their own. However, just be ready to pay a little extra than you’re used to in places like Cortegaca. The lack of competition in such small Porto surf spots means that prices aren’t forced down.
Where to stay on a Porto surf trip
One of the great joys of choosing a Porto surfing holiday is that you get to enjoy one of the prettiest cities in Europe alongside a day on the waves. The beach breaks of Matosinhos are just a metro ride away. Meanwhile, there’s loads of surfing around Porto that’s reachable by local train and bus services. The upshot? You could easily base your whole trip in the city itself. That means surfing with a side of culture, cuisine, and history.
The hotels below are top options that will put you close to the must-see sights, but also within reach of Porto surf. Some are near train stations to get you to the southern beaches. Others are on the cusp of the inner-city breaks. Some are just downright awesome hotels that you can’t miss!
Pestana Palácio do Freixo ($$$)
Okay, so we’ve never managed the €100+ per night it costs in this palace, but we’re certain it’s worth it! Set on the banks of the Douro, it’s a eye-watering medley of Baroque spires and grand interiors that’ll leave you feeling like Portuguese royalty. There’s also an infinity pool overlooking the river! Oh, and Campanha train station is a short taxi away. From there you can easily reach the surfing near to Porto in the south – places like Esmoriz and Esphino.
Laurear Guest House ($$)
This charming boutique hotel puts you right in the middle of the city. Exposed stone walls and rustic wood floors add a real Portuguese posada vibe. Meanwhile, there are endless tapas places and bars right outside the front floor. Sao Bento station up the road is your ticket to Porto surf beaches.
Incredible Lodge – Porto Surf House ($$)
It might be outside the city, but chilled-out Porto Surf House is all about adding salt, sea, and waves to your trip. The place is close to Matosinhos Beach. There’s also a communal lounge and kitchen for you to meet and mingle with fellow travelers.
Travel & Live Porto Hostel ($)
Just a short walk from the bustling interchange at Bolhao, the Travel & Live Porto Hostel is a great jump-off point for exploring the city. It’s near to food markets and bakeries, but also only a few stops from the port cellars. What’s more, the attractive rates should leave plenty in the budget for those daytrips out to the nearby Porto surf beaches!
Travel essentials for anyone surfing in Porto
So, you’ve chosen a Porto surf trip? Great! Below are a few of the travel ins and outs that might be helpful as you plan your jaunt to the Atlantic.
Where exactly is Porto?
Porto is in northern Portugal. It straddles the Douro River as it wiggles from the winelands in the east to meet the Atlantic Ocean. Porto is the capital of the vast Norte Region, which spreads from the Silver Coast all the way to the borders with Spain and Galicia.
How to get to Porto
It’s never been easier to get to Porto. More and more low-cost airlines are now making the hop across to the town. They can whisk you from all over Europe to the sandy beaches and Porto surf spots. Ryanair, Easyjet, WizzAir and others all fly into the Francisco Sa Carneiro Airport on the north side of town.
Porto Airport is also served by long-haul carriers that run transatlantics to New York, east-going services to Dubai, and seasonal links to Canada to name just a few.
Portugal has a really efficient train network. One of the most beautiful lines you can take is straight up from Lisbon to Porto. The first departure from the capital is at 6am and the journey takes around 3 hours on average. Surfboards might need to be stowed in the designated luggage compartments (check ahead if you’re bringing yours). Train tickets cost around €24 each way.
Bus routes connect Porto to Lisbon and oodles of other European destinations. You can grab the Rede Expressos link from the Sete Rios or Oriente station and arrive in around three hours. FlixBus offers longer-haul connections from all across Europe but be sure to register your surfboard for special carriage when you book.
How to get around Porto
Getting around Porto is easy. An uber-efficient tram network links most of the major districts. But the town is also walking friendly, especially in the old area along the riverfront.
Local trains link to most of the surfing around Porto. They can be caught at Sao Bento station in the center. Alternatively, private surf trips offer shuttles out to the remoter beaches that lie to the north.
Anyone traveling to and from Porto surf spots with their board in tow should be sure to check the rules on public transport. It’s not common to see boards on the trains, and rules regarding this change year-on-year. Remember that most surf towns in the region have their own rental outlets and surf shops. You could just pick up your ride when you arrive.
What’s the currency in Porto
Porto uses the EUR (€).
It’s always wise to avoid money changers in the Ribeira neighborhood, the old town, and the airport. Try to get your currency before you arrive at Porto surf towns or surf spots – these can be small and without exchanges. ATMs are all over.
This ultimate guide to Porto surf is always being updated and changed. If you think we’ve missed something or gotten something wrong, we’d sure love you to get in touch. You can use email or just drop a message in the comments below.