The Porto surf coast is still a relatively undiscovered territory, even for Portugal. Come here to find uncrowded beach breaks near a cool, culture-rich city. It’s not as clean as the south but it’s consistent. Plus, you can stay in a UNESCO town to tour the sites and surf every day. Pretty cool.
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. You can head in to explore grand imperial-era castles. There’s also salt cod to sample and handsome tiled churches to see in the acclaimed Ribeira neighborhood – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, don’t you know. It really is a stunning place.
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 to the 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. As so do loads of chilled surf camps and hostels that keep the good vibes a-flowing, many of which are based in the town itself, which means you can combine history, nightlife, and surfing in a trip with ease.
There are also some 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.
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This is a part of our greater guide to surfing Portugal
Surfing in Porto at a glance
What you’ll find in this guide
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.
More generally, Porto is one of the westernmost cities in all of Europe. It’s flanked by the Green Coast – to the north – and the aforementioned Silver Coast – to the south. Both are pretty great surf regions with ample beaches to get stuck into and swell virtually all year round.
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 the city. We almost solely use Google Flights and Omio to search for our tickets. We think they’re the best one for getting the cheapest rates from both OTAs (online travel agencies) and airlines directly.
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. Again, the very best way to book trains in PT is using Omio. It helps avoid the irritating local booking site.
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 from the capital. FlixBus offers longer-haul connections from all across Europe but be sure to register your surfboard for special carriage when you book.
Where to surf in Porto?
Porto sits on the cusp of the Silver Coast and the Green Coast. And those just so happen to be two of the best surfing regions in the whole country.
The first boasts the lion’s share of the surf spots, running to the south of the city. The other is wilder and lusher, with a sprinkling of great swell locations to the north, on the way to the Spanish border.
A selection of other Porto surf spots sits within striking distance of the center of the city itself…
Praia da Costa Nova
Little Praia da Costa Nova is the beach that’s attached to the charming town of Aveiro, which sits about an hour’s train south of Porto itself. It’s a great place to visit for culture, since it has an amazing medieval monastery and winding canals (they call it the Venice of Portugal). The surf isn’t so great, but there are some unbusy beach breaks at this urban sand stretch that’s 15 minutes from the main town.
We have a complete guide to surfing in Praia da Costa Nova
Praia do Furadouro Sul
The Praia do Furadouro Sul is a long, very wild run of beach that has waves basically every single month of the year. We’ll admit that it often lacks the shape and hollowness of southern waves in the Algarve and whatnot, but boy is it consistent. On top of that, it’s sufficiently far from the city to usually be empty – or big enough for everyone to spread out. It’s the home of Marias Hostel & Surf, which offer 6-day packages including all you need – accom, rental, transport to the breaks.
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 softtop surf schools. The south side of town tends to pick up the heavier swells. Works on all tides.
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.
We actually have a complete guide to surfing in Esphino – check it out
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.
We actually have a complete guide to surfing in Matosinhos– check it out
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.
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 and head out to hit the beaches. Having your own car will help with that, but there are some brilliant surf schools that will take care of all transport.
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, mainly because they are tailor-made for surfers.
Selina has been a leading name when it comes to surf camps in Portugal, which is why we weren’t surprised to find their Porto edition is a place of serious quality and fun. It’s billed a bit more like a digi-nomad co-work spot come hostel, but you can see those Selina surfing roots are still very much the backbone of it all – they offer lessons and surf packages right at reception. The place is uber-stylish and affordable, wedged into the lively Bolhao area of town where you can party and shop aplenty.
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. This is for the surfers with moolah to drop; it’s one of the top hotels in the city.
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.
Surf camps in Porto
A good way to ensure you get on the waves regularly during your trip to Porto is to go with a planned surf camp. We remember our first jaunt here. We spent the first night partying, the second hungover, and the third sightseeing. We realized at the end that we’d done WAY less surfing than we intended.
A proper camp package will remedy that because they will have surf trips to local beaches, gear rental, and lessons if you want them, all planned and laid out from the get-go.The only thing to remember is that most surf camps aren’t located in Porto itself, but rather in nearby beach towns. This option is about putting the surf first and the culture second. There are a few that we can recommend:
- 4-Day Beginner Program With Maceda Surf Camp – Choose this if you’re a complete beginner. it takes place in the Aveiro region south of Porto, where there are loads of beginner-friendly beach breaks in the summer months. The package includes board and breakfast, but also three days of surfing with two tuition sessions. It’s quick and simple but just what you need to find your water feet.
- 8-Day Fluidity Eco Surf Camp in Porto – This fluidity surf camp is run by Golden Waves Surf Lodge, a very stylish surf lodge right on Praia do Furadouro. They have a reputation for highly social surf camps, but we think the lux character of the stay is reason enough to go. Oh, and the fact that the beaches are some of the emptiest in the whole region! It’s also a bargain at around $450 per person, per week!
Step-by-step guide to planning your Porto surf trip right now
Step one: Book flights to the Porto 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 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.
Wear: 4/3 or even 5/3 for this far north in Portugal. Plus a rash vest and booties/gloves for the cooler days
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.
Wear: 3/2 for spring and autumn months, then a 2mm or 3/2 throughout the summer
What level is the surf in Porto?
That really all depends…
The seasons here play a big part. Just as down south in learn-to-surf towns like Sagres and Aljezur, the winter means much bigger and more powerful waves. Northern Portuguese surfers actually think of themselves are tougher nuts on account of the cold water and the more challenging conditions that they get between November and March.
In our opinion, it’s more that the northern beaches here are more prone to heavy winds because they aren’t as protected and quickly turn into closeouts. Either way, we’d recommend having at least some surf experience if you’re heading to Portugal to surf in the middle of winter.
The summer ushers in the easiest time to surf. After some bigger days in spring, the waves from May to August are generally excellent for learners. There’s loads of whitewash (the bubbly, foamy stuff you’ll be starting on) thanks to the shape of the big, wide beaches to the south of the city. Meanwhile, the points to the north tend to get better peeling waves that aren’t too big in the warmer months – great for longboarders. That means spring, summer, and the start of fall really do cater to all levels.
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. Espinho, 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.
Travel essentials for Porto
Convinced a Porto surf trip is the right way to go? Great! Below are a few of the travel ins and outs that might be helpful as you plan your jaunt to the Atlantic.
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.
Do I need a car to surf in Porto?
Nope. Not at all. We won’t pretend that a car hire won’t make getting to less-busy breaks easier. It definitely will. It’s just that Porto is one of the few cities in Europe with a surf break actually within city limits. We mean it – you can get there on the tram! On top of that, there are pretty great train links to most of the surf spots using the trains that go out of Sao Bento.
If you did rent a car then there are upsides. You could drive all the way up to what are probably the remotest surf breaks in Portugal, close to the Spanish border. And you’d be free to hit Espinho and the other breaks to the south whenever you wanted. Car hires are cheap too – we use RentalCars to book ours and usually pay something like 300 EUR/month!
The downside to a car hire is that parking in the city can be a nightmare. And that’s not even mentioning the driving you’ll need to do on the steep, cobbled roads. If you do get behind the wheel, it’s probably better to consider booking onto a surf camp near the center, drop the car off when you’re done with the waves, and then head in to see the sites.
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. We always recommend getting a Revolut card to travel with. It’s basically a pre-paid back card that you load from an app. It’s got 100% free transactions in foreign currencies and better FX rates than most providers. They pretty much made it for travelers.
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.