The Ultimate Guide to Sagres Surf

by Asia Kaczmarczyk

With beaches on either side of the town, Sagres surf is up there with the best in Portugal. This guide reveals the top spots, the best places to stay, and more…

Sagres surf

Surfing in Sagres 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:

  • Waves on two coastlines – the south and the west
  • One of the sunniest parts of Portugal
  • Really pretty town

The bad:

  • Some concealed rocks beneath the west-coast beaches
  • Summer can be flat
  • Some crowds

This is a part of our greater guide to surfing Portugal and surfing in the Algarve

What you’ll find in this guide

An introduction to Sagres surf

The unique geography of Sagres makes it a haven for all levels of surfers. The town straddles a high headland that pokes into the Atlantic Ocean on the far southern end of Portugal. On one side, you’ve got the relatively calm waters of the Algarve. On the other, the open ocean pumps swells over reefs, rocks, and beaches alike.

Splitting its spots between two sections of sea like this means there’s usually something working no matter how good you are. Surfing in Sagres for beginners is more popular on the southern beaches of Martinhal and Mareta, for example. Meanwhile, the more exposed bay of Tonel has waves for intermediates and experts. But it’s not just about abilities. There are also two totally different Sagres surf zones to choose between. If the waves or the wind aren’t working in one, you can always check the other.

Let’s also not forget that the town is perched right on the edge of the nation, in one of the country’s sunniest, most beautiful regions. It’s got upcoming surf schools, lovely villas, and a laid-back Mediterranean vibe to it. It’s hardly a surprise it’s become something of the de facto capital for those surfing Algarve waves season after season.

The best Sagres surf spots

There are two main breaks within walking distance of the town center itself. However, it’s common for any surf camp in Sagres to make use of the whole medley of different spots that line the coast to the north and west. They range from exposed ocean points with the potential to get BIG to pulsing beach breaks with golden sand and beginner-friendly swells. Let’s take a look at the lot…

West coast surf spots (harder)

Aljezur/Arrifana

Arrifana is widely considered to be one of the best beaches for beginners in the Algarve. That’s mainly down to its mellow beach break, which we’d say is decent but prone to close outs. The nearby town of Aljezur is the hub of an area that spans about five fantastic spots. They are mainly intermediate but don’t suffer from the same crowds as the Algarve coast.

We’ve got a complete guide to surfing in Arrifana and Aljezur

Carrapateira/Bordeira

About 25 minutes’ drive to the north of Sagres will transport you to some of he best surfing Algarve can muster. It’s a region that really begins with Bordeira and the Carrapateira cliffs. The wide beach there opens onto a left point break that can handle nice 8-10 footers in winter and gets hollow on some rides. Further down the beach you get the fatter sets of Bordeira, which are rippable but suffer from rips. Best in autumn and rarely crowded.

We’ve got a complete guide to the Carrapateira surf right here

Cordoama

Lucky enough to have your own ride? Drop the shortboard into the van and head north to Cordoama. This secluded beach break often means way fewer people. But it’s not just that. The summer conditions pull in swells from the N-NW to create some sculpted peaks that can turn glassy. Watch out for northerly winds that spray everything all over the place. Beware of rips.

Beliche

Bide your time and wait for the right swell (a straight southerly) direction to hit Beliche. That should make it one of the most enticing surf breaks in the Sagres region. Peaking into a neat wedge, it’ll curl into a left-right barrel when it’s properly working. During the summer, it’s common for the Beliche surf report to read flat, flat, and more flat.

Tonel

Probably the most famous Sagres surf spot of all sits beneath the high cliffs on the west side of town. It braces the full force of the Atlantic but has surrounding headlands and submerged rocks to thank for the slight protection. It’s a real peaky beach break that shifts with the sandbanks. Keep an eye out for those coveted westerly swells.

South coast surf spots (easier)

Mareta Beach

Mareta

The beginner’s surf spot in Sagres lines the Algarve to the south and east of the town. It’s neatly tucked between two high peninsulas, which means plenty of protection from westerly and north-westerly winds. The upshot is that the waves here tend to be tamer. That’s especially true in summer when the ocean glows sky blue and its perfect for finding your surfing legs. When a southerly push swings around, Mareta will get big – think possible overheads that roll right and left. Those are usually limited to winter.

Martinhal

Just check the map: Martinhal is the most protected of the three main beaches in Sagres. It huddles under the cliffs, facing away from dominant swell directions to the SW. The result is a stretch of sand with much calmer waters. A few surf schools hoover up the beginners here. It’s a fine place to head if you’ve never ridden a surfboard before and fancy something really tame to get going.

Praia do Zavial

Praia do Zavial is a more classic Algarve beach that lies nearly 10 km down the coast from Sagres. It’s south facing, so picks up any swell moving up across the Atlantic. When something is happening, the waves can get fast and high. When the swell is lower, expect a calm, beginner-friendly place to try your first Portuguese waves.

Carvoeiro

Carvoeiro surfing takes you nearly 60 km along the shores of the Algarve to the east of Sagres. It seems like a hefty drive to make for much tamer waves. We only mention it here because the breaks you’ll pass along the way offer great Sagres surfing beginners’ level. What’s more, you’ll be able to explore gorgeous whitewashed Algarvian fishing villages once you’re done in the water!

What we’d take on a surf trip to the Algarve

WEAR (men):

  • The Quiksilver Syncro 3/2mm Wetsuit | We’ve NEVER had a bad Syncro, so we don’t hesitate to recommend this 3/2 for the shoulder seasons in the Algarve. The Hyperstretch neo is the highlight.
  • Rip Curl Dawn Patrol 2mm Spring Suit – Camo (2020) | Shorties usually come out in June and July in the Algarve. Our nod is to the Dawn Patrol. It’s a tried-and-tested model with ultra flex that we feel you have to work hard at to overheat (important this far south).

WEAR (women):

  • Rip Curl Dawn Patrol 2mm Spring Suit (2021) | Simple and ticks all the boxes, while also giving some nice tech like the E-Stitch high stretch seams, the Dawnie from RC will always be one of our go-to shorties in the Algarve summer.
  • C-Skins Solace 4/3mm Chest Zip Wetsuit (2021) | We’ve been super impressed with the C-Skins Solace range in past winter seasons. There’s enough there to carry you through from September to March and the Xtend neoprene leaves it feeling like more of a summer suit.

Also take…

  • The Organic Towel Dryrobe | Super handy changer for mixing days on the beach with days on the surf, which you’ll be doing a lot of on the Algarve.
  • Hydro Flask Wide mouth 32oz | Proper cold water after a long Algarve surf – the Hydro is the boy!
  • Sun Bum Original 30 SPF | The Algarve is the sunniest part of Portugal. You’ll need a solid, waterproof SPF block and the Sun Bum original is just that!

When it the Sagres surf season?

The seasons can alter the quality and the style of the waves in Sagres considerably. Generally speaking, the colder months equals conditions for better standards of surfers. However, there’s a more protected south coast to factor in here, which keeps Sagres a beginner-friendly option for much of the year (that’s rare in Portugal!).

Sagres lighthouse

Summer (June-August)

The south of the Algarve transforms into a major holiday destination in the summer months. That’s not good news for surfers because a lot of the folk come specifically for the still seas. Your best bet for finding something rideable is on the west coast. Head across to Bordeira (about 20 minutes from Sagres) or Arrifana and there’s usually a surf school offering sessions. Some days pick up some swells on the Atlantic, and can be downright lovely when they do – glassy, warm. It’s just not that reliable.

Wear: 3/2 or 2mm

Autumn (September-November)

This is when the surf in Sagres really comes into its own. Right across the Algarve, autumn usually means balmy days and loads of sun. The waves also tend to be tamer, but there’s also enough pumping for shortboarders on the nearby West Coast breaks at Cordoama and up to Arrifana. We recently spent a month surfing here in Oct-Nov and counted just one flat day. Add that to the two extra-large days that were unsurfable and you’ve still got pretty decent stats. West coast is higher. South coast is much smaller, but does have its moments.

Wear: 4/3 always and boots if you want

Winter (November-March)

Winters are rarely woolly-jumper cold this far south in Portugal. However, there are some changes to the predominant swell conditions that means the Sagres surf can get particularly gnarly during the winter months. Beaches like Tonel can be heavy work, with high overheads and big closeouts when there’s onshore winds. On smaller days it’s really cracking. Good groundswells, wide periods, and the best the Atlantic can muster comes through. Bring a thick wetty and boots too.

Wear: 4/3 with boots and a hood for windier sessions

Spring (April-May)

Spring is the Sagres surf season of change. Early on, March, it’s very similar to autumn, with strong NW swells firing on the points and beach breaks of Arrifana and Bordeira to create some mega waves for advanced surfers. Things get progressively quieter and May is usually warm and relaxed – a great time for occasional long surf sessions in conditions that are prime for intermediates.

Wear: 4/3 in the early season, down to 3/2 at the end

Did you know that surfers are three times more likely to develop melanoma than non surfers? Yikes…

A good block is totally essential!

We’ve got the complete lowdown on the best surfer’s sunscreens on the market right now, focussing on the creme-de-la-creme. AKA: Zinc-infused blocks that are easy to pack and apply.

Where to stay on a Sagres surf trip

The great thing about choosing somewhere to stay on your Sagres surf trip is that this loveable town isn’t just for wave aficionados. Holidaymakers also love it, so the accommodations include luxury resorts, apartments, and your rough-and-ready surf camps. Check them out:

Algarve Surf Hostel – Sagres ($)

Surf-hotel-top-pick

There’s no shortage of Sagres surf camps to pick from in this town, but we think the Algarve Surf Hostel is close to the top of the list. It’s a simple but much-loved lodge right in the heart of the town. The good vibes are the main draw. You’ll be surfing with new buddies and sharing tales of your best waves over a cold beer at night. It ticks all the boxes.

Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort Hotel ($$$)

Best for: Family surf trips to the Algarve

Family surf trips hardly get better than this! This gorgeous beach resort sits at the far end of Martinhal Beach – home to some of the easiest Sagres surf going. And when the kids are hitting the waves? Parents can kick it by the pool or head to the spa for some seaweed massage treatments!

Wavesensations – Sagres Surf House ($-$$)

Best for: A stylish surf camp

A perfect example of the new-breed of stylo surf houses that are uber-popular in Portugal, Wavesensations is a clean and comfy place to base yourself. The rooms are airy, bright, and resemble hotel doubles. But you also get the added enjoyment of the low-key surfer’s chillout area. There’s a healthy breakfast, and – most importantly – a huge on-site selection of rental boards and wetsuits.

Casa Azul Sagres ($$)

Best for: Surf apartments with breakfast

Housed – as the name implies – in a lovely little blue building right in the heart of Sagres, Casa Azul has some great apartment options. Spaces are modern, bright, and simple. There’s also an optional breakfast to set you up for a day in the ocean.

Surf shops in Sagres

Sagres has a growing clutch of great surf shops. There are a few that we always rely on. Drop in. They’re friendly folk with a good range of gear…

Surf Planet Sagres Surf Shop

Just off the main N268 road as it leaves Sagres to the north, Surf Planet is a fantastic stop off for both people heading to Tonel and folk heading to the waves of Arrifana further north. Look for the quirky surfboard-shaped benches outside. Inside, you’ll get a good range of stock, from accessories to leashes to wax and more.

Sagres Natura Surf Shop

Look for Natura in a charming little Algarvian cottage in the midst of Sagres town. They’ve got fins, wetsuits, and foamies in stock, along with a nice range of locally designed Sagres surf wear. They also sell skateboards for you concrete lovers, and they organise surf lessons and rentals.

Things to do in Sagres when you’re not surfing

There’s no doubt that the Sagres surf spots are an enticing prospect, no matter what level of boarder you are. But it’s not only the waves that make this a desirable destination. With its rock-ribbed cliffs, its earthy seafood eateries, and prime position right where the golden beaches of the south Algarve give way to the rugged Atlantic, there are oodles of reasons you might want to make a visit.

Praia da Rocha

Lighthouse of Ponta de Sagres

Known locally as the Farol de Sagres, this lighthouse occupies a dramatic perch above Tonel Beach. It’s a fantastic place to go for sunset, with uninterrupted views across the Atlantic Ocean at the very south-western tip of the Iberian Peninsular.

Fort of Santo António de Belixe

This mighty citadel on the shoreline near Beliche is one to take the breath away. It dates back to at least as far as the 1500s, and it’s thought that the English explorer Francis Drake once attacked it from the sea. Today, you can visit to get dramatic vistas of the coast and learn about the rich history of the site. It’s only 10 minutes’ drive from Sagres town.

Go beach hopping

One of the best things about choosing Sagres surf over other Portuguese surf spots is that you get the wonderful beaches of the Algarve’ south coast on the doorstep. Cruise to the east to find places like Praia de Porto de Mós and Praia da Rocha backed by golden cliffs and washed by turquoise seas. They’re both within an hour’s drive.

Travel essentials for anyone surfing in Sagres

Where exactly is Sagres?

Pull out your map of Portugal. You see where the country sort of pokes its toe into the Atlantic Ocean on its far south-western edge. That’s pretty much exactly where you’ll find Sagres. The geography alone is enough to show just how awesome the surfing in Sagres is. You’ll find waves of different sorts to the north and the east.

Currency and ATMs in Sagres

The same as in the rest of Portugal. You’ll need euros (€) to pay for your surf rentals in Sagres.

There are a few ATMs in the town itself. Look for them around the Spar supermarket on Matoso road, toward the entrance to Praia da Baleeira.

How to get to Sagres

  • Low-cost airlines: Faro Airport (or the Algarve Airport) is around 75 miles to the east of Sagres. That’s the best place to land if you’re catching a low-cost airline. It’s served by the likes of easyJet, WizzAir, Vueling, and Ryanair. They offer loads of seasonal and year-round connections.
  • Premium airlines: Full-frills fliers like Lufthansa and Air Swiss also run routes into Faro Airport. They have direct links to major European hubs like Frankfurt and Munich, opening up long-haul connections across to the US and Asia.
  • Bus: Regional bus services from both Lisbon and Lagos to Sagres are noticeably thin on the ground. However, there are a few connections. From the latter (Lagos) you can catch the public Eva Transportes link for around €3 each way. To get in from Lisbon, head to the Sete Rios station, from where tickets cost just under €20 per person. You’ll need to check with individual companies if they’ll let you travel with a surfboard, though.

How to get around Sagres

  • Foot: Walking around Sagres is a joy. This is a pretty Portuguese coast town with low-rise cottages and cobbled pavements. You’ll find cafes on the street corners and be able to feel the breeze coming off the ocean – a gift in summer. There’s a gravel path leading down to Mareta Beach on the south side of town. To get to Tonel, follow the L-shaped track around to Tonel Beach Bar. That’s a slightly harder walk, especially with boards in tow.
  • Drive: There’s not much in the way of public transport in Sagres – the town is simply too small. Instead, most people who want to explore the area’s surf spots will rent their own car. It’s an option we’d 100% recommend. It means you’ll be able to get stuck into the very best surfing Algarve has up its sleeve. Places like Arrifana to the north are only 40 minutes or so, and you get the whole south coast down to Luz and beyond.

This ultimate guide to Sagres surf aims to help you put together the perfect wave-riding holiday in south Portugal. If you’ve got anything to add that you think we’ve missed, we’d love to consider including it. Get in touch or drop us a message in the comments below the line. Happy surfing!

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 guide to surfing in Portugal and our guide to surfing in the Algarve

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