Wondering where is the best surfing in Portugal for beginners? Read our guide to four main spots and the seasons to get started.
We can’t count the amount of times we get emails asking us about the best surfing in Portugal for beginners. It’s like…daily. Okay, bi-daily. But, still, it’s one of the most common questions we get thrown our way.
Being the uber-friendly surf writers we are, we’re always happy to oblige with some suggestions. But we also though it might be better idea to put down our thoughts in a guide and then we can just direct folks thisaway when the Qs start flowing.
Thing is, there are four or five key destinations in Portugal that we think trump just about everywhere else in the country for learning. It comes down to the offering of beginner-friendly waves, a good array of surf camps and surf schools, and accessibility.
Let’s get to it…
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This guide is just one part of a complete guide to surfing in Portugal
What’s in this guide to surfing in Portugal for beginners?
Probably the best option for surfing in Portugal for beginners
You simply cannot go wrong picking Baleal as a beginner in Portugal. If we had to pick, this would be the best all-round spot to learn in the country.
There’s a very good reason for that: Beaches that face north, south, and west.
Cantinho da Baia is the long arc of sand that runs between Peniche and Baleal itself. Learners often congregate at the northern end because that’s the part that picks up the regular, consistent west swells off the Atlantic.
It’s a cracking option in the summer because it’s got waves when lots of places are totally flat. Plus, the further up the beach you go, the smaller the waves go. Think of it as a sort of sliding scale – you just slide along until you get a wave that suits your level/confidence level.
But that’s not it. Baleal also has a north-facing beach called Prainha that’s very well sheltered – by Baleal island itself, no less – from the strongest NW swells. It can offer small, manageable waves even when other beaches are massive.
And that’s still not it! A quick search on Booksurfcamps will reveal that Peniche has probably the most comprehensive array of surf camps in the country, and probably in Europe. It’s home to leading brands like Salty Pelican but also more backpacker-friendly options like Alex’s Surf Camp.
And even all that’s still not it! Peniche is super accessible from Lisbon. An hour’s drive from the airport or a 1.5-hour bus from the capital and you can be here.
Where to stay? There are loads of options. If you can afford it, we’d recommend the 8-day package with The Salty Pelican, which includes up to 11 yoga sessions, 5 surf sessions, and unlimited board use, plus has an unrivalled location next to Cantinho da Baia beach. Balili House is more affordable and nurtures a more family vibe.
Step-by-step guide to planning your surfing in portugal for beginners trip right now
Step one: Book flights to the surfing in portugal for beginners…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!
Arrifana has one very nice trump card when it comes to surfing in Portugal for beginners: It’s super, super consistent throughout the summer months.
This might be the Algarve (a region which has a rep for smaller, easier waves) but it’s the western Algarve, where the swells are the same as in towns like Ericeira and Peniche.
That’s why we’d recommend coming to Arrifana as a learner in the summer, between May and August. Conditions then tend to hover between 2-5 foot and the water is pleasantly warm.
We especially love the vibes on this beach. It’s sort of like Arrifana has been designated as the learner stretch in south Portugal, so you can rest assured you won’t be the only self-proclaimed kook out there. People will encourage each other rather than shout at each other. It’s generally a very accessible place to learn.
The downsides? Arrifana can sometimes get big, big waves. When that happens, local surf schools will often make the 20-30 minute trip to the southern Algarve, so it’s hardly make or break if you get caught by a whopping swell.
Where to stay? You have two choices. Either rent a car and stay in one of the super-cosy cottages in nearby Aljezur town. The drive to Arrifana is like 15 minutes through the national park. Or, pick Arrifana Surf Lodge, who tend to surf this beach a lot, but as we mentioned will drive you to a spot that matches your level if conditions do change.
Foz do Lizandro (Ericeira)
A lot of guides for beginner surfers in Portugal will wax lyrical about Ericeira. It’s true, the town is a bona fide surf mecca. But it’s got that rep not ONLY because of its beginner waves.
In fact, the Surfing Reserve here is the north side of the town, and that’s a string of pretty gnarly barrelling reef breaks that no kook would want to touch with a barge pole.
Okay, so why are we talking about Ericeira? Because, south of the town, gorgeous Foz do Lizandro, is a perfect choice for learning, especially between May and September, when it gets solid swell patterns that average 2-6 foot.
The other great thing is that you’ll be able to access the wealth (and it really is a wealth) of award-winning surf camps and hotels that make their home in Ericeira town.
Most of those will focus their beginner packages on Foz do Lizandro anyhow, and include things like transport back and forth to the beach each day, plus equipment of course.
If you’ve just gone and Google Mapped Bensafrim, then you’re probably confused. What self-respecting surf publication would recommend a landlocked region to anyone looking to learn the art of wave craft? Well…us.
It all comes down to one thing: Little Bensafrim village is home to what we think is the single leading surf house for learners in the whole of Portugal.
Cue Tiny Whale Surf Lodge. They have a whitewashed villa perched on the lush hills of the central Algarve and like to do their surf camping a little different. Groups are always small, the vibe is like meeting family and friends for a holiday, the packages are perfectly calibrated.
Let’s dig in a little more. You get five highly structured surfing classes with ISA-qualifed coaches who know precisely how to take novices through to green waves with the right techniques in place. You get daily video coaching and seminars on ocean theory and surf etiquette. Plus, there are extras, like surf-skate and surf-centric yoga.
Of course, you won’t be surfing in Bensafrim. You’ll be surfing pretty much anywhere along the south coast of the Algarve (when there’s swell there) but also have access to the western Algarve. There are something like 60 surf spots on the roster, and the experts who run the show will know exactly where to go each day.
Where to stay? At the Tiny Whale Surf Camp, of course!
When to surf in Portugal as a beginner?
Probably the best time to surf as a beginner in Portugal is the summer. But that’s also way too general for this country. The truth is you can surf and learn to surf here any time in the year.
It’s just that summer sees the smaller swells along most of the Portuguese coast and tends to be way less windy. It’s also prime holidaying season in Europe, which means more people are available for a vacation, which may or may not take the form of a surf break.
We’d add a few caveats. We think the best time to learn to surf in WESTERN Portugal is the summer. So, May to September (yes, summers are long here) is the best option if you’re going to visit places like Peniche, Ericeira, or Arrifana. That’s because those are all well exposed to the Atlantic so tend to have good swell even in the calmest months.
To learn to surf in Portugal in the autumn or the winter, we’d probably plump for the southern Algarve. Somewhere like the aforementioned Tiny Whale Surf Lodge would be perfect, but there are plenty of other options in towns like Sagres. Basically, you want access to south-facing beaches, which will be smaller and more beginner-friendly when the big storms start in the colder months.