The Ultimate Guide to Surfing in Mundaka

by Nuno D'Angelo

Surfing in Mundaka is all about that star left-hand barrel. Groomed by southerly winds and offering 200m rides, it could just be the finest rivermouth on Earth.

Surfing in Mundaka at a glance

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The good

  • Arguably the best left-hand rivermouth wave in the world
  • Long rides – 200 meters or more
  • Perfect barrel sections

The bad

  • Lots of localism
  • Doesn’t work often
  • Severe rips

This guide is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in Spain

What’s in this guide to surfing in Mundaka?

An introduction to Mundaka surf

Surfing in Mundaka

Mundaka is like Spain’s answer to Ulu’s and the North Shore. It’s probably the most famous surf break in the whole country, and certainly up there with the most famous breaks on the continent. The reason? It’s a pristine left-hand sandbank off a rivermouth that’s beautifully hollow and offers uber-long rides of up to 200 meters when it’s working at its best.

The surfing in Mundaka takes place just below a picturesque little Basque Country fishing town. The folk there can seem almost irritatingly indifferent to the legendary barrel that happens in their harbour. But that’s part of the charm, and most of the surfers will flock in from miles around to paddle out. The lack of development makes it a lovely place to surf, what with age-old churches dotting the headlands and lush Spanish mountains rising to the south.

You should know that Mundaka is very fickle. Like a shy princess, it only reveals its true awesomeness on select days of the year. They’re mostly in autumn but can be in winter or spring, and occur when the NW Atlantic groundswells meet a SW offshore wind. The tube itself comes from a wedge-shaped sandbank that sits just in front of the harbor. When all those things line up, you’ll score some seriously intense sessions and understand why this one’s hailed as the capital of surfing in Spain.

Where is Mundaka?

Mundaka is on a remote stretch of Basque Coast shoreline some two hours’ drive by car from San Sebastian. However, the nearest city is Bilbao to the west, which is about 35 minutes by road. The town is surrounded by a protected nature reserve and the coastline here showcases some of the very best that north Spain can offer – it’s lush, mountainous, and ripe for adventure!

The surf spot at Mundaka

There’s only really one spot in Mundaka. The legendary rivermouth that first put this town on the surfing map of Spain in the 60s and 70s crashes right out front of the small town. It’s powered by a triangular sandbank that’s built-up from silt deposits coming off the river. Very specific conditions are needed to see things start working: A NW swell and SE offshore winds are perfect. Only good on a low tide that’s past the turn, because otherwise there are some really crazy undertows. It’s a pretty small surf window.

The reward if you catch it right is something special, though. The Mundaka wave starts on the western end of the bay with a super-fast take-off zone that drops into a hollow section that will pit you very fast. If you make it through, things will fatten out just enough to see a peeling shoulder with very defined lips that you can rip off. That’s the longest part of the wave and reminds us of a smaller version of the inside of Ulu’s. Mundaka ends with a shorter, hollower part that’s usually less busy but also gives some nice peeling barrels that can whisk you nearly 200m from the start.

Surfing in Mundaka isn’t the safest. Strong rips are notorious and can be unpredictable. It’s best to plan trips for low tide to miss them. The locals are also fiercely competitive for waves. That might be because the spot only truly works an estimated 50-70 times each year!

Surf spots near Mundaka

Bakio

Less than 25 minutes by car through the lovely Pais Vasco countryside can bring you to Bakio. Considered the main alternative when the surf is off in Mundaka itself, but also an overspill for when the lineup gets too big, it’s a reliable option that picks up more from the NW swell channel. That means it can get big, though there’s some decent shelter from the cliffs. Wave is a beach break over rocks that loves to try and barrel and will get hollow if you know how to ride it. Works on most tides and there are some smaller peaks to the sides of the main right-hand break. Localism is an issue.

Laga

It takes a little longer to get to Laga from the surfing in Mundaka, but that’s okay, because you get to travel the whole way around the river estuary and a particularly pretty part of the Spanish coast. On a north-facing beach that’s relatively reliable, you get sets of decent beach break. They’re much more forgiving than the Mundaka wave, so a good choice for intermediates looking to bolster the confidence before the big boy. Has the potential to get hollow but usually a good shortboard and longboard combo wave that’s peaky.

Where to stay when surfing in Mundaka

Mundaka might not be big, but it’s still one of the surfing capitals of Spain. The main accommodation of choice is self-catering apartments but you also get some nice hotels. Here’s our pick of the best…

Apartamentos Mundaka Surf Camp ($$)

Surf-hotel-top-pick

Apartamentos Mundaka Surf Camp is modern, comfy, and situated right above Mundaka break. The best units have access to a terrace that overlooks the whole bay. Inside, it’s contemporary design throughout with super comfy beds. Just about all you need. A cracking all-round choice.

Eco Hotel Mundaka ($$)

Wake to a breakfast of organic Basque Country jams and crispy Spanish pastries at this lovely little boutique hotel. With a focus on environmentaly-friendly practices right down the cleaning products, it’s a charming option in an historic building. The surf break is literally steps away, too!

Mundaka Sea Apartment ($$)

Best for: Having a private space close to the water

You can fling open the windows and be gazing straight out over the glistening blue bays of northern Spain at the Mundaka Sea Apartment. it’s simple but cozy and the location’s perfect if you’re keen to keep one eye on the water at all times! Who knows when the wave will start going, eh?

Mundaka Vista Mar ($$$)

Best for: Views

The Mundaka Vista Mar spills out onto a rooftop terrace that has uninterrupted views of the whole of Mundaka bay. It’s the perfect place for watching the surf go down and appreciating the majesty of this left-hander.

When to hit the Mundaka wave?

The one downside to the Mundaka surf break is that it’s one of Spain’s most fickle waves. You’ll need some serious astrological alignment to make it work. Expect about 60 days a year with it at its prime. Seasonality is key…

Mundaka in summer

Summer (June-August)

Mundaka and summer do not go well together. Basically, you don’t get any action on the NW swell channel in the calmer months. And if you do, it’s never enough to hit the sandbanks to create what Mundaka does best. Enjoy the local beaches and hold off for fall, that’s our advice.

Wear: chill on the beach!

Autumn/Fall (Sept-Nov)

Autumn is the peak time for Mundaka. The NW swell channel fires up around October and the summer easterlies switch south. Low tide sessions when those happen are surfing in Mundaka at its very best. Sadly, the locals and others know this is the case. The lineup will swell and things can get nasty in the water.

Wear: 4/3 and booties will keep you toasty

Winter (December-March)

Unpredictability reigns supreme in the winter on the Mundaka wave. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that winds can howl around the estuary and really chop things up. NW swells come regularly, though, so there’s decent scope to catch it working. Line up tends to thin a little.

Wear: A 4/3 throughout the season is usually enough

Spring (April & May)

The early part of the spring can mimic the autumn a little. Look out for NW swells that will match with those low tides and Mundaka’s worth a look. As things quieten towards May, you can turn your attention to the nearby beach break of Bakio, which is a bit more of a swell magnet than Mundaka itself.

Wear: 4/3 still but you can drop to 3/2 in May

Be sure to check out our gear guides:

Surf shops in Mundaka

Mundaka hosts a couple of fantastic surf shops and shapers than can take care of all your gear and board needs in this barreling town…

Mundaka Surf Shop

Simply named Mundaka Surf Shop has established itself as the go-to place for all-round surf gear in this legendary Pais Vasco surf town. Look for the wooden surfboard mounted above the door. That beckons you into a big emporium that’s especially well-equipped on the shortboard (the currency of the Mundaka wave) front. The guys are super-helpful and should be able to help with tips and advice on gear for all you surfing in Mundaka.

Lon Surfboards Mundaka

If you’re one to support local shapers then you simply must drop by Lon Surfboards Mundaka. They’re seasoned in the art of shortboards and can usually get a custom going that will be a joy ot ride in this corner of Spain. Finishes can be simple with a whiff of retro about them, too.

Best places to eat in Mundaka

Surfing in Mundaka doesn’t just have to be about chasing that perfect left hander. It can also be a trip to taste some stunning Basque tapas to a backdrop of wild mountains and lashing seas. Tempted? Here we go…

Bar Goikoa

Also known as Goikoa Taverna, this highly rated establishment cooks up feasts of Basque Country tapas (known locally as pintxo). The cured olives and the seafood tasting plates are particularly fantastic. Beer is cheap, and cold!

La Leñera

A traditional Pais Vasco tavern that positively oozes character and charm, La Leñera is a little back from the coast in the side streets of Mundaka. It’s got uber-tasty homemade tapas dishes and some of the best cerveza in town.

Things to do when you’re not surfing in Mundaka

Things to do in Mundaka

Visit Bermeo

The trains from Bilbao to Mundaka also carry on up the coast to the charming town of Bermeo. It’s a colorful Basque fishing center that has a history going back centuries. Come to hit the quaysides and sample some seriously nice local seafood.

Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve

The Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve – also known as the Gernika Estuary – is the natural park that surrounds the whole rivermouth of the Mundaka surf spot. It’s a glorious region of oak forests, pine woods, hidden bays and meadows that’s covered in hiking paths. Boot up and hit the trails.

How to get to Mundaka

  • Fly: Bilbao Airport is the closest of all to Mundaka. In fact, it’s only 35 minutes through the Basque countryside if you have yourself a car hire organized for arrival. Flights arrive there from all over Europe, including major hubs like Gatwick and Frankfurt.
  • Drive: Mundaka is situated on a rural coast road that’s about 28 minutes’ detour from the main AP-8 that runs across the Spanish Basque Country. It takes about 38 minutes to get in by road from Bilbao and about 1.5 hours from San Sebastian. The drive to Mundaka from Madrid is much longer – expect to be on the road for approximately 4.5 hours in total.
  • Bus: There’s a direct local bus service several times each day from Bilbao. You’ll need to ask the company ahead of time if you’re planning on bringing the surfboard.
  • Train: Direct trains leave Bilbao for Mundaka from the Atxuri station. They take about 1h10 in total. This is the comfiest way to get in and the views are pretty nice!

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 article is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in Spain and surfing in Pais Vasco

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