Portugal is to Europe and Bali is to Indonesia. This is a continent-wide surfing paradise, offering the most consistent waves in a bona fide collection of waves, some very famous, others completely hidden.
Come here to take photos on the beach along the golden sands of the sunny Algarve. Or face off against the mighty beasts of Nazareth, home to the world’s biggest waves!
This country on the edge of the Iberian Peninsula offers much more than excellent surfing conditions and a variety of breaks. In addition, there are many charming surfer villages, surrounded by stunning coastlines crisscrossed by pine forests and dune meadows, blessed with good food and excellent wines, cod soup, and Douro red wine. Do you have anything to offer?
In total, I have been surfing and touring Portugal for almost 12 years. I caught some of my first waves outside the UK on a beginner’s beach north of Peniche. Since then I have returned to Porto for a month surfing stay in the Algarve and Surf Camp.
Here are my top 10 tips for the best surf spots in Portugal.
Carcavelos is the most famous surf spot on the Estoril Coast, stretching west of the large and bustling capital city of Lisbon. Because of this, there is always a lot going on here. But it’s very consistent and works from December to December, offering all levels of waves depending on the time of year.
To reach the beach, take the tram from the Cais do Sodré stop in central Lisbon, about 35 minutes. Stop just one block from the waves. There are board rentals and renowned surfing schools along the coast, with lessons for just $35 per person.
Shorebreak waves draw crowds here. It’s certainly a strong little number, and it ripples across the beachfront with punchy closeouts and the occasional left-right line.
Outside the bay, on the western reef, is Carcavelos Reef, a roaring reef that is home to local rip-fishers. Don’t be tempted to go there.
Childo Espinho is a trendy little beach town south of Porto. A 30-minute train ride from the big city, you’ll find palm-tree promenades and golden sand beaches with more sunset bars than you can drink a cold Sagres beer. It’s a place with a good atmosphere.
Wave peaks are in autumn and winter when the strongest northwest surf hits. Next, watch the shortboard masters claim teeing rights from the large concrete breakwater at the northern end of the beach.
But that’s not the only reason Espinho is considered one of the best surf spots in Portugal. That’s because the city has calm beaches with sandy feet during the summer months. There are also now many good surf schools with inexpensive courses. A top destination for learners from Porto.
Tucked away in what is known as the Green Coast in northern Portugal, Azulala is little more than a quiet fishing village with a few quiet seaside hotels. A few salt-washed boardwalks take you across a sea of oat-covered dunes to the Atlantic Ocean, overlooking a bay with waves of all levels.
Land winds decrease in spring and summer. This paves the way for great longboard and shortboard waves. The best ones almost ripple from the northern breakwater of Praia da Azuralla, sucking the high tide into beautiful wedges and stripped shoulders, perfect for trimming up and down. Azurala is still a hotspot in the North PT surf scene.
A great place to escape the hustle and bustle of Espinho and Matosinhos close to the center of Porto. What are the disadvantages? The slope of the beach means that the swell really calls for a southern element. Otherwise, it will be flatter than Portuguese cod.
4. Jardim do Mar
Fully exposed to the fierce winter storms that hit the Atlantic Ocean from November to March, the Jardim do Mar is a veritable breakwater for professional riders only.
It meanders around the southwestern tip of Madeira, a subtropical wonderland in the Portuguese sea. Beneath cliffs covered in lush palms and ferns, in front of terracotta-roofed towns, the waves begin to plunge straight and relentlessly into the thick plates of water of the Atlantic Ocean.
As soon as you turn the bottom, an overhead wall of water greets you on your right. Movement is fast and you will have to curve up and down to get through more difficult sections and escape the looming cobbled beach.
Unfortunately, the Jardim do Mar is officially classified as endangered. The site was severely damaged by the construction of a jetty a few years ago. It only required a little strength and finesse from him. This also means that the spot can only be surfed when the tide is completely low.
5. Costa da Caparica
The beautiful Costa da Caparica stretches for a whopping 13.5 miles along the central coast. It’s basically an unbroken stretch of cinnamon-colored sandy beach, easily reachable from the capital in less than 30 minutes by car. As such, it’s a great option for city travelers who want to see Lisbon’s sights while surfing the waves in the same 72 hours.
There are several named locations throughout this area. But the real fun is walking or hiking to find your own mountain for the day. Waves tend to be slightly smaller at the top of the beach. The area south of Praia do Castelo, in the middle of the Costa River, grows another foot or so.
All the waves here depend on the sandbar. These are flooded blocks of deposited and settled mud and sand. Sometimes it’s good. It may not exist. Westerly winds can wreak havoc, but infrequent easterly winds in winter can turn kaparika into smooth glass.
Arrifana is considered one of the best places to study in the Southern Algarve region. The bay is bathed in sunshine (almost 300 days a year, in fact) and receives constant waves from the North and Central Atlantic Oceans. Surrounded by towering cliffs and crowds of whitewashed coastal cottages.
The walk to the beach is just drama. Zigzag past surf cafés and board rentals, then descend a wooden ladder onto the sandy beach. Look at the falling rocks on the south side. It is usually covered in sea fog as waves crash against the shore.
Beginners and intermediate surfers here will want to stick to the main beach break. It’s not one wave but 20, all peaking and wedging along 700 meters of glistening sand.
There’s a more advanced tubular right that’s fast and sketchy to be had in front of the harbor when the tide peels back, too, though you need swells higher than eight feet to get that working at its best.
One thing I want to make clear is that we mere mortals will probably never surf the monsters of Nazareth. The city’s name is legendary in the world’s surfing scene, known for having some of the biggest surfable waves in the world. Yes, the entire planet.
The most powerful water wall record in surfing history was set here in 2020 by Sebastian Steiner. He jumped on a 26-meter (86-foot) tall giant but did not save his life. Courting!
Let’s be honest, a surf trip to Nazareth is not for the average person. Mostly spectator visits, but that’s fine. Visit around October for your chance to see the biggest waves on the calendar. Everyone gathers to see the lighthouse perched on the cliffs of North Beach.
The good news is that the city of Nazareth is also a really charming city. This is truly a Portuguese seaside village, with a labyrinthine city center linked by cobblestone streets and surrounded by cozy cottages and taverns painted cloud-white from head to toe.
Ericeira was the first official World Surfing Reserve in central Portugal. The reason is simple. The city is essentially the midpoint of a long, west-facing Atlantic coast that is by no means flat. The north side of the center is where professionals gather. The south side is for beginners and casual surfers. Let’s start with the latter.
There, long sandy coves like Foz do Lisandro and Praia do Sul become havens of crashing chest-high waves in summer. Many soft borders and grom’s experienced their first rides in these areas under the vista of the honey-colored cliffs of Portugal’s sunny central coast.
The whole landscape changes when you take a trip to beaches like Coxos or Ribeira Dillas. A rocky bay north of town is dotted with coral reefs and high headlands that drop directly into the sea. For example, when a strong winter storm hits in November, it sucks in big waves and creates a swirling barrel ride. It’s an amazing sight. and a great ride. if you’re brave enough
Among Portugal’s many surf spots, Peniche is consistently praised for its quality and variety of breaks. The city is about an hour-and-a-half drive north of Lisbon and sits on a vast stretch of land with sandy beaches stretching north, south, and west into the Atlantic Ocean.
result? Nearly all waves and wind directions offer surfable conditions in these areas. If it’s summer and you want full action from the sea, head to Praia da he Consolação and break your ankle under the centuries-old Fortaleza. In the bitter cold of winter, head back to Baleal to surf the sheltered grounds of Praia das Pedras Mutas, a base for beginners.
If there’s one wave that stands out, it’s definitely the Supertubos. A bubbly barrel beast sucking up the bank and forming a curling tube on the beach south of downtown Peniche. Major WSL competitions are held here every year. great to see. It’s dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Sagres is located on the southwestern edge of Portugal where the waves break. Seriously, go any further and you’re hopping in the Atlantic Ocean. Today, it’s the surfing capital of the Algarve, with all the prestigious schools and surf shacks to match.
The main focus for surfing is Tonel Beach. Plunging below the high cliffs to the west of the center and towering above it is the gun-pitted breakwater of Fortaleza de Sagres, a mighty fortress that once fought against Mediterranean pirates. But tunnels aren’t the only thing you can enjoy here. Sagres has as much access to the south side of the Algarve as it does to the west, making it perfect for beginners who don’t necessarily want the worst waves.
Heading east, beaches like Praia do Barranco and Praia da Luz enjoy gentle waves. Not to mention the general holiday atmosphere, with sunbeds along the beach and ice cream parlors on the promenade beyond.