A Surfer’s Guide to Portugal
Want to know all there is to know about surfing in Portugal? Then check out Rebel Surfcamp’s surfing guide to Portugal below or get in touch for more information on how to find and book a surf camp in Portugal.
Portugal is perhaps the best country in Europe to visit if you’re a surfer thanks to its enviable climate, great variety of waves and the almost endless amount of surf camps and surf schools for you to choose from.
It also enjoys a rich and illustrious surfing history dating back to the 1920s, during which time “bodyboarders” were filmed riding breaking waves to shore off the coast near Porto.
This footage of people surfing in Portugal is now thought to be the oldest surf film in European history.
Fast-forward to the modern era and Portugal is one of the surfiest countries in the world, with a number of high profile surfers such as Nic von Rupp and Carol Henrique, west and south facing coastlines and a reasonable cost of living relative to the rest of the continent.
All of which adds up to make Portugal a veritable playground for surfers from Europe and around the world.
Surf Regions in Portugal
Given Portugal’s unique geographical location and its plus 600 km of exposed coast, it nearly goes without saying that there are plenty of surf regions for you to discover. And since most of them lie below 40° North, you won’t have to deal with those howling mid-latitude west winds or the often relentless fronts that lash northern Spain, France and the Isles.
You will, however, get to enjoy the swell the send down.
Drive anywhere north of Lisbon and you’ll run into famous surf breaks such as big wave break Nazaré, the always-hollow Supertubos in Peniche and the many reefs, slabs and beachies that give Ericeira the title of Europe’s Margaret River.
No transport though? No problem! Lisbon also boasts a couple of very scenic and very iconic beachbreaks – Guincho and Carcavelos – for you to sample.
If you’d prefer something a little slower paced in terms of surf and lifestyle though, you can always head south and explore the many gems Portugal’s Algarve region offers, such as Arrifana Beach near Aljezur and the surf town of Sagres.
Travel Basics for Portugal
Portugal is an incredibly beautiful destination for travellers looking to book a surf camp in Europe.
One of the reasons why it’s so popular in addition to its great reputation for surf is its dry Mediterranean climate, which provides mild winters, hot summers and 2.5 to 3.2 thousand hours of sunshine a year – roughly double the amount of the United Kingdom.
Fantastic weather aside, Portugal is also easy to visit given that it’s part of the European Union (EU). This means EU and Non-EU travellers can enjoy open borders and not have to worry about exchanging money, since its official currency is also the Euro.
Still need to keep in touch with friends and family while at your surf camp in Portugal? Well you’ll be thrilled to know the country boasts a great 4G mobile network with plans for 5G to be rolled out in the coming years. Major service providers include MEO, NOS and Vodafone.
Couple the country’s great mobile coverage with the fact it’s got some of the fastest internet in the world (beating out Australia, France and Italy), it’s no wonder Portugal is considered one of the easiest countries to stay connected in
Surfing in Portugal
Portugal runs the whole gamut when it comes to conditions and types of waves. This makes it a consistent all-year round surf destination and one of the best places to book a surf camp if you’re looking to maximise your time in the water.
The best season to visit Portugal for surf though runs from November to April. It’s during this window that the country’s rugged coastline is lashed with swell sent down from wild mid-Atlantic storm systems and the almost endless crowds that arrive during the warmer months begin to dissipate.
That being said, beginners will most likely enjoy the surf on offer during these warmer months, since it’s typically much more tame. This makes booking a surf camp in Portugal or linking up with a local tour guide worth the extra money, since they’ll know where to find a lineup that isn’t populated by what can feel like the rest of Europe.
In regards to water temperature, Portugal is far from a tropical destination. You do, however, have options.
If you prefer water more akin to that of a warm bath, then the country’s southern coast is the place for you with temperatures from July to September reaching around 22°C - boardies weather for all!
On the flipside though, the western coast of Portugal between the months of January and March has been known to dip below 15°C, so don’t throw away that 4/3 wetsuit just yet.
Surfing North of Lisbon
The surf town of Ericeira, Supertubos in Peniche and the world’s premier XXL wave spot Nazaré are all located north of Lisbon.
For those of you who like easy access to a wide variety of world-class waves, including one of Europe’s most famous points Coxos, Ericeira can’t be beaten.
Other waves of note in Ericeira include the beachbreak of São Lourenço, a crazy slab called The Cave and an incredibly consistent righthander by the name of Ribeira D’Ilhas.
Taking all of this into account, it’s easy to see why Ericeira is regarded as the hub of performance surfing in Portugal.
It was also declared a World Surf Reserve in 2011; thereby ensuring its beauty will be preserved for generations to come.
Further north of Ericeira and about 90 minutes from Lisbon is Supertubos, which is a hollow beachbreak adjacent to the town of Peniche.
Supertubos is the site of the World Surf League’s Rip Curl Pro; held every year in roughly the same location dependent on the banks. This alone is a testament to the quality of waves it produces, however, if you’re looking for something a bit mellower the beachbreak of Baleal about 10 minutes north is a bit more forgiving.
Last but not least we have Nazaré – the undisputed heavyweight when it comes to XXL surfing. Known as the ultimate proving ground for big wave surfers from all around the world, Nazaré’s unique underwater geography attracts massive Atlantic swells to the shore like a magnet where they can stand up as high as 100 feet plus before breaking only metres from its foreboding cliffs.
A must see if you’re in Portugal during the months of November to February. But perhaps swap the board out for a camera if you visit… unless you’re feeling lucky, that is.
Surfing in Lisbon
If you’re planning on surfing in Lisbon you’ll be happy to know that you’ve got plenty of beaches to choose from.
Two of the best surf beaches in Lisbon to find waves though are Carcavelos and Praia do Guincho - the first of these being the birthplace of surfing in Portugal, located only 20 minutes from the centre of Lisbon.
Beginners will be able to surf Carcavelos when it’s smaller while admiring the iconic São Julião da Barra Fort. Word of warning though it can get crowded… it is a city beach after all.
Once the swell kicks up over 4 foot, expect to see the more experienced surfers rule its barrelling waves.
Praia do Guincho on the other hand is located in Cascais, which is about as far north as you can go without leaving the city. It’s at this beautiful beach where you’ll be able to find some of the best waves for learners within Lisbon’s limits.
The only problem is that Guincho very exposed to the northerly winds, so make sure you’re there for the early morning and late afternoon glassoffs.
Surfing South of Lisbon
The coastline south of Lisbon is home to a plethora of beautiful beaches and of course, drumroll please… the breathtaking Algarve region of Portugal!
Long regarded as the ultimate place to learn to surf in Europe, the Algarve is blessed with glorious weather, a pristine coastline and secret waves sheltered away in sunny coves at the bottom of a striking ochre coloured cliff.
Sagres, which is located where Portugal’s west coast meets the south coast, is the epicentre of surfing in the Algarve. With nearly more surf camps, surf schools and surf hostels within the town than the entire Algarve combined, it is popular amongst surfers of all skills levels.
Easy access to two different coastlines also means you’ll most likely always have somewhere to surf. Check out Praia do Martinhal and Praia da Mareta for some fun beginner waves or Tonel Beach and Beliche if you’re looking for a break with a bit of oomph.
When it comes to consistent beach breaks in the Algarve, it’s also worth visiting Praia do Amado and Arrifana if you’re in the region.
Situated about 15 and 30 minutes north of Sagres respectively, Praia do Amado and Arrifana both offer protection from those crazy north winds and generally have good sand banks, which makes them a safe bet to check when there’s swell.
Arrifana even has a righthand pointbreak called Kangaroos that breaks when it’s big, not to mention it’s shielded from nearly all wind directions except the westerly’s and southwesterly’s, making it a great backup spot when everywhere else is blown out.
Surf Trip Essentials for Portugal
Surf trip essentials for Portugal include knowing that prices and opening times for restaurants and bars depend on the season. The good thing here though is that some of the best waves are found during the low season that runs from December till the beginning of March, which means everything is noticeably cheaper during this period.
If you’re trying to work out a daily budget, try to aim for about €30 – €120 per night for lodging (prices vary depending on your level of accommodation) and €30 – €50 per day for a rental car.
In terms of the food in Portugal you can expect to spend as low as €10 per day if you’re cooking for yourself or as high as €80 if you’re eating out three times a day.
While we’re on the topic, it’s worth mentioning that Portuguese cuisine is especially hearty with an emphasis on freshness and richness.
The regional dishes change of course depending on where you are in the country, but if you’re hugging the coast you’ll find that octopus, squid and bacalhau are often on the menu.
What’s bacalhau you ask?
Bacalhau is Portuguese for codfish and somewhat of a national treasure. It can be barbecued, canned or baked and goes well with potatoes and rice plus a multitude of other side dishes. In fact, there’s a rumour that there are about 365 ways of making bacalhau plus another 1,000 ways of serving it, so you could eat a different variation of it every day of the year if you wanted to.
In addition to the excellent selection of waves in Portugal, its cheap cost of living and its fantastic array of regional food and delicious local produce, it also offers travellers plenty of things to do when the waves go flat. This includes some awesome hiking trails in the Costa Vicentina National Park, tours of significant sites such as The Palacio Nacional da Pena in Sintra and plenty of cute little towns to get lost in, such as the ‘village beneath the boulders’, Monsanto.
Alternatively you can just kick back on one of the Portugal’s many golden sand beaches and enjoy the warm Mediterranean-esque sun while being cooled by that refreshing Atlantic sea breeze.
About Rebel Surfcamps
Rebel Surfcamps is a thoughtful and innovative surf travel guide website based in the Netherlands that connects keen surfers with the best surf camps, surf schools and surf accommodation in the dreamiest surf destinations around the world.
Our aim is to make the process of booking a surf camp in Portugal or anywhere else as effortless as possible, whilst also following through with our promise to make every trip an inspiring and enriching experience.
So if you’ve ever dreamed of surfing in Lisbon, surfing in the Algarve or booking a surf camp in Portugal, reach out and contact Rebel Surfcamps by filling out our contact form today.
Get in touch and let us know you’re down to surf good waves, meet new friends and make memories that’ll last a lifetime with the best of them.