If your idea of a perfect day is one spent riding the waves, then a trip to Portugal won’t disappoint. With more than 500 miles of coastline, the country boasts myriad spectacular surfing spots, from beginner-friendly breaks to real record-breakers. Winning waves all year round combined with a weather forecast that’s frequently sunny – what’s not to love? So, grab your board and jump in to our round-up of the seven of best places to surf in Portugal.
The so-called surf capital of the Algarve seems like a perfect place to start our list. And it’s the unique geography of Sagres that makes it so special. Located on the remote western tip of Portugal, the village sits on a headland where two coastlines meet – the windswept Atlantic on one side and the calmer waters of the Algarve on the other. From the tamer tides of Mareta and Martinhal to the wilder waves of Tonel, this is one of the best places to surf in Portugal, whatever the season and whatever your skill level.
The Peniche peninsula is home to Supertubos beach, where the world’s best surfers compete in the Rip Curl Pro each October. Even if you’re not a contender for Portugal’s biggest surf competition, the region still has plenty to offer every standard of surfer. Peniche pokes out into the Atlantic ocean, with more protected beaches to the north of town (best for beginners) and spots to the south that aren’t for the faint-hearted (including the world-famous waves of Supertubos). Want to explore beneath the waves as well? Berlengas Natural Reserve is a short boat ride off the coast of Peniche and a divine spot for diving, with a rich and diverse world of marine life inhabiting its crystal-clear waters.
If you want to build a little board time into your Lisbon city break, make your way to the waves of Carcavelos. Just a 25-minute train ride from the city centre, this beach is one of the best-known and best-loved surfing spots in Portugal. There are several surf schools and camps where you can book lessons or hire equipment, as well as bucket loads of beach bars for a post-wave wind-down. Carcavelos is the opposite of off the beaten path and its proximity to Lisbon means that it’s often crowded. But if the sea is calling your name and you don’t have time to travel far from the city, it remains one of the best places to surf in Portugal.
Newbie, novice or not surfed in a while? The crescent-shaped cove of Arrifana awaits. In summertime – when the swell of the Atlantic eases – the beach comes alive with surf camps, where beginners and back-to-schoolers learn the basics on the forgiving summer waves. Embraced by rugged cliffs dotted with traditional villas, the golden swathe of sand is a scenic spot for spectators too. Lay your hat (and your board) in nearby Aljezur; a cobbled, characterful town crowned by a ruined Moorish castle. Hiking trails also lead from the town out to the coast, serving up dramatic views of the white-capped waves from the clifftop.
A charming town of cobbled lanes and whitewashed houses, Ericeira is a picturesque place to play on the waves. In 2011, it was declared a World Surfing Reserve (one of only two in Europe, alongside North Devon). This small and select network exists to protect and preserve outstanding surf breaks around the world – so it goes without saying that Ericeira is one of the best places to surf in Portugal. Surfers have been making a pilgrimage here since the 1970s, when Ericeira was the playground for pioneers of Portuguese surfing. With almost five miles of captivating coastline encompassing iconic breaks like Ribeira d’Ilhas and Coxos, there’s plenty to enjoy for beginners and experienced boarders alike. And thanks to its status as a World Surfing Reserve, Ericeira should continue to be surfed for generations to come.
If your main criteria for a surfing holiday is to get ‘from plane to board as fast as possible’, we suggest booking a flight to Faro. Home to the main airport of the Algarve, the city is easily accessible from the UK and the rest of Europe, with surf beaches less than a ten-minute drive from the terminal. Situated in a sheltered corner of the Algarve, Faro’s beach breaks are also the definition of beginner-friendly. And they’re frequently overlooked in favour of more famous surfing spots, meaning the waves are uncrowded and the beaches blissfully quiet. Away from the sea, the city has an authentically Portuguese feel, with a cidade velha (old town) encircled by medieval walls and al fresco cafes aplenty. Often a place to pass through en route to the Algarve, Faro is an unfairly underrated destination. But for surfing, sunshine and excellent seafood, all within easy reach of an airport runway, it’s hard to beat.
If you had to guess, you might presume that the world’s biggest waves can be found in Hawaii or Australia. But in fact, the Portuguese coastal town of Nazaré holds the record. Known as the Mount Everest of surfing, Nazaré has been home to seven of the ten tallest waves ever surfed – including the record-breaking 86-foot wave conquered by Sebastian Steudtner in 2020. That’s equivalent to an eight-storey building. The allure of Nazaré draws the best surfers in the world to Portugal’s rugged west coast, so you’ll be in fine company while surfing here. Want to challenge Steudtner for his world record? Visit between October and March – the standout season of one of the best places to surf in Portugal.