With over a thousand miles of coastline exposed to the might of the Atlantic Ocean, it’s no surprise that Portugal is home to some epic surf destinations. It regularly plays host to pro surfers and word-class competitions and has some of the world’s biggest waves.
But it’s not only a playground for professional riders. Portugal has waves and surf spots for all abilities, plus an abundance of surf towns offering camps and lessons to help you surf for the first time or improve on the skills you already have. Add to that the glorious climate, warm, clean seas, and beautiful beaches, and it’s just about the perfect surf destination for everyone.
So whether you’re a newbie, an expert, or a surf spectator, we’ve put together a list of the nine very best surf destinations in Portugal to help you find that vacation spot with swell.
Praia de Carcavelos – Lisbon
Let’s start with one of the most popular and most accessible surf destinations in Portugal. Less than 20km outside Lisbon city center lies Praia de Carcavelos, a long beautiful stretch of white sand with remarkably clean water for its city-adjacent location. It offers waves for all abilities and a choice of surf schools and rental shops to help get beginners geared up and in the water. For more advanced surfers, it’s a fun, unique city beach break that hits harder in the winter months, when it is also quieter.
You’ll find this beach can get crowded during the summer months, so pick your times wisely to get some space in the waves. But the crowds also mean that Carcavelos has a lively, energetic vibe. There is always something going on, from volleyball games to after-surf beers to the surf festivals and pro competitions held here each year.
Praia de Carcavelos is best for: Easily accessible waves close to the capital.
Ericeira is the surf capital of Portugal, if not all of Europe. In 2011, the area was named a World Surfing Reserve by the Save The Wave Coalition, an organization dedicated to preserving and protecting areas of outstanding surf and ecological importance. Ericeira is the only European location to have received this honor and is a must-surf destination for anyone taking a trip to Portugal.
Surf culture has fully taken over this one-time fishing village. You’ll find the atmospheric town filled with surf camps, surf hostels, surf bars, and surf shops. So you’ll never be short of equipment, lessons, or new friends to talk surfing to. And you won’t be short of surf spots either. Around 10 beaches stretch to the north and south of Ericeira, catering to all abilities and preferences.
Beginners should start from Foz do Lizandro, a welcoming beach known for its many surf schools and forgiving waves. Then progress to Praia do Sul, where you’ll find lengthy left and right breaks over a safe sandy sea bottom. Intermediates can check out Ribeira D’Ilhas for an accessible reef break. This famous spot is the most consistent beach in the area and often hosts major competitions.
Advanced surfers will want to head to the northern beaches where they can tackle some of the biggest, most challenging, and most famous breaks in Portugal. Check out Coxos for the best right-hander in the country, San Lourenco for massive swell, Crazy Left for left breaking barrels, and Cave for the heaviest and most unforgiving wave in town. Experts only on those!
Ericeira is best for: Anyone wanting to ride world-famous waves in a beautiful and protected location.
Northern Portugal does not get as much press as the central coast or the tourist-filled Algarve and can often be overlooked for surf destinations. The weather is less appealing, the water colder, the breaks less famous, and often a little rougher. But for these reasons, northern surfers tend to be fiercely proud of their skills and their waves, and you’ll find a close-knit community vibe at many of the breaks. And, underrated spots mean fewer crowds to contend with!
So if you fancy veering away from the more famous Portuguese surf spots, why not fly into Porto and give the northern waves a try? You’ll find the journey easy enough; in fact, Praia de Matosinhos is the only surf beach in Portugal that you can reach by metro!
It’s known for its accessibility, consistent, year-round waves, safe sandy sea bed, and abundant surf schools and rental shops. All this makes it a fantastic spot for beginners and intermediates. Advanced surfers should cross the river to Praia de Leça, where the waves are so powerful that the city built a walled pool to give swimmers and children a safe place to paddle while surfers tackle the break. It can be extremely challenging, especially in winter.
Matosinhos is best for: Surfers of all levels who want to check out the underrated waves of northern Portugal.
Praia do Norte – Nazaré
Nazaré is where the monster waves live and is not for the faint-hearted. An underwater canyon is responsible for the natural phenomenon that throws up huge waves at Praia do Norte. World record-breaking waves that terrify mere mortals and are the playground of big wave surfing pros.
Once a sleepy fishing village, Nazaré now regularly makes the world news as pro surfers flock here to battle these insane waves, competing for the title of biggest wave surfed. Brazilian Maya Gabeira is the latest winner of the title after surfing the biggest wave in the world in 2020. The winning wave had a height of 73.5ft. Gabeira returned to Nazaré to claim this title despite nearly dying when tackling this wave years before.
So… yeah, this is not a wave for everyone. But it is an incredible place to watch both the power of nature and amazing surfers in action. Visit during the winter to see the biggest of the big waves.
If you do want to surf Nazaré and you’re not a world-class expert, visit during the summer when the swell at Praia do Norte dies down considerably. However, it can still pack a punch, so it is never recommended for beginners. Praia do Nazaré is also worth checking out for fast, powerful waves of a more reasonable size that hit all year round.
Praia do Norte is best for: Big wave surfing experts and spectators.
The peninsula of Peniche was tailor-made by mother nature to be the perfect spot for all-year-round surfing. The little spit of land sticks out from the central coast of Portugal and has beaches and coves facing all directions. This means you can always find the perfect spot to suit the conditions and should never find yourself without an offshore wind. This consistency makes Peniche one of the most popular surf destinations in Portugal, and it rivals Ericeira for the title of the country’s surf capital.
A major draw for the area is the aptly named Supertubos, a beach break known for having some of the best barrels in the world and which host an annual Rip Curl WSL pro-competition. Advanced surfers should also check out Papoa for giant waves that even Nazaré would be proud of.
But beginners should not lose heart; this is not another expert’s-only area. The unique shape of Peniche provides over 30 surf spots with waves for all abilities, the majority of which break over sandy sea beds reducing risk for learners. Prainha is the easiest wave in Peniche, but it can also get crowded. Cantinho da Baia is another favorite, with consistent mellow waves and more room to spread out. Longboarders should check out Gigi, where the waves are low, long, and fun.
Peniche is best for: Everyone, from beginners to big barrel riders.
You’re more likely to think of sunbathing and golf than big wave surfing when you picture the Algarve. But, while it’s true that you’re less likely to find world-class barrels and pro competitions down south, you should not ignore it altogether. There are some beautiful surf destinations in southern Portugal, especially along the southwest coast, where the power of the Atlantic can still be felt.
Sagres is the undisputed capital of the Algarve surf scene. Its location on the very southwestern tip of the mainland means that surfers have access to waves coming from two directions and, therefore, more choice of surf spots in all conditions. Generally, east-facing Praia do Martinhal is great for beginners, while intermediates should check out the town beach Tonal. Advanced riders will want to follow the locals and surf beneath the dramatic cliffs of Beliche.
The town of Sagres is one of the smallest resort towns of the Algarve and does not have the nightlife or buzz of places like Lagos or Albufeira. However, it is a beautiful, remote spot that’s perfect for nature lovers and anyone wanting to enjoy the surf without the Algarve tourist crowds.
Sagres is best for: Nature lovers and surfers wanting plenty of options with few crowds.
Figueira da Foz
Considering Figueira da Foz has hosted pro surfing competitions and that it has the longest right-hand break in Europe, you’d think it would be better known. But when the Championship Tour stopped visiting in 2002, the waves stayed, but the crowds sort of up and departed.
We can only assume that, given its location on the central coast of Portugal, its reputation has been lost under the powerhouse names of the surrounding greats: Nazaré, Supertubos, and Ericeira. Whatever the reason, it’s now a perfect destination for anyone wanting world-class surfing with fewer crowds.
Check out Cabedelo, the original site of the pro championship, and a fun spot filled with right-handers. It’s home to several surf schools that will guide beginners to the friendliest waves. Then head to Buarcos to ride the famously long wave. It is comprised of three separate breaks, which, when the conditions are right, join up to form the long break that draws comparisons with the world-class South African surf spot J-Bay. Be warned that it’s a long paddle out that’s not for the weak of shoulder!
Figueira da Foz is best for: Anyone wanting to cruise long waves in a world-class spot that seems to have sunk beneath the radar.
Arrifana lies over the dunes and meadows of the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, a long stretch of coastline that links south-central Portugal with the western end of the Algarve. So, it’s another Algarvian break but it still gets the full brunt of the Atlantic swell to keep it pumping throughout the summer and winter.
The main wave here is a pretty heavy shorebreak that really loves to closeout whenever there’s any direct westerly in the swell. However, it’s often mushy for the beginners in the center of the bay and even forms a nice little A-frame peak at the north end of the beach for more advanced riders. You’ll also find a really gnarly right that rises on the reefs of the harbor, but it’s only for experts.
Arrifana is a really gorgeous beach to boot. Set beneath soaring cliffs of sheer-cut rock, it has a couple of ocean stone stacks and a zigzagging path from the lookouts to the sand below. There are some chilled Portuguese tavernas and bars that fill with surfers at sunset, along with a few surf camps at the top of the cliffs.
Best for: Beginners and middle-skilled surfers.
No guide to the best surf locations in Portugal could possibly ignore Madeira. This jagged isle of soaring mountains lies 550 miles in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean from the Sagres on the south tip of the mainland. It’s a wild place, forged by volcanic rock and sub-tropical rain systems. And it’s also not all about the retiree hotels, either!
Nope, Madeira is only just about coming onto the global surf scene. It’s actually got loads of breaks, although many have yet to be properly discovered. The most famous of the lot is probably the Jardim do Mar, a manmade spot that forms off a concrete jetty to give slabby right. That’s now used for competitions that bring in pros from all over Europe.
The best place to go hunting for waves is surely the old coast road and the clifftop walking paths. They’ll reveal secret points and inlets where you can surf, although – as you might expect of rugged Madeira – getting down to the paddle out point is likely to be half the challenge!
Best for: Adventurous surfers.
What is the best surfing beach in Portugal?
The title of best surfing beach in Portugal is hotly contested, but if we had to pick just one, we’d say Ribeira D’Ilhas in Ericeira. This beautiful beach has accessible waves for all abilities and the most consistent swell of all the beaches in the area. It has schools for beginners, competitions for the pros, and all the facilities you could need.
Where is the best surf in Portugal for beginners?
Ericeira is the best place for beginners to surf in Portugal. Although you’ll find great beaches and beginner waves elsewhere, Ericeira, as the country’s surf capital, has all the best facilities and schools to help you get started. And it’s a fun surf town to stay in too.
Where are the biggest waves in Portugal?
The biggest waves in Portugal can be found at Praia do Norte, Nazaré, where the underwater canyon throws up waves that can reach 100 feet high.