The 7 Best Surf Spots in Ericeira: Portugal’s Best Waves

Best surf spots in Ericeira
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Any list of the best surf spots in Ericeira promises to be a pretty long one. This town is among the most important surf destinations in the whole of Europe, let alone just Portugal. It was designated as an official Save the Waves World Surfing Reserve back in 2011 and draws thousands upon thousands of riders of all levels throughout the year.

One of the great things about Ericeira is that there’s pretty much always something on. No matter the time of the year, no matter the weather, or the swell direction, there’s typically action happening with the waves in this corner of Portugal. That’s largely down to the location, which means that the dominant N and NW swell systems that roll through the Atlantic Ocean make themselves well known at this point on PT’s Silver Coast. And it’s not just the consistency, because Ericeira is also a handsome whitewashed town with oodles of surf camps and fun bars to get stuck into.

This guide to the best surf spots in Ericeira will run through just seven of the places you simply have to know about when you come here with the fiberglass in tow. It offers locations for total beginners and some for complete pros, so you shouldn’t go hungry even if you’ve never waxed down a board before…

Coxos

Best surf spots in Ericeira
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Don’t even attempt to surf at Coxos if you’re not a seasoned veteran of the sport. It’s a reef break that comes straight into the rocks around the headland from charming little Praia dos Coxos, a short walk out of Ribamar village in north Ericeira. The wave is a right-hand barrel that gets very hollow on the biggest swell days. It’s capable of holding up well and can shape strong north-west swells into tubes that roll very quickly across the reef.

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Coxos has held numerous international competitions and is usually the place that the crème-de-la-crème of the surfers in Ericeira come to show what they can do. It’s predominately a performance wave, so pack the fish tails and the shortboards for this one.

There’s nothing easy about a surf at Coxos. The paddle out is harder than it seems. There are strong undertows and rips coming off the main point. And it’s super easy to get caught on the inside, where there’s a good chance that you’ll come far closer to the jagged stone reefs underwater than you originally intended. Our advice? Go only as a spectator if you’re in any doubt at all!

Ribeira D’Ilhas

Best surf spots in Ericeira
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No guide to the best surf spots in Ericeira could possibly be complete without a mention of Ribeira D’Ilhas. Up there with Coxos as one of the top breaks in the whole of the country, it’s another of the five-star reefies on the north side of the town. Again, it’s one for advanced surfers only. Don’t rock up with the foamie and hope for a nice day on the water. That’s just not gonna’ happen.

When Ribeira D’Ilhas is working at its best, you’re usually looking at a decent NW swell with easterly winds (they typically come by in the morning). Waves crash into the point that juts out of the north end of the beach. That’s the take-off zone, which kick starts a ride that can run for over 100m into the center of the bay. Depending on the day, Ribeira D’Ilhas can take on different guises. There are moments when it’s cruisy and fat; others when it’s just as fast as Coxos up the coast.

Ribeira D’Ilhas doesn’t work so well on high tides because the water depth closes off the reef a little and the waves can lose shape. No matter, the beach here is a lovely place to hang for a while. It’s got gleaming, yellow-tinged sand and a couple of uber-chilled beach bars.

Foz do Lizandro

Best surf spots in Ericeira
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If you’re a beginner surfer, get a pen: Mark down the name of Foz do Lizandro. Memorize it. Do something. This is going to be the place you want to head to. It’s the premier novice break on the south side of Ericeira, the part of town that’s generally known for its easier waves. It’s also the location that most of the local surf schools will head straight for.

Unlike Coxos et al, which tend to feel more like a hardcore North Shore Hawaiian break or something out of the Canary Islands, Foz do Lizandro mimics the mellow shores of Malibu. The sandbanks move and move all over the place. Sometimes they will align perfectly to take the sting out of big autumn and winter swells, to offer waves that break at chest height even when the rest of Ericeira is pumping at overhead.

More than just a surf spot, Foz do Lizandro is a charming beach that runs for a couple of clicks beneath the Silver Coast cliffs. It’s the perfect place to go if you’re simply after a tanning session, some beach footie, or a bit of sandcastle building with the kids.

Praia do Sul

Best surf spots in Ericeira
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Praia do Sul, also known as Praia da Baleia, is the beach you’ve more than likely seen on postcards of Ericeira. It runs in a big arc right below the town center, with the luxurious sea-view suites of the Hotel Vila Galé Ericeira at its northern end and the rocks of the Rocha Praia do Sul headland to the south.

With shelter at both ends, this one doesn’t manage to pick up the same regular swell as some of the best surf spots in Ericeira. It really needs a push of direct westerly or strong NW direction to get going. Those can cook up nice waves of 20-50 meters in lenght, running in off the main rock walls into the heart of the beachfront. Thing is, the swell taps all but turn off in the middle of the summer, so there’s not much scope for paddling out at do Sul between May and August.

That said, the area around Praia do Sul is inundated with Portuguese seafood restaurants and cafes, lovely hotels and buzzy beach bars. It’s the sort of area that surfers will congregate after a long day at Coxos and whatnot – check out the likes of Jukebox Bar and Neptun Bar to the north for a party after dark.

Crazy Left

best surf spots in Ericeira
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With a name like Crazy Left, you’d be forgiven for thinking twice about a paddle out here. And you’d be right. Here’s another of the top-quality waves that are included in the World Surfing Reserve boundaries of north Ericeira. Breaking over pretty gnarly reef and stone on the doorstep of wider Ribeira D’Ilhas bay, the wave draws a lot of power from oncoming swells to create a very lippy and hollow section that’s fast and hard to catch.

A tight take-off zone is always packed with locals when it’s working – you have to remember that Crazy Left is one of the rare goofy-footer waves in the area! There’s tough competition for the best peaks, and you need to have a good bottom turn to align into the channel before the whitewash pulls you straight back into the rocks.

There’s a fantastic viewing spot just above the Crazy Left break. That’s capped by the Forte do Milreu, a leftover from the Portuguese Restoration War of the 1600s, when the kingdom aimed to fortify its coastline against Spanish navy attacks. Below that, lovely Praia do Alibabá is often secluded and empty, but can be hard to reach.

Sao Lourenco

Best surf spots in Ericeira
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Sao Lourenco works on big and small swells, but rarely gets as packed as the mainstay spots of Coxos and others. The sole reason for the lack of a line up is that Sao Lourenco also sits a couple more clicks up the shoreline from the middle of Ericeira. That limits arrivals to those who have their own rental car, locals, or people nifty enough to blag a ride.

The wave is characterized by its glassiness and good shape. It’s a right-left reef A-frame, which means there’s technically a chance to ride both sides. Sadly, the left puts you really tight into the channel most days, so it’s typically only regular riders that can get the ripping in full swing. They’ll enjoy long shoulders that peel, sometimes mellow, sometimes quick, into the sand.

Occasionally, the banks at Sao Lourenco will line up to give some hefty shore break waves on top of what’s on offer out back. They’re pretty unpredictable, though, because it depends on what the seabed is looking like after long and strong winter storms.

Praia dos Pescadores

best surf spots in Ericeira
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Praia dos Pescadores rarely features in guides to the best surf spots in Ericeira. That’s really down to two reasons: The beach is mainly known as the place where the fishing boats dock up (hence the name – Fisherman’s Beach) and the surf is nowhere near the same quality as it could be if you headed north around the headland a few bays.

Still, we think it’s worthy of a mention simply for the proximity to the main center of the town. You can stroll in from most of the hotels or bars that line the narrow lanes in the historic core of Ericeira. A big – like, proper big – swell is needed to get things rolling, largely because the concrete jetty to the north will temper any oncoming NW conditions. When that happens, though, you can enjoy cruisy rights that peel into the middle of the harbor.

The main hazards here are fishing boats and the locals. Praia dos Pescadores can get busy if it’s working, because when it’s working it usually means that the more famous breaks to the north of the town are completely blown out.

The best surf spots in Ericeira conclusion

If you’re planning a trip to hit the Portuguese waves, then you can do a lot worse than the charming town of Ericeira. In fact, this is widely considered to be the surf capital of the country, and perhaps even the best surf town in the whole of Europe (sorry, Newquay).

The top spots to know about for pros string up the coast north of the town. They’ve been joined together in an official World Surfing Reserve since 2011 and represent the crème-de-la-crème of the locations around. However, they tend to be more challenging, heavier-going breaks, coming in over jagged reef and prone to lots of localism.

For beginners, the waves south of town are likely to be a better prospect. Choose them if you’re hitting Ericeira to find your water feet for the very first time.

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Joe has been a freelance travel writer for over nine years. His writing and roaming have taken him from the colonial towns of Mexico to the chowks of Mumbai to the Southern Alps of New Zealand. When he's not putting together the next epic blog on the best Greek islands or ski fields in France, you can usually find him surfing or hiking – his two top hobbies.