Olá: Surfing in Portugal - a complete guide

25 September 2019

Credit: Tiny Whale Surf Lodge

Whether you’re a pro surfer or you’ve never once ridden a board, experiencing Portugal’s year-round surfing is a must. Travelers consider Portugal to be one of the ultimate surfing spots in Europe. And it’s no surprise as to why. 

It doesn’t just have to do with the Portuguese surfing paradises like Peniche and Ericeira or that Portugal caters to all surfing levels. It’s more about the fact that Portugal is a true traveler’s paradise in every sense of the word. 

The Portuguese people are friendly, culture is rich, travel expenses are affordable, and let’s not forget about flowing Portuguese wine. 

But nothing can beat the nearly 2,000 kilometers of coastline. The coast of Portugal is dotted with well-known waves, plus tons of hidden surfing gems. This XXL guide to surfing in Portugal will help you to plan every aspect of your upcoming adventure.

Getting There

Flying In

There are 3 international airports in Portugal: Lisbon, Faro, and Porto. Lisbon is the most centrally located, and it is also the capital city of Portugal. The best part of flying into Lisbon is that it’s located directly on the coast. Travelers can hop off the plane and into the water almost immediately. 

Quick Facts

Best Time to Visit Portugal

There is technically no right or wrong time to visit Portugal for surfing. Surfing is a year-round water sport here, so travel to Portugal whenever it works best for you. Budget-weary tourists tend to prefer Portugal between March to early June or mid-September to late November. Prices around the country tend to be cheapest during these months.

Seasoned surfers love Portugal best from November to January. This is when waves around the country are most magnificent. During this time, professional surfers gravitate to the challenging breaks of Peniche and Nazaré. Beginners spend most of their time during this peak surf season Ericeira. 

Water

Drinking the tap water in Portugal is completely fine. You might see the locals purchasing bottled water, but this isn’t for sanitation reasons. It’s merely because some locals prefer the taste of bottled water to tap water. So go ahead, fill up a glass of Portuguese tap water, it’s 100% safe to drink.

Language

The official language of Portugal is Portuguese. There are several unique dialects of the Portuguese language based on location in the country, including Southern, Central, and Northern dialects. In addition to Portuguese, other common languages used throughout Portugal are English, French, and Spanish.

Internet

Since Portugal is an extremely developed country, you can count on fast internet speeds and strong connections. Many Portugal surf spots are even becoming popular digital nomad hubs, thanks to the stellar WiFi. Generally speaking, you can find WiFi no matter where you’re traveling in Portugal.

Travelers also have the option of purchasing a local Portuguese SIM card. This ensures that you have an internet connection no matter what. Purchasing a Vodafone is extremely easy. The other cellular network providers aside from Vodafone are MEO and NOS. 

Plugs

The electrical sockets in Portugal are Type F with a standard voltage of 230 V. If you don’t already have a universal power adaptor, look for Type F - Type C and E adaptors also work. 

Visa/Immigration

Depending on your nationality, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to enter Portugal without a Portuguese visa. Citizens of other EU countries can enter Portugal simply with an identity card - no visa required. If you’re from anywhere else in the world, you’ll definitely need a passport that is valid for at least 6 more months. 

Portugal has engaged in international relations with several countries, allowing residents of these countries visa-free entry. This includes citizens of the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The policy is that nationals of these countries can enter Portugal and stay for 90 days within a 180-day timeframe.  

Cash/Payment

Just like all EU nations, Portugal uses the Euro. There is some misconception that the country uses a currency called escudo. The escudo was, in fact, the main currency of the country, but this was before 1999. The Portuguese people have been using the Euro for nearly 2 decades. The value of the Euro fluctuates, but right now 1 EUR is equivalent to about 1.1 USD.  

Acquiring euros is very easy, just look for an ATM machine. If you want to avoid international fees, your best bet is to visit a local bank and withdraw funds that way. Whatever you do, try to avoid the currency exchanges at airports. These offer the worst exchange rates imaginable. 

Health and Emergencies

You’ll definitely want to purchase international traveler’s insurance before making your way to Portugal. This insurance will cover any delays or mishaps in travel plans. More importantly, it will ensure you in the event of a medical emergency. The surf can get extremely rough, so don’t plan on surfing in Portugal without proper health insurance coverage.

Crime

Portugal is a popular tourist destination for many reasons. One of these reasons is the country’s low crime rate. Portugal has one of the lowest occurrences of violent crime in the world. However, petty theft is still an issue here, so you must stay on your toes. Most of the criminal activity happens in Lisbon.

Portugal’s petty theft includes things like sneaky pickpocketing and more in-your-face bag-snatching. All we’re saying is that you should always keep your eyes open and be on your toes. Pickpocketing is the most reported crime in Portugal, but this can easily be avoided if you just stay aware. 

Getting Around

As soon as you look at a map, you can see that Portugal is a relatively small country. Many travelers choose to rent a car and see the entire coastline of Portugal. It’s possible to drive from northern Porto to southern Faro in less than 5 hours. The main perk of renting a car and driving yourself is flexibility.  

But driving isn’t for everyone. Some travelers opt for the more affordable option of trains and buses. Regional trains are the cheaper choice, but more direct bus routes will get you to your destination faster. If you’re staying within one specific area, taxis are another great choice. Portuguese taxis use the meter system, so you know you’re not getting scammed. 

Uber used to be banned in Portugal, but those days are long gone. Some areas do not have Uber drivers, but more populated cities like Lisbon and Porto are teeming with Uber drivers. It’s also possible to order a ride using apps like Taxify and Cabify. Anyone hoping to use an Uber-like service from Lisbon Airport should make their way to Terminal 1 Kiss and Fly Car Park.

Typical Cost and Suggested Budget

Compared to other EU nations, Portugal is considered very cheap. It is more than possible to get by on a shoestring budget of less than $50 per day (about 40EUR). If you have the money to spend, though, go ahead and spend it. You’ll get amazing bang for your buck in Portugal, so it’s possible to live like a king for $100 to $150 per day. 

Budgeting for Accommodation 

Cost of accommodation ranges depending on where you choose to stay. Budget dorm rooms definitely won’t break the bank. Even during peak tourism season, it’s possible to book a dorm bed for as little as $12USD per night. A step up from a dorm room would be to book a budget hotel, which is possible for about $40USD per night.

Credit: A dorm over at Surfvior Camp

Luxury accommodations in Portugal don’t necessarily mean you’ll be paying a “luxury” price. There are tons of luxurious private homes on Airbnb for as little as $50USD per night. As mentioned before, traveling through Portugal is the perfect opportunity to live like a king, without a king’s bank account. 

Budgeting for Food

Portugal is home to bakery after bakery. These bakeries make it possible to get a quick snack before heading to the water for $2-3USD. For a light meal, the typical cost is between $5 and $7USD. For a fancy meal at a 5-star restaurant, you can expect to spend at least $25USD. 

If sticking to a budget is your main priority, be sure to book a place with a kitchen and prepare your own meals. Since Portugal is a coastal country, it’s possible to go to the local fish market and purchase daily fresh catches for cheap. Keep in mind that Portugal is known for some of the best wine in the world, so set aside some funds in your budget for wine tasting. 

Budgeting for Activities

What’s the point of traveling to Portugal if you don’t actually get out and do things? In addition to surfboard rentals and surfing lessons, you’ll want to set aside a budget for local activities. Luckily, staying busy in Portugal won’t cost you much. 

Museum entrance fees cost anywhere from $7 to $13, and many of them are free on Sunday. You can invest in a full day wine tour for less than $50USD. 

Where to Stay for Surfing in Portugal

No matter where you choose to stay in Portugal, there’s a good chance you’ll be near at least 1 or 2 famous Portuguese breaks. The main thing to remember when planning your itinerary is that some beaches are not suitable for beginners. If you’re not comfortable tackling more challenging waves, the best place to stay for laid back surfing is in Ericeira.

Ericeira

Ericeira is often considered the “surf capital of Portugal”, mainly because the area caters to all surfing levels. The huge variety of waves means that both beginners and advanced surfers can benefit from time spent in Ericeira. If you’re looking for a challenge, check out a spot called Coxos. This is one of the best right-handed breaks in the European continent. 

Peniche

If you’re comfortable with your skills, head just north from Ericeira to Peniche. Peniche hosts a world tour surfing event each year. You’ll see why as soon as you stroll the beaches. The area is home to dozens of world-class waves and several well-known surf schools. Certain waves in Peniche are only for seasoned surfers, but there are some rolling beginner waves here as well. 

Cascais

Cascais is a quick drive from Lisbon, so many travelers choose to make this their first stop. Cascais may not be home to the best surfing in Portugal, but the waves here are easy to handle and fun to ride. The other perk of spending time here is that it is a resort town for the Portuguese as well as other EU citizens. The vibes are laid back since the majority of people here are on a surfing vacay.

Algarve

It’s impossible to talk about surfing in Portugal without at least mentioning Algarve. Thanks to the Algarve’s positioning at the corner of the Iberian Peninsula, it is home to massive swells. There is no bad time to visit the region, but advanced surfers from all over the world prefer the swells from October to December. If you’re a beginner, traveling to Algarve will be more enjoyable from May through July. 

Nazaré

Any surfer who is lacking experience can skip over this section entirely. Nazaré is not the spot for beginners, and some say that even intermediate surfers should look elsewhere. Nazaré’s Praia do Norte is one of the most challenging and hardest-hitting waves in the world. This wedging beach break hosts a Big Wave Tour event each year. Only the most daring surfers attempt to ride Praia do Norte at its peak. 

Top Surf Camps in Portugal

Tiny Whale Surf Lodge

Credit: Tiny Whale Surf Lodge

Welcome to beautiful Algarve.

Tiny Whale Surf Lodge is a luxury surf villa situated just outside of Lagos. The onces that comes for the surf will be treated with quality all year around waves with peaks around autum throughout spring. Tiny Whale offers packages for all levels, including specifikt weeks for experienced surfers.

For the Yogi there is Yoga and surf packages available and anyone loving food will enjoy the on site 5 star chef, including the fridays extra grande BBQ's.

“We have created a surfing experience that combines high quality surf coaching with a fully catered boutique rural lodge.”

- The Team at Tiny Whale

Credit: Tiny Whale Surf Lodge

Tiny Whale offer a selection of rooms for the singel traveller and shared rooms for groups. All packages include ISA instructors and each session is tailord to your individual level of surfing on a 1 to 3 student ratio. Also included is all gear, transportation to the beaches and much more.

  • Language: English, Portugese
  • Location: Algarve
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: Starting at €599 per week in low season 

Surf Lodge Santa Cruz

Credit: Surf Lodge Santa Cruz

Smack in the middle between Ericeira and Peniche Santa Cruz Surf Lodge makes it located close to +30 surf spots, and just 1 hour away from Lisbon for communications. Relax at their private garden after a long day in the surf and enjoy their regular BBQ. Santa Cruz accomodates all levels of surfers no matter if you need lessons or a local guide to the best spots - all with the help of coaches - all of them level 2 ISA instructors.

“Santa Cruz offers beautiful weather no matter what time of year you are planning your vacation.
Surf guiding from our stoked team helps you plan your surftrip in the search of the best wave every day!.”

- The Team at Surf Lodge Santa Cruz

 

Credit: Surf Lodge Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz offer rooms with double beds, four beds and one dorm room, accomodating parties of up to 6 people. Breakfast included. For those that want there is also the optional food package, starting at €59. Surf courses (mandatory during high season) starting at €219 per person per week and guiding from $275 per person.

  • Language: English
  • Location: Ericeira/Peniche
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: Starting at €169 for shared bathroom in low season, gear and guiding/course not included

Mellowmove

Credit: Mellowmove

Located in what is named the World Surfing Reserves Mellowmove is a complete offer for you upcoming surf vacation. Located in Ericeira some 45 km from Lisbon Mellow offer both a camp for a more social feel and a private apartment if you want to hang out with your own crew. 

“According to us, Portugal is the most beautiful and relaxed surf country in Europe! The friendly mentality of the Portuguese, the stunning coastline and the outstanding quality of the waves make Portugal the place to be.”

- The Team at Mellowmove

Credit: Mellowmove

The camp is located some 100 meters away from the Atlantic ocean and offers a full hous with all amenties needed for a unique surf trip. Sip a beer on the terrace or hang out in the indoor lounge. Choose 2 bed rooms all the way up to 5 bed dorm rooms. For beginners and intermediates there is surf lesson running every day, including shuttle from the camp to the spot of the day. If you are stepping it up there is surf guiding available that help you seek out the best waves of the day.

  • Language: English, German
  • Location: Ericeira
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: Starting at €340 for 1 week, excluding food

Surfivor

Credit: Surfivor

Surfivor offer 2 awesome locations in Esmoriz and Porto. Both two hostels with the all the amenities you need, close to all the best spots in the region.

“Our guests will not only be treated to a location directly on the beach, they will also encounter top-class amenities which have been designed to make their holidays a relaxed and comfortable experience.”

- The Team at Surfivor Surf Camp

  • Language: English/German
  • Location: Esmoriz and Porto
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate
  • Cost: Camps starting at €270 for dorm rooms

Baleal Surfcamp

Credit: Baleal Surfcamp

Baleal Surfcamp has been on location in Peniche since 1993 and concider themself the first camps around in Portugal. Located at Baleal beach any camp goes is situated mere minutes from the beach. You can choose to stay in either of their 2 hostels or level up in their villa or private apartments. Either way, they offer quality lessons and a dedicated crew to help you get on your first wave or find the best spots around.

“We’re the original Portuguese surf camp at one of Europe’s top surf regions, 25 years celebrated in 2018.”

- The Team at Baleal Surfcamp

Baleal offers 3 types of packages including only accomodation all the way up to both that and a surf course and equipment. You can stay in either the hostel if you are budget minded or in the villa if you want to step it up, and if you want some privacy the private apartment.

  • Language: English
  • Location: Peniche
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: Full camp start at €299 for 7 nights hostel accomodation, surf course and equipment in the low season

Arthouse Yoga Surf

Arthouse Yoga Surf offers the perfect surf Portugal vacation by combining it with yoga, art, meditation, and breathtaking scenery. The property located in Ericeira, making it the ideal surf camp for beginners. Arthouse has 2 retreat options to choose from, varying in activities offered. One retreat is all about surfing, while the other is more of a surf/yoga combo. 

“At B&B Art House the well-being of our customers is a priority. In our hostel, we offer a friendly and personal service in a relaxed ambiance.”

- The Team at Art House

This surf/yoga school is nestled away from the hustle and bustle of Ericeira, but it’s still just a 5-minute walk into the center of town. If you opt for the surfing-oriented camp, your package includes 5 surf lessons, surfing gear, beach transfers, breakfast, 1 yoga class, and 7 nights accommodation. The yoga/surf retreat is similar, but it places a larger focus on yoga with 5 yoga classes instead of 1. 

  • Language: English, Spanish, Portuguese
  • Location: Ericeira
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: From 340 EUR

The Salty Pelican

The Salty Pelican offers surf retreats in Sri Lanka and Portugal. The Salty Pelican based in Portugal is located in Cascais, a perfect beginner to an intermediate level surfing spot. The SP team believes in complete immersion into the adventures that make Portugal so special. This doesn’t just include surfing, but also SUP, yoga, and hiking.  

“Our retreats are some of the best-reviewed online, offering highly regarded surf & yoga experiences at some of the most amazing locations throughout the world.”

- The Team at Salty Pelican

Arriving in Cascais from Lisbon takes about 30 minutes by car. The team will organize a shuttle from the airport if you need it, starting your Portugal surf vacation off on the right note. There are several retreats to choose from, including the 3-day Short & Sweet package, the 7-day Surf & Yoga package, and the Balance & Restore package. If you want to focus on surfing, the weeklong Surf & Yoga retreat is the best choice. 

  • Language: English, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Location: Cascais
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: From 205 EUR

Shamballah Retreats

Shamballah places a lot of focus on yoga and meditation, but the retreat center in Sintra offers the perfect opportunity for a Portugal surf holiday. The Shamballah Surf, Yoga, & Meditation retreat has the potential to harmonize your mind and body while helping you to be one with the ocean. It may sound cheesy, but it’s actually true. Shamballah is all about health, happiness, and connecting with the waves. 

“With its views and spectacular coastal scenery, Sintra´s Region is ideal for long walks of exploration and close contact with nature's beauty.”

- The Team at Shamballah Retreats

The retreat center is in Sintra, which is just west of Lisbon and south of Ericeira. The Shamballah surf retreat includes all meals (except for one lunchtime meal), accommodation from Monday to Saturday, yoga classes, meditation sessions, and 5 surf lessons. 

  • Language: English, Portuguese
  • Location: Sintra
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: From 750 EUR

Surf Castle

Peniche’s Surf Castle is all about allowing travelers to “surf Portugal in style”. The Surf Castle accommodations are contained within a vintage house with panoramic views of the coastline. If you’re lucky enough to visit Peniche during the annual World Surf Tour, you can see all of the professional surfing action from the Surf Castle terrace. 

“Our house was built in 1920 as a traditional Portuguese family retreat and remains the most architecturally spectacular and comfortable property in the area.”

- The Team at Surf Castle

The Surf Castle facilities may date back to 1920, but everything has been completely updated to keep guests as comfortable as possible. During your Portugal surf holiday, you’ll have access to high-speed internet, daily breakfast, wetsuits and boards, and free transportation to the best surf spots in the area. 

  • Language: English, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Location: Canggu
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: From 600 EUR

Wavy Surf Camp

Surfing in Portugal’s Algarve region is a lifelong dream held by surfers all over the world. There are plenty of surf camps in the area to choose from, but Wavy Surf Camp tops them all. Wavy Surf Camp is located at a campsite inside the Natural Park of the southwest Alentejano and Costa Vicentina of the Algarve. 

“Wavy Surf Camp has been born as a result of worries, motivations, and a desire to transmit what we love the most. It is not just any Surf Camp, we go much further… ”

- The Team at Wavy Surf Camp

Don’t worry, you won’t have to stay in basic tents if you choose to surf with Wavy. Staying in the campsite accommodations is more like glamping than camping. Each massive tent has room for up to 8 people, but you won’t ever have to stay with more than 4 in a tent to keep you as comfortable as possible. 

  • Language: English, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Location: Algarve
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: From 409 EUR

Gear and Packing

A Portugal packing list depends on the time of year you’ll be visiting, your planned activities, and your length of stay. Whatever you do, bring a pair of comfy shoes, especially if you plan on spending time in a walking city like Lisbon. Of course, bring all of the must-have travel items, such as a power adaptor, photocopy of your passport, and any necessary medications. 

Everything else is really up to you. Traveling light is always the best way to go, especially if you plan on seeing the entire country. Be sure to consider the season, like whether or not rain is likely. In the summer months, lightweight clothing is best. Even in the summer, nights do get chilly in Portugal, so bring a light sweater or jacket. 

Portuguese Cuisine

Other than Portugal surfing, the top reason to visit this coastal country is for the mouth-watering, tummy-satisfying experience. It’s no surprise that seafood is a staple for any local of Portugal, so expect to eat lots of grilled fish while here. Even if you eat a fish-free diet, there’s plenty of options to satisfy your hunger. 

What to Eat

Peixe Grelhado - The literal translation of peixe grelhado is grilled fish. No matter where you go in Portugal, even if it is inland, every restaurant will offer its own unique version of peixe grelhado. Just be prepared to be served the full fish, head and all. 

Bifana - Bifana is a meaty pork sandwich that is all the rage among meat-eating travelers. The thinly-sliced pork is traditionally marinated in garlic and white wine for a powerful flavor. The best part of all is the buttered bread roll holding the pork slices together. 

Acorda de Marisco - In the past, Acorda de Marisco was considered to be a poor person’s food in rural Portugal. Even though this is technically a “peasant” dish, it is delicious nonetheless. This bread-based stew simmers for hours with olive oil, garlic, and savory spices. Most locals add a variety of seafood to the stew, typically a shellfish medley. 

Caldo Verde - Caldo Verde is the ultimate Portuguese soup, but unlike Acordda de Marisco, it is light rather than hearty. Some locals even compare it to a “warm embrace” when a bowl of this is offered. Potatoes and garlic make up the base of the soup, and thinly shredded kale gives it a vibrant green coloring.  

Where to Eat

Portugal offers a huge variety of eating options, ranging from extremely casual to extremely fancy.

The more budget-friendly option is to eat at a tasca, a family-run eatery offering simple dishes. Whether you eat at a restaurant or tasca, you’ll leave satisfied when you eat at these popular Portuguese dining establishments. 

Vila Joya

 Estrada da Galé, 8201-917 Albufeira, Portugal

The menu at Vila Joya was created by Austrian head chef Dieter Koschina. It’s all about fine dining on the beach, with unique menu items like roast goose liver and confit bacalhau. The classy menu might not be for everyone, and it’s not the most family-friendly establishment. But if you want to go all out with high-end delicacies, Vila Joya can make that happen. 

Tasca de Celso

 R. dos Aviadores 34, 7645-225 Vila Nova de Milfontes, Portugal

The seafood dishes served at Tasca de Celso has gained a lot of attention over the years, both from locals and travelers. The rustic decor is charming and the servers are friendly. If you plan on eating dinner here, making a reservation beforehand is a must. The prices aren’t the cheapest here, but as soon as you take your first bite you’ll see - and taste - that the $30 entree is worth every penny.

Restaurante de Casa das Penhas Douradas

 Penhas Douradas, 6260-200 Manteigas, Portugal

This fancy eatery is technically part of the Casa das Penhas Douradas hotel, but all are welcome to dine here. The Scandinavian-style decor is a drastic contrast from traditional Portuguese restaurants. Everyone enjoys the fixed lunch menu, but the real draw is the 5-course dinner. If you prefer to eat your kid goat or wild trout on the beach, you can order a gourmet picnic basket. 

A Few Things to See and Do in Portugal

Sip on Portugal’s Famous Beverage - The most well-known exported item of Portugal is port wine. A trip to the country is not complete without at least giving port wine a try. Even if you’ve tried port wine and hated it in other countries, you might just love it in Portugal. The best place to sip on port wine is of course in its birthplace of Porto.

Take a Tour of Lisbon - Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, is undoubtedly the best place to experience the vibrant Portuguese culture. Sign up for a walking tour of the city, or spend the day wandering around on your own. 

Spend Time in Douro Valley - Portugal’s Douro Valley is where most of the country’s port wineries are located. You could easily drink port your entire time in the Douro, but there’s more to fill your time than just getting tipsy off of wine. The rolling green vineyards against the blue sky is one of the most stunning spots in Europe. 

Surfing Portugal FAQs 

Where is the best surfing in Portugal?

It’s impossible to give a definite answer to this FAQ since it depends on a few things. The most important consideration when exploring the best surf beaches in Portugal is the experience level. For beginners, the best surfing in Portugal can be found in Ericeira. Anyone more confident in their surfing skills will love Supertubos near Peniche or the massive waves of Nazare.


Credit: Mellow Move

Where to learn surfing in Portugal?

Although pro surfers love challenging breaks and constant swells of Portugal, there are plenty of beaches perfect for beginners. If you're new to the watersport and hoping to learn the ins and outs of surfing before taking on more challenging waves, you have options. Many of these options can be found in Ericeira like Foz do Lizandro and Sao Juliao. 

Anyone hoping to experience more than just Ericeira can also learn to surf in Cascais or Peniche. Guincho is the best spot in Cascais for newbie surfers. Peniche’s Caninho da Baia is another perfect spot for beginners and out-of-practice surfers hoping to brush up on their skills.