From a surfer’s standpoint, Portugal has it all: awesome waves in world-renowned surf spots, but also waves with different characteristics and for all skill levels; mild weather and year-round sunshine; amazing views; a welcoming culture; delicious cuisine; and authentic charm. A total experience. Here’s what you need to know to plan your best trip.
Ericeira is classified as a world surfing reserve by the American organization Save the Waves Coalition for being one of the world’s rare places with a high density of outstanding surf breaks. This classification covers a 4-km stretch including seven world-class breaks: Pedras Brancas, Reef, Ribeira de Ilhas, Cave, Crazy Left, Coxos and São Lourenço.
The giant waves at Praia do Norte, (praia means “beach”), known as the Nazaré canyon, are only for the most intrepid. These waves, which can reach up to 30 meters, broke the world record for the highest wave in 2011 and have been surfed by professionals such as Garrett McNamara, who use the tow-in system. That means they’re towed into the peak by a jet ski and then slide down on their board.
On the outskirts of Lisbon, the Santo Amaro de Oeiras, Carcavelos and São Pedro do Estoril beaches are good for surfing and bodyboarding. Further afield in the heart of the Natural Park, Guincho offers quite consistent waves,; Praia Grande, in Sintra parish, is particularly appreciated for bodyboarding. One event of the sport’s world championship is held here.
In the Centro region, Praia de Buarcos, close to Figueira da Foz, and in the Aveiro area near Ílhavo, Praia da Barra stand out for what are considered the longest waves in Europe, which can reach 200 meters. Further north, Espinho is known for its mythical wave, the “Casino Right-hander”, but Matosinhos, quite close to Porto, and Viana do Castelo, especially Praia da Arda in Afife, further up, also deserve a mention.
South of Lisbon, in Costa da Caparica, Cova do Vapor and Praia do CDS are names to remember. Near Sines, other top spots include São Torpes and Praia dos Aivados, and on the west coast of the Algarve, Arrifana, Bordeira, Amado, Cordoama and Castelejo beaches are very popular.
In the Atlantic, the Island of Madeira offers memorable waves at Jardim do Mar and Paul do Mar. The Azoresv archipelago also has some truly magical spots: the Areal de Santa Bárbarav and Monte Verde beaches, which host a World Qualifying Series (WQS) event, and the south-facing Praia do Pópulo, all on São Miguel Island. Also consider Praia Formosa on the Island of Santa Maria; Praia da Vitória, on the Island of Terceira; and in the fajãs on the Island of São Jorge, especially Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo, which is regarded as a mythical spot.
Portugal is a country of great waves; come try them out!