All You Need to Know About Surfing in Ericeira
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The jewel in the crown of Portuguese surf, Ericeira is often compared to Mexico’s Baja California and Australia’s Gold Coast. Are you wondering why?
The surf capital of Portugal, Ericeira is the first choice among surfers traveling to this colorful country. There are quite a few reasons for this. To start with, it has the highest concentration of quality waves in Europe, and is one of the most consistent surfing destinations on the continent. Plus, it offers an amazing variety of waves, all within a short drive from Lisbon.
Ericeira (pronounced eery-say-reh) is a lively surf town. Every little corner of this whitewashed fishing village exhales surf vibes. Surfers outnumber beach-goers and surf houses outnumber regular lodges. Simply base yourself at a surf camp in Ericeira and you’ll discover a quaint beach community and some of the best waves in the world.
From the surfing seasons and the waves to the surf culture, what to eat, how to budget your trip, and other useful travel advice, here’s all you need to know about planning your surf trip to Ericeira:
When to go surfing in Ericeira
Ericeira has nice weather all year round, with many sunny days, even in winter. Thanks to the constant cool breeze, summers don’t get as hot as in other places in Portugal. The average daytime temperature in the hottest months (July and August) is 26°C (79°F), with a maximum of 28°C (82°F). Because of the cold Atlantic, the coast often gets foggy in the morning, but it usually clears up later in the day.
Ericeira is a year-round surfing destination. With a minimal swell consistency of 56%, it is one of the most consistent surfing destinations in Europe. In fact, Ericeira is your best bet in summer when other Portugal surf spots can go flat.
For beginners, the best time to surf in Ericeira is between May and September. This is when you’ll find fun waves that are not too big or powerful, as well as a lively party scene. July and August are renowned for their wild parties.
For experienced surfers, the best waves in Ericeira can be found between September and May. Powerful swells pump up the waves, producing deep barrels and gnarly conditions. Inexperienced surfers should steer clear of the northerly surf spots in Ericeira during this time of year.
Image credit: Laneez Ericeira
Due to the cold Atlantic currents, the water is cool all year round. You’ll need a wetsuit even in summer. In July and August, the average water temperature is 18°C (64°F). Between November and May, it hovers around 13-16°C (55-61°F).
Between May and November, a 3/2mm wetsuit is recommended. During winter, a 4/3 with booties should be enough to keep you warm. Booties are also recommended when surfing the reef breaks, which have sharp rocks on the bottom and are infested with sea urchins.
Find out all you need to know about budgeting and planning your Portugal surf trip.
The Ericeira World Surfing Reserve and the surf culture
In 2011, Ericeira was declared a World Surfing Reserve by the Save the Waves Coalition, a surfer-based ocean conservation organization that fights to preserve the planet’s coastlines and surf culture. Ericeira was chosen to become Europe’s first and, so far, only World Surfing Reserve thanks to its high density of waves and its established surf culture.
The waters surrounding Ericeira are some of the richest in biodiversity in the world. The reserve officially starts 4km (2.5mi) north of town, but the entire area benefits from its protection. From Praia de Empa to São Lourenço, it encompasses approximately 8km (5mi) of coastline, home to seven world-class waves: Coxos, Cave, Ribeira D'Ilhas, Pedra Branca, Reef, Crazy Left, and São Lourenço.
Image credit: Safari Surf Adventures
Perched atop sandstone cliffs, overlooking one of the few natural harbors between Cascais and Peniche, the town of Ericeira was founded eight centuries ago. Members of the royal family would often visit this stretch of coastline, building vacation homes.
The first surfers arrived in Ericeira in the mid-1970s, and the place immediately became one of the focal points for surfing in Portugal. In 1977, Portugal’s very first surfing contest was held in Ericeira, at Ribeira D'Ilhas. In 1992, the Ericeira Surf Club was founded.
Today, Ericeira is a multicultural town and a popular seaside resort that has preserved its authentic charm, with narrow cobblestone streets, whitewashed houses, and surfboards lying on the beach next to freshly painted fishing boats. Surf camps and other surf-related businesses continue to flourish. You’ll find several surf shops and even a surfboard factory – Semente Surfboards.
Image credit: Magikvanilla Surf Camp
Ericeira has an established, yet still booming surf culture. You’ll find a close-knit beach community whose primary goals are chasing waves and enjoying themselves. You’ll encounter the same people over and over again, bumping into the surfers you shared the line-up with on the streets, in the bars and cafes.
When the conditions are good, you will find large local crews at the most popular surf breaks. Show respect, know your place, and wait your turn.
Surf spots in Ericeira
Image credit: Magikvanilla Surf Camp
Ericeira is renowned for its wave diversity. You’ll find anything from beach breaks to reefs and points, spitting tubes and mellow peaks, fast and slow, rights and lefts.
The majority of the waves in Ericeira are more suited for intermediate and advanced surfers. But that doesn’t mean that first-timers and beginners won’t find something to suit their level too. In fact, Ericeira is a great place to learn to surf.
For beginners, the surf spots south of Ericeira are the place to go.
Most of the time, Foz do Lizandro is a forgiving beach break with a sandy bottom that’s perfect for beginners and intermediate surfers. You’ll find multiple peaks here, both lefts and rights, so there's plenty of room to play. It is also a very consistent surf spot that can throw some rad tubes on a good day.
São Julião is a swell magnet. This is the most consistent wave in Ericeira and offers a little something for all levels. This exposed beach break has multiple peaks, both lefts and rights, and works with any swell direction and tide. Praia do Sul offers beginner-friendly conditions too.
Image credit: Arthouse Yoga Surf
Intermediate and advanced surfers usually head north of Ericeira to ride the world-class surf breaks within the World Surfing Reserve.
São Lourenço is the most northerly surf spot in Ericeira. This reef break can hold up to 6m (18ft) of powerful and hollow surf. With a big northwesterly swell, it becomes one of Portugal’s biggest and heaviest waves.
South of São Lourenço, you’ll find Coxos, the most famous wave in Ericeira. With a low tide and a northwesterly swell, this powerful and hollow right-hand reef break is just flawless. No wonder it’s been dubbed Portugal’s best wave and also one of the best right-handers on the planet!
Crazy Left is one of the few lefts in Ericeira. It throws some gnarly barrels that should only be attempted by surfers who know what they’re doing.
Cave is the heaviest wave in Ericeira, famous for its spitting tubes. It starts in deep water and progresses over a shallow reef, breaking in front of a rock. It delivers some of the best spitting tubes in Portugal, and also some of the worst wipeouts. John John Florence got injured here in 2012; that’s how unforgiving it is.
Ribeira D'Ilhas is more forgiving. Halfway between Coxos and Pedra Branca, Ribeira D'Ilhas is Ericeira’s most accessible reef and one of the most consistent surf spots in Europe. Most of the time, it is a fairly easy wave and can be tackled by beginners and intermediate surfers.
Pedra Branca is another left-hand reef, with a super shallow take-off followed by a wide barrel. Expect some really fast tubes. In the same bay, you’ll also find two other surf breaks: Backdoor and Reef, two right-handers for advanced surfers.
Just north of Ericeira, Matadouro offers both lefts and rights. Across the road from Matadouro, you can warm up or practice your moves at Quiksilver Boardrider’s free-to-use skate park.
Wanna ride more iconic waves? Discover the best surf spots in Portugal.
How to budget your surf trip to Ericeira
The best surfing conditions in Ericeira can be found during the off-season, when the crowds disappear and the prices drop.
Image credit: Magikvanilla Surf Camp
For surfers, a hassle-free and money-saving option is to join a surf camp. This way, you’ll have all the basics covered – accommodation, surfing equipment, surf lessons or guidance. Some camps also include airport transfer, daily breakfast, or even all daily meals. Furthermore, the instructors will make sure that you are in the right place at the right time.
You can join a budget surf camp in Ericeira for as little as €35 per day.
Image credit: La Casa Atlantica
In Ericeira, you’ll find beach houses, apartments, and hotels to suit every pocket. Most lodges have taken the surf culture to heart and used surf-inspired décor in their rooms, which gives them a unique charm and a comfy feel.
In a hostel, the average price is €16 per person. The average price for a hotel room is €33 for a double/twin room.
Image credit: Magic Quiver Surf Lodge
You will also find surfer friendly accommodation in Ericeira.
Food & drinks
Image credit: Omassim
On average, a meal in a mid-range restaurant costs €10. A local beer in a restaurant/bar will set you back €4. You can buy local beer from the market for €1.
The average daily budget for food in Ericeira is €16. If you’d like to cut down costs, visit Ericeira’s food market, where you can find fresh food at reasonable prices.
Not sure where to stay? Take a look at our recommendations for surf camps in Ericeira for all levels.
What to eat in Ericeira
Tapas, pizza, traditional Portuguese dishes, and local craft beer can be found at just about every corner in Ericeira and the nearby villages. Seafood is on every menu. The grilled fish is a must and the lobster is a local specialty.
Portugal is typically a meat and fish eating country, and finding vegetarian and vegan restaurants can be somewhat of a challenge. Luckily, Ericeira has quite a few vegetarian/vegan-friendly eateries.
Local dishes you have to try:
- Polvo (octopus)
- Percebes (goose barnacles, a type of shellfish that grows on the rocks)
- Queque da Ericeira (local pastry)
- Ouriço (almond cake)
- Lobster açorda (garlicky bread stew with lobster)
- Bacalhau (dried and salted cod)
- Caneja de Infundice (a traditional dish exclusive to Ericeira and one of the strangest foods in the world; a type of dogfish seasoned with salt and left in a dark, closed-up place for five days)
More useful Ericeira travel tips
Image credit: Surfer's Den Ericeira
Getting there: Ericeira is located approximately 50km (30mi) northwest of Lisbon. If you fly into Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS), it’s a 40-minute picturesque drive to get to Ericeira. Either rent a car or check with your lodging or surf camp to see if they can arrange airport transfer.
If you don’t want to rent a car, there are public buses that will take you from Lisbon to Ericeira.
Getting around: You can get just about anywhere on foot. By doing that, you’ll already be warmed up for your surf sesh. If you want to save some time, rent a bike or go by car.
During summer, the Ericeira Beach Bus connects Foz do Lizandro to Ribeira D'Ilhas, making it easy to get to all the surf spots. Plus, a ticket costs only €1. The bus has a surfboard rack too.
There’s plenty to do on rest days. Make sure you take a day off from surfing to visit Lisbon, the “City of the Seven Hills” and Europe’s very own San Francisco. Go to Mafra (10-minute drive from Ericeira) and visit the Convent of Mafra, which inspired Nobel Prizewinner for Literature José Saramago. Visit Sintra and its historic castles.
At night, Discoteca Ouriço is where you need to be. This is one of the oldest discos in the country, which started to pump up the jam back in the 1960s. Other unmissable nightlife venues are Adega Bar 1987, which has live folk music from all around the world, and Tubo.
*Cover image credit: Surfer's Den Ericeira
Make this a summer you won’t forget. Join a surf camp in Portugal and take your surfing to the next level!