Top Places to Learn to Surf in Portugal
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Portugal is a surfer’s paradise. Its huge coastline is dotted with waves of all shapes and sizes, rolling in one after the other, some located just outside lively beach towns with buzzing nightlife, others remote and serene. Simply put, Portugal has something for everyone.
Despite having a reputation for its record-smashing waves, Portugal is actually one of the best destinations on the planet to learn to surf.
It has plenty of surf spots that are sheltered from big swells, where you can pick up surfing in a safe environment. You’ll find surf camps in Portugal that provide accommodation near these spots and surf lessons to ensure fast progress. Not to mention that the country’s laidback surf culture, its sardines, pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tarts), affordability, and accessibility are hard to beat.
Read our detailed guide about planning your surf trip to Portugal.
From Peniche and Baleal to Ericeira, Lisbon, and the Algarve, check out the very best surf spots for beginners in Portugal, where you’ll be standing up on your surfboard in no time.
As of May 17, flights to Portugal are allowed for European Union Member States, non-EU Schengen area countries (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), as well as the UK. All passengers must present a COVID-19 (RT-PCR) test carried out within 72 hours before boarding.
UK travelers need to confirm they’ve been fully vaccinated at least two weeks before arriving in Portugal. Otherwise, they’ll have to quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
As of June 15, all travelers from the United States can enter Portugal if they provide a negative COVID-19 PCR (performed in the last 72 hours) or a rapid antigen test (performed within 24 hours of boarding). For mainland Portugal, no additional testing or quarantine is required. Additional requirements may be in effect in the autonomous regions of Madeira and the Azores.
Travelers from countries with an incidence rate of 500 cases or more per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days must undergo a period of prophylactic isolation of 14 days, at home or in a place indicated by health authorities.
Flights between Portugal and other destinations are permitted for essential travel only.
An electronic Passenger Locator Card must be presented upon boarding (except if you are flying into Madeira or the Azores). Passengers flying into the Azores must complete a Questionnaire for Risk Assessment and Early Detection before boarding. Those flying into Madeira should register their travel here.
But first, when is the best time to surf in Portugal as a beginner?
Image credit: Wavesensations - Sagres Surf School
Summer (April through September) is the best time to learn to surf in Portugal.
Summer receives small to medium swells, which translates to mellow waves, not too big or powerful, just perfect for beginners and intermediate surfers. The weather is pleasant, the days are long and sunny, and the water is warmer.
Winter brings in bigger swells, which means higher and heavier waves. These are better left to more experienced surfers.
Image credit: Lisbon Surf Camp
The water stays fairly cold all year round, so you’ll need a wetsuit even during summer months.
During summer, the water temperature hovers around 18-22°C (65-71°F) on the northern and central coast. You’ll need a 2mm long-sleeve shorty and a 3/2mm wetsuit in the morning or if it’s windy.
On the southern coast, in the Algarve region, the water is slightly warmer, ranging between 21 and 23°C (70-73°F) in late summer and early autumn. You can surf in a swimsuit during the warmest months, but a 2mm shorty is recommended for longer sessions and if the wind is up.
Catinho da Baia, Peniche
Image credit: Good Surf Good Love - SURF ACADEMY
Peniche pinned the country on the surfing map and is now the capital of surfing in Portugal. Famous for the gnarly barrels at Supertubos, one of the world’s heaviest waves and venue of the annual Rip Curl Pro Portugal, it is a mecca for surfers from all around the world.
An hour’s drive north of Lisbon, Peniche is home to some of the best waves in Europe. The peninsula juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, catching swells and winds from every direction. No matter the time of year, there’s always a world-class wave to surf here.
Don’t let this intimidate you. The notorious waves that host the WSL event may be for the pros, but there are beginner-friendly surf beaches at Peniche too.
A long stretch of sheltered beach connects the peninsula with the smaller village of Baleal. Most of the surf camps in Peniche are located along Baleal Beach, which is a beginner surfer’s paradise!
Catinho da Baia is the most popular beginner surf spot in Peniche and one of the best in Portugal. Along the 3km (1.8mi) beach, there are several take-off points. Closer to shore, the waves are smaller and perfect for those hopping on the surfboard for the very first time. Further out, they are slightly bigger and suitable for those looking to improve their skills.
North of Baleal, Prainha is another sheltered spot for beginner surfers.
Find out all you need to know about planning your surf trip to Peniche.
Foz do Lizandro, Ericeira
Image credit: Magikvanilla Surf Camp
The stretch of coastline north of Ericeira was declared a World Surfing Reserve in 2011. Along 8km (5mi), there are seven world-class waves, including Ribeira D'Ilhas and São Lourenço. However, the entire area surrounding Ericeira benefits from the reserve’s protection.
You’ll find a wide variety of surf spots – reefs and beach breaks, small and large, long and fast. Despite their popularity and the many surf camps in Ericeira that have emerged over the last decade, the beaches don’t get too crowded.
The waves within the reserve are a bit more challenging and are more recommended for intermediate and advanced surfers. Beginners should go to the beaches south of the charming little town of Ericeira.
Foz do Lizandro is a gentle and fun beach break with easy lefts and rights, less crowded than other beaches in the area. It is one of the most consistent surf spots in Ericeira, offering waves all year round.
Also south of Ericeira, São Julião is another consistent wave, attracting swells from every direction. Praia do Sul is a another great beach to learn to surf in Ericeira.
Find out all you need to know about planning your surf trip to Ericeira.
Figueira da Foz, Coimbra
Image credit: Quinta d'Anta, Hotel and Surf Lodge
If you’re looking for a quieter and more pristine place to learn to surf in Portugal, Figueira da Foz is the answer. Still untouched by mass tourism, it is less crowded than other surf spots in Portugal, while the quality of its waves and the surrounding natural beauty are world-class.
In central Portugal, north of Lisbon, Figueira da Foz has two main beaches – Buarcos and Cabedelo. Both are great for all levels of surfers.
Cabedelo is the most popular beach at Figueira da Foz. The waves are produced by a jetty. Closer to shore, they are gentle enough for beginners. Further out, they get stronger and are recommended for more experienced surfers.
Buarcos is one of Europe’s widest beaches, home to three different surf spots, Teimoso being one of the longest waves in Portugal. For beginners and intermediate surfers, this means plenty of room to practice and have fun without worrying about the other people in the water.
Not sure what to expect from your first surf lessons? Find out what you’ll learn on a surf camp for beginners.
Image credit: Karma Surf Retreat
It’s not hard to see why Lisbon is often compared to San Francisco. Besides the cultural and architectural similarities, there are also several surf spots within a 40-minute drive from the city center or less.
You can go surfing in the morning, visit museums in the afternoon, and go bar hopping in the evening!
West of Lisbon, the Cascais coastline is considered the most spectacular in Portugal. Here, Praia do Guincho is the best place to learn to surf in Cascais and one of the most beautiful beaches in the Lisbon region.
Praia do Guincho is a long beach that home to one of the most famous and most consistent beach breaks in Portugal, which produces fun and gentle waves during summer. In winter, Guincho becomes a playground for experienced surfers.
Image credit: Kitesurf Adventures
Just outside of Lisbon, about 20km (12mi) from the city center, Carcavelos is a legendary surf spot, one of the oldest and most popular in Portugal.
Praia de Carcavelos is a 1.5-kilometer (0.9-mile) beach with several peaks. The waves break over a sandy bottom and the conditions are very consistent. It attracts a medium-size swell, producing great waves for beginners and intermediate surfers.
Carcavelos can be easily reached by public transport from Lisbon, which is why it is often very crowded. During summer, most Lisboners can be found sunbathing here.
Praia do Amado, Carrapateira, Algarve
Image credit: Vida Pura
Sunny southern Portugal is one of the best places to learn to surf in Europe. The Algarve is a year-round surfing destination, blessed with sunny weather and the warmest water in the country.
It picks up consistent swell during summer. In winter, when the surf tends to get more powerful in central and northern Portugal, there are plenty of sheltered spots with gentle waves in the Algarve.
» Join a surf camp for beginners in Algarve.
The main base camp for surfing in the Algarve is the coastal town of Lagos, renowned for its picturesque coastline. Another preferred base camp is Sagres.
You’ll find numerous surf camps in Lagos that will either take you to the beginner-friendly beach break just outside of Lagos, Meia Praia, or to the surf spots on the west coast of the Algarve, where the swell is far more consistent.
In the heart of Costa Vicentina, in the Alentejo National Park, Praia do Amado is a wide beach with plenty of room for everyone. It is one of the most consistent surf spots in the Algarve, picking up Atlantic swells from every direction. It is also one of the best beaches to learn to surf in Portugal.
Crowds are not an issue here. Amado is one of the few surf beaches in the country still untouched by civilization. A car park and a bar are all you’ll find here, while the beach itself is enclosed by tall cliffs. During summer, this is your safest bet in the Algarve region, especially in August, when strong northern winds can ruin some of the waves in southern Portugal.
Further north, Arrifana has fun waves for all levels.
Image credit: Matosinhos Surf Camp
Just outside Porto, only 20 minutes from the airport, Praia de Matosinhos is one of the best places to learn to surf in Europe. It is also very consistent, and its mellow beach break provides wonderful conditions for beginners and intermediate surfers all year round. Furthermore, it is the only wave in the country you can reach by metro!
You’ll find numerous surf camps in Porto, which makes this northern Portuguese city an excellent destination for a short surf trip. Combine Porto’s famous wines and rich history with riding world-famous waves that wrote surfing history.
*Cover image credit: Wavesensations - Sagres Surf School
Gentle waves, friendly locals, rich culture, scrumptious cuisine, and experienced instructors. Join a beginner surf camp in Portugal and discover a new passion!