A few years ago I rented a van and toured a little slice of the dramatic Portuguese coastline, beginning in the dry and gusty town of Sagres and continuing northwards to the lively and extraordinarily beautiful city of Porto.
I surfed nearly every day, ate lots of gooey cheeses and enjoyed some of the most awe-inspiring sunsets I’ve ever seen in Europe.
After every session, I’d drag myself back up the sand then set about finding a quiet beach bar to sip on a Super Bock and savour the idyllic weather.
Needless to say, I’ve had a soft spot for this amazing country ever since.
Due to time restraints and a pre-booked flight back to the Land Down Under though, I had to make this trip during the first two weeks of August, which means I didn’t score that many epic days in the water.
The reason being that the best time to visit Portugal for surfing is in autumn or early winter when powerful North Atlantic swells lash its 943 km long coastline.
What this little jaunt did though was provide me with a great opportunity to wet my rail and put eyes on mutant reef breaks that offer intense heart in the mouth drops, punchy beachies that barrel over sand as dense as centuries-old cement and playful points you can surf in all conditions.
Compared to other parts of Europe, most of the waves I visited were also void of serious crowds. I’m not someone who enjoys surfing with the masses, so I can honestly say this somewhat sweetened the whole experience.
You can read about some of my favourite waves below, and while this list in no way definitive, these joints will give you a little taste of what to expect when it comes to the best surf beaches in Portugal.
Ponta Ruiva is located in the south of the Algarve about 20 minutes drive from Sagres. It’s known for its serenity, privacy and the striking ochre coloured sea stack that sits roughly 100 metres from the shore.
Ponta Ruiva works on all tides and tends to pick up a decent amount of swell. The best place to surf is the lefthander that breaks in the southern corner close to the sea stack, however, there are a number of other peaks up and down the length of the beach.
While Ponta Ruiva may not be particularly easy to find, those who make the effort will be suitably rewarded.
A little way further north of Ponta Ruiva is Praia do Amado.
Considered to be one of the best surf beaches in Portugal, Praia do Amado is a fun and reliable beach break that’s hosted a number of national surf competitions.
Unlike Ponta Ruiva, Praia do Amado does get crowded, so don’t expect to score it to yourself when it’s on.
That being said, it works on most tides when there’s swell. The sandbanks can be super shifty though, but as long as you’re up for doing a bit of paddling you’ll find a decent wave.
Carcavelos is the largest beach on the Lisbon/Cascais coastline and as such its exposed to a lot of swell. It is often referred to as the birthplace of Portuguese surfing.
Carcavelos has a great vibe in summer and the water is surprisingly clean. Expect to see half of Lisbon there on a beautiful day either lounging around on the shore or sipping strong Portuguese coffee in one of its many seaside cafes.
In regards to the surf, Carcavelos offers short and punchy waves with peaks up and down the beach. It’s best when it’s shallower but if you find there’s too much water moving about you can always hire a longboard or a sup and go for a cruise at high tide.
I recommend getting up early if you want to score some fun waves without every rubbernecker in the city waiting on the shoulder to drop in on you.
I’ve never surfed Coxos when it was epic but I’ve seen videos and photos and oh boy does it pump.
Located just north of Lisbon in the Portuguese surfing epicentre of Ericeira, this righthander breaks over shallow, urchin speckled rocks. It’s easy to find but the jump off and subsequent paddle out can be treacherous. My advice is to wait for a local to show you the way and try to follow their exact path.
There’s a surfable wave at Coxos whenever the swell is over 2 foot. If you want to score it when it’s really good though, I’d suggest timing your trip there for when the waves are head-high or bigger and the tide is high going low.
For those who manage to catch Coxos when it’s cranking, you’ll be treated to a slabby barrel plus a couple of wally sections for turns.
An east wind is straight offshore but it can also be surfed when it’s blowing from the southeast or northeast, as long as it’s only a light breeze.
Supertubos is probably the best surf beach in Portugal if we take into account both quality and consistency. It’s also the second most well-known wave in Portugal after Nazaré.
Supertubos is essentially a long and exposed stretch of sand situated not 5 minutes drive south of Peniche. Home to the MEO Rip Curl Pro in October, the waves at Supertubos are world class on their day.
Given the length of the beach and the tendency for it to pick up swell from any direction, Supertubos has waves nearly all year round.
If you get it on mid tide with about 6 foot of swell you’ll no doubt find yourself swooping into some pretty heavy barrels that look more like the type of pits you’d get over reef or rocks as opposed to sand.
The only drawback of Supertubos is that it can turn into a hassle fest real quick since the local bodyboarders aren’t afraid to drop in on anyone… not even the pros.
You can’t talk about the best surf beaches in Portugal without mentioning Nazaré, which is probably the most famous wave in the country and perhaps even the world.
Big, powerful and responsible for countless soiled wetsuits, Nazaré is treacherous to surf whether it’s 5 foot or 100 foot. The amount of water that moves around those cliffs even on a small day is enough to wear out the strongest paddlers, not to mention the swell can go from relatively inconsequential to massive in the space of only a couple of hours.
The good news is it always has a wave.
Believe me, if the rest of the Portuguese coast looks like a bathtub there will be peaks up and down the beach at Nazaré.
Just make sure to have a good look at it from the sand before you paddle out. Nazaré has nearly killed some of the most experienced surfers in the world, including Ross Clarke-Jones, Garret McNamara and Maya Gabiera.
Buarcos is a righthand point break situated right in front of Figueira da Foz. It’s one of Europe’s longest waves and definitely the longest wave in Portugal.
Given its length, it can be a bear to paddle, which means you’ll tire easily if you’re burdened by spaghetti arms like mine. The good news is that this paddle tends to thin the crowds out and ensure you’ll get plenty of waves during your session.
When Buarcos is head-high or bigger and the tide is running high to low, it’ll generate waves that run for well over 100 metres, and although it rarely barrels you can still find plenty of sections to hit on your way down the line.
Buarcos is somewhat protected from northerlies, but your best bet is to get up early and try to sneak a few in if you want to beat the winds.
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