Having such a long stretch of Atlantic coastline with huge wind whipped waves both along the Algarve and up the west of the country, Portugal has some excellent surfing spots. The World Championship site of Ericeira is obviously popular and you have Peniche nearby with its incredible superturbos.
Both south and north of Lisbon are some handy surfing getaways if you're wanting a quick break from the city. The further north you go in Portugal the more naturalistic the beaches become and the less busy the often are. Checkout the surf on the West Algarve Coast. Both Lagos and Sagres have a top surfing scene, with a choice of surf schools, surf clothing shops and surf equipment hire outlets. Carrapateira north of Sagres on the West Algarve coast tops the surf charts for remote surfing beaches in Portugal. The Atlantic hits the Carrapateira coastline full on offering superb swells.
Lagos in the West Algarve is a major contender for beach holiday top spot, with 9 glorious beaches. Just to the east of Lagos sits the largest and main beach Meia Praia. Here is endless sands and a choice of water sports including water skiing, kitesurfing, windsurfing, sailing, fishing and on the sands volleyball and beach football. Restaurants and beach bars are situated close by. Meia Praia is a wide sandy beach bay with character low lying sand dunes. It stretches for about 4 kilometres. Follow the tarmac road from Lagos towards the Marina. Meia Praia is well signposted.
Sagres offers a choice of four stunning quiet beaches. Right near the town is Praia da Mareta, a stunning Sagres beach popular for gentler surfing with a restaurant bar right on the beach. East of Sagres is Praia do Martinhall, and past Ponta de Sagres sits Praia do Tonel. Pushing the other way towards Cabo de Sao Vincent is Praia de Beliche, and Praia da Baleeira is next to the harbour (not really suitable for either swimming or surfing/it get a little pollution). The most popular surfing beach around Sagres is Praia do Tonel, with many of the surfing trips heading up to Carrapateira.
Many of the surf schools in both Lagos and Sagres head up the west coast to the beautiful surfing beach of Carrapateira. Carrapateira's surfing beach is renowned on the international surfing scene. The Atlantic waves hit the West Algarve here head on to great surfing effect!
Around Sao Torpes there's a choice of surf schools and surf clothing shops. Surfing trips though tend to head up to the northern coast where the waves are wild.
Nomad Surfers have a surf school up on Lagoa de Santo Andre to the north of Sines. (Tel. 34 971 312099. Beginner Surfers are best around Sao Torpes, with intermediates heading to Porto Corvo and Praia Grande.
The N253-1 road runs the entire length of the Troia spit, making it easy to dip into the choice of sublime beaches with line it. Watersports and sailing are popular here, and one of the biggest attractions here in Troia are the Roman Remains of Mirobriga. A centre for Roman salting of fish, the Roman remains here are not to be missed!
Tourist development is on the move here, with plans for eco resort mini golf villages and more. The area, due to its superb beaches, already attracts the tourist crowd.
The middle section of the Troia Peninsula sand spit is a botanical reserve, with rare dune flora. The Sado Estuary itself is a declared natural reserve playing host to a huge number of birds, fish, dolphins and other wildlife.
Situated to the south of the peninsula is the hub Setubal, actually Portugal's third largest port after Lisbon and Porto, although it certainly isn't industrial here. Renowned for both its fishing and fish restaurants and its many historic buildings and museums, Setubal makes a superb Portugal holiday base or indeed a day trip. The adjacent stunning Arrabida Natural Park and Marine Park adds considerable rural character to the Setubal area.
The pretty rural town of Alcochete sits at the heart of the south bank Tejo estuary and has good bus services into central Lisbon, as well as being served well by local golf courses. Montijo, like Alcochete its neighbour, make a superb quieter Lisbon base, within easy reach of central Lisbon across the Vasco da Gama Bridge.
The Costa de Caparica is the Costa Azul's main hub, with its 8km stretch of sandy beach. Costa Da Caparica is easily reached from Lisbon centre via ferries (from Cais do Sodre) and buses. Not surprising then that this north west coastal stretch of the Setubal Peninsula gets crowded with Lisboans crossing the river. Surfing and windsurfing are both on the menu here, as is general beach activities.
Sesimbra on the southern coast of the Peninsula is another mecca weekend retreat for Lisboans heading for the beaches, scuba diving and trips out to Cabo Espichel down here. Sesimbra too is renowned for its fish restaurants which line the beaches - fishing still thrives in this onetime small fishing village.
Much of the action at Carcavelos goes on down on the beach. It gets crowded here at this top Lisbon Holiday coast beach in peak season and it's popular with surfers too. Water quality has improved here considerably in recent years. In truth surfers in the know tend to head for Ericiera to the west where water quality and waves are better.
Carcavelos is still a little sheltered, so tends to pull in beginner surfers and families. It's an ideal base for easy access to Estoril just to the west (4km), and Lisbon city centre to the east (12km) on the Cascais mainline rail route.
Crammed with restaurants, bars, a little nightlife and topped off by an endless sandy surfing beach, Carcavelos has much to offer as a holiday base.
It's bustling and lively here (if you want more peace head further west, or settle for smaller Paco de Arcos).
Ericeira is popular as it has some of the best surfing spots in Europe.
Praia de Sao Sebastiao is a small but popular beach for more amateur surfers. It has a bar available for refreshments, sunshade hire and lifeguards during the bathing season.
Praia da Ribeira de Ilhas, the surfing World Championship site, is 3.5 kilometres north of Ericeira town. This is a Blue Flag beach with disabled access. There is parking and a bar here and lifeguards patrol the beach during the bathing season. Just south of Ribeira de Ilhas is a small and relatively private beach, Orelheira beach which is accessed by a precarious path down the cliffs. Car parking is at the Ribeira de Ilhas car park. There is no lifeguard service here.
Praia de Sao Lourenco, is a wide unspoilt beach 7 kilometres to the north of Ericeira again with Blue Flag status and disabled access. Access from Ribamar leads to the 150 space car park. From Sao Lourenco there is a cliff footpath that leads down to the beach itself.
Peniche was originally an island and was only joined to the mainland in the 16th century when a sand spit formed linking the two. Today it's a peninsular with 15 kilometres of rocky coastline jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. It's a lively resort with plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants.
Peniche is also one of the most famous surfing resorts in Portugal with its coastline all around the peninsular you can always find a great surfing spot suitable for all, ranging from beginner to expert level. It has the most consistent swell in Europe and is famed for its "Supertubos", very fast and powerful (tubular) waves, on the south side of the peninsular. Scuba diving, kitesurfing and windsurfing are also popular and there are a wide range of surf camps and schools that offer lessons and courses for all skill levels. Check the links right.
Baleal beach further north along the coastline is another popular surfing location, a small island 4 kilometres to the north east of Peniche connected to mainland by a causeway. It is a very popular, laid back place with a string of surf schools where you can hire boards and wetsuits or book lessons, and restaurants dotted along the sandy beach.
Heading north from Peniche along the coast between Praia D'El Rey and Foz do Arelho is the lagoon, Lagoa de Obidos. This is a popular place for rowing, canoeing, sailing and windsurfing. The Escola De Vela Da Lagoa offers sailing and windsurfing tuition and equipment hire. The lagoon is open to the sea but is a calmer waterbody away from the Atlantic waves making it an ideal location for beginners as well as experienced sailors and windsurfers.
Escola de Vela da Lagoa, Marginal da Lagoa, Foz do Arelho/Nadadouro, Portugal 2500. Tel: 351 262 978 592. Fax: 351 262 978 592.
Fifteen kilometres of beach is the staggering extent of sand in and around Figueira da Foz. The beaches include: Praia da Figueira da Foz - Relgio, Praia da Gala, Praia da Murtinheira, Praia do Cabo Mondego, Praia da Leirosa, Praia da Costa de Lavos, Praia da Orbitur, Praia da Cova, Cova Gala (Figueira da Foz), Praia do Cabedelo, Praia da Claridade, Praia de Buarcos, Tamargueira (Figueira da Foz), Praia do Vale do Emide, Praia de Quiaios. The beaches along this part of Portugal's coastline are considered to amongst the finest in the country. There is certainly a higher proportion of Blue Flag beaches in and around Figueira than other parts of the Silver Coast.
The stretch of coastline between Figueira and Aveiro is less developed as the coast can only be accessed at three points, Quiaios, Tocha and Mira. The beaches on this part of the coast are again fantastic, wide white sandy beaches, with the long line of sand dunes, Dunas de Quiaios, trailing up the coast north of Praia de Quiaios and up to Mira. However, the beaches are not sheltered by many bays or coves and can be exposed to the Atlantic Ocean and its sometimes fierce winds which makes them particularly good for surfing. These beaches tend to be much less busy and are backed by refreshing forests of pines, eucaluptus and acacias offering shade and picnic sites in the summer sun.
South of Figueira across the mouth of the Mondego is Praia de Cabedelo - a prime surfing venue. Four kilometres south of Figueira is Praia de Gala. The seas at Buarcos, north of Figueira, are popular with surfers and sea kayakers and can be less busy in the height of summer.
Praia de Baia is the closest beach and currently holds Blue Flag status with easy access for wheeled visitors. The breakers here are pretty good too so it is a popular surfing spot. Equipment can be hired at nearby surf shops.
There have been water quality issues around this part of the coast but Praia Azula, Praia Pop and Praia do Costa Verde are recommended as cleaner beaches with sunbathing areas and not particularly dangerous surf.
Vila do Conde is both seaside resort and important shipbuilding town that hasn't lost all its local charm giving it a calm and peaceful atmosphere. It is within easy reach of Porto (27 kilometres) particularly since the new Metro stops at Vila do Conde along Line B (the red line) which ends at Povoa de Varzim. The beach is 3 kilometres of white sand with the fantastic Atlantic Ocean crashing on its shore.
Vila do Conde is a popular beach for surfers and sun-worshippers alike. Praia da Forno and Praia de Nossa Senhora da Guia have calm seas suitable for children while the swells near the castelo are favoured by surfers. Most accommodation, cafes and bars are around Praca da Republica - a stone's throw from the little harbour. There is a broad promenade lining the beaches for the most part making it easy for all to get good views of the beach which is accessed by various slipways.
Povoa de Vazim is four kilometres north of Vila do Conde and is the complete opposite in style of beach resort.
Povoa is a lively, touristy, developed resort aimed at the sun-worshipping, out-for-a-good-time masses. As such it has the usual accoutrements such as the 8 kilometre long beach, a casino and stacks of hotels, restaurants and bars offering good value for money. Surfing and watersports are also popular.
Watersports are popular and on the right bank of the Cavado river is The Quinta da Barca Golf Course. This is a tourist and residential development, including a nine hole golf course with driving range, putting green, pro shop, freshwater marina, swimming pool, tennis and restaurant and bar in Barca do Lago, seven kilometres from Esposende.
This is a good area for all sorts of outdoor activities on the coast or the surrounding countryside including canoeing and rafting and walking and climbing.
A local activity organiser is Dunar - Turismo e Lazer do Norte, Lda, Travessa Sra das Neves, 9 Marinhas, 4740-577 Esposende. Tel: 351 253 963 331 - 968 680 025. Fax: 351 253 963 331. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the way up the Costa Verde are a string of beautiful beaches and seaside resorts with the majority not being hugely touristy. Viana do Castelo's beach is the huge, one kilometre, Praia do Cabedelo one of Minho's best. There is not much development to spoil it and it is of Blue Flag status with disabled access. The beach is on the other side of the river from the town and from May-September an hourly ferry runs visitors across from Avenida dos Combatentes on the five minute journey. Buses also go to Cabedelo from Largo 5 de Outubro.
Up down the coast north and south of Viana area a series of Blue Flag beaches that are relatively unspoilt, backed by dunes and often with rocks on the foreshore. Good surfing venues are at Afife and Moledo.
If you're looking for quiet, unspoilt surfing hotspots, then head to the Azores. Two particular surfer favourites are Ribeira Grande and Rabo de Peixe, both of which sit on the north coast of Sao Miguel. Expect consistent waves a a powerful beachbreak at both these Sao Miguel surfing Azores hotspots.
Other surfing hotspots do exist around the Azores but these two above are the easiest to get to.
Another potential surfing hotspot on the Azores is Praia do Norte on the north coast of Faial Island. It's pretty exposed up here, and the surf is pretty consistant, with a mix of groundswells and windswells. It's remote up here too and rarely gets crowded!
Click on the Activity Holidays Azores weblink right for more details on Azores Surf, and activity holidays on the Azores.