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Surfing Portugal: For Intermediate Surfers, Adventurers, and Campers

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Pipeline.  Tea’hapoo.  Cloudbreak.  These are just a few world-class breaks that I will never be able to surf.  But just because I’m not a world-class surfer, doesn’t mean I can’t roam the globe looking for really good waves in very beautiful locations.  I love my home breaks in San Diego, but the sense of adventure that comes with chasing waves and paddling into unknown seas is one of our favorite addictions.  Surfing Portugal fulfilled all my expectations and brought a few surprises too.  

There are waves to be found on every mile of the Portuguese Coast if you’re brave enough to paddle out.  Coming from the crowded breaks of Southern France and Northern Spain, we were stoked to find some off-the-beaten-path locations that were wave-rich and crowd-free.  

[clickToTweet tweet=”Portugal’s coastline is wave rich and crowd free!” quote=” Portugal’s coastline is wave rich and crowd free!”]

The only problem with empty breaks is getting up the nerve to paddle out all alone.  I distinctly remember the same feeling when I first paddle out in front of our rental home in Nicaragua and thinking to myself, “If it’s my time, it’s my time.”  Yeah, I know, who even thinks like that?  The break in front of that house was so good, but there was no one in the water and when I paddled out, the water was so dark and murky from the sugar cane being burned nearby, that you couldn’t help but hear the theme song from Jaws in the back of your mind.  

I’ll admit, there were a few spots on the Portugal coast that were a bit too rocky and empty for me to brave, but there were a lot of great surfing spots in Portugal that were perfect for us “intermediate” surfers.  If you, too, are a “regular surfer” who’s just looking for a decent wave to surf in a country you’ve never been to, Portugal might be the perfect place for you too.  Even though it’s one of the poorer European countries, it is still very safe, wave-rich, and great for campers.  I will warn you that many of these breaks, especially if they are close to Lisbon or Peniche, are going to be quite crowded.  These are five spots we recommend checking out on your surf trip to Portugal.  They were good-quality waves with moderate crowds.  

Sagres AKA The Edge of the World. 

I’ll admit, it was their beer that made me drive the extra 300 kilometers past Lisbon.  I first tasted their beer while in Switzerland, after hiking Oeschinensee in eighty-degree weather that a cold anything would’ve hit the spot.  But I became obsessed with their beer, so much that when Portugal came on the radar, Sagres was our first stop. 

Free camping in Sagres South

We love vagabonding while traveling and being in southern Portugal to surf in the offseason made it easy to pull up to the beach and free camp with the dozens of other vans and motorhomes also doing it. 

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Sagres is a hippie sort of surf town with plenty of food & supplies. ” quote=”Sagres is a hippie sort of surf town with plenty of food & supplies. ” theme=””]
Grocery Shopping in Sagres

I was actually quite surprised with how many restaurants and bars there were here.   Parking in the dirt lot on the cliffs puts you within walking distance of all the food and the waves. 

Sagres Tonel, one of the three surf breaks

The nice thing about this surf spot in Portugal is that it’s a small peninsula that juts into the ocean, causing it to pick up swells from both directions and with varying sizes.  There are three breaks here, which are all beach breaks with rights and lefts and can suit any surfer’s needs.

  • Sagres, which is the cove furthest Southeast
  • Tonel, just a short walk west of Sagres South
  • Beliche, which is most eastern and about a mile from the center of Sagres


Praia do Amado

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A Vagabond/Surfer’s Paradise
Scrambling in Praia do Amado
Scrambling on the beach

At the end of a long dirt road sits a large parking lot on the edge of a cliff overlooking a large bay that picks up a lot of swell off the Atlantic Ocean.   Although it can get crowded, especially with all the surf schools, we found this beach break to be quite fun. 

Heading out to surf Praia do Amado

Camping here is free and easy.  There are toilet facilities open from sunrise to sunset.  There are a few restaurants on the beach and the nearest town with restaurants is only a thirty-minute walk. 

Chill time at Amado

Besides the predominant surf vibe, our son enjoyed being able to run the dirt road that ran parallel to the coastline for many miles.


Of all the surfing locations in Portugal, this one is the most off-the-beaten-path surf spot on this list.  

The first overlook on the Rota Vicentina

Getting to this secluded break requires driving down another dirt road.  If you camp on the north side of the river, there are no facilities here so make sure you are prepared and know that you have to wade across the river to get to the ocean. 

There are very few other surfers at this lefthand beach break, which means having the beautiful Algarve Coast practically to yourself.  If the surf isn’t firing or if you want some land-based adventure, hike the Rota Vicentina, which is a backpacking trail that starts at Europe’s most westerly point, Cape St Vincent near Sagres, and ends in Santiago do Cacém.

The town of Odeceixe from the start of the Rota
Amazing free camping on the river in Odeceixe

 The fisherman’s trail is very popular among backpackers and I highly recommend hiking some of it if the surf is down.  We chose to hike from Odeceixe to Zambujeira do Mar, supposedly the most beautiful section.

Trail signs on the Rota Vicentina
Untouched waves on the Vicientina

 Zambujeira do Mar is a little larger town with a little sheltered surf break, but needs swell to work.  Camping on the beach is not allowed here, although there is a campground nearby (a 15-minute walk from the beach).  The town can be lively in high season but deserted in low season.


This is supposedly a cool surf town.  Unfortunately, because we wanted to catch the WSL Pro Tour in Peniche, we didn’t see the town.  It’s much larger than the previous three towns and will have ample supplies of food, stores, and restaurants along with a multitude of breaks to choose from.  Ribeira d’Illhass is the place to be.  We enjoyed camping at Ribeira d’Illhass, which is a great right-hand reef that can get a bit fast and heavy depending on the swell.  This is also a great vagabonding spot with an oceanfront restaurant/bar.  The vibe is great and you won’t want to leave. The breaks around Ericeira include:

  • São Julião, and average beach break good for beginners
  • Foz do Lizandro, another average beach break
  • Ericeira, a convenient location as it is straight out in front of the town
  • Ribeira d’Illhass, a right hander and our favorite break
  • Coxos, a barreling reef (experienced surfers only)
  • São Lorenço, a nice sand bar with rights and lefts
Ribeira d’Illhass


There’s a reason the WSL stops here.  It is a surfing hotspot. 

Surfing Peniche

It’s a peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean and attracts both north or south swells. 

Staying in Peniche to surf is very easy because there are tons of amenities, bars, restaurants, surf shops, and breaks. Plus, there are lots of great places to vagabond including:

  • Supertubos, the famous break that can be reminiscent of Pipeline at times (can’t be camped at when WSL is there)
  • Lagide, a super fun point break reef, and all beachfront parking lots leading up to Lagide  
Walking down to “The Factory” surf break
On the shores of Supertubos

Check out Magic Seaweed to see all the great spots.  There are a bunch of other breaks slightly north of Peniche that are also great spots to camp.  If you choose to vagabond in the parking lot near Lagide (which was where we camped because this was our preferred surf spot) bring earplugs.  The Portuguese know how to party and the bars in the parking lot rock the music until the early morning!  Take note that all breaks in Peniche will be crowded, however, I’m not kidding when I tell you that lineups will be empty if you get up early.

*Note:  It is not technically legal to camp in Portugal at any time of the year and in the Algarve, it is officially banned.  We did not have any issues, however, it is probably not the best thing to do in the high season when you might get in trouble for it.

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Saturday 14th of May 2022

I loved reading your post! Unfortunately, all of your images are blocked by ads :( this is on mobile, I’m not sure about desktop.

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Thursday 23rd of August 2018

[…] Related Blog: Surfing Portugal: Guide for Intermediate Surfers, Adventurers & Campers  […]

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Sunday 7th of May 2017

[…] Algarve, Portugal The Vibe — The Algarve Coast is probably the closest thing to surfing in Baja California with being in Baja.  The whole coast is gorgeous, filled with jagged cliffs and protected coves. The Waves — There are so many hidden coves and deserted peaks that you will even question if you can surf there. But the perks are that you get world class waves all to yourself. The most well-known breaks along this region are probably Sagres, AKA the edge of the World, or Praia do Amado an awesome beachfront free camping location.  Most of the surfers in the water are probably not locals as this is the largest tourist area in Portugal, besides Lisbon.  Somehow, even with the large population of surfers, only tourists really surf the Algarve making it a bit spooky to paddle out in some places.   The How To — This is probably the easiest place in the world to free camp (though it is not technically legal). Every single beach contains a perfect dirt parking lot overlooking the surf making it great to pull up for the night and walk out to surf in the morning. You can read more about free camping in our blog Surfing Portugal. […]

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