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Portugal's Surf Scene at Sunset

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Why Europe’s Number One Surfing Destination is Portugal

“Portugal provides a chic surfer atmosphere where you are able to ride persistent Atlantic rollers, while enjoying world-class food surrounded by incredible history. It is a truly unique surfer experience to the rest of the world.”

– Geordie Mackay-Lewis

Heading to Europe this year instead of Hawaii, but still want superb surf? Then it’s Portugal that you want, with its blend of delicious seafood, sophisticated cities, and some of the most fabulous wave breaks in the world.

Co-founder Geordie Mackay-Lewis made a recent “recce”—as this British former army officer likes to describe a research trip—to this Atlantic-facing destination. His time there helped develop our expertise, ensuring that we can match superb surf with equally world-class accommodation for your Portuguese adventure.

Regardless of your surfing skill level, we can tailor your experience to your needs with an itinerary that adds relaxation time and adventures beyond the surf.  

Colourful Surf Boards Stacked on Beach in Portugal
Vineyards in Alentejo region of Portugal

Lisbon

Geordie’s Portuguese surf odyssey began in Lisbon. The gorgeous capital city is full of lovely design elements, not least the mustard yellow trams inching up the colorful streets, the manicured small squares, or the world-famous tiled facades. It’s a wonderful place to pause and take time to notice small details among the urban bustle and discover little culinary gems down fragrant side streets.  

As Geordie discovered while enjoying an evening at the Four Seasons Hotel’s rooftop Ritz bar or while staying at the elegant Pousada de Lisboa, its luxury hotels offer the same mix of history and Portuguese panache as the city.

In the castle’s shadow, Geordie wandered the cobblestoned lanes of ancient neighborhoods of Alfama and Mouraria, explored monasteries, picked up traditional Pastel de Nata tarts, and breathed in the atmosphere at the historic port from where medieval Portugal launched its ambitions to become a world power.   

Cascais

At the weekend, Lisbon’s inhabitants like to head to the coast and especially the cozy beach town of Cascais. Geordie made the same pilgrimage, checking into the sumptuous boutique Hotel Abatroz before watching some big wave surfing with a caipirinha in hand.

While everyone’s eyes are on the sea, a culinary scene has been quietly gaining an impressive reputation in Cascais’ hilly hinterland.  This added dimension and its proximity to the Portuguese Riviera and the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park make Cascais a superb first stop on a rural Portugal adventure.

Comporta

Travel an hour south of Lisbon, and you’ll reach the pine forests and golden sands of Comporta. While not too far from the capital’s city limits, this coastal region feels like a world away. That sense of quiet retreat is concentrated in Sublime Comporta, Geordie’s stay while visiting. Its mix of modern luxury and heritage architecture harmonized with Comporta’s overall style—a place to be lulled by the idyllic Mediterranean coast or explore some off-the-beaten-track treasures, as Geordie discovered.

Peniche and Baleal

Geordie headed north, past Lisbon, until he reached the consistent surf of Peniche and Baleal. These are the perfect family surf trip destinations and one of the continent’s best places to learn. Knowledgeable Pelorus guides will lead you to superb, secret breaks that aren’t overwhelmed with beginner foam boards, where you can hone your skills in peace and relative quiet.

Once you’re joyously worn out from all the surf and sun, retire to the luxury villas of Areias Do Seixo. With the best spot on Portugal’s Silver Coast, offering wonderful ocean views, this sumptuous stay set amid sand dunes, as Geordie discovered, also offers excellent hiking and cycling opportunities if you’d like a break from the wave breaks.

Nazaré

Onto Nazaré. Today, this is one of the most famous surf areas on the planet and a world championship location. Through fall and winter, waves as tall as 100ft roll in off the Atlantic, their epic size generated by the offshore Nazaré Canyon. Spectators gather at the local lighthouse to watch professionals skid down mountains of water. As Geordie discovered, it also made for good viewing while traveling to the Schist Villages in Serra da Lousã. Buried in mountainous central Portugal, these cultural sites are picturesque, half-ruined communities. While some can be difficult to access, they’re a fascinating repository of rustic national identity, tradition, and conservation efforts.

Portugal's Atlantic Surf Wave Break Coastal Town Cascais Portugal
Villa and Pool, Sublime Comporta, Portugal Areias Do Seixo Tented Camp Bedroom Interior, Portugal

Douro Valley

Portugal’s north is awash with wine and history, from Porto’s port and picturesque streets to the scenic Douro Valley vineyards. As Geordie discovered, a superb base from which to explore the region is Six Senses Douro Valley Hotel. This fabulously sited luxury retreat makes it easy to explore the region however you like, whether on a gourmet river cruise, with tastings at a historic winery, or by simply stepping onto the trail for an intimate walk in nature.

Geordie also discovered that, at the end of an occasionally challenging drive, the hotel is a good jumping-off point for the Parque Nacional Peneda-Gerês and Parque Nacional Montes Inho. Near the Spanish border, these wild spots are characterized by remote log cabins, cascading waterfalls, and deeply satisfying hikes through pristine wilderness.

Porto

Portugal’s second city, Porto, made for a wonderful final destination in Geordie’s surf trip itinerary. Its maze-like medieval neighborhoods range across the hills, the narrow lanes characterized by chic boutiques, and the delicious scent of sardines on the grill from traditional restaurants. Meanwhile, locals were catching the subway to the huge surfing beach Porto-Matosinhos.

Highlighting Porto’s abundance of gorgeous historic architecture, Geordie stayed at Torel 1884; a 19th-century palace turned luxury hotel. When he could drag himself away from his exquisite accommodation, Geordie wandered between the elegantly tiled buildings, tasting the cuisine and finding a space on the rooftops to watch the sunset over the mouth of the Douro River. It was time to say farewell to Portugal and Europe’s number one surf spot.