The Algarve is a beautiful, coastal region in southern Portugal. It’s known for being one of the best places to rent a campervan, sparkling sapphire beaches, and best of all- it’s surf!
While planning my most recent surf trip to Portugal, I couldn’t help but to feel drawn in by the mystique of the Algarve. There wasn’t a lot of information out there about it, and it seemed like such an isolated area. After spending a solid chunk of time in the region, I’ve truly fallen in love with it, and with the Algarve surf.
The beaches are not only beautiful, but they’re also full of fun waves. The vibe in the lineup down here is welcoming, friendly, and chill- pretty much the opposite of what I’m used to from surfing in California and Costa Rica.
If you’re planning a surf trip to Portugal, I absolutely recommend surfing in the Algarve. The water is gorgeous, and there are so many different surf breaks to explore! If one break isn’t working, it’s so easy to drive up or down the coast to find another spot to surf at.
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Where is the Algarve
The Algarve is the southernmost region of Portugal. It’s bound by the Atlantic ocean on the south and west sides, and the Guadiana River to the east.
The Algarve encompasses several national parks and over a hundred miles of uncrowded, untouched coastline.
How to get to the Algarve
The easiest way to get to the Algarve is to fly into Faro, or fly into Lisbon and drive south. From Lisbon, it’s only about a 3.5 hour drive along the coastal road and it’s a very pleasant journey.
I highly recommend renting a car or a campervan for your Algarve surf trip. While public transportation does exist, it doesn’t quite compare to the freedom of being able to drive from one surf spot to another.
Different Algarve surf regions
The surf regions in the Algarve can be differentiated by the following surf regions, accompanied by the best corresponding Algarve surf beaches:
Aljezur is a municipality that encompasses west coast surf spots from Odoceixe, all the way down to just north of Sagres. With the western-facing coastline, this section of Portugal is pretty exposed and consistently has surf. This is a great area to surf all year long, and it hosts a huge variety of breaks from friendly beginner beach breaks, reef breaks, and isolated little peaks. Some of the best surf spots in Aljezur include:
Arrifana is one of the best beginner surf beaches in the Algarve! It’s not just for beginners though, this gorgeous surf beach has a little something for all surfers. Read more about this popular Algarve surf spot in my Arrifana Surf Guide!
If you’re looking for an amazing place to stay for an Arrifana surf trip, check out my Endless Summer Surf House review!
Monte Clerigo is about 15 minutes from Praia Arrifana, and it’s a better surf beach for intermediates when Arrifana is too small & crowded with surf schools.
Amoreira breaks just around the corner from Monte Clerigo next to a rivermouth. It’s a little less crowded than Monte Clerigo, and it’s a bit more sheltered.
Vale Figueiras is a rocky, exposed break about a 25-30 minute drive south of Arrifana.
Bordeira might just be the most beautiful beach in the Algarve. This deserted, Algarve surf beach has vivid blue waters, and takes a fun trek across some sand dunes to reach it. I recommend a drive above the adjacent cliffs as well for some of the best views in Portugal. The waves here are fun, and far less crowded than most surf beaches in the Algarve.
Praia do Amado
Just north of Sagres, Praia do Amado is another beautiful surf beach in the Algarve. In the summer, the waves here are small, and the lineup is riddled with surf camps. In the winter, the surf here can get big, and very good.
Sagres is located at the very southernmost tip of Portugal, and is pretty unique in that it boasts Algarve surf on two coastlines! This makes Sagres a pretty versatile surf town as you can surf the southern beaches in the winter, and the western beaches in the summer. Sagres is a bit busier than Aljezur, so you can expect very crowded beaches, particularly in the summer when it gets very, very hot. Some of the best Sagres surf spots include:
Tonel is a rocky little surf bay just north of the Fort. It’s super small and crowded in the summer, and the parking lot is utter chaos. In the winter, Tonel boasts some pretty powerful waves that can barrel.
Beliche is about 1 mile north of Tonel, and it usually only breaks on a big NW swell.
Praia da Mareta is on the south coast of Sagres, on the other side of the Fort. It needs a big NW/ West swell to have waves, which pretty much only happens in the winter.
Lagos has a variety of southern facing beaches that are perfect for sunbathing and swimming in the summer, that can create some powerful waves in the winter. For more on the surf in Lagos, check out this Lagos surf guide.
Tucked away on the far eastern part of the Algarve, Faro is a gorgeous coastal town known for its beaches, nightlife, and lovely old town. In terms of surfing, you can pretty much expect a lake in the summer. In the winter, Faro can be a good place for beginners to catch smaller waves that are nonexistent pretty much everywhere else in Portugal. For more info on surfing in Faro, check out this Faro surf guide.
Best time to surf in the Algarve
The best time for an Algarve surf trip depends on what you’re after.
Algarve surf in the summer:
This is the best time for beginners to surf in the Algarve. The waves are smaller, and it’s a great time to learn. It’s also the most crowded and most expensive time of the year.
Algarve surf in the fall:
During the early fall the waves are still quite small in the Algarve, and suitable for beginners and intermediate surfers. In late fall, swells tend to pick up and the conditions really start to shine for more intermediate-advanced level surfers.
Beginners can absolutely still surf at this time though- just keep an eye on swell conditions, if it’s too big on the west coast you can always head down to the south coast.
Algarve surf in the winter:
If you’re looking for consistent, sizeable surf, you’ll find it surfing the Algarve in the winter. Surf is often head high to double over, and the few reef breaks in the region will come to life, along with the south coast spots.
Algarve surf in the spring:
The spring brings slightly smaller surf, warmer waters, and a little less consistency than the winter, although there is still plenty of good surfing to be had.
How much does it cost to surf in the Algarve
Having just blown through a whole summer of savings on my Algarve surf trip (just kidding…sort of…) I know a thing or two about spending money in the Algarve.
Here’s the lowdown on Algarve prices:
- Rental car
Expect to pay $25-$50/day on a rental car in Portugal. Since Rowan and I are traveling with a bunch of surfboards and gear we rented a bigger SUV from Guerin, which was $36/day including all fees. They also didn’t charge us a young driver fee because we’re both over 21, which was….nice.
TIP: If you can, rent your car from Lisbon, NOT Faro. It’s way more expensive to rent the exact same car out of Faro.
We pretty quickly found out that Portugal is NOT the cheapest surf destination. Not even close. I think 10, or even 5 years ago it was much cheaper but not anymore, the word is out! You can snag a bed in a dorm for $25/night, and we’ve been staying in airbnbs for $40-$70/night, which split between 2 people isn’t that bad, but it’s not great. There are also some awesome surf camps in the Algarve for great prices.
TIP: If you stay somewhere for a month you can get a monthly rate which will save you a lot of money.
In the non-touristy areas of Lisbon, food is pretty cheap and you can grab a meal and a drink for $5. In the Algarve, expect to pay at least $10/person for a meal at a sit-down restaurant.
At most bars and restaurants a Sagres (the national beer) is anywhere from $1-$3.
Groceries are pretty cheap in Portugal.
Gas is crazy expensive everywhere right now but it’s pretty bad in Portugal. At the time of writing (Sept 2022) it’s about $7/gallon. I hope for my future readers this number gets lower!
Having just bought not one, but two different surfboards on this trip, we’ve pretty much scoured every surfboard for sale in the entire country. Used boards (at surf shops) are harder to come by, and generally in the $200-$400 range. You can get some pretty nice new boards shaped in Portugal for $400, and prices go up from there to $1k plus.
- Surfboards/Wetsuit rentals:
Surfboard/wetsuit rentals start at $10-$15 a session and go up from there.
- Surf lessons:
Surf lessons are anywhere from $50-$80+ in the Algarve.
Sample Algarve 1 week surf trip price: $1,695
- $800 flight
- $300 accommodations
- $200 food/drink
- $150 to fly your board or for rentals
- $245 rental car
Obviously these numbers are estimates, and it can cost you way more or way less, depending on how you travel. But if you’re coming for a week from the US, that’s a rough estimate on how much a week-long Algarve surf trip will run you. Since the biggest expense is the flight, I recommend coming for longer which will bring your average daily price down.
What to pack for an Algarve surf trip
For a more all-encompassing list, check out my Portugal surf trip packing list. Here are a few essentials for an Algarve surf trip:
In the summer and early fall, I’d recommend either a spring suit, 3/2, or trunking it (depending on your tolerance for cold water). In the winter/early spring you’ll want either a 3/2 or 4/3. If you don’t have a wetsuit, or don’t have the right thickness, you can honestly buy one here because there are a ton of options. Especially for men, there are much fewer options for women.
If you’re learning to surf in the Algarve, you can probably skip this one as there are plenty of great beginner rental options. However if you’re a seasoned surfer, I’d recommend bringing your own surfboard because it’ll save you money in the long run, and the performance board rental options leave a lot to be desired here.
- Portable shower
Most of the surf beaches in the Algarve don’t have showers to rinse yourself and your gear off after a surf. I splurged on this packable shower last minute before leaving on the trip, and I’m so glad I did. It gives us 7 minute showers, which is more than enough time to rinse both of our boards, wetsuits, and bodies off.
- Ding repair kit
Having a mini ding repair kit with you can be a LIFESAVER. I love this little Solarez one.
- Reef-safe sunscreen
The sun down in southern Portugal is pretty intense, and you’ll want a good sunblock to protect your skin. My go-to is Kokua, but check out my guide on the best reef-safe sunscreen for surfers to pick one for yourself.
Tips and tricks for Algarve surf
- Rent a car (or a van)
I’m going to reiterate this one because it’s pretty important- if you’re planning an independent surf trip (not staying at a surf camp where they’ll drive you around) you want your own wheels. There are so many different surf beaches in close proximity in the Algarve that you’ll want the freedom to be able to drive to different beaches if one isn’t doing it for ya.
- Book accommodations early
This one is especially true in the high season, and for anyone looking to book surf camps- there aren’t a lot of options here, and the good (and affordable) ones get snatched up way in advance, especially for surf camps and surf hostels.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty fun flying by the seat of your pants and booking everything last minute (that’s what I have mostly done while surfing in the Algarve) but there were definitely a few times where I wished I had booked something earlier.
- Safety in the lineup!
One of the biggest things I’ve noticed in the Algarve lineups is how poor board control surfers here have. And not just beginner surfers either! On any given day surfing in the Algarve, I’ve watched beginner, intermediate, and advanced surfers literally running each other over in the lineup, and absolutely clobbering random, unassuming swimmers in the shallows with their surfboards.
On your Algarve surfing trip, take extra care to not get hit, don’t paddle out directly in front of the lineup, and never bail your board. Stay safe out there guys!