Click here to find out more about advertising your business on this page

back to Travel Planner search
+ Uncrowded beachbreaks
+ Reefs and beachbreaks
+ Wide swell window
+ Warmest European climate
- No world class spots
- Cool water
- West coast onshores

Alentejo & North Algarve, Portugal, EUROPE

Odeceixe, Dan Haylock

Surf Spots

Sesimbra to Sines
São Torpes
Porto Covo
Zambujeria do Mar
Monte Clérigo

The Surf

The Algarve is the southwestern corner of the Iberian Peninsula and is an intoxicating mix of Atlantic and Mediterranean influences. It was the last major European surf region to be explored and although it doesn’t contain the classic reefs of central Portugal, the potential for good, uncrowded waves is high. The countryside is a gently undulating mesh of forests and small fields, leading down to an undeveloped coastline of high cliffs and long empty beaches scattered with rocks. The small, lively town of Sagres is well located to take advantage of the wide swell window of Cape St-Vincent, where the west and south coasts meet.

The Alentejo (& Nth Algarve) remains relatively undeveloped, where vast, empty acres scattered with olive and cork trees overlook hidden sandy coves with a perfect peak beneath unfaltering blue skies. It’s possible to spend days drifting down the dusty lanes, camping out on the beaches and getting to ride an extraordinary variety of waves. The northern half is an unexciting sandy strip of shoredump but after industrial Sines the coves, bays and reefs start and though the swells have lost some size compared to the north of Portugal they have an order that’s often missing up there. A year round destination, but at its best from autumn through to spring.

When to Go

Consistency is the word to best describe southern Portugal’s surf. The same can not be said for the winds around Cape St Vincent which are notoriously unpredictable and treated with suspicion by the local sailing fraternity. Strange swirling gusts and onshores when the weather map says offshore are known to happen, but on the whole, the Algarve area follows the general summer “nortada” and winter SW storm winds followed by NE to SE offshores. When the winter offshores do blow, they blow hard and make blind take-offs a regular occurrence. The S wind or “levant” as it is called in the Mediterranean is prone to disappear as quickly as it arrived, and the swells produced are very fleeting. Average wintertime swells on the west coast are around 8-10ft, with 12-15ft maximums, whilst summer rarely goes flat and regularly gets up to double overhead. The south coast offers perfect shelter with offshore winds and a filtered swell although it is usually flat in summer. The “Nortada” is the dominant wind coming from the N-NW; it usually blows from April to September making a

dominant swell W -N W -N W -N W -N W -N W -N
swell size (ft) 5 4-5 2-3 1-2 3-4 4-5
consistency (%) 80 70 50 40 60 70
dominant wind N -E NW -E NW -N NW -N NW -NE N -E
average force F4 F4 F4 F3 F3 F4
consistency (%) 70 54 65 67 51 72
water temp (C) 15 16 18 21 19 17
wetsuit 4/3 3/2 3/2 springsuit 3/2 3/2

120km (75mi)

GMT (+1 summer)

Travel Information


Despite its Atlantic position, the Algarve enjoys a Mediterranean climate with cool winter temperatures, it never freezes and 20°c (68°F) at noon is common. Summers are hot, and less than 6cm winter rainfall per month, puts the Algarve at half the national average. Camping is still an option in winter. The water is warmer by 1-2°c (3-5°F) than central Portugal, and more so from to June-Sept, but cold currents can hit the coast at any time so take a range of rubber.


Cape St-Vincent contains a fortress where Prince Henry the navigator, established his famous school of exploration. This eventually led to Portugal’s discovery of the lucrative sea route to India. The nightlife in Sagres and even more so Lagos, is wild and raucous when summer brings the backpacking hordes. Beware the absinthe! Aljezur near Arrifana has some good ruins to visit.


Apart from rocks and some localism, there’s little to worry about. The undeveloped west coast has few or no locals outside the towns and the Sagres surfers tend to stay at their home breaks. The area is slowly getting more crowded but the vibe remains chilled out as there are a lot of waves to choose from. Respect the sharp rocks at the point breaks, especially if you have sampled the absinthe!


There are surf shops in Lagos and Sagres but the range is limited. The Algarve is a well-established tourist destination so English is widely spoken. Reckless driving is the national sport, and the N126 has the highest death toll in Europe!