The seaside town of Ericeira, Portugal, has become the new darling town for expats from Brazil, Australia, the US, and all over Europe. Packed with surf breaks you can survey from the cliffs above, Ericeira enjoys consistent Atlantic swells – the same swells that attracted the first international visitors, who were mainly surfers.
Yet Ericeira’s charms, from its picturesque old town to its buzzing bar scene, extend well beyond the ocean, and some newer transplants don’t even surf. Here’s how to make the most of a weekend, a summer, or a lifetime in Ericeira.
Why is Ericeira, Portugal, so popular?
Ericeira combines beautiful vistas and outdoor options with just enough urban niceties to make living here full-time appealing. The one-time fishing village set atop a bluff overlooking the Atlantic has long since expanded beyond the old town to include bland residential apartments and houses, but the old town’s cobblestone streets and white walls remain as photogenic as ever.
Dining options reflect both its newest residents and its heritage. Visitors can start their days with brunch at a hipster vegetarian restaurant and end it savoring a Portuguese seafood stew at family-owned O Gafanhoto. Cafes include the longstanding Casa da Fernanda, popular for a quick espresso and an eggy, almond-flour “ouriço” muffin, as well as a swanky coffee shop catering to expats seeking single-origin, house-roasted beans.
Evening hours, if not spent carving turns during a sunset surf session, could be whiled away at cliff-top bar Ouriço, watching the sun dip towards the horizon. Ericeira has plenty of bars like Hemingway’s Cafe Bar and Jukebox and — especially in summer — many young Europeans to fill them.
What is the weather like in Ericeira?
Ericeira has cooler weather than Lisbon, which is slightly inland at the mouth of the Tagus River. Ericeira, in contrast, looks directly onto the Atlantic Ocean, which provides cooling breezes very welcome in the summer. Temperatures in Ericeira are rarely above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The water, though, stays chilly. If you’re used to surfing in Northern California, you won’t mind donning a 4-mm-thick wetsuit in spring, fall, and early summer. In late summer, a 3/2-mm-thickness wetsuit will do, but winter is too cold for all but the hardiest hooded and bootied surfers. Spring can be warm and pleasant on land, with temps in the high 60s and 70s, or you can get some low 60s days and sporadic rain. The bigger issue in spring is wind.
Ericeira’s craggy coastline offers plenty of nooks for you and your surfboard to escape from spring winds, but if it’s really howling, you can head to Peniche. Peniche’s Baleal beaches are on either side of a small peninsula; one faces north and the other west. If the wind is unfavorable at one beach, it might be perfectly offshore at the other. The only issue is that everyone else will be surfing at that beach, too.
What is there to do besides surfing in Ericeira, Portugal?
Post-surf, or instead of surfing at all, consider spending some time hiking in Ericeira. Much of the landscape above and below the town is cliffy, making for excellent views from trails like Trilho El Xavier (easy) or the 10-mile Praia Grande – Cabo da Roca trail (difficult), both in nearby Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais (Sintra-Cascais Natural Park).
Mountain bikers should also head to the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park due south. It has 44 miles of mostly intermediate trails ranging from forested, techy singletrack to flowy cliffside cruisers.
Of course, Ericeira is in Portugal, so the nearby beaches are some of the best in Europe. Fisherman’s Beach (directly below town) has a beach volleyball court (useful for travelers looking to meet fellow expats or locals), but it’s also fantastic for lounging in the sun. Also highly recommended are Foz de Lisandro, Praia do Sol, or Ribeira d’Ilhas – all sandy coves carved into the stunning cliff sides by eons of waves and swells.
How do you pronounce “Ericeira?”
If you don’t speak Portuguese, it’s a little tricky. Phonetically, it’s akin to “Eerie-cyra.” Or, broken down even further, “Ear-E-sigh-ra.” Once you hear it a few times, you’ll learn to say it like a local.
Should you go to Ericeira or Peniche?
Alternatively asked, “where should you go for a surf vacation in Portugal?” Peniche’s soft sand bottom is better for those learning to surf, as Ericeira doesn’t have many beginner-friendly surf spots. However, that hasn’t stopped hundreds of newbies from learning to surf there. But beginners should wear booties to protect their feet and stay in the whitewater (the area near shore where the waves break) for longer before going out on the bigger waves. Surf schools are used to teaching in these conditions and a good instructor can be the difference between whether you can stand or not on your first days out.
More experienced surfers have more choices. Peniche’s Baleal Norte beach has a super point break that offers consistent left and right breaks ideal for intermediate surfers. Advanced surfers should base themselves in Ericeira, as the plethora of options there is really unbeatable. After all, Ericeira is where Olympic surf medalists (a sport only added to the games in 2020) like Kanoa Igarashi and Gony Zubizarreta call home.
Peniche has a low-key, bohemian surf vibe and may be less expensive. (For example, the Go4Surf surf school offers lessons for 25 Euro (€). If you want to add some shopping, non-surf activities, and fantastic dining to your surf vacation, try Ericeira.
What are the best Ericeira surf schools?
Ericeira has so many surf schools that you might want to choose one based on where you plan to stay in Ericeira (and what kind of transportation you’ll have while there). If you don’t have a car, the hourly Ericeira Beach Bus can get you where you need to go. It costs €1 (roughly $1 as of June 2022), and you can find the schedule in the local paper.
Tiago Pires Surf School
One of the more established Ericeira’s surf schools, Tiago Pires has a few things going for it. For one, it’s across the street from a prime surf location and is easy to reach. The Ericeira Beach Bus stops right in front of the shop, and there’s usually ample parking if you’re driving. You’ll suit up at the downtown location, grab a board, and just walk across the street to Matadouro Beach. That also makes it a popular sport for surfboard rentals.
Tiago Pires is a well-known Portuguese surfer and the school’s instructors, who never take more than five students at a time, know the break well. That said, it’s on the pricey side by Ericeira standards, charging €45 for a single, two-hour group lesson and €175 for a pack of five lessons. Private lessons are closer to €110. You’ll also need to pay around €10 per lesson for the wetsuit and board rental.
Activity Surf Center
Activity Surf Center has been around for several years and is highly regarded and conveniently located in the old town. You’ll arrive at the school in the morning and drive in a shop van to your surf destination for the day. That means you’ll always have to travel to get to your surf spot, but it also means you’ll surf wherever the waves are best that day for the class level.
Group lessons start at €40 for one class and go up to €190 for 10. Wetsuits and boards are included in that price. If you want to practice on your own after class, board rentals range from €25 to €40 per day, with discounts for longer rentals. Activity Surf Center also offers activities like guided mountain bike tours and wine tastings.
Ericeira Surf School
The advantage of the Ericeira Surf School is it offers cheaper pricing for kids plus semi-private lessons. Group lessons are about the same price as other schools (between €40 and €170), but children’s lessons start at just €30 per class.
Private and semi-private lessons for beginners, intermediates, or advanced surfers are priced between €50 and €100 per person for a two-hour class, depending on your group size. Prices include wetsuits, surfboards, and insurance. It’s always useful to have your own health and trip insurance, but that extra layer of financial protection might be reassuring for nervous beginners.
NaOnda Surf School
NaOnda is a great surf school for budget travelers to Ericeira, Portugal – which many expats are, at least initially.
Group lessons for kids and adults range from €32 to €35, depending on how many classes you buy. Beginners will surf at Foz de Lisandro beach, which is a drive if you’re staying in town but has the advantage of being less crowded. If you book an individual lesson, you’ll choose where to surf (based on guidance from the school on tides and conditions). Those lessons are €119 each.
Surf gear and rentals in Ericeira, Portugal
In Ericeira’s old town, Magic Quiver is the place for upscale beach wear. Some might find the offerings overpriced, but the store does a lovely job of curating the most current labels from places like Australia’s Gold Coast and Rio de Janeiro. It’s a good spot to splurge for a quality item. The compact Wavegliders Surf Shop at the opposite end of town has a good selection of boards and some lower-priced clothing. Outside the old town but still within walking distance of most lodging are Boardculture or SurfPoint Ericeira, both of which sell gear and offer rentals.
But to get the full sense of how important surfing is to the area, drive or take the surf shuttle north on the main N247 road.
You’ll know it when you see it. The modern, two-story Boardriders Quiksilver Roxy store has a huge outdoor terrace always filled with people on sunny afternoons. It’s especially busy when there’s live music. Inside, you’ll find a sleek, wood-paneled shop with an in-house cafe and an extensive selection of surf attire and gear.
Not to be outdone, the 58 Surf Shop just north of there is equally modern, with a huge, airy space and a well-curated collection of surfboards and clothing and gear from current surf brands. Behind the shop is a low-key restaurant with outdoor tables. And, should you feel inspired, there’s even a tattoo parlor in the store. If you decide you’ve fallen in love with surfing, a tattoo might be a nice memento of the place where you found your passion.