Peniche surf spots are some of the most legendary in the whole of Portugal. In fact, this town continues to jostle with Ericeira for the crown of the country’s best surf town. In our opinion there’s no clear winner, just differences. Either way, both offer endless spots and all sorts of waves throughout a long season…
Peniche is built more in the ilk of the French west coast, with its beach breaks and beginner-friendly stretches, although there are reefs and points thrown into the mix too. The surf coast runs in a zigzag along the Portuguese shoreline, going up from Lourinhã in the south to the golf course-backed Foz do Arelho in the north.
This guide will take a look at just seven (yep, just seven, because there are plenty more besides) of the very top Peniche surf spots. It’s got choices for beginners and pros alike, and also leaves oodles of secret coves and breaks for you to discover when you get on the ground. Happy riding…
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Baleal Beach is the go-to learner spot for Peniche. It’s not really in Peniche at all, but closer to the next-door village of Baleal (hence the name). We’ve got an unashamed soft spot for the place, because the whitewashed coastal cottages are a joy to stay in and put you right by the waves when you wake up.
The reason Baleal is so popular with starter surfers is that it’s almost completely protected from westerly onshore winds and direct westerly swell directions. The long rocks of Baleal island (or is it a headland?) help to tame the bigger storms into something that’s pretty nice to ride even on the heaviest of days. Things get much better on an approaching tide, with peaky wedges galore all along the inside section of the bay.
The problem with Baleal is that it’s still a great intermediate wave. There are fun, rip-worthy shoulders here that keep attracting the performance surfers even though the surf schools have all but taken over. The result? It’s a board-flying fest in the summer months and the locals can get annoyed. Get up early and hit it; that’s the way.
Cantinho da Baia
Cantinho da Baia is the name for the wider run of sand that rolls out westwards from the village of Baleal. It’s a mixed-ability break; sometimes good for beginners, sometimes better for advanced intermediates looking to practice ripping on something a touch more exposed.
The one thing that Cantinho da Baia does offer is good protection from oncoming westerly winds, which can really whip up to something like a gale in the midwinter. That helps keep things a little cleaner and the breaks working when other Peniche surf spots are totally blown out.
The locals will often separate Cantinho da Baia into two distinct surf breaks. There are the lefts that form off the breakwater by Baleal itself. Those get much better on a high tide because there’s more water in the bay for the run in. Then there’s the wedges of the main beach, which tend to give better rights but can also turn to complete mush (AKA, perfect for the learners).
Supertubos is the most famous of the Peniche surf breaks. It’s also arguably the most famous beach break on the planet. Up there with the A-frame peaks of Hossegor, it’s a gnarly barrel of a shore break wave that works on stronger swells but really sucks in just about any action from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where huge underwater canyons send groundswells from fall to spring.
You’ll find Supertubos – and the inevitable crowds that come to watch the barrel seekers work their magic – on the main beach of Praia do Medão Grande. That’s just to the south of Peniche town itself; a long arc of golden sand backed by dunes and apartment blocks and the main road in from Lisbon. It’s good spectator stuff, with shortboarders bagging hollow pits that move fast and throw them out onto the sand bottom right by the beach.
Because it’s so famous, Supertubos has become the go-to break for global surf competitions and heats – both the WSL and the Rip Curl Pro have held events here. When the wave isn’t working, which can happen in the lazy summer months, this is a nice run of shoreline, with breezy sunbathing spots and the nearby Bananas Beach Bar for refreshments.
Ilheu da Papoa (or just Papoa)
Beginners are likely to take one look at Papoa and run a mile. But the truth is there are mellower days on this reef break just north of Peniche town. They just aren’t that common. When there’s a small bit of NW in the swell direction, the spot can offer decent ankle burner waves with a cruisy left on one side of the rocks.
That’s not usually what it’s like, though. Winter’s when it hits its zenith, converting into a frothing wedge of a big wave that’s like a training ground for the Nazare monsters further up the Portuguese coast. It’s tow outs only then, we’re afraid. Perhaps you’re better off sticking to the watching spots on the cliffs above? That’s fun too, you know?
The good news is that Peniche town is right on the doorstep here. The paddle out is a clamber over the rocks below the northern promenade, so many hotels and surf hostels are within walking distance of. We’d also recommend heading up to see the views from the Miradouro com Vistas park even if the surf isn’t working. It’s an impressive sight, taking in a salt-sprayed rock stack and the chiseled Peniche cliffs alike. Cool, huh?
Areia Branca (Praia da Areia Branca)
You’ll need a car to reach the long sandy stretches of Praia da Areia Branca that roll south from Peniche. It’s an easy drive along a main road that takes about 15 minutes in all. There’s also lots of parking at the top of the cliffs and by the main beach entrance, so don’t worry about finding space for the wheels.
In fact, the main draw of this out-of-town spot is that it’s usually way less busy than its Peniche compadres. The problem is that the surf is really exposed to head-on westerly swells, so can get real messy on windy days and during the bigger winter storms. Still, you’ll probably want to be coming here in the summer months when the huge crowds have flocked from Lisbon to Peniche for their surf trips, and the conditions then shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Praia da Areia Branca itself is a long run of clean sand that angles a touch north-west into the Atlantic. It measures nearly two kilometers (1.25 miles) from tip to toe, and offers a whole range of mini peaks up its length. We’d say it works best on chest-to-head-high swells, when you’ll have plenty of wedgy A-frames to practice bottom turns on. Just don’t expect clean barrels and whatnot. This isn’t that sort of break.
Tupatur is the local name for pretty much every peak that stretches along the central beach between Baleal and Peniche. In our humble experience this can be a very messy run of shoreline. There’s lots of froth, lots of crumbly shorebreaks, not much shape. But it does have its days. What’s more, it’s a pretty top place for the surf schools and beginners, because there’s punchy whitewash without the crowds.
Getting here can be a bit of a hassle because this is one long bay. It runs for about 3km to the west of the main supermarket on the edge of Peniche town and doesn’t end until the start of Cantinho da Baia (see above). The reefs at the western end of the bay are the entrance to the harder reefs of Papoa, so skip them and look for an empty peak in those parts to call your own for the day.
There are some great surf camps and surf cafés all along the side of the coast here. The beach rarely gets too busy. Oh, and you’re within striking distance of the hotels in both Peniche itself and the – in our opinion nicer – village of Baleal.
Molhe Leste will smash you to pieces if it gets the chance. A beefy and unforgiving left-hander that starts on the harbor wall to the north of Supertubos, this one’s long been the main bodyboarder break in Peniche or years. The take off zone is hard to reach when it’s working and the drop is just too steep to make it a regular shortboard haunt.
However, when the swell turns a little northerly in the winter months there’s a chance that the waves will stretch a little and there can be nice barrels up for grabs. Still, though, it’s primarily a pro’s break and there’s no messing around with the rips here.
Molhe Leste is best surfed on the push or at full high tide, but it can get dumpy when it’s completely up. There are loads of places to stay nearby because of the proximity to Peniche harbour, so don’t worry about bedding down in the vicinity.
The top Peniche surf breaks – the verdict
The top Peniche surf breaks cover a whole range of different types of waves. The northern side of the town, where the village of Baleal takes over and the coastline bends a little to face north rather than right west out at the Atlantic Ocean, tends to be suited well to beginners. That’s mainly because it tempers the big storms and oncoming swells from the deep ocean and keeps the waves a touch smaller. Then you get the uber-famous breaks that are on the main west-facing beaches, including that epic shore break barrel of Supertubos, one of the most fantastic beach tubes on the planet.
Together, all of the above has been enough to make Peniche one of the most popular surf towns in Portugal. It’s got the breaks to compete with the likes of Sagres and Ericeira (which is actually a designated World Surfing Reserve). Generally speaking, we’d say Peniche is the most beginner-friendly of the bunch, mainly thanks to the protected beaches of Baleal to the north of the main town.