When one thinks of surfing and European islands, the mind naturally tracks to the Canaries, and possibly Reunion. The Azores, however, often go unnoticed—which is just fine with the local surfers and core group of visitors enjoying the region’s waves each year. A territory of Portugal, the Azores are located 1300 km off the coast of Lisbon and sit squarely in the path of large Atlantic storms. What this equates to is consistent, powerful, uncrowded surf on a set of islands infused with Portuguese culture—a unique surf experience that often goes overlooked.
The Surf: With beach breaks, points and difficult-to-access danger waves, the Azores have a little bit of everything, making this region a beginner to advanced surf destination.
Five Waves Worth Surfing:
- Rabo de Peixe: What used to be the Azores’ premier wave was destroyed by the construction of a jetty. The new left formed inside the harbor is small consolation, but consolation nonetheless.
- Baixa de Viola: A right and left reef peak on the north side of Sao Miguel.
- Ribiera Grande: A beach break option near to Rabo de Peixe.
- Ponta dos Moisteiros: One of the best waves in the Azores, this reef peak breaks on the west corner of Sao Miguel.
- Populo: A user-friendly beach break located in a bustling city, Populo is popular with beginners and weekend warriors.
The Water: The water in the Azores is lovely—crystal clear and relatively moderate in temperature, ranging from 61 to 75 F (16 to 24 C) seasonally.
The Season: While winter (December through February) has the most consistent surf, it often suffers from serious storm conditions. The seasons either side of winter (fall and spring) are your best bet in the Azores.
The Vibe: Few local surfers and fewer surf tourists means that many of the waves in the Azores are relatively uncrowded. Early morning sessions in particular are pretty empty. At the more populated spots, a good attitude will ingratiate you with the locals.
Things To Do: The Azores are famous for whale watching and having the world’s best blue marlin fishing. Pico Mountain (the highest in Portugal) and Sete Cidades Caldeira are both popular hikes, while other activities include bike tours of the islands, snorkeling, scuba diving and golf.
Where To Stay: The Azores aren’t famous for exorbitantly priced five-star hotels—which is just fine by the average surfer. Mid-range hotels abound, and in the major cities you will be able to find hostels.
What To Bring: A shortboard and a mini-gun. The typical surf accessories, although there are shops on Sao Miguel where you can pick up supplies. Hiking shoes—you won’t want to miss the Azores’ landscapes and sights. A springsuit for early fall and late spring, and a 3/2 fullsuit for the heart of the season.
Getting There: Ponta Delgada airport sees twice-weekly flights from the UK and daily flights from Lisbon. As Portugal is part of the Schengen Agreement, nationals of many countries do not require visas. Airport code: PDL.