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The ideal student surf destination: Centro de Portugal’s laidback “surf capital” Peniche


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Strategically located on Portugal’s Atlantic coast, Peniche is Centro de Portugal’s laidback “surf capital” offering some of the most diverse surf conditions in Europe and the world. Only a stone’s throw from the UK, and less than a two-hour drive north of Portugal’s capital Lisbon, Peniche is an affordable and accessible surf destination ideal for students looking to travel on a budget.

In Peniche, locals and visitors live by the motto that you should always finish a session on a great wave. This way, when you set foot on dry sand and shake the salt water from your hair, you are on a high, bearing your board – or your trophy – over your head.

With the sun beating down on your back and muscles still warm from gripping the board, the sensations of rising and falling with the troughs and peaks of the ocean are still fresh in your mind and body. Not only are you wet with saltwater, but you are still dripping from the wave of exhilaration that washes over you every time you glide successfully to the shore, feeling the board bend to your will as you shift your weight from foot-to-foot.

Two surfers wait for mid-tide on the rocks overlooking Peniche’s Almagreira beach.
Credit: Katie Treharne

Surfing and other popular maritime-tourist pursuits are the heart and soul of Peniche. Its surf appeal is universal and far-reaching, alluring people of all walks of life and from all corners of the globe to ride its waves.

Chic and affordable surf houses and hostels are dotted along Peniche’s 15-kilometre coastline, which has over twenty surf hotspots. This is the real charm of Peniche; no matter where you find yourself on Peniche’s coast, it is only a short drive or, in some cases, a short stroll, to the nearest surf location.

Once an island but now a peninsula due to the impact of wind and tide, the town’s geology creates unique opportunities for surfers from one beach to the next. With beaches facing north and south on the peninsula, at any one time, there is always at least one spot where the wind is off-shore to form perfect waves.

This is why Peniche is recognised as the most consistent destination to surf in Portugal. It is a place packed with energy and rich with history, where you can count on daily surf conditions regardless of swell or direction of the wind.

Waves on the Centro de Portugal coast.
Credit: Katie Treharne

On the Centro de Portugal coast, consistent swell from the Atlantic Ocean not only permits year-long surf; it also influences the diverse conditions that make the sea in Peniche ideal for all levels of surfers seeking out their next best wave. If you’re not quite ready to tackle Peniche’s renowned “supertubos” waves, hollow in the middle, or nearby Figueira da Foz’s impressive mile-long right waves, then there are plenty of mellow waves for beginners too.

During my visit to Peniche on the 14th of July, I was wracked with nerves at the prospect of confronting Peniche’s world-renowned waves. With the help of friendly and professional instructors from Naturexperience, based at Praia do Baleal (South), I was wobbling to my feet by the end of the second lesson and in the rhythm of catching waves by the third.

Praia do Baleal (South) beach in Peniche.
Credit: Katie Treharne

Ideally situated nearby Peniche’s beaches are a cornucopia of cafes, bars, and nightclubs, where surfers or sunbathers can relax with an iced drink or a taste of the town’s exquisite gastronomy. Bright and energetic in the day, many of the bars crank up the volume for parties lasting late into the night where party-goers spill out onto the sand as soon as the sun sets.

The seaside town is often a hub of activity as the stage to international and national championships. One of them is MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal which is annually hosted at Peniche’s Supertubos beach in October, one of three stops in the World championship tour of the World Surf League. In Peniche, it is not unusual to bump into professional surfers on the streets or on the waves.

Nearby, top athletes and national teams train at Surfing Peniche High-Performance Centre which is equipped to cater for thirty athletes.

Surfing Peniche High-Performance Centre, open since October 2012.
Credit: Katie Treharne

Though Peniche is universally recognised for its surf, the town’s cultural offer is also fruitful. Besides its history as one of the largest traditional fishing ports in Portugal, its rich historical centre is home to 17th-century churches and an impressive 17th-century fortress overlooking the sea. Visitors to Peniche’s fortress can delve into the building’s complex history through exploring the museum space which invokes its history as a political prison and as the setting of an astonishing prison break-out in 1960.

Six miles offshore and visible from Peniche’s fortress are the Berlengas islands, one of the world’s first nature reserves. In the summer, these scenic islands with translucent waters are accessible from Peniche by ferryboat.

A town of contrasts, stimulating and progressive yet infused with a strong sense of tranquillity and familiarity, Peniche packs everything a student could want out of a holiday destination into one town, making it the ideal student surf destination.


Credits to Centro de Portugal Tourism Board – – and TAP Air Portugal. TAP Air Portugal flies directly from London City Airport, Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester to Lisbon up to 12 times a day. Prices start at £43 one way including all taxes and surcharges. For further information, visit or call 0345 601 0932.

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