Flight, car & accommodation
Okay, both of us were ready for a vacation. A kitesurf paradise would be nice, but our budget was limited & we really wanted to get out in the short term, even if that meant that we could not kitesurf. In fact, I still had a lot of problems with my knee .. so with a 100% kitesurf oriented vacation I probably would not have enjoyed myself. We had the following requirements for our vacation:
- Minimum of 2 weeks
- At least 18 degrees Celsius
- Apartment / room with kitchen
- Plenty to do in the area
- Flight & accommodation below € 500 per person
With some research hours behind us, we discovered that Southern Portugal was the best option for us. We even had some hope that we would be able to kitesurf there for a day as well. So flight booked. Hotel booked. Car reserved. Twintips & waveboard packed. Let’s go! October 29 we landed after a 3-hour flight in Faro, Portugal.
We picked up our car at the airport. A super beautiful Seat Arona, in which our boardbags fitted exactly and started the journey to our hotel: Plaza Real by Atlantic Hotels, in Portimão. During the last part of the drive through the center of Portimão we already saw a Lidl, Macdonald and Decathlon. I immediately felt at home!
Our hotel was a lot better than what we had hoped for. A bedroom, a shower with bath, a living room, a balcony and a super large kitchen! We were 15 minutes away by foot from Praia da Rocha and 10 minutes away from the Macdonald, which is pretty nice if you have nothing to eat on your first day at 11 p.m.
At least 20 degrees Celsius every day. Occasionally even 25 degrees. I wouldn’t really call it Bikini weather… Although, all those Brits thought differently at the non-heated swimming pool. At night it became around 17.5 degrees.
We enjoyed the sunshine almost every day! In the morning it was often foggy and occasionally we had some drizzler rain. I thought I didn’t need shorts, but that was certainly not true! Fortunately, I could buy a cheap pair at the Decathlon.
And then the main question. Have you been able to kite? YES! It often blew harder than the forecast indicated and the tide certainly played an important role in our kite possibilities. The sizes I used have been 9m2 & 13m2, although I could have kitesurfed fine with the 7m2 for 1 day. We were able to kitesurf 7 out of the 16 days! And if we wanted, even more!
First of all: Portugal has some rules/laws for kitesurfers. Unfortunately, I cannot give you more information about this, but from October you will be able to fly wherever you want.
Alvor / Odiáxere, Ribeira de Odiáxere: If you’ve googled “kitesurfing in Portugal”, you’ll soon end up at the lake next to Alvor: Ribeira de Odiáxere. This spot is especially good with a north-westerly to northerly wind, but it is also a bit gusty because of the surroundings. Although you should be able to stand almost anywhere (haven’t tested it), the difference in depth is quite present. Do not pay attention and you’ll eat sand because your fins got stuck in a sandbar. Also, be sure to watch out for the few fishing cages that lie on the bottom of the lake, these will become visible when it is low tide. When it is low tide this large lake changes into small puddles.
You have 2 places from where you can start & both require a warm up. From a parking lot at Alvor on the street; Marginal de Alvor, you can walk in 15/20 minutes to the spot, where you will be able to launch your kite. Or, you drive to the other side of the lake on the Odiáxere & Lagos side. In theory you can walk to the spot from your parking spot in 5 minutes. In theory. With all your equipment you need to walk across the, at some places, collapsed stone bridge. RELEASE YOUR INNER MOUNTAIN GOAT! From this side the wind can be pretty gusty, but you’ll have flatter water.
Ilha de Faro, Praia de Faro: A little bit of home, but on steroids. The sea at Praia de Faro looks a lot like our South-Holland coast: a big, wild, choppy ocean. There is a lot of power in the irregular waves and there is also a strong current. Wind enough for you 9? Grab a size bigger, because you’ll hardly get away. The best wind direction for this spot is west north-west to south-south-east. The beach is fairly narrow at high tide and there are many houses next to the beach, be aware of the ramshackle, high-voltage lines. I quote “It will not be the first time someone crashes in it with his kite, and certainly won’t be the last.” – Local happy-egg kiter.
Ilha de Faro, Barrinha Beach: OMG. What a beautiful place! With a north-westerly to southerly wind, you’ll have almost butter flat water. The current will come from the east. If you go kitesurfing in the fall, this is the place to go to for a wakestyle session! Super special to enjoy the planes arriving and departing during a kitesurf session. You can ride here with low and high tide and there are quite a few places where you can stand. Do not panic, you cannot drift off (far), you are almost completely surrounded by land. The spot has one major disadvantage: The fish in the lake are super unfriendly. When floating after my first crash, waiting for my kite to re-launch, I was immediately punished with a fin-slap in my face. Yes really!
How do you get to this piece of paradise? You can kitesurf to it from Praia de Faro, you can walk to it in +/- 30 minutes from the end of the “parking street” Av. Nascente on a wooden walkway (with here and there broken boards, splinters and protruding nails, so not recommended with bare feet), or you can walk to it over the beach. You could also kitesurf to it over the river. Please note that there are many boats, buoys and nets in the water. The wind on the river can also be quite gusty due to the houses and the high dune. For beginners it is certainly not recommended to sail the river. It is (almost) impossible to get back over the river with low tide.
Fuseta, Praia da Fuseta: Oops … I added the information about this spot a day later to this blog post… Perhaps that says enough. A spot about which I had heard a lot but had no positive opinion. Perhaps it is because the wind was just a pain in the ass, because it was far away from our hotel, because the westerly current strongly countered the southwesterly wind, or because the bottom of the spot was overgrown with “grass plants” in many places (I hate such plants, something with fear of plant monsters). You can kitesurf here with southwesterly to northeasterly wind. Probably we would have had a better time with a wind direction from the east as the wind would then go against the current, or we should have taken the risk of going downwind, which would not have been wise without a boat because you cannot walk your way back. Nope, not even through the water. During our session the water was flat to choppy. One big plus of this spot is you can park your car almost next to the spot!
Carrapateira / Bordeira, Praia da Bordeira: One of the few wave surfing areas in the southwestern coast of Portugal where it is (relatively) safe to kitesurf. It can be done by advanced kitesurfers with north-northeastern to southwestern-westerly winds. This huge beach is located among the rocks, which makes the view truly amazing. We were there one day when there was less swell than usual, but even then the waves were huge! There is quite a bit of space/time between the waves and we have been told that it is best to kite on this spot with high tide. There are, however, a number of points for attention: First, the rocks, where the wind can behave somewhat strangely and the current is (extra) strong. These rocks are ate some places located under water as well. The waves have a lot of power (especially in the back) and the current is also very present. If you lose your board, you will have to act quickly to prevent it from drifting away into the big blue sea. Crash your kite … and you can only hope that you will come back. A not so pleasant experience, right Chris?
Portimão, Praia da Rocha: Unfortunately I was not able to kitesurf on this spot myself, but man I would have loved that! We could have kitesurfed here with a westerly to south-easterly wind. The beautiful waves were clean, with a lot of time/space between each other and are about 1 to 1.5 meters high. Super nice for learning how to wave surf, the reason why we were there, but probably great place for wavekitesurfing as well!! Watch out for the wave surfers. Although we sometimes had a northwesterly wind (and the spot should have been off-shore), the wind often seemed to turn to side-shore / on-shore in the afternoon, maybe thermal? But what the wind does if you were a bit off the coast … No idea …
No wind activities
One of the reasons that we wanted to go to Portugal / Algarve was because there are a lot of activities to do: Climbing, snorkeling, canoeing, boat trips, hiking trips, making water parks unsafe, wave surfing, shopping, parties, skydiving, quad biking and so on.
We have done the following things in Portugal (Algarve):
- Shopped at Lidl (and supermarkets with ridiculously cheap & tasty food).
- Shopped on the promenade of Praia da Rocha.
- Wave swimming at Praia Boiao. (Basically an attempt to snorkel & trying to not break our knees on the underwater rocks.)
- A trip to the west where we visited Fortaleza de Sagres & Farol do Cabo de São Vicente (including a small museum), we spotted a group of wild dolphins from here as well.
- Took a 3 day wave surfing course at Praia da Rocha. https://rochasurfshop.com/
- Visited Castelo de Silves, visited Catedral de Silves, visited Museu Municipal de Arqueologia de Silves (museum) & admired the storks nests in the town (you may guess) Silves.
- Explored Lagos.
- Went partying on the boulevard of Praia da Rocha in a Irish Pub and a Rock & Metal Cafe until the next morning.
- Visited, hiked and climbed Ponta da Piedade (Lagos) & Gruta das Baratas (Boiao).
- Visited Stradivarius shopping center, with a “no plastic in the ocean” exhibition of children’s art.
- Visited Igreja do Carmo in Faro; A church with a chapel made of bones, skulls & hair.
What did we actually pay per person?
- € 300 for accommodation & flight (www.vakantiediscounter.nl).
- € 100 for the return journey of the boardbags.
- € 275 for car rental 16 days incl. Insurance & toll box.
- € 15 for tolls.
- € 60 for gasoline.
- € 90 for a 3×3 hour golf surfing course (incl. Material).
- € 20 for all castles, forts, museums, etc.
- € 150 for food and drinks (incl. Restaurants, alcohol and lots of ice creams).
Add that together and you’ll end up on a 16-day filled vacation of € 1010 per person.
- Apparently there is a time difference of 1 hour with the Netherlands… Sorry Chris, for the alarm clock that went off at 7:00 am instead of 8:00 am during the first half of our vacation…
- Driving on the highway is the fastest way to get anywhere, but it will cost you toll.. And that toll system works of course with a toll machine. If you drive on the provincial road, you won’t need to pay toll and you’ll get some nice, beautiful routes, yet the same trip will take you a lot longer!
- The wave surfing season starts in the fall. Super fun and super nice, but some activities will become a lot harder because of this. Due to the currents and the waves, the water is often too turbid to snorkel at the coast yourself and trips such as canoeing can be canceled.
- Because the main season has ended, tour operators offer a lot less activities and activities can be canceled due to too few registrations.
- Take tear-aid with you, and if you have one, a backup bar. Kitesurfing equipment is as good as unavailable in the surroundings of the Algarve!
- Water parks are only open until the end of October.