The Algarve Coast in Portugal feels like magic. The sunshine is a daily expectation, the coastline is rugged and ripe for surfing, and the people are kind. Driving to the beach here means lush green hills, wind in the hair, and endless opportunities to stop the car for a photo.
A few friends and I took one of these magical days, and attempted to make it the best day ever. What would a day look like doing all of our favorite things? Turns out, it’s a lot of snacks and a lot of beach time.
Starting before sunrise, we peeled open our sleepy eyes and piled into my friend’s car. With barely working windows, and sand covering the floor, it’s the perfect surf mobile. We loaded boards in the back, snagged our wetsuits and sunglasses, and headed to our favorite beach, Zavial, with a semi-promising forecast.
No surf trip is complete without the initial surf check. Heading to the lookout, it looked… questionable. But ever the optimists, we unloaded the boards and waxed them up to jump in anyway.
Let’s just say, it was the opposite of pumping.
The waves in this part of Portugal can be unpredictable. Ruled by swells from several different directions, it’s usually either rough or calm as a lake. The waves here train you though, and some people say if you can surf in Portugal, you can surf anywhere.
But when you can’t surf in the Algarve, what do you do instead? The answer to us was simple- skateboard. It’s easy to find sneaky, quiet hills around this area. Especially early in the morning. Giggling and salty, we hopped in the car and drove a couple beaches over.
Here’s the thing about the best day ever, you’ve got to have the right people with you. Any situation turns into laughter when you have your girls with you. We romped and cruised and carved and fell all morning long, and when our bodies were tired and the sun was higher in the sky- we went for coffee.
A morning galão is my favorite drink in Portugal- add on a couple of pastries and it’s heaven. About 1/4 coffee and 3/4 foamed milk, it’s a stomach ache waiting to happen- but man, is it good!
If you go to Portugal, you have to try a pastel de nata. Yes, they’re popular. Yes, they sell them everywhere. And yes, they’re the best thing you’ll ever eat. I dream about them. Flaky pastry with an egg custard, even the supermarket ones are good.
With the sun heating up and stomachs growling, we headed to a friend’s pool to eat pastel de nata and cool off. A morning like this reminds me that memories and fantastic days are forged while you’re picking fruit off the trees to eat as juice drips down your fingertips. Portugal has an abundance of fruit trees, and fruit. There are orange trees at the bus stop, fruit stands tucked in corner shops, and the occasional avocado will pop out of a tree on your head. There are little treats everywhere.
In the afternoon, we got word there might be waves at Zavial. So once again, we hopped in the car and met up with some friends to try to boogie down some peelers. This time, the sun was high in the sky and the stoke was high!
For those who are curious, this is my Algarve essentials beach list:
- Sunscreen (it's hot)
- Wetsuit (4:3 thickness, the water here is cold!)
- Surf wax
- Snacks (Probably pastries and fruit. Seems to be my main diet in this country)
- Camera (Because I go no where without it)
- Beach blanket (Whatever ratty thing you can find is perfect)
While the waves were once again, trash. We had the best day laying on the beach, whispering secrets, playing music, and snacking on whatever we had. We even hopped in the water without a board for a cool dunk. Be warned, while the weather is hot in Portugal, the waves can be chilly!
I wish I could describe how good it feels to be alive here, it’s something in the light, in the people, in the landscape. It’s a place that truly fills the heart.
At the end of the day, we headed back to the field we all camp in every night. More friends joined us to sing karaoke outside the tents, swap stories from the week, and drink a beer (or 3). Cristal is the best and cheapest beer in the Algarve, and that’s final.
We had done it, spent the day doing our favorite things. Even with the hiccups, even with the lack of waves, it was a day spent with great people moving our bodies in the sunshine- and what is better than that?