Known as one of the coolest places on the planet to learn to surf, Arrifana Beach (Praia da Arrifana) on Portugal’s southwest coast is epic. Tucked down a steep cliff, this long beach stretches along some beautifully consistent waves that make it a great place for new surfers. And the backdrop isn’t too bad either.
For photographers, there’s plenty to keep their lens occupied on this bit of Atlantic Coast. Whether you’re a sport photographer hoping to capture the surfers or a landscape photographer, you’ll definitely find images to make on Arrifana Beach.
Time of Day?
This is definitely a sunset location.
At sunrise, the light gets trapped behind the cliffs to the east and won’t hit the landscape until it’s too bright.
And obviously, if you’re hoping to photograph surfers there will be more in the water around sunset.
I guess it depends if you’re photographing surfers or landscapes.
If you’re photographing the landscapes, a simple wide angle lens like a 24-70mm or 15-35mm will do the trick.
If you’re photographing the surfers, you’ll want at least a 100-400mm. Maybe even 500mm.
The beach is way down a steep winding road. But, if you’re not a resident you’ll have to park up at the top of the hill and hike down the road. It’s fairly steep, but it’s only about a 5 minute walk. Don’t park down at the bottom if you don’t have a residency ticket or you’ll get a fine.
Other than that, just behave and be respectful.
Photos of Arrifana Beach
With a little bit more lens and bigger swell, I need to head back to Arrifana Beach for the surfers. Having only photographed the beach once, my photos of this location are a bit limited. But, there is a lot of potential here. So, I’ll be back.
I really wanted to capture some sort of foreground with the hillside village in the background.
So I wandered down the beach to the very far end. At low tide a lot of beautiful rocky foregrounds reveal themselves. I found a beautiful rock that was barely still catching the waves of the retreating tide. And with a slightly long exposure, I took the image as the wave bent back to the sea.
I do wish, though, that I would have waited about 10 more minutes to take this image as the lights in the village of Arrifana eventually lit up.
The image was taken at f/11, 1.3 seconds, iso 200, @21mm.
No disrespect to the people that surf at Arrifana Beach, but the biggest struggle I had photographing surfers here was the fact that a good proportion of the people on the water here are beginners. Obviously, it’s a lot easier to get really impressive images of surfers that are catching bigger waves and look really confident on their boards.
The other battle is that there are always a lot of people in the water. It’s a busy surf beach. So capturing just one surfer was a bit of a battle.
Still, I managed to get this image that I quite like of a very talented surfer with a bit of attitude.
I really wanted to capture the sea stack in the background. I tend to like images that show the environment, even if they are sport or portrait images. The photo was taken at f/5.6, 1/1600 seconds, iso 400, at 400mm.
Ok, so as I write this guide to Arrifana Beach I’m realizing that I need to go back and grab a couple more images. In fact, I probably missed the most obvious photo which is an image from up at the parking lot looking down on the beach and the epic cliffs that back drop it.
If you want, though, this is also a cool place to make some little person, big landscape images. If you can frame the right surfer, it can be really cool.
Also, I should probably mention that the weather can get pretty wild here – as you can probably see in the image below.
Getting to Arrifana Beach
What makes Arrifana Beach special is that it is a little bit out of the way. Unlike popular spots like Praia do Beliche which is right outside of Sagres or any one of the popular Albufeira or Lagos beaches, it’s a bit of a journey to get here. And, personally, I like that.
The beach itself is near the village of Aljezur. It’s about a 10 minute drive from town to the beach. There is a small hotel village at the beach itself, too.
To get down to the beach, you’ll need to park near Restraurant Brisamar – which you’ll see on the map to the right – and then walk 5 minutes down the hill.
Arrifana Beach is about a 40 minute drive from Lagos or a 50 minute drive from Sagres.
Where to Stay Near Arrifana Beach?
If you’re planning on spending some time surfing, then you’ll likely want to spend your time based right at Arrifana Beach. The drive from Lagos is just a little bit too much to be doing every day. Of course, there are also option in Aljezur. These are my recommendations.
I’d highly recommend an apartment in Arrifana rather than a hotel just due location. But, Hotel Vale Da Telha is pretty close to the beach and a really nice property.
In Aljezur, there’s Vicentina Hotel which is also pretty good.
Hostels and Guesthouses?
This is the way to go in Arrifana. There are lots of really good apartment options on AirBnb, some with hammock views of the beach.
There are also good hostel options. The HI Arrifana is a bit pricey for a hostel, but just up from the beach. Arrifana Surf Lodge is also meant to be an awesome place to stay, and meet people.
The nearest official campsite is Camping Serrão which is about a 20 minute drive away from Arrifana Beach. It is a good spot, though.
If you’re in a camper van, though, you can park overnight above the beach.