Happy New Year all as another year rolls around!
Personally, 2016 was an interesting one that deserves a whole post to itself - it's started and it'll be out by the end of the week as my own reflection diary... - but as I'm just back from a short hop to Faro in Portugal, it seemed like an ideal way to kick off 2017 and if anyone is looking for a nice location of surfing, bodyboarding, trekking, or just lounging around.
Praia da Arrifana is a beach within the Municipality of Aljezur, in the Algarve, Portugal. The beach is on the western Seaboard in the north west of the Algarve. The beach of Praia da Arrifana is inside the Vicentine Coast Natural Park, an area of outstanding natural beauty. Praia da Arrifana has been designated a blue Flag beach (2012). The sand on Praia da Arrifana is of pale golden fine sand and is approximately 500 meters long. The beach is backed by tall cliffs which afford the beach some protection from the ravages of the Atlantic Ocean. Even so, this is a very popular beach for surfing and body surfing. The beach is accessed by a boardwalk steps, down to the beach from the village. At the bottom of the village there is a concrete slope which provides easy access for wheelchair users and for boats etc. On the north west side of the bay there is the small fishing village of Arrifana and its small fishing harbour."
Wikipedia gives the good generic overview of Arrifana itself and it's a pretty apt description. Situated just over an hours drive from nearest major airport, Faro, it's a great venue if looking to get the west of Europe and warmer temps.
From a surf perspective, interestingly, MagicSeaWeed describes the beach as a "not a beginners beach". I wouldn't say that's completely accurate, being someone who is at the stage of surfing as standing up but not much else. But if you are there as a relative beginner, make sure to go in at low tide. There's also countless surf schools/instructors to choose from so it must be relatively good for beginners! Note also, there is little to no current so very safe for getting in.
We did find on one day that the waves at high tide were too difficult for ourselves (even though described as 3-5 foot on MagicSeaWeed). Near the shore, the white-water waves (ideal for absolute beginners) were breaking right onto the beach so were impossible to use, and the waves were big and fast out to sea! But still a great day and very safe.
There is countless other surf spots north and south of Arrifana. Check the usual MagicSeaWeed, and talk nicely to the super-friendly locals for recommendations of the local 'secret' areas....
For trekking, there is lots of well marked trails going north, south and inland. Most appear to be out-and-back trails (i.e. you return the same way you walked/ran out) but the scenery is lovely and not overly taxing. I would suspect laid back cross-country mountain biking would be good fun also on the friendly 4x4 trails.
As for road biking, a huge compliment to Faro airport for a Bike Assembly station right in the main airport. What a fantastic idea, if only replicated elsewhere. Probably shows how popular bike touring is here!
Travel and Accommodation
Faro airport is the nearest, and served by Ryanair. Cheap and cheerful but it'll get you there, and the company is becoming much more friendly towards baggage, etc.
For accommodation, there's tons of surf lodges and schools to choose from if interested in the social vibe and getting into some surf lessons with others. We personally took the Airbnb approach and stayed at this lovely little house, owned by the ultra-friendly Zaria and family. There's tons to choose from however, and of all price ranges. If you're looking for an Irish connection, check out Arrifana Pines Lodge run (owned?) by Paddy - note however that it's a 10/15 minute drive to the beach although you will be staying at an incredible eco-minded area also.
(Amazon) links to great stories/book on surfing below: