A great surf town is the nearly-magical sum of consistent waves, inviting accommodations, friendly locals, fun nightlife, delicious food, and plenty of activities should the ocean go flat. In San Sebastian, Spain you will find all of that and more. All the small details of this area combines to create one of the best surf spots in all of Europe. Grab your board, your gear, your guts and this information about the beaches in San Sebastian, Spain and you’ll be ready for a surfing holiday straight out of paradise.
Surf plays a major role in San Sebastián. Every year, thousands of surfers from all over the world make their way to San Sebastián's Zurriola Beach with the sole pretext of taking to the waves. That’s why San Sebastián is the setting for dozens of local, national and international championships and competitions that are generally held from spring to autumn. During these months, the surfers overtake San Sebastian and it can be easy to confuse the city and its surrounding areas with any big surf city in Australia or California.
The local passion for surf is so great that recent years have seen it become a way of life, and it’s common to come across some kind of surfing event on the Zurriola Beach. The areas of Sagüés, on the Paseo de la Zurriola, and the district of Gros are packed with bars, pubs, restaurants and shops to entertain the hoards of surfers after they come off the water for the day.
In the centre of the city, right next to the old part of town, is the famous La Concha Bay. It is considered by many to be one of the best and most beautiful examples of a city beach around the world. Due to its enclosed location, the waters here are calm, shallow, and situated on smooth, rock-free sand. This makes it ideal for bathing or swimming out to 'La Isla Santa Clara' in the centre of the bay, but not for hardcore surfing. If you like paddle boarding, this would be an ideal spot to get going.
San Sebastian's second most famous beach, La Zurriola, does not disappoint for surf enthusiasts. Located just on the other side of the Urumea River, Zurriola is a 5-minute walk from the centre of the city and is located in the 'Barrio Gros'. This beach is popular amongst youth and water sports enthusiasts. Here, at any given time, you may see upwards of 100 surfers with several games of beach volleyball and beach soccer going on simultaneously. While summer invites many beginner and learning surfers, winter is when you can see epic waves, and a continuous schedule of championships and competitions for the more elite surfer to participate in and spectate.
La Ondarreta is located on the other side of La Concha in close proximity to the upscale 'Barrio Antiguo' neighbourhood. It might win the prize as the most relaxed of San Sebastian's beaches. In general, there are fewer people, less crowded beaches and more privacy. Groups of tourists rarely make it out to this beach, and while it isn’t ideal for surfing massive waves, it is a great spot for other watersports.
Thanks to the Gulf Stream, the Basque coast has a much milder winter than what one would expect at these latitudes. Autumn and winter are undoubtedly the best periods of the year in the Basque Country as far as waves are concerned, but that doesn’t mean spring and summer aren’t great choices too! San Sebastian can proudly say it has waves throughout the year. These waves can range from 1.5 ft. to 18ft in areas where the sea conditions provide surf-able big waves like Punta Galea, Meñakoz, Mundaka, Playa Gris, Orrua, and Lemoiz.
The water temperature in the summer period is around 20 degrees, and although the winter is cold and it can snow on the coast, the water temperature rarely goes below 11 degrees. The Basque Coast receives storms caused by low-pressure areas mainly from the north and the northeast. This usually happens in winter, which is therefore the season when big waves are most common.
If you go into the old part of the city, you’ll be greeted by a lot of pintxo restaurants that double as bars. For a sit-down meal, head to the 3 star, Michelin-rated Arzak, which is home to one of Europe’s greatest chefs, Juan Mari Arzak. If you are getting hungry earlier, remember that most locals don’t eat dinner until around 10:00 p.m., and the real nightlife doesn’t get rolling until the wee hours, so be sure to stock up on snacks and maybe stop for tapas if you can’t hold out until 10:00 pm.
If you’re looking for something more active to do during your stay in San Sebastian instead of waiting for the nightlife to ramp up in the very early morning, try hiking up Mount Urgull for great views of the Bahía de la Concha. You could also visit a Sidrería, where the Basques make some of their famous hard ciders for a quick (or not so quick) sampling of their drinks. If you want to make a daytrip out of San Sebastian, try heading to the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
Want to catch some waves along with the locals in San Sebastian? It’s time to start planning your next holiday abroad. When you are packing don’t forget to cover your active adventures with an adventure sports travel insurance plan from Cover-More Australia. Our dedicated teams of experts are standing by 24/7 to help with any problems that may come up as you brave the waves in Spain!
Image courtesy of Flickr user Juanedc