Known for its nightlife, chic vibe, natural beauty, and pumping waves, yeh, you could say that Biarritz is a happening place. Biarritz is considered ground zero for European surf culture and has been a mecca for European and traveling surfers since as early as the 50s.
But a surf trip to Biarritz is about so much more than just the surf. This is no tropical island with coral reefs, coconut trees, and empty waves, this is a thriving city at the heart of the French Basque that does food well, and parties better.
To say that you’re spoilt for waves around Biarritz wouldn’t even scratch the surface, the place is a designer-made surfing haven. There are a few beach breaks around the city that cater to all surfing levels but lean toward beginner and intermediate surfers most days of the year.
Head a few miles out of town and experienced surfers will be pulling into barrels to the north and shredding point breaks and reefs to the south. Come to Biarritz for the waves, and end up staying for everything else – you won’t be the first or last surfer to make this most excellent of decisions.
Where Is Biarritz
Biarritz is, without question, situated in one of the most beautiful parts of Europe and the world. It is the premier seaside resort of the Pyrenees-Atlantiques region of France for which the French Basque Country occupies.
It’s just 22 miles from the Spanish border and San Sebastian when heading south. Shoot up the highway 25 miles and you’re in Hossegor, or head southeast for a half-hour or so and you’ll be climbing the mighty Pyrenees.
In terms of the ocean, it sits at the bottom of the Bay of Biscay which catches every last puff of those glorious W and N swells that the Atlantic ocean loves to dish up.
Getting To Biarritz
If you’re already in Europe, getting to Biarritz is fairly straightforward. It has a small airport that flies internally within France and other European countries year-round, as well as some UK flights in the spring and summer.
If you’d prefer to get there by land, the super-fast TGV train will blitz you to Biarritz train station, with good links to Paris, Leon, and other parts of Europe. If you’re flying in from further afield, Bordeaux is your best bet, being just a two-hour drive north of the city.
If you’re staying with a surf camp/ house, then it’s likely they will have your airport transfers organized, and will typically include transport to the waves as part of your package.
If you’re not staying in a surf camp, and you’ve decided to fend for yourself, then the benefits of hiring a car can not be overlooked. Picking up your wheels from the airport and heading straight to your accommodation is a nice, stress-free way to get there.
Also, as we’ve already hinted, this region of France is kind of a big deal. Not to mention, the ability to drive 20 minutes north or south at the drop of a hat will open up your scoring potential for waves in a big way.
If you don’t drive or haven’t factored a hire car into your budget, then getting a train from Bordeaux is the next best thing. Walking around Biarritz is easy, it isn’t that big, just double-check that where you’re staying isn’t out in East Biarritz.
There’s also a bus service that links Biarritz with other towns and cities along the Pyrenees-Atlantiques. Idyllic places like Guethary, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, and Hendaye can all be reached by bus.
However, if you’re looking to bring your board on the bus, expect some questionable looks from the locals and bus driver, for, after all, we are in France.
When To Surf In Biarritz
Because of its wide-open swell window, Biarritz is gifted to year-round surf. However, summer and winter look very different in this part of the Atlantic.
Winter is known for its large, long-period groundswells that light up the many world-class breaks of the area, whereas summer is a much gentler scene. Make sure that you’re heading to Biarritz in the season that is best suited to your surfing ability, by learning a thing or two first.
Summer (June – August)
Summer in Biarritz is something that every surfer should experience, at least once. The swell may not pump as hard as it does at other times of the year, but dang, you’re in the southwest of France baby.
The city gets swamped by Parisians, Europeans, and world travelers alike. And, trust us when we say, as we say it from experience – the nightlife is seriously kicking.
Quirky bars, thumping nightclubs, street hangs with people who you can hardly converse with but are BFFs for life – there is a mutual understanding in Biarritz, in the summer, that whoever is there is one of the lucky ones in life.
As far as the surf is concerned, even on the smallest days, it is rarely flat around Biarritz (although it does happen). Typically you’ll be treated to 2 – 4ft waves through most of the summer,
with the occasional summer swell kicking things into the 4 – 6ft range. Especially as August rolls around and the odd early autumn swells sneaks into the Bay of Biscay to great praise.
The water temp will peak at 72.14°F in July and August, which by most surfer’s standards is pretty idyllic. The air temp is a nice and temperate 77°F most days in the summer, with the occasional heatwave pushing the mercury above 80°F, quite easily.
10 pm sunset surfs at Grande Plage with the excitement of the city lights turning on behind you – yep, summer in Biarritz does just fine without maxing swell.
Autumn (September – October)
September and October are the magic months for surfing in Biarritz. The swell begins to kick into gear, while the weather and water are still soaking in the warmth of the summer.
The winds have a tendency to be favorable in these months too, with light offshores common for days at a time. The swell can be anywhere from 3 – 8ft at the open spots, while the sheltered breaks will offer protection if desired.
That’s the beauty of Biarritz in the autumn, it can, and will, provide challenging surf for intermediate and advanced surfers, just as easily as it will deliver softer surf for beginners. Another great attribute of Biarritz in the autumn is the hoards of holidaying Parisians will have left town.
This will ensure a quieter vibe around town, on the beaches, and in the surf. Let the Indian summer pleasantly roll you into Autumn, and you’ll realize why September and October are every local surfer’s favorite months of the year.
Winter (November – February)
November to February is when the big swells come to play around Biarritz, and you’ll want to be sure that your fitness and experience match up.
By November, it is not uncommon to see 6ft+ surf almost every week in Biarritz, with the occasional winter swell going off the scale at 12 – 15ft and beyond.
Seriously, from the months of November to February and even into March, this stretch of coast will catch every last bit of the powerful N-NW swell systems that march down from the North Atlantic.
However, and very much unlike Hossegor which has no place to hide from the maxing swell, Biarritz is ideal at offering intermediate surfers protection.
The jagged headlands of La Cote des Basques and Le Miramar are conveniently positioned to give respite from the winter swells, which makes Biarritz a great place to come in the winter months.
If you’re keen to challenge yourself in the big stuff, then you’ll have ample opportunity to do so just a short drive north or south as well. The crowds thin out in the winter too, with just local surfers and a few hardy travelers sticking it out for a shot at glory.
Spring (March – May)
Although spring isn’t the first time of the year that surfers think of when considering a trip to Biarritz, March can pump just as hard as any other month of the year.
Spring is like the sweet spot between the harshness of winter, and the crowds of summer. The weather is on the up, and although the water temp is still down around 55°F in early March, by April, it will feel noticeably warmer.
It’s best to come prepared for anything in Spring. You could be greeted to a long period 3 – 4ft swell that has no rush to leave. You could be faced with 6 – 8ft lines marching in, or you could be scouting around for 2ft waves.
The uncertainty is what makes spring a preferable season to visit Biarritz, because, with a bit of luck, you might be presented with stacks of swell and only the locals to share it with.
By the end of May, the water will be getting up toward 70°F, and the summertime surfers will come flocking back to get their fix.
What Wetsuit Is Best?
Where wetsuits are concerned, you will see it all in the summertime in Biarritz. Boardshorts, bikinis, shortys, steamers, vests, every variation of wetsuit will be worn by surfers with their own reasons to wear it.
We know that makes things confusing, but as we mentioned, the water and air temps are hot enough to warrant this disparity.
Our advice is to bring a 2/3mm wetsuit for early morning and late evening surfs, and pack a vest and a pair of boardshorts or the bikini for midday sessions. This way, you’ll cover all bases and shouldn’t be overheating or shivering out in the water.
Depending on whether you’re coming early or late in the season, you will need a different wetsuit thickness, as November is when the water temp really starts to drop in Biarritz.
You can get away with a 2/3mm wetsuit for almost the entire month of September, but once October is underway, most surfers will seek out their 4/3mm steamers for warmth.
By November most people will be wearing at least 3mm boots, and some will even dig the gloves out. The water temp will plummet quite quickly in this period down to below 60°F. So, being prepared for cold water surfing is not just recommended, it’s essential.
Unless you’re a hardened coldwater surfer, the ocean can be considered cold in the winter in Biarritz. Water temps drop to as low as 54°F in the depths of January, so if you’re booking a winter trip to Biarritz, then make sure that your wetsuit gear is up to scratch.
If you’ve got a premium 4/3mm wetsuit that’s in a good condition, this will be your swiss army knife of winter swell chasing. Boots are essential, gloves are recommended, and if you feel the cold easily, a hood is never a bad idea to chuck in the bag.
People who are susceptible to the cold will wear their 5/3mm suit with 5mm boots, 3-5mm gloves, and a hood to ensure their warmth.
Seeing as Spring is another interim season, just like Autumn, it pays to be ready for all eventualities of weather. Early Spring will require your 4/3mm swiss army knife with those aforementioned boots.
Gloves are smart to bring, but the weather is warming up, so a hood would be considered excessive. By the middle of April, the 4/3mm suit could be replaced with 2/3mm of rubber, and you can leave the boots at home.
By late May, the ocean and air have warmed up to near summer levels and you may be back to enjoying the spoils of surfing in summer surfing attire from mid-morning onwards.
Where To Surf In Biarritz
Now for the fun part! As we mentioned, Biarritz is a surf destination that has something for everyone, which is what makes it such a good idea in the first place.
Whether you’re with the family, on your own, or traveling with a crew of dedicated surfers, everyone will feel at home in the waves around Biarritz.
A little north out of Biarritz is the wave-rich town of Anglet. Anglet is known for having more challenging waves than Biarritz itself and tends to suit experienced surfers beter.
At the northern end of Anglet, you will find the Ardour river mouth which features two southern break walls that are known for their fast and hollow waves.
Les Cavaliers is the name of this beach that can hold sizeable surf in the 4 – 8ft range, with barrels on offer for the daring and experienced.
Between Cavaliers and Biarritz is another popular stretch with multiple beach breaks and two smaller break walls. Marinella, Sables d’Or, and Corsaires are popular with surf schools in the summer because of their mellower wave faces.
But come autumn these breaks have a good build-up of sand as a result of the break walls, and they will dish out their fair share of powerful beatings and glorious tubes.
Although not technically Biarritz, Anglet is just up the road, and is well worth a scout, if you’re looking for a little more meat on your waves.
If you haven’t heard of Miramar, then you’ve probably seen it in one surf movie or another. It is instantly recognizable by the big chunk of rock/ mini-island that is parked just outside of the break.
Creating a picturesque backdrop for high-performance surfing, Miramar has been featured in a stack of modern and classic surf films. It is located at the northern end of Grande Plage, and on account of the rock, you can’t miss it.
The rock does a good job of collecting drifting sands, which in turn, has formed a decent peak right in front.
Fun on small swells, pumping on bigger swells, Miramar is known for short and punchy rights and lefts and is often (but not always) a less chaotic scene than what’s going down at Grande Plage.
Biarritz Grande Plage
Grande Plage is where it all started in France. In the 50s and 60s, this is where surfing became popularized in France as traveling Americans and Australians brought their boards and know-how, and the locals quickly got on the program.
Grande Plage is a mellow beach break (most of the time), with both left and right peaks up and down the beach.
As the tide pushes up, the waves move in and become a little more punchy and suited to experienced surfers. But, generally, Grande Plage is surfed by beginners, longboarders, and everyone in-between.
Expect to get dropped in on by everyone and anyone at Grande Plage, it’s just that kind of place. Most surfers get their waves elsewhere and come down in the evening to socialize and drink on the beach while watching the sunset and the spectacle unfold before them.
La Cote des Basques
La Cote des Basques is the best spot for waves in Biarritz by a long shot. Where Grande Plage is considered a little bit of a novelty wave to surf, La Cote des Basques is anything but. It is a long stretch of beach with multiple peaks that can be located on the south side of Biarritz.
Nestled into the rocky headland overlooking Cote des Basques is the neo-medieval mansion “Villa Belza”, which was built in the late 19th century and is one of the most striking buildings you’ll ever see.
Just below the Villa Belza is a defined peak with a rock/ sand bottom that can hold plenty of size on bigger days.
From there the beach stretches out and you’ll find all sorts of surfers, on all sorts of craft. This spot can get really busy in the summer, as it’s generally super easy to surf, with cruisy waves that cater to learners a little too well.
Best to get in early while everyone else is still chewing their way through their baguette, and find somewhere else to surf in the day. The trek down the cliffs from the car park can feel quite long, and even longer when it’s your turn to climb back up it.
Luckily, there’s a defined series of steps that will make your mission a little easier, we guess.
Marbella is a break at the southern end of Cote des Basques that is more exposed and rocky. These two factors combined are why it is rarely surfed by beginners and can be a hush, hush haven for intermediate and advanced surfers.
The problem is, is that it’s prone to closing out when the waves get over 4ft. So, although Marbella is always worth a check from the cliffs, it isn’t a break that can be relied upon when the swell starts to pulse.
An outgoing tide is best safety-wise, as it alleviates the risk of you getting pushed up into the rocks with the incoming tide.
South Of Biarritz
Marbella is kind of the end of the road for Biarritz in terms of waves. However, the wave quality most certainly doesn’t end at the city line, with a fine stretch of waves just a few miles south. Between Bidart and Saint-Jean-de-Luz there is a varied selection of world-class waves.
Bidart has a series of peaks to its name, with little rocky outcrops and bays helping to shape the waves. A half-mile south of Bidart is where things start to get really interesting in and around the town of Guethary.
Known to hold up to 6m+ swells, Parlementia is one of the premier big-wave spots of France and makes for a great showing of bravery and skill on big days.
It is a rocky reef break that can produce 300-yard rides on its day. On small to medium-sized days, Parlementia turns into a fun and mellow spot for intermediate surfers to test their limits on.
Just be mindful of surf etiquette here, because this spot fills up and the locals don’t fancy sharing their precious resource with us blow-ins (tourists).
Around the corner from Parlementia is a punchy left reef break known as Senix. Senix can easily hold up to 6ft of swell and produce steep and rippable walls, with the odd barrel presenting itself too.
It is kind of off the beaten track, but a quick google will see you down at the Senix car park, hopefully locking into some classic waves that any goofy can appreciate.
A little further south along the cliffs you will find the epic righthand pointbreak “Lafitenia”. Lafitenia is a competitive wave that is crowded every day it’s breaking.
It can be super fun at 1-2ft, and insanely good at 6ft+, with a succession of sections that get faster and hollower as the wave wraps into the end-section bowl. Lafitenia can break at all times of the tide, but coming in off the low is when it is best.
Respect the locals and you will get waves here. Don’t show respect and you’ll get shouted at in Basque, and probably told to leave. Saint-Jean-de-Luz is an idyllic Basque city with a picture-perfect old town and a pretty neat reef break to its name.
Perfect for longboards, foils, learners, and retro boards, this is a cruisy wave that a lot of surfers will flock to when the exposed breaks are maxing out.
Where To Stay
Because Biarritz is an expensive city where rents are high, and space is a precious commodity, you won’t find many surf camps in the city itself.
Biarritz is more about surf hostels that provide dorm accommodation and have ties to surf schools, but the all-inclusive surf package is hard to come by in Biarritz.
If you don’t mind staying just outside of the city, then you can find a few surf camps with competitive packages. On the flip side, if you don’t mind spending a pretty penny and fancy your own space and some peace and quiet,
there are amazing hotels in Biarritz that cater to surfers. We’ve listed a selection of the best accommodation in and around Biarritz to suit all styles of surfer and trip.
Best Surf Schools In Biarritz
While there may be a lack of surf camps in Biarritz, one thing is for certain – there is no shortage of surf schools. Fitting in with the do-it-yourself surf trip,
surf schools are great because they can offer a casual approach to surfing. You can book in for a single session and see if you gel with the vibe of a school, before committing to an invested weekly program.
Or, there’s the option to secure a 3 or 5 lesson bundle while you’re in Biarritz, and space them out, you’re on holiday after all. If you already consider yourself an intermediate surfer and are looking to sharpen your skills with a private lesson, these can easily be arranged.
Surf lessons can also be a very social thing and a great way of meeting like-minded people who are looking to party and hang out after class. Wherever your loyalties to the surf lie, signing up for a lesson at one of Biarritz’s surf schools is never going to be a bad idea.
Other Things To Do
As fun as surfing is, sometimes you need a day, or even just a half-day away from the waves. Giving your body time to recharge is super important on a surf trip, as chances are you’ll be surfing a whole lot more than in your day-to-day life.
Luckily for you, Biarritz has plenty of things to see and do that don’t revolve around the ocean (as beautiful as she is). Biarritz is a paradise for people who like to shop, and the streets are lined with chich and boutique designer stores.
Hike The Coastal Track
If you’re looking to get out of the city on foot, then there’s a stunning coastal path that runs south straight out of town.
Winding its way through the previously mentioned towns of Bidart, Geuthary, and Saint-Jean-de-Luz, the track will take you all the way to Hendaye and the Spanish border if you’re keen enough.
At 16 miles and almost six hours, this is a pretty huge undertaking, but there’s no better way to take in the beauty of the Pyrenees-Atlantique’s coastline than by foot.
Luckily, there are buses that run along this stretch, so you can always just hike to wherever you feel is enough, stop for a bite of lunch and a cheeky drink, and get the bus back into Biarritz.
Summit La Rhune
If you’re a sucker for mountain views and you’ve got a car, then you’d be silly to not summit La Rhune. At 905m above sea level, La Rhune is the highest peak of the region, and, subsequently has a spectacular 360° view that’s beauty can not be overstated.
It takes just over 30 minutes to drive from the center of Biarritz to the bottom of the mountain, and the hike is a four-hour round trip, depending on your level of fitness and the route that you take.
Biarritz is a bucket list city for many surfers because it encapsulates everything that is good about this part of the world. The city has an old-world feel with a new-world sensibility and is filled with people who know they’ve lucked into the honey pot and don’t fancy wasting it.
People who are invested in their city, and are excited to share their unique culture with whoever is interested. Whether that be music, food, wine, beer, jewelry, clothes, or art, whatever you’re into, you can find it in Biarritz.
So if you’re looking for a surf holiday that will leave a lasting impression on you both in and out of the water, consider Biarritz you’re next destination, it’s that simple.