San Sebastian is well known for its cobblestone old town, world-famous restaurants, picturesque coastline, and beautiful bayfront promenade, but that’s not all. This small coastal town is also a mecca for surfers from all around the world.
San Sebastian’s long white sand beaches and big breaks offer surfers an amazing surfing location where they can catch the perfect wave. With thousands of surfers of all skill levels heading to San Sebastian every year, this resort town has geared itself up perfectly for welcoming surfers.
As well as some of the best surfing in the Basque Country, San Sebastian has high-quality surfing schools, awesome hotels, and an abundance of lovely places to eat.
With so much on offer in San Sebastian for surfers it is important you know what to expect and what to do when you arrive. To help you out we have put together the ultimate guide to San Sebastian surf.
Whether you’re looking for your next surfing holiday, or simply want to find something fun to do when on holiday here, we have something for you.
In our guide, we will look at where San Sebastian is, the best places to surf, the best surfing seasons, surfing schools available, where to stay, and much more.
Let’s not waste any more time, let’s dive into the guide!
Where Is San Sebastian?
Before we start looking at why San Sebastian is such a good surfing location it is probably a good idea to look at where San Sebastian is. San Sebastian is a coastal resort town in Spain. To be more exact it is located on the Bay of Biscay within Spain’s mountainous Basque Country.
Sitting less than 10-miles away from the Spanish-French border, the town is to the west of Cantabria which happens to be another great surfing location with long open beaches. To the North and East of San Sebastian is the French Basque Coast which is home to Biarritz.
How To Get To San Sebastian?
San Sebastian is accessible via flying, driving, or by train. Below you will find information regarding each mode of transportation.
San Sebastian has its own small airport but unfortunately, there are only a handful of domestic connections going there from within Spain.
A better option and the most likely one you will take is to fly into Bilbao Airport before getting a transfer. There is a direct bus from the airport. Alternatively, you could drive yourself. This would take approximately 1.2 hours.
San Sebastian has great links to the main coast round through Spain (AP-8). It also has good links to the highway that heads to Madrid (AP-15). These good road links make driving to San Sebastian fairly easy and hassle-free.
If you want to catch a train in or out of San Sebastian you can jump on RENFE services. This regular train connection service runs to Barcelona and Madrid. Trains to Barcelona take roughly 5.5 hours. Trains to Madrid take about 8 hours.
Let Us Introduce You To San Sebastian Surf
Now you know where San Sebastian is and how to get there, we can start looking at the more interesting and exciting parts of our guide. San Sebastian is arguably the most popular and well-known surf town in Spain.
Here you will find a wonderful array of unique surf hostels and surf camps that suit both experienced and beginner surfers looking to catch some waves, making it the perfect surfing holiday getaway destination or somewhere to simply try something new.
Admittedly the breaks may not be the biggest along the Iberian Peninsular but they are still up there with the best, besides you won’t want waves too big or powerful in size if you’re going to San Sebastian to learn.
The town has three beaches that all offer consistent breaks all year round. These beaches are called La Concha, Ondarreta, and La Zurriola. At these beaches, you can expect to find powerful, wedgy breaks with swift left and right rides.
The beaches in San Sebastian pick up awesome breaks thanks to westerly and north-westerly and swells from the Cantabrian Sea. Being more sheltered than the French coast makes San Sebastian a better place for learners to improve their surfing skills.
The fact San Sebastian is also connected to a bustling beautiful town also helps to make it an incredible surfing spot. You don’t need to worry about travelling far to catch a wave and you don’t even need to hire a car if you stay in a local hotel or surfing hostel.
You can enjoy the waves during the day and indulge in local cultures, and plenty of wine at night.
The Best Surf Spots In San Sebastian
San Sebastian has a brilliant range of options when it comes to finding the best surfing spot. Some are in the town itself, while others are a little further out. The ones in the town will be the easiest to access by foot.
Others outside the town may require you to hire a car to get there unless you have other means of transportation or a surfing school provides transport.
We will start with the most popular surf spot in San Sebastian. The surf at Zurriola Beach is by far the most consistent and reliable of the breaks within the town. Set in an open bay the beach is perfectly exposed to swells from the north.
With a typical wave size of four to six feet, you can expect wave breaks to come in from the left and right. The best swells at Zurriola Beach have been reported when a Northwest swell has combined with strong offshore winds from the South-southeast.
In the summer months, the waves are smaller, suiting beginners more. It is in the winter months that conditions are better for more experienced surfers.
Amazing surf and soft sand underfoot make this beach a sought-after location with local surf schools and tourists so it can get quite busy.
La Concha is the long golden beach found below San Sebastian’s old town. Though the surf isn’t as consistent as that at Zurriola Beach, La Concha is easily the most beautiful of the town’s three beaches.
The surf tends to be unpredictable with no seasonal pattern, but good solid breaks can still be expected.
Despite inconsistent surf, many beginners and kayakers choose to use this beach to their advantage. Breaks at La Concha are best when the wind comes from the south with swells coming from the northwest.
The beach tends to receive a mix of wind swells and groundswells. Waves at the beach are also both right and left rides.
There is an excellent point break at Playa de Ondarreta that offers some great quality swells ranging from three to seven feet. When the waves at this point do get seriously interesting the spot quickly gets crowded by locals who have been waiting a long time.
For the surf at this sheltered point to be worth it, the conditions have to be just right. Winter is usually the best time of year to surf here. A lot of the surf here is from groundswells, with the ideal swells coming from the northwest.
Offshore winds come from the south. One advantage to surfing at Ondarreta is that the surf isn’t affected by the tide.
We can’t talk about surfing in the Basque Country and not mention Zarautz. Zarautz is just over 20km away from San Sebastian but it is well worth the visit. Playa de Zarautz offers surf so good it has its own competition that forms part of the classification stage for the World Surf League.
Here you will find great left and right rides on a consistent basis, reaching up to 8 feet in height.
Summer offers the best conditions for surfing in Zarautz. Winds from the south, ground and wind swells, and swells from the north-northwest create the best surfing conditions.
Though the beach can get busy, its length allows people to find more space along the beach. The beach is also a big hit with shortboard riders so if that is something you enjoy be sure to check Playa de Zarautz out.
To get to Zarautz you could hire your own car or see if a surf school will take you there. You could use public transportation but if you have your own equipment you will really struggle.
Biarritz And Hendaye
If you’re up for an adventure during your time in San Sebastian you could even cross the border into France and visit some of the best surfing spots on offer there. Only an hour or less away from San Sebastian is Biarritz and Hendaye.
Both are unbelievable surfing destinations suitable for both beginners and more experienced surfers. You would want to visit these two destinations on a day trip so if you have a spare day why not consider checking them out.
This will give you the experience of surfing in France and Spain on one trip.
Surfing Seasons In San Sebastian
San Sebastian’s surfing seasons are pretty similar to most of Spain. In general, the waves in the summer are smaller and flatter and the waves in winter are bigger. To give you a good idea of what you can expect throughout the year we have gone through each season below.
Spring (April – May)
During spring you can expect to experience good breaks most days. A good level of reliability results in waves that make surfing worthwhile about 60% of the time which is pretty good.
During this time of year, the waves will be more enjoyable at Zurriola Beach and Playa de Zarautz. This is because westerlies are big enough to reach around the coast.
As the summer surfing conditions haven’t started to set in yet you could also expect glassy conditions and quite cold water so you might choose to wear gloves, hooded clothing, and boots.
Summer (June – August)
Summer is a lovely time to visit San Sebastian but the surf isn’t the best. If you want a delightful summer holiday with surfing on the side this is great as the bars and restaurants are all open and the sun is out. However, if you want to surf daily you might not be in luck.
Unfortunately, the surf in San Sebastian during the summer months isn’t anywhere near as consistent. Zurriola Beach is north-facing. You need rare northwest swells to come through if you are to experience any good riding waves.
Offshores can be rare because the northeast waves head through France instead. Some days are excellent but they are pretty hard to come by. In fact, you can probably only expect good surf 20% of the time.
In the summer San Sebastian is more about cerveza and tapas.
Autumn (September – October)
Autumn is considered to be the best time to book a surfing getaway to San Sebastian. It is this time of year that the northwest swell from the Atlantic begins to rumble around Iceland.
This fires up the main swell in the Bay of Biscay, bringing impressive waves to the town’s shore as well as some great sheltered sets. Zurriola Beach experiences much more consistency during this time of year. La Concha also enjoys more consistent swells.
Winter (November – March)
Winter in San Sebastian sees the largest and most impressive swells travel through the Bay of Biscay. These swells increase the consistency of rideable swells throughout the Basque Country, producing the perfect surfing conditions approximately 80% of the time.
This is great news for beginners as La Concha is a protected bay with plenty of nice waves that are a lot more manageable. Surfers with more experience will enjoy riding even bigger waves at Zurriola Beach.
Those with even more experience will find the biggest of waves in Zarautz. Overall winter is the most reliable time of year if you want more sessions in the water.
The Best Surfing Camps & Surfing Schools In San Sebastian
It doesn’t matter if you’re completely new to surfing or a seasoned professional, attending a surfing camp or taking part in surfing lessons is a great way to develop your skills, meet new people, try something new, and experience the best waves on offer.
To help you find a fantastic surf school when in San Sebastian we have listed some of the best in the town.
Gipsy Riders is a mobile surf school based in San Sebastian. They offer fun lessons for all levels of surfer. For beginner surfers, the friendly, experienced instructors will focus on getting you up on the board for the first time.
For more experienced surfers they will look at improving your ability to perform more advanced skills.
The best thing about Gipsy Riders is their variety of lessons and mobility. You can take part in private 1-1 lessons, private group lessons, open group lessons, and there is even a summer camp for children.
If you fancy a unique surf tour, Gipsy Riders will take you out on a day-long surfing excursion to Zarautz and Biarritz.
The Groseko Indarra surf school was opened in 2006. Located right on La Zurriola beach, they are in the perfect location to teach you how to surf. At this surf school, they organize surfers into groups based on age and skill level to maximize their learning potential.
On offer from Groseko surf are tailored private lessons, small group lessons, a week-long package with five lessons, and a monthly package that includes one lesson a week.
Though this school is better suited to beginners, the coaches are happy to work with higher-level surfers too. One huge advantage of this school is that all equipment is included.
If it’s a fully immersed surfing holiday you’re after the Zurriola Surf School could be the one for you. Again based at Zurriola Beach, this surfing school doesn’t only offer lessons.
They also offer one-of-a-kind surfing trips where they take you to all of the best surfing spots and provide you with everything you need during your time in San Sebastian. On top of that, they will explore the local area with you, show you where to eat, and teach you about local cultures.
The lessons at this school are also phenomenal. They run daily, weekly, and monthly courses that develop your knowledge and improve your ability. A nice touch is the video correction lessons.
In this lesson, they work with beginners and higher-level surfers to work on more intricate details. This is great for those that need to hone more advanced maneuvers.
The final school we want to talk about is Surfing San Sebastian. This school is a good option because they offer a bit of everything to everyone.
On offer here are mobile lessons taking you to the best surf spots, overnight surfing camps where everything is included, daily lessons, weekly lessons, and monthly lessons.
It is this diversity of lessons that surfers love. You have complete freedom over how much surfing you do and what you learn, making it super easy to fit your lessons into your busy schedule.
If you want to stay over at your surfing school, we highly recommend you take a good look at this school. The highly qualified instructors will ensure you learn as much as possible while having a fun and enjoyable holiday.
What Equipment Do You Need?
If you already own lots of surfing equipment and are happy to take it to San Sebastian with you then that’s great, but it doesn’t mean you need to. If you want to travel light or for those that don’t have any equipment all of the surf schools and shops in San Sebastian will let you rent most of it.
To give you an idea of what you need to hire out or bring with you if you want to, here is a list
of things you will need.
- Wetsuit (Suitable for the time of year)
- Footwear (Depending on the weather and surface conditions)
- Camera (If you want to take photos)
- Sunscreen (Dependant on the weather)
- Water bottle
Surf Shops In San Sebastian
If you find yourself needing to buy anything surf-related or simply want to treat yourself, there’s no need to worry.
As the town is such a popular surfing destination there are plenty of great shops offering whatever it is you’re looking for. To give you an idea of the surf shops in San Sebastian, here is some information about two of our favorites.
The Puskas Surf Shop in San Sebastian is easily up there with the best. In fact, it is now one of the most well-known surf shops in Europe. As well as creating tailor-made boards perfect for the swell in San Sebastian, they also sell a huge range of different surf-related products.
This includes a wide range of surfing accessories, surfing travel gear, men’s, and women’s surf clothing, and a whole range dedicated to stylish surf-related clothing. Even if you choose not to buy anything, the Pukas store is well worth checking out.
Alongside their surfing lessons, Surfing San Sebastian also has a pretty neat store selling fashionable surfing apparel.
Their sustainable fashion range includes vibrant, modern trees, shorts, jumpers, and a number of beautifully designed accessories. Taking a look around the Surfing San Sebastian store is a must after your surfing lesson.
The Best Places To Stay In San Sebastian
To give you a head start when it comes to planning your trip to San Sebastian, we have found some amazing accommodation options that might suit what you are looking for. The following accommodation options vary in price but are all in a great location.
Casa 17 $
If you’re on a tight budget then look no further than Casa 17. Located right in the heart of the town and only a 300 yard walk away from the beach, this accommodation offers you everything you need at a ridiculously affordable price.
For a bargain price, you get a cozy bedroom with all the basic necessities and the use of a lovely shared bathroom. In our opinion, you will struggle to find a better option so cheap.
Pension Kursaal $$
If you want to spend a fair amount of money on accommodation but don’t want to break the bank, why not check out Pension Kursaal.
This hotel has wonderful hotel rooms at a very reasonable price. With each double room, you get a large double bed, great views, a beautiful bathroom, and a TV. The biggest draw of this accommodation is its location. It is found right near the beach, only a short walk from the old town
Apartment Zurriola Luxury Surf Beach $$$
This apartment is perfect for families or groups of friends. If you’re travelling with a large group, you should strongly consider booking this apartment. Situated right by Zurriola Beach, you’ll be able to walk to catch the waves every day.
Once you’ve finished your day of surfing you can return to a luxury pad fitted with a luxurious interior, flat-screen TVs, stunning bedrooms, and a gorgeous lounge.
Where To Eat In San Sebastian?
San Sebastian is full of delicious places to eat and drink but there are some places you definitely need to visit over others. We have made three recommendations of great places to eat and drink in San Sebastian so be sure to check them out.
Bar Borda Berri $
Bar Borda Berri is our number one recommendation for cheap eats in San Sebastian. It is one of the most famous pintxos bars in San Sebastian and for good reason.
The food is delicious. They have a huge range of local, traditional foods, an English menu, and plenty of light bar snacks too. This bar is a great place to stop for a quick, cheap bite to eat after a long surfing session.
Bar Iptox $$
Bar Iptox is possibly the best pintxos place to eat in San Sebastian. One reason for this is its location. Sitting behind Zurriola Beach this restaurant offers authentic food, sandwiches, and a refreshing cerveza all within a stone’s throw of the sea. You get treated to all of this at a very reasonable price.
Juantxo Taberna $$
Juantxo Taberna is where you want to go if you want to indulge in a Basque Country sandwich. This casual, laid-back sandwich house is set near La Concha Beach. On offer here is delicious fresh bread served with a wide range of yummy fillings such as meats, and vegetables.
San Sebastian is a wonderful place to visit not only for surfing. Yes, there are three long white sand beaches with amazing surf but that’s not all that’s on offer here which is why it is important you get it right when you visit.
In our opinion, the best thing to do is visit San Sebastian on a holiday where you have plenty of time to surf, but also plenty of time to immerse yourself in local cultures.
Whether you’re new to surfing or not, taking part in a high-quality surfing lesson in San Sebastian or the local area is a good way to improve your ability and enjoy the surf the town has to offer.
While the time of year and its seasons affects how good the surf in San Sebastian is, it is still one of the most consistently good surfing spots in the Basque Country, if not the whole of Spain.
Our guide has gone through everything you need to plan the perfect surf trip to San Sebastian. We hope you have found it useful and that we may even have given you the inspiration you need to plan your next surf holiday.