This blog post was originally posted on January 29, 2020 and was updated on October 6 2020.
Spain’s northern coastline—San Sebastian included—is famous for its magnificent surfing spots.
But what makes San Sebastian even more unique is that it’s one of the few places in the world where you can find amazing waves right in the heart of a lively city.
This allows you to combine surfing with other amazing things the city has to offer: culture, nature, gastronomy… you name it! Get ready to dive in—here’s our complete guide to surfing in San Sebastian.
Zurriola Beach: The best beach for surfing in San Sebastian
In the city of San Sebastian you can find not one or two but four beaches in total (if you count Santa Clara Island). And technically, it’s possible to surf on all of them when the tides are high.
But if you’re serious about catching some great waves, Zurriola is where you want to head. Known as San Sebastian’s best surfers’ beach, it’s every water sport enthusiast’s favorite spot in town.
With four beaches within city limits, what makes Zurriola stand out as a great spot for surfing in San Sebastian? It all comes down to geography.
Whereas the other main beaches in San Sebastian—Playa de La Concha and Playa de Ondarreta—are more enclosed in a shell-shaped curve along the coast, Zurriola Beach is separated from them by the Urumea River. The stretch of coastline it lies on is much more exposed to the Cantabrian Sea, which makes for great surfing conditions at any time of day (including some intense multi-peak waves).
Zurriola Beach is the best spot for surfing in San Sebastian for surfers of all levels. Beginners should stick to the area directly in front of the Kursaal conference center, which is a bit more sheltered with less intense waves.
The 800 meters of coastline at Zurriola also offer plenty of other opportunities to get moving. In addition to surfers, you’ll also find people playing volleyball, soccer, or going for a run along the shore. The lively and laid-back atmosphere at this beach makes it perfect for getting active—and the breathtaking natural beauty surrounding it doesn’t hurt, either.
Gros: A surfers’ barrio
Right alongside Zurriola Beach, you’ll find the Gros district—San Sebastian’s hip surfers’ neighborhood full of lively bars and great gastronomy. With its many hostels and B&Bs, this is the perfect area to find accommodation for your surf getaway.
Spending the day catching waves at Zurriola will guarantee you work up an appetite. Head to Calle Peña y Goñi for some of the best pintxo bars in town. Our favorite is Bodega Donostiarra, where you’ll find traditional Basque food and some of the most iconic pintxos in San Sebastian. As of fall 2020, they’re also offering a takeout service, so you can even enjoy a pintxos picnic on the beach.
On the other hand, if you need some energy before hitting the waves in the morning, local surfers love coming to Uh-Mami for breakfast. Here, they serve the freshest smoothies and açai bowls in town.
Where to learn the basics of surfing in San Sebastian, for beginers
First time riding the waves, but still want to go surfing in San Sebastian? No problem.
If you’ve never surfed before, the best way to get started is with the help of a professional. All of the schools in the area offer guided surf classes where you’ll learn everything you need to know. Choose your level from beginner to advanced, and whether you’d prefer a group lesson or a private class. There are countless surf schools in the Gros neighborhood, so you’re sure to find one that fits your needs, budget, and learning style.
More surf spots in the Basque Country
If you want to get out of town, or the waves aren’t ideal in San Sebastian, you can always drive or catch a train to nearby Zarautz, a true surf town only 15 minutes away from San Sebastian. Besides a gorgeous long beach with some of the Basque Country’s best waves, it’s an attractive small city where you’ll also find great pintxo places.
With a sprawling main beach spanning 2.5 kilometers, Zarautz offers plenty of different surf zones suitable to all levels. Surfing conditions are almost always ideal here, and if you’re a beginner, you’ll be able to find a good amount of surf schools in the town as well.
If you’re especially hungry after your surf session, or you want to make a full day of it and throw in some foodie fun as well, head down the coast a bit further. Zarautz is just a five-minute bus ride away from Getaria, a village famous for amazing seafood and txakoli, the Basque Country’s signature semi-sparkling white wine. Our recommendation for lunchtime pintxos is Elkano Txiki, a true gastronomic paradise serving some of the freshest fish on the Cantabrian coast.
Find more waves from France
Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side—but in this case, we’re talking about the waves across the border.
You’ll find some of the best surfing spots in Europe on the French side of the Basque Country. Hendaye and Biarritz are both great options, and they’re each less than an hour’s drive from San Sebastian—perfect for a day trip!
Catch a bus back to San Sebastian right before dinner time. After all, nothing wakes up the appetite better than a good surf session, and txikiteo is the perfect way to end your day catching waves.
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After living years in Madrid and Barcelona, Tita found her home in San Sebastian, not least because of the delicious food. Nothing beats a bottle of sidra and a plate of anchoas after a Sunday hike in the green mountains of Basque Country, she says.