Viana Do Castelo is a spot that’s getting a name for itself on the international scene, with the GKA making a stop here for the Strapless world tour and one to which I’ve travelled to several times now. It boasts great conditions for kitesurfing, kitefoiling and kiteboarding which makes it no surprise why we choose to host our Progression Live Portugal camps here. If you’re looking for a location rich in local culture, with epic waves, ocean flats, and a variety of choices for where to stay, from your budget free campers to your luxury spa hotel goers, then this could be your next European kiting paradise.
- Time of Year
- Learning to Kitesurf in Viana
- Eating Out
- Getting to Viana
- Non-kiting Activities
- Best Forecast
Viana Do Castelo is located in Northern Portugal, just 25km from the Spanish border. Sitting on the Atlantic coast means colder water but a stronger thermal. The town hosts a variety of conditions from perfectly groomed Atlantic rollers for the wave riders to flat water fun with the Viana sea wall providing protection for some idyllic summer foiling conditions. Just a short 2.5-hour flight from London with budget tickets available, this could be your next ideal destination.
I’ve been to Viana 3 times now, each time staying somewhere different and there’s plenty of options from 5* luxury all the way down to free camping in the sand dunes.
The main kite beach of Cabadelo is located just 40 minutes drive away from Porto airport. Here you’ll find two spots which make up Viana’s kitesurfing, one tucked in by the sea wall and the other just 500m down the beach. You’ll also find a handful of good restaurants, some great campsites and free camping spots as well as the fantastic Feel Viana resort where Progression Live is based for it’s coaching camps. The main town is just the other side of the river from the beach, a short 5-minute drive, taxi, or even a water taxi which runs across every hour, here you can find plenty of other accommodation options and some great AirBnB’s.
There’s every sort of option for accommodation in Viana do Castelo. If you’re on a budget then there’s a selection of great campsites that are just a few minutes walk through the sand dunes to the beach. Whether you want to rent a small static caravan or pitch a tent they offer some cheaper options.
If you’re planning on staying in Viana town then there are tons of AirBnB’s – we stayed in one right at the top of the hillside where you could watch the wind come in every morning. You will want a car if you are staying up here as it’s a 10-minute drive down to the beach.
For those of you looking for a bit more luxury – Feel Viana is a 4* resort located in the sand dunes just behind the main spot at Cabadelo beach. This is the resort where we choose to host our Progression Live foiling camps. Set amongst the pine forests this place offers a really relaxing vibe combined with everything you could ever want- conditions wise and an amazing breakfast. For those wishing to travel with a non-kitesurfing partner, this is a great place to hang out with a really nice restaurant, pool and spa.
The prevailing and favoured wind is an NNW, which as long as there’s a small amount of heat will be accelerated by a sea breeze. This comes in cross shore, and slightly cross off over the low sea wall. The beach faces west and will work in Northerlies through to NW and S. Being the cold Atlantic and sea breezes’ a result of temperature differential, the thermals can start to kick off relatively early in the season, as soon as the land starts to warm up. Another common occurrence of the Portuguese west coast is sea mist, often you’ll find yourself with a 15m visibility in the mornings which will soon burn off as soon as the sun comes out, again this is just a result of the cold ocean.
You’ll be wanting a 3.2mm wetsuit in the summer, the air temperature can get nice and warm – up into the 30°C’s, the mornings may often start off slightly fresher when the sea mist is about but this will soon break as the land warms up. Riding here in the winter months you’ll be wanting the full works of a 5.3mm suit, boots and gloves. In the spring/autumn something in between.
Viana has two main kite spots, which are both on the same stretch of beach and separated by just 500 meters of sand. They do however both produce quite different conditions.
The main spot in Viana Do Castelo is located at the Northern end of Cabedelo beach. It’s sheltered by a larger outside sea wall which spans across the whole river mouth and protects the town from the harsh Atlantic waves. On the southern side of the river mouth, there is another much smaller sea wall, this creates glassy flat water on the inside as the wind blows over the wall and it’s this spot that can produce some of the best foiling conditions that I’ve found in Europe. Big swells can wrap around the main outer sea wall and be groomed to perfection at this inside spot with rumours of perfect hollow barrels reeling down the sand bars in the winter months. The winds are very cross-shore at this spot and can bend slightly off at times, so be prepared if you’re planning on foiling in the lighter winds.
Rodanho is located about 500 meters further south down the beach and provides a more onshore prevailing wind, this stretch of the beach tends to pick up a lot more swell. The waves break on a sandy bottom and you may have to move about to find the best sandbank that’s working at the time.
There are only a few hazards to be aware of on this beach. The main one being a small patch of rocks between the main spot and Rodanho, most are visible at low tide but keep your eyes peeled as the tide pushes up the beach. As when visiting any new spot chat with the locals or the watersports centre to understand any issues you should be aware of.
It’s a popular spot in the summer months and it can get quite busy on the water at times. The beach can often also be busy with regular beach go’ ers – generally as the wind picks up they get sandblasted off the beaches!
Time of Year
The best time of year to visit Viana for wind is in the summer months. The thermals get accelerated by the hot land and cold sea differential. Any time from late March – October you’ll expect to get a helping hand from this summer breeze effect. In the winter the riding here is not for the fainthearted, large swells and big Atlantic storms frequently come rolling in from the west. If you’re not afraid of the cold ocean and air temps around 10°C then you could be in for some world-class wave riding.
Learning to Kitesurf in Viana
The spot is one of the better places to learn to kite along this stretch of coastline. The predominately flat waters and consistent winds in the summer months will provide conditions that will help to get you hours on the water. If you’re not a fan of colder waters then it would be a trickier place to learn as you’ll be wanting at least a 3:2 wetsuit in the summer. There are a few schools in the area, if you’re staying at Feel Viana there Sports Centre has some great instructors.
Viana do Castelo has a variety of restaurants and bars in the main town – you can get everything you want from Portuguese delicacies to great Italian and Indian food. If you’re planning on staying in one of the hotels or camp spots around Cabedelo beach then there are a handful of cafes and restaurants at the northern end. Top tip – head to the Aqaurio Bar for a Franceschina after a long day on the water. Restaurants in and around town vary from €7 to €20 for a main course and there are tons of amazing bakeries if you’re looking for a cheap and delicious breakfast or lunch. Expect to pay around €2.50 for a beer at most places. And be sure to try some port seeing as you are just 45 minutes from its home in Porto!
If you’re planning to stay in a bit more style at the Feel Viana resort, you’ll wake up to an amazing breakfast spread and the restaurant here is really fantastic for dinner but a little more on the pricey side in comparison to more local places.
Getting to Viana
Road tripping here is great, I am a big advocate for the van life having spent several months exploring the beaches around this area as well as the rest of the west coast of Portugal. There are endless places to free camp en route too which helps and it’s at the very beginning of an incredible stretch of coastline if you’re travelling from the north.
Flights to Porto from most European cities are very cheap and frequent. LGW – Porto comes in at around £80. Porto is just a half an hour drive away from the main town, there are lots of places to hire cars from the airport there and this tends to work out the cheapest option oppose to taxis if there’s a couple or more of you.
There’s more than just kiting to this place. If you’re a keen surfer then there’s plenty of waves to play on. There’s often idyllic Surf or SUP foil surfing waves rolling in over one of the sandbars if it’s a bit smaller but head down the beach towards Rodanho to find something with a bit more size.
If there really is no wind and waves then you can always take to the trails, for the keen MTB’ers then head to the Feel Viana Sports centre where you can hire a great variety bike from road to MTB and even E-bikes. For hiking and running, there are tons of places to head, from just exploring the sand dunes to the trails which lead you all the way up the hillside behind the town.
A few hours exploring nearby Porto is also worth a trip and an opportunity to visit the port wine cellars for some tastings.
You’re looking for the NW’s here but the beach will work with any wind with W in it all the way from the Northerlies to Southerlies. The sun is the key factor for making this spot work in the summer months, as long as the wind is in the right direction the forecast may be incredibly light but when the land heats up you’ll happily be out riding on a foil. I always use Windguru and find that that has been nice and accurate for this spot, just be sure to add a few more knots onto the forecast when it’s sunny! Windfinder’s superforecast is also another good option as it seems to add in the local thermals.