Aaah Portugal, one of the sunniest areas of Europe. With around 3000 hours sunshine a year, it’s no wonder so many Northern Europeans escape their polar climate, and head down to the land of plenty. Ideal for surfers (so many different waves), Portugal has something to offer every traveller. So when I was invited to review the Perfect Spot Hostel for a Surf & Yoga Retreat in Cascais, Lisbon, I didn’t need to think twice.
As I’m writing this, I’m sitting on my private balcony, overlooking the lush huge garden. Clear blue sky, a comfortable 22 degrees (Celsius), birds singing in the trees.
The Perfect Spot Hostel is owned by Portugese Rita & Jon, a very welcoming warm and friendly couple. They started the hostel in 2013, as the first hostel in Cascais. Since then, some 20 more hostels have popped up in town. It’s easy to get to from Lisbon, as it’s just a 30 minutes train ride.
You probably have a picture in your head when you read the word ‘hostel’. This hostel is different though. It’s not your typical hostel where you find 15 teenagers cramped in a 2x2M room, sweating like no one’s business. This hostel is clean. This hostel is spacey (not in a mind-altering kind of way). This hostel feels like it’s run by a sweet little family. Which it is. So that’s how it feels.
Clean sheets, clean bathrooms, quiet (best night’s sleep I’ve ever had actually), big garden, big and very clean kitchen, and delicious meals cooked by a brilliant chef (Jon).
Surfing around Cascais
Beaches are close, it’s a 5 minute walk to the closest beach. However, that beach does not get any waves. It’s a beach for working. On your tan. So if you’re looking for a surf spot close by, you need to get on the train to Carcavelos (10 mins, which isn’t that much of a hassle to be honest), or have your own transport.
There are plenty of surf spots on the way from Cascais to Carcavelos though. I’ve seen them work. But, it’s not walking distance from the hostel, you need a car.
Then there’s Guincho, a spot that is more prone to the wind that the spots in the direction of Carcavelos, but when it works, it works. I reaaally wanted to check out Guincho, but unfortunately that didn’t happen (too little time). I heard that it was quite blown out though. And this is what Magic Seaweed says about Guincho:
“Better known for its windsurfing conditions Praia Guincho is actually one of the better beachbreaks in the Lisbon area and certainly one of the most consistent. When it’s good, wedgy, powerful rights break off the cliffs at the northern end. Mid-low tide on a NW swell is better, but it gets blown out very easily”.
So I did get some nice clean waves at Carcavelos, though they were pretty small. When you have a northerly swell, it needs to wrap around the corner to reach Carcavelos. This is what Magic Seaweed says about Carcavelos:
“The original and still one of the best Portuguese surf spots, Carcavelos is a awesome beachbreak. Beside the fort at the eastern end, cylindrical lefts roll over shifting sandbars, attracting seemingly every surfer in the city and most of the foreign surfers on the Costa Estoril. Best on a SW swell, when power intensifies and the occasional right appears. Highly consistent, always crowded, rips, some localism, pay to park and there are all facilities”.
Sadly the yoga teacher wasn’t there at the time I was there. Fortunately, I’m a teacher myself. And sweet Lauren (who was also staying there by invitation) as well, so we just did our own yoga. Plenty of room to practice. Although I think the yoga mats were not the very best to practice on, so bring your own if you’re a passionate yogi.
The beach is also an option.
Or the Commerce Square in Lisbon.
Site-seeing Cascais & Lisbon
Cascais is a lovely Portugese harbour town. I expected it to be smaller, but maybe it’s the hills that make it seem big. Walking up and down so much; it’s a good thing that I put on my ugly yet comfortable running shoes. If you prefer, you can conserve some energy by taking the free bikes in the city centre from 9-18.00hrs.
One of the things I love about Portugese (and other Mediterranean) cities, are the tiny alleys, the colourful walls, the street art. The laundry hanging out of the windows, a bra fluttering in the wind. A local fruit stall owned by the sweetest old men.
To discover that, you need to walk around, just going nowhere, and definitely steer clear from the touristy squares and overpriced restaurants. It’s outside the touristy places where you can find magic in food, in people, and in scenery.
We spent one afternoon in Lisbon, which was awesome. There’s so much happening in that city, music everywhere, people dancing on the street, very chatty Italian tuk-tuk drivers. And the best food I’ve had in a while. Especially the Santini ice cream (chocolate and coconut, I had 2 rounds!) at the Time Out Mercado Da Ribeira. It’s a collection of 35 some shops and restaurants selling regional specialities. Very hard to move on from there, so make sure you schedule in enough time. Especially for the ice cream (did I mention the ice cream?).
How to get around
Like I said, it’s easier to have your own car or motorbike, but the public transport is also very easy, cheap and comfortable. Cascais-Lisbon is 30 minutes and less than 3EUR.
Free bikes are somewhere available in the city centre of Cascais.
From the hostel, you can walk to the supermarkets (2 minute walk), to the city centre (5 mins) and to the beach (5 mins).
Would I go again?
I loved the experience, I loved the hostel, Jon & Rita (and little Jon Jr.), and the people I met. I would definitely recommend Perfect Spot to anyone looking for a nice place to stay around Lisbon and Cascais, and looking for a place to learn how to surf.
For those on the search for waves and wanting to stay somewhere very close to a break, I wouldn’t necessarily say this is the perfect spot to stay for a longer time, but that also depends on the swell, and if you have your own surfboard and transport.
One thing’s for sure, Perfect Spot is the perfect spot to find yourself a very welcoming home away from home.
Prices: starting at €16 pppn for a dorm bed, and €22 pppn for a private double room.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars