Perfect Surf, Candlelit Yoga & Wine Tasting. This Is The Best Break You've Never Heard Of
We found paradise and it was crazy cheap....
It was a grey October day in London. The weather wasn't icy yet, but the warm rays of summer were definitely long gone for another year.
In the middle of a cloudy city, ideas of long lazy days on a hot beach and clean waves with temperatures high enough to allow a night time swim seemed far away.
A sunny escape is not an impossible dream for surfers in the autumn months, but it sounds like would involve a long haul flight with a hefty price tag to Bali or Hawaii.
But could this dream might be much closer than we first thought? Only two hours away on the Algarve coast, Bura Surfhouse’s Surf Yoga Wine retreat promises all of the above, without parting with the same time or money.
It sounded too good to be true, so I hopped on a quick flight to Portugal to see for myself...
Arriving late at night, it only took me three and a half hours to travel from London to Portugal and from Faro airport out to my coastal destination.
Honestly spent longer on my commute to work and back on busy days in the city.
Yet today, far from London’s traffic and skyscrapers, I’ve travelled across countries and a short distance from the airport to arrive at Bura Surfhouse in the beautiful southern coast of Portugal, with five days of surf safaris, wine tasting and yoga sessions ahead of me.
The surfhouse itself is made up of a big white villa, renovated to hold up to 45 guests at the busiest months of the year, in a choice of private and shared dorm rooms.
There is a big open plan kitchen and lounge area with wetsuits, skateboards, paddle boards and surfboards dotted around the terrace outside. A pool table is hidden in the corner outside and there's a choice of poolside and rooftop bars to suit your mood.
This chilled out paradise was far removed from the stag party and golf holiday haven I’d previously imagined Portugal to be.
"Met by a table of banana pancakes, fresh fruit, toast and coffee, we dozily ate a good breakfast and headed outside to be met by a fleet of surf vans"
The friendly staff have a real love for the place (some of them are guests that have never left!) and their laid back vibes make you feel less like you’re at a hostel, and more as though your living in the raddest house share on earth.
The cost of the retreat includes room and meals, along with surf lessons, yoga sessions, wine tasting and free days to explore.
Still slightly disbelieving, I went to bed on the first night excited to meet the group and get started with the adventures.
Joining me were ten others, an awesome group of people of all ages, from all corners of the world, looking for the same chilled out vibes.
Finding a table of banana pancakes, fresh fruit, toast and coffee, we dozily chatted and ate a good breakfast before heading outside to find a fleet of surf vans and instructors, waiting to hit the road and take us to the best waves of the day.
While some surf classes just take you down to the closest beach, this experience was a totally different story.
Conditions change fast around here and surfers have to chase the waves, so this week we’d be chasing them too.
Cruising around in the beat-up surf trucks, the local surfers explained the swells and breaks of the area, taking us to bay after bay of seascapes worthy of a double spread in National Geographic.
"We spend an awesome four hours in the ocean, lathering our faces in zinc as to not burn in the October sun."
The search was worth the effort as we came across an empty beach with clean, rolling three foot sets, perfect for our first day out.
Dividing the group into beginners and advanced, we spent an awesome four hours in the ocean, lathering our faces in zinc so as to not burn in the October sun, before heading in for lunch.
Digging into the beach picnic of salad, pasta, fruit and more, I sat on the sand and wondered why anyone would look further afield for their autumn holiday.
Back at the hostel, yoga instructor Miri Hussain met us each night for candlelit yoga on the rooftop.
A surfer herself, Miri uses her sessions to teach a combination of Hatha Yoga and Vinyasa flow.
She tailored each class to ease and stretch out the muscles we'd used popping up on our boards and battling the waves.
Each night we’d return to the hostel feeling achey, only to wake up the next day after a session with Miri to find the pain miraculously healed.
In the midst of fresh air and waves, there was still plenty of time for good food and beer, provided by two of Bura’s best, Phoebe and Brent.
Vegetarian chef Brent might look like the missing member of Tame Impala, but in reality he is an amazing cook. He served up freshly-cooked meals from hearty moussaka one night to marinated chicken and Mediterranean salad the next.
"We found ourselves slightly sun burnt, very full and a little tipsy by 11pm each night"
Downstairs Phoebe ran the bar. Serving boozy fresh fruit smoothies in the day and unbelievably cheap bottles of pilsner each night, she epitomized the free, fun Bura vibe.
Between the two of them, they managed to leave us slightly sunburnt, very full and a little tipsy by 11pm each night, hanging out by the pool or laid out on the sofas inside.
By the last day of the retreat, we all looked a little browner and felt a little fitter.
Looking in the bathroom mirror, I noticed that my legs look slightly more toned from the constant carrying of boards and popping onto waves.
Luckily for our tired bodies, the final day was a break from the activity with a trip to a local vineyard.
Sat in the sun, we chilled out and chatted over glasses of wine, bread and cheese, talking about the various adventures over the last few days we'd spent together.
"We all look a little browner and felt a little fitter"
Leaving the retreat and heading back to the airport, I marvelled at the fact that this beach bum's paradise is only a few hours away from my bedroom back in London.
Turning on my mobile data and reconnecting with the outside world for the first time in five days, I sent one message to all my friends back in the UK.
"Have you got a free week and £250 spare? Because I know exactly where we're going on our next holiday..."
Do It Yourself:
EasyJet fly from London to Faro, Portugal from £66 return.
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