Biarritz – An Active Holiday Guide
At once surf-cool and chic, Biarritz’s large sandy beaches and boutique-lined hilly streets have been drawing the great and the good since way back when.
Biarritz is graced by artists, surfers and good time chasers from around the world. It’s a story of two halves; with its belle époque mansions standing tall on the cliff top and road-trippin’ surfers, the sun-bleached summer destination is a cultural mash-up of 19th-century opulence and grass roots cool.
Our active holiday guide to Biarritz will take you through the sports orientated must-dos of this classic French seaside town, plus we’ll give you the lowdown on the best bars, restaurants, hotels and highlights along the way…
Biarritz – La Grande Plage | © Flickr – Thierry Llansades
A sandy inlet softly curving inwards from the jumble of jagged rocks that make up the spiny Basque coast, Biarritz is the most accessible seaside town on the Landes coast. Sandwiched a mere 20 minutes between the Spanish frontier and the quaint town of Bayonne to the north, the small but mighty seaside village is renowned for its indoor markets, winding medieval avenues and a booming action sports industry that caters to all age ranges.
Providing impeccable transport links from the neighbouring airport into the centre of town and deep into the heart of the Basque country, visitors are free to unplug and relax, exploring the town and its environs by bike, foot or sea!
Home to six long beaches of pure golden sand pounded by surf, Biarritz pulls in a lively crowd from far and wide looking to enjoy sun rays and rolling surf. A top spot for any surfer worth his salt, Biarritz’s Côte des Basques is given legendary status among the endless summer tribe as they descend in their beatnik campers to enjoy playful waves and chilled-out midsummer nights.
Biarritz’s beaches are ram jammed with people on sunny summer days and it’s the same in the surf with hundreds of surfers competing for waves. In July and August, the Grande Plage is lined with the famous brightly coloured striped bathing tents which adorn Basque country postcards all along the Bay of Biscay. North of the Hotel du Palais is Plage Miramar hemmed in to the north by Pointe Saint-Martin with its lighthouse, the Phare de Biarritz. North of Pointe Saint-Martin, the sandy beaches or Anglet stretch for 4 km.
The southern end of the Grande Plage is bound by an outcrop of rocks capped by the Rocher de la Vierge. Immediately to the south of the rocks, a small protected beach called Plage du Port Vieux is good for swimming. A few hundred meters further on begins the long, exposed Plage de la Cote des Basques which has good waves for surfing. At the southern end of Plage de la Cote des Basques are two more beaches – Plage de Marbella and Plage de la Milady, both are good for surfing, but Plage de la Milady has more rocks.
My Perfect Day in Biarritz – by Guillaume Nicolas
Breakfast at the Milwaukee Café is my favourite way to start the day. This coffee shop is right in the centre of Biarritz on Rue du Helder and it’s my new favourite place for morning coffee. There’s a welcoming atmosphere and cool, American inspired decor that fits in well with Biarritz’s surf town image. Enjoy a satisfying mid-morning brunch or a tasty lunch made entirely with local produce. Or, grab a delicious coffee at any time to give you that caffeine boost you need before your surf session.
Once you’ve had your fill, it’s time to grab your surfboard and wetsuit and head to La Grande Plage for a surf. Paddle out to the peak and hang out beyond the break with the locals before catching the ride of your life on the crest of one of Biarritz’s famous waves.
When you’ve paddled so much your arms feel like noodles, it’s time for a well-earned rest. Make a b-line for Bali Bowls on Place Clémenceau (just next to Le Newquay) for a healthly smoothie, acai balls, a fresh fruit juice, or perhaps another coffee. If you’re really hungry, head to the Port des Pêcheurs where you can lunch on plates of seafood and fresh fish.
Stroll over to Port Vieux beach to let your food go down before you get back in the water. For your second surf of the day you can mix it up a bit and head to the Côte des Basques along Boulevard du Prince de Galles. Enjoy the famous long rides and admire the stunning backdrop while you wait for your next wave.
End your day watching the sun go down from the top of the Cents Marches before having a beer and tapas at the legendary Etxola Bibi. If the tapas doesn’t quite do it, book a table at Le Surfing which overlooks the surf spot. The perfect end to a perfect day in Biarritz!
Biarritz - Anglet - Bayonne (10 min)
Pharmacie Centrale, 2 Avenue du Maréchal Foch, 64200 Biarritz.
Avenue Jaulerry/Rue de la Poste, 64200 Biarritz.
Taxi Maite, 47 Avenue Beau Soleil, 64200 Biarritz
Office de Tourisme de Biarritz
Phone: +33 (0)5 59 22 37 10
ParkingFree parking up and down the winding avenues is available but scarce during the summer holidays. Most hotels and camping sites will offer complimentary parking with your stay, but for those of you looking for street or seaside parking, expect to pay – or use the designated underground parking available throughout the town.
To avoid spending your summer holiday in a traffic jam, ditch the car and put your pedal to the metal with bike rental the easiest and most accessible mode of transport. The town is also well connected with regular bus services to the train station and airport as well as free shuttle services to the neighbouring beach towns of Saint Jean De Luz and Hendaye. Cheap local buses are available throughout the year and leave from designated points around the centre.
Bike rental is big business in Biarritz. Get the latest mountain bikes, fat bikes, hybrid bikes, road bikes and kids bikes, and also scooters and motorbikes from local rental shops for as little as €10 per day. Les Roues de Lilou are a one stop shop for renting bikes and for half-day, daily or weekly hire. They also offer guided tours for groups looking to explore the coastline and electric mountain biking trips in the Basque Country.
Active things to do in Biarritz
Surf the waves of the Côte des Basques
Attracting a sea of surf tourists from the four corners of the globe, this long stretch of coastline dotted with stacks of rock and unforgiving shifting sand beds makes for the most fun-filled surf sessions come high summer. Suited to pro riders and newbies alike, this protected beach break sectioned off by natural boulders and overlooked by the brooding 19th century Belza mansion is an iconic spot to chase waves and play in the gentle rollers that lap the beach. Take your pick from a selection of industry approved surf schools that cater to groups, little groms and big kids alike! For the lowdown on the best surf spots, check out our guide to surfing in Biarritz.
Surfing in Biarritz, Côte des Basques © Flickr – Jean Claude Mouton
Scuba dive a shipwreck
Kickstarting the motor and heading out into the big blue, one would be amiss in thinking all the action happened in the surf. In fact, Biarritz has a long tradition as a scuba diving hot spot thanks to its rich, clear waters and chequered maritime past. Open to novices and underwater explorers, the shallow waters of the bay offer a myriad of hidden gems and interesting wildlife. For more experienced divers, the Atlantic region also offers an exciting underwater cave system (aroca tiquia) as well as several shipwrecks. Local scuba diving club, BABsub offers boat trips, rentals and guided tours for PADI or non-certified groups of 4+. 1A, allée port des pêcheurs 64200 BIARRITZ (+33) 05 59 24 80 40.
Port des pêcheurs in Biarritz © Flickr – Steve Shupe
Explore the coast on a SUP
A fun family activity that will have even the most serious surfer fooling around on the bobbing waves, these extra long boards are perfect for discovering the shoreline with the whole family in tow. Available to rent up and down the beachfront, stand up paddles can be rented for an hour, half a day or even a week – giving you a chance to get to grips with the waves and enjoy their big, boat-like qualities as you skim past the lineup and onto the big blue beyond. Check out Rainbow surf for cheap hire and friendly faces all summer long. 21, avenue de la Chambre d’amour, 64600 ANGLET
Stand upp paddle sunset session in Biarritz © Flickr – Philippine Filou
Play a game of Pelote
Deeply rooted in Basque culture, Pelote holds the record as the fastest ball game in the world. A high stakes – and high-velocity team sport that can hit speeds of 200mph, this simple racket game is definitely not for the faint of heart! Dating back to the 13th century, the clay court game played against a large stone wall with a racket and rubber Pelota ball may seem like child’s play, but watch the professionals and you’ll quickly realise why this traditional sport is a firm favourite across southern France and Spain. Learn from the pros and take a Pelote initiation course with Easy EVG: http://www.crazy-evg.com/activites/details/enterrement-de-vie-de-garcon-biarritz-108/pelote-basque-biarritz-evg
Basque Pelota players in Biarritz © Flickr – Biarritz Athletic Club Cesta Punta’s
Get real life lifeguard training
Time to suit up in your best Baywatch attire and hit the sand running with lifeguard training on the beach in Biarritz. Saving hundreds of lives every year, the ‘Cotier Sauvetage’ offers lessons for all ages on the beach and in the surf, providing essential training on basic first aid, tackling the tides and some fun beach sports thrown in just for fun! The ideal way to get a taste of what it’s like to be a beach hero, get your whistle at the ready and embrace your inner Hoff with lifeguarding lessons for all the family with Biarritz Sauvtage.
Where to stay
Biarritz has something for every budget. Offering a range of family friendly hotels and regal 5* stays, you can take your pick on the seafront this summer. The hotel of choice for A-listers, Hô tel du Palaisis a high-luxe paradise, whilst Le Regina offers contemporary cool and comfortable luxury. Further down the road sits the clean and calm Hôtel Saint Julien – ideal for small families and Hôtel Florida the best cheap and chic option for B&B or self-catering.
Where to eatWhen it comes to fine dining on the coast, Biarritz is a blend of traditional French cuisine and unique Basque delicacies. Offering good vibes and good views to match, Le Surfing is the best sun trap spot for lazy evenings and sunset sessions. For the best burger with a serious cult appeal, all the cool kids are hanging out in the centre of town at Le Cab, the ideal spot for post-surf drinks and cheap eats. If fresh seafood is more your thing, then head over to Chez Albert– close enough to smell the sea, their catch of the day can’t be beaten. If you’re looking to change direction altogether and enjoy some comfort food, head over to Il Giardino, one of the best family-run eateries in town. [hr]
Where to drink
Kick back and relax with a few cheeky drinks on the strip and enjoy the cocktail culture that well and truly puts the fizz in your mojito! Newquay is the local’s local, offering cheap beer and regular band nights the Clémenceau watering hole is a relaxed go to for student types and budget travellers. Situated in heart of Les Halles, Bar Jean is an atypical joint loved by tapas tasters and a more sophisticated crowd – get your hands on a pre-dinner apero to start the night in style. If you’re looking to amp up the ambience, Bar de La Plage is your place. Offering live music and a bustling crowd, get there early to guarantee a seat. When the night calls for custom cocktails and a lively atmosphere head down to Chez Miguel; a small but quaint retro bar with party goers that spill into the street most nights. Make sure to taste their home made rums – but consume at your own peril, they pack quite the punch!
Please leave a comment below if you need specific advice for your trip to Biarritz, or if you have any recommendations to help us improve this guide. Happy holidays!
About the author
Self-confessed foodie and outdoor sports aficionado, Aimée Whistler has been scoping out hidden gems across France for over five years. From shredding backcountry powder to savouring the finest backyard cuisine, get first-hand suggestions from Active Azur’s most committed Francophile.