Coast and ports of Guipuzcoa  
  FRA guipuzcoa-fra ESP

Basque Country, Spain. From Hondarribia to Mutriku

Updated: 2018 03 18 - This site contains first hand information.

Zumaia, Guipuzcoa, Basque Country - Spain

Coastline and waters

The coast is oriented E-W, it is straight, without islands, etc.

Beautiful coastline: high cliffs, green mountains and hills, deep valleys.  

Below water, weak tidal currents, some shallow stone banks and a few isolated rocks (ex. between Pasajes and San Sebastian),  but generally harmless.

Depths:  Continental plateau falling into the Cap Breton Canyon. Close from the shore, depths increase quickly to ~20-30m  then slowly  to reach 100-150m at the edge of the canyon, at ~10nm offshore.

Sea traffic: professional fishing boats (5-10 nm offshore), amateur fishermen (small boats, 'chipironeras', motorboats), sometimes ignorant of regulations. Commercial vessels in front of Pasajes or following courses parallel to the coast, at least 5 nm offshore.
Safe navigation rule: keep clear from the coast, at least 1-2 nm offshore, no dangers and great sights on the coastline. Watch out for small fishing boats (no AIS, infrequent radar and VHF watch, weird navigation lights...

PortsHondarribia, Pasajes, San Sebastian, Orio, Getaria, Zumaia, Deba, Mutriku.

Smooth winds and big seas

At the bottom of the Bays of Biscay, the winds are generally weak, and seas are big, due to swell generated by north Atlantic lows.

In summer (May to September).
Lots of calm, lots of engine hours.
S winds (from coast) is warm, gusty (because of the deep valleys), and does not raise waves (no fetch).
W NW winds. Cooler, can raise bigger seas.
Galernas. Sudden NW fronts or local storms (conjunction of convective and orographic factors).
and . Violent, dangerous, but no more than a few hours, and easy to spot. 
1) Spanish weather bulletins warn about 'riesgo de galerna' and follow the progression of actual galernas.
2) Low bar of black clouds coming fast from W.
3) In case of galerna, go offshore and heave-to or find a shelter ASAP.

In winter (october to march).
Calm days.
Some gorgeous S winds (warms and sunny days), precursors of bad weather (a low is coming from W, or SW).
W NW winds (the most common), can reach near gale force and raise big waves (lot of fetch).
Very strong gales (ex. explosive cyclogenesis on the iberic peninsula), huge waves (21.5m measured in front of Santander).

No shelter outside of a few ports

The coastline is steep and straight, there is no shelter or mooring outside of the ports.  From E to W: Hondarribia, Pasajes, San Sebastian, Orio, Getaria, Zumaia, Deba, Mutriku.

Ports comparison 

Our choices

Good weather: Mutriku, Hondarribia, Getaria, San Sebastian, Pasajes
Bad weather: Getaria, Hondarribia (fishing port).
Not much interest: Zumaia, Orio 
Not suitable for visiting yachts: Deba

 Bad weatherYacht facilitiesNice placeServices Prices Overall
(fishing port)
 Pasajesyes marinapollutionfew                        
 San Sebastianokdanger mooring onlyNICEno               
 Oriookdanger marinapollutionfew          
 Zumaiaokdanger marinapollutionfewexpensive              
 Debano nonono           
 Mutrikuyes marinaNICEno                            

Easy access: easy by all times vs.  tricky, limited by tides, etc.
Bad weather: safe access vs. dangerous.
Yacht facilities: comfortable marina vs.  nothing for leisure yachts (eg. fishing and/or commercial ports)
Nice place: charming, lively, vs. polluted, dull.
Services: full  technical services (travelift, chandlers, sails repair, mechanics,etc.) vs. nothing.

Hondarribia (alias Fuenterrabia, Fontarabie). Safe and easy access in all weather (fishing port only, see below).

Marina with visitors places managed by official organism Euskadiko Kirol Portuak. Prices are regulated.
Good services (in Hondarribia, or Hendaye, on the French side of the Bidassoa river)companies from Hendaye, 

Hondarribia is a small lively  city, lot of pintxos (tapas) and restaurants, nice walks in the surroundings.

WARNING. Sand bank in formation in the entry channel along the eastern pier (French side). Since 2017, the waves break in the channel when big NW to N waves. Access to the marina may be difficult, but the fishing port (outside the channel) has no problem.

Pasajes. The entry pass is wide but slightly tricky in case of big waves. Inside, the bay is wide and sheltered in all weathers.

Pasajes is the commercial port of San Sebastian. There are shipyards and services for fishing and commercial vessels, but not oriented to leisure yachts.  

the entry pass is gorgeous. Inside the bay, if you like urban landscapes and commercial ports, cool. However, the bay is polluted (industrial pollution).

Since 2017 there are moorings for visiting yachts. Web site izkiro-pasaia

San Sebastian (alias Donostia),  The entry pass is easy, but becomes dangerous in case of big waves.

Very small port, possibility to moor temporarily, but many moorings in the bay. Managed by official organism Euskadiko Kirol Portuak. Prices are regulated.

Mooring is rather uncomfortable, with tidal currents and a deficient shelter from N winds. Plus it is forbidden to use your own dinghy.

The bay of La Concha is beautiful. San Sebastian is a charming and lively city,  but rather expensive.

Orio. Shallow entry (most sailboats must expect high tides),  dangerous in case of big waves.

Marina with visitors places managed by official organism Euskadiko Kirol Portuak. Prices are regulated. 

A travelift, but almost no technical services.

Orio is a small city,  a few professional fishing vessels, fish factories, etc. Nice walks in the surroundings. However the marina is situated just below the highway, lot of noise and pollution.

GetariaSafe and easy access in all weather. A shelter in case of heavy weather.

Marina with visitors places managed by official organism Euskadiko Kirol Portuak. Prices are regulated.

Travelift, but very few technical services for leisure yachts.

Getaria is a beautiful village, with a consequent fishing fleet, close from the wide beach of Zarautz. Nice walks in the surroundings.

Zumaia. The entry was rather shallow, but has been recently dragged (2014). Very dangerous in case of big waves (video, photos). 

The situation worsened in the recent years, maybe as a result of the dragging. In winter 2016, a sail boat capsized at the entry and was grounded by the waves. 1 dead.

Marina with visitors places. Privately owned,  more expensive that the other ports of Guipuzcoa.

Travelift, a few technical services.

Zumaia is a small city, with some nice surroundings. However, there is a lot of noise and dust pollution, due to a large shipyard just beside the marina, and to small local boats (chipironeras) going in and out at high speeds (video).

Deba. Not a shelter for yachts (unless you have a retractable keel).

There is a small marina , upside the river, reserved to small motor boats. No facilities for visitors, indeed.

Deba is a small city,  not specially attracting.

Mutriku. The entry of the port is narrow but it is sheltered from big NW waves by a new dwarf.

Marina with visitors places managed by official organism Euskadiko Kirol Portuak. Prices are regulated. 
The marina is now fully operational, permanent moorings filled by boats coming from other ports of Biskaia and Guipuzcoa.

Possibility of mooring outside, behind the dwarf (we saw some sail boats moored there). 

Services: Crane, no travelift. Technical services: not checked recently.

Mutriku is a charming, genuine Basque village. Although the marina eliminated the traditional fishing port, the village is still of interest.

Weather information

Basque weather agency euskalmet.
Clear and thorough information.
Important for safety: Galerna warnings and follow up along the coast. 

 FRA guipuzcoa-fra ESP