The peculiar physical characteristics of the Nazaré coast are determined by the geological and geomorphological settings, but also by marine morphodynamic agents.
Historically, the Nazaré coast has undergone deep changes. The intense sediment supply to the coast promoted the almost total filling of the estuaries.
The Nazaré coast is always the place in Portuguese mainland where the waves are higher and is also one of the first places to receive a new NW curling.
The nearshore wave propagation in Praia do Norte is significantly disturbed by the complex morphology of the Nazaré canyon head which interferes with the net of southward longshore sediment transport. The Nazaré headland shelters the embayment at south, inducing a less energetic wave regime at the Praia da Nazaré (particularly at the Praia de Banhos).
The submarine canyon of Nazaré plays a decisive role in the generation of giant waves.