Where are the best beaches in Algarve Portugal?
Our two-week tour of this amazing country ended with a three-day stay on the best beaches in Algarve Portugal. They are located in the southern part of the country.
Towering cliffs in all shades of orange and ochre, sea caves, golden beaches, hidden coves and sandy islands attract over four million visitors to the Algarve year-round. Surrounded on both sides by the Atlantic Ocean, the Algarve is a surfer’s paradise, especially along the still undeveloped west coast. The area is blessed with incredibly beautiful sandy beaches, picturesque fishing villages and a favorable climate. All these factors contribute to an unforgettable vacation.
There is something for everyone in the Algarve. The coastline, which stretches over 200km, offers beaches for both thrill seekers, hidden secluded beaches and well-maintained family beaches.
Its central coast between Lagos and Faro is dotted with villas, hotels, bars and restaurants. The western Atlantic coast of the region and the rugged interior are less developed.
The western part of the Algarve is known as Barlavento and the eastern part as Sotavento. Barlavento and Sotavento have a total of eight municipalities and one capital each – Faro in Sotavento and Portimao in Barlavento.
The region is also home to the Ria Formosa lagoon, a nature reserve with an area of over 170 km2 and hundreds of different species of birds.
How to get to Southern Portugal?
Here are the main ways to get to the Algarve.
- Rent a car. If you are leaving from Lisbon, the distance to Albufeira is 256 km, taking about 2 and a half hours. It’s about half an hour longer to Faro. It is 232 km to Portimão and 228 km to Lagos. A rental car gives you the freedom to stop when and where you want. As I have written before, I have been trusting Discovercars for years, it is not by chance that they were chosen as the site of 2022 for car rental. We walked around the beaches, guided by Google maps, we didn’t have any pre-marked ones. We wanted to see as many hidden and unspoiled beaches as possible and have stopped at almost all of them between Armasão de Pera where we were staying and Lagos. We avoided beaches with umbrellas and sunbeds.
- By bus. Timetable and ticket prices can be found here.
- With train. The timetable and ticket prices are indicated on the website of a railway company.
- By plane to Lisbon or Faro, prices of plane tickets here Faro and from there by rent-a-car or bus.
When to visit Southern Portugal?
Practically all year round. If the purpose of the trip is a holiday at sea and you are a water sports lover, then summer and early autumn are your season. Keep in mind, however, that ocean water is cooler than seawater. Winter is mild, with temperatures around 16-17 degrees, not infrequently reaching 20 degrees. So if you find cheap air tickets for winter, don’t hesitate.
Where to buy a SIM card?
If you come to Portugal outside EU, you have to buy a SIM card. Did you ever heard about digital Sim card (eSIM)?
- With Airalo’s eSIMs, you can access the Internet from virtually any country on the planet and don’t have to pay excessive roaming charges.
- Travelers don’t need to waste their time looking for a local plastic SIM card. The eSIM can be activated either immediately after installation or upon arrival at the traveler’s destination.
- A wide range of eSIMs are available for different countries and regions. The tourist does not even have to buy a card for a specific country. If he/she intends to travel, he/she can buy a regional eSIM on Airalo. For example, there are eSIMs available for the entire continent of Europe.
- The support team is available 24/7/365, and are happy to offer prompt assistance via chat on the Airalo website, social media, or email.
What are the best beaches in Algerve?
You won’t see resorts with sunbeds and umbrellas in this post. I will show you some of the most beautiful and preserved beaches in Portugal that we visited. Some of them are popular, others are hidden, have no name and are only accessible by sea. But one thing is for sure – they are all endlessly charming.
Ponta da Piedade, Lagos
Ponta da Piedade is a headland with a group of rock formations along the coast of the city of Lagos and one of those places in the world that one finds hard to believe exists. The limestone rock formations, sea arches, caves and crystal clear turquoise water are sure to take your breath away.
From the top of the 20 meter high cliffs you can enjoy all the beauty of Ponta da Piedade, but to see it closer and from another angle, you have to go down the 182 steps down to Camilo Beach and get closer to the water.
- Where is it located?
It is located about 3 km from the center of Lagos, 32 km from Portimao and 92 km from Faro.
- How to get there?
By car or by bus. At the end of the road there is a signposted car park, public toilets, a restaurant, souvenir shops and a lighthouse (closed to visitors).
Praia do Camilo, Lagos
Lagos is one of the cities with some of the best beaches in the Algarve. Praia do Camilo is the beach that overlooks Ponta da Piedade. The place is extremely picturesque, whether you are on the rocks, on the stairs, on the sand or in the water.
- Where is it located, how to get there?
(see Ponta da Piedade)
To get to the beach itself, you have to go down the 182 stairs. Note that the beach is small and very crowded in the summer, especially in August. Still, it’s worth a visit.
Where to stay in Lagos?
The area around Lagos, apart from its beautiful beaches, offers its visitors a rich variety of different activities. If you decide to take advantage of the opportunities that the region offers, let’s see some accommodation options:
- Indigo Guest House in the heart of Lagos with a rating of 9.0 and a double room price of 100 EUR.
- L – Wellness Farm with a score of 8.6 and a price of 102 EUR.
- If you like hotels, Cascade Wellness Resort will be the right choice for you. The rating is 8.9 and the price is 315 EUR.
Activities in Lagos
- Boat trip
While in Lagos, you should not miss the opportunity to charter a boat trip to Ponta da Piedade. The boat will take you on an unforgettable journey along the picturesque coastline and you will have the opportunity to see the hidden beaches of the Lagos area until you reach the spectacular rock formations of Ponta da Piedade. On this 75-minute exhilarating adventure, you will sail through fascinating hidden sea caves with crystal clear water and incredible sand cliffs. Book here.
- Kayaking to Ponta da Piedade
If you prefer to take a kayak to Ponta da Piedade, you will be able to enter some caves that boats cannot access and you will have free time to swim and relax on a calm beach. Book here.
- Look at the dolphins!
A boat trip accompanied by marine biologists to the natural habitats of dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean. Exciting! Book here.
- Walk along Ponta da Piedade promenade
The path is 2.5 km long. It starts from Farol da Ponta da Piedade and ends at Praia do Canavial. During this 1 hour 30 minute trek you can explore the unique geological formations as well as the fauna and flora of the Algarve ecosystem and discover beautiful hidden beaches and coves. Recommendation – visit at sunset or early morning for the softer light if you are taking pictures and to avoid getting burnt in the strong sun.
- Walk along the Fisherman’s trail Lagos – Luz (Fisherman’s trail Lagos – Luz)
The short version of the route starts from Ponta da Piedade to Luz Beach, passing by the Black Rock. The distance is 6 km in one direction. If you get tired, there are gazebos to rest on. You can switch back at any time. The full route is from Lagos to Luz Beach and is 13.5km in length one way. Here is a map of the entire route.
Recommendation: instead of following the new wooden path with railings, use the old one that runs parallel to it. This way you will be as close as possible to the cliffs along the coast and you will discover hidden unique beaches like the one in the photo.
- Grab a bottle of wine and watch the sunsetThe coastal area of Lagos is so beautiful. Pick a spot, relax, open a bottle of wine and enjoy the sunset. Whether you will be alone or in the company of a loved one, you decide.
- Walk in the Old Town of Lagos
If you are staying in or near Lagos, you must visit the old town, it is the heart of the city. The cobbled streets of various patterns are lined with whitewashed and tiled houses, museums, picturesque churches, lively squares and countless restaurants, shops, bars and pubs. Apart from sightseeing, you can also visit the first African slave market in colonial Europe, which was built in 1444.
Praia da Marinha
Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal is Praia da Marinha. Considered one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in Europe and one of the 100 most beautiful beaches in the world by the Michelin Guide, Praia da Marinha is also recognized by CNN as one of the best beaches in the world. Surrounded by limestone rocks in shades of orange and different shapes, the beach has golden and fine sand and the blue water is crystal clear. Apart from the outstanding natural beauty, the other thing that makes Praia da Marinha special is that it is untouched. It is off the main road and to get to the beach itself you have to cross a path that descends steeply. But I can guarantee that the visit is worth it.
The rock arches plunging majestically into the crystal water and the contrast between the blue sky and the orange rocks are stunning.
Like some of the most famous beaches in Lagos, Praia da Marinha becomes different and narrower at high tide. At low tide, you can reach the famous M-shaped rock, also known as the Cathedral. But at high tide, you can only reach this part of the beach by climbing the eroded rocks or by swimming. But at the arch you can also admire it from the Path of the Seven Hanging Valleys, which goes over the cliffs.
Where is it located, how to get there and when to visit?
Praia da Marinha is located in the municipality of Lagos, between Carvoeiro and Armasão de Pera, in the Central Algarve. The journey by car is approximately 30 minutes from Albufeira and Portimao, 40 minutes from Lagos and 50 minutes from Faro. You can also get there by bus from the mentioned cities. Another option is to walk from Benagil Beach along the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, the trek will take you 25 minutes. There is a panoramic platform built above the beach, from which incredible views are revealed. There is a parking lot where you can leave your car and a restaurant where you can eat. As I mentioned, to get to the beach, you have to go down the path that starts from the rocks and back up. But the effort is worth it.
Praia da Marinha is suitable to visit from April to October, but the best time to visit is in summer. If you want to avoid the crowds and the heat, you should go in June or September. Be aware that this beach gets very crowded in August and it is difficult to find parking and also a place to leave your towel.
The available facilities that the beach offers are: parking, picnic area, restaurant, toilets, lifeguards on duty, kayak and SUP rentals.
The area around Praia da Marinha is rich in natural resources and offers a variety of activities. Here are some of them:
Discover the natural underwater beauty of the Algarve. You will be fascinated by the marine life that is bubbling beneath the surface. You will encounter starfish, sea urchins, anemones, shrimps, octopuses, algae, cuttlefish and various types of marine fish.
Recommendation: bring a snorkeling mask with you, they don’t rent one on the beach.
- Boat trip
Undoubtedly, a boat trip is one of the best options for a coastal tour. During the tour, you will see hidden, pristine beaches, explore the many caves and enjoy the rocky coastline. Book here.
- Cliff jumping
If you like the thrill of adrenaline, try cliff jumping. There are several places that give you the opportunity to dive into the crystal blue waters of the Algarve. The rock in the middle of the photo is also a challenge for climbers.
- DivingThe area around M Arch is very popular with divers. Bring your gear.
- The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
Admire the magnificent Algarve coast from above. The route of the seven hanging valleys reveals before your eyes stunning views behind every rock and every bend.
The short route is 25 minutes one way and leads to Benagil Cave. You can peek through the hole and see the beach from above. Don’t jump the limits, it’s dangerous! The full route takes about 2 hours or 5.7 km one way and leads to Praia do Vale de Centeanes in Carvoeiro.
It’s actually one of the most scenic hikes in the Algarve, I recommend doing it early in the morning or in the late afternoon because of the heat. Here is the entire route of the trail.
Why is it called the Path of the Seven Hanging Valleys? In the distant past, each valley was connected to the mouth of a stream. The action of fresh and salt water results in the formation of a coastal pattern called a karst landscape, with a remarkable variety of geoforms such as arches, caves, sinkholes and rock formations.
Recommendation! Be careful when visiting the beaches in the Algarve, especially when taking photos, because the rocks are unstable and there is a danger of falling rocks.
Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, hats, towels and plenty of water.
- Look at the sunsetWhether you look at the landscape from the viewpoint near the parking lot or from the highest, nearly 50 m high, at the end of the beach, don’t miss the chance to send the sun.
Where to stay?
- Casa Blue beach Boho chic and pool with rating 9.1 at 3.4km from the beach and price 125EUR for apartment
- Linda Vista Mar e rated 9.5 and 2.4 km to Praia da Marinha, price 120 EUR per apartment
- Quinta do Ourives with a score of 9.9 at 4 km and a price of 210 EUR
- Hakuna matata rated 9.3 is suitable for families with children. There is a yard and children’s facilities. Price 105 EUR.
Benagil cave (Praia de Benagil)
Benagil Beach is considered one of the most amazing beaches in the Algarve due to its iconic sea cave. Located in the small fishing village of Benagil in Lagos Municipality, the beach would have remained one of the hidden beaches if not for Algar de Benagil, a stunning cave just around the corner on the left side of the beach. Benagil Cave is one of the 10 most beautiful caves in the world according to the Huffington Post. Sunlight streams through the circular opening in the ceiling of the cave and reflects on the golden walls, sand and blue azure water entering the cave through the archway.
- Where is it located and how do we get there?
Benagil Cave is located 32 km from Lagos, 14 km from Portimao and 14 km from Armasão de Pera. It can be reached by car or on foot along the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail.
- Access to the cave
By swimming, kayaking or small boat.
Tip: if you plan to swim to the cave, be sure to bring a waterproof phone case so you can take pictures inside.
- Cave visit, 2.5 hour boat tour and dolphin watching. Departing Albufeira, book here.
- Cave visit, dolphin watching. Departing from Portimao, book here.
- Book a kayak tour here.
Praia Dona Ana Beach
Doña Ana Beach is located 3 km from Lagos and very close to Praia da Camilo. Voted by Condé Nast Traveler in 2013 as the best beach in the world, Doña Ana is one of the most popular beaches not only in Lagos, but in the entire Algarve region. Praia Doña Ana along with Praia da Batata and Meia Praia are the beaches in Lagos that offer water sports. The options are varied – inflatable boats, kayaking, kite- and windsurfing and many others.
Access to this beach is by stairs, there is parking, beach amenities, a restaurant, lifeguards on duty and even a massage therapist.
Praia da Balança
It is located near Ponta da Piedade.
Praia de João de Arens Beach
The beach is one of the most romantic in the Algarve. It’s hard to believe, but this beautiful beach remained a secret until very recently. As it is hidden at the bottom of a headland, it was originally frequented mostly by the gay community seeking privacy. Before heading down the path down the cliff, take a moment to admire the magnificent view. A cliff divides the beach into two parts connected by a tunnel, so it’s a little bigger than it looks at first glance. It is located 6 km from Portimao.
Praia da Corredoura Beach
Carvalho Beach (Praia do Carvalho)
Completely surrounded by high cliffs, this small beach is known for its soft, golden sand and crystal clear water. Protected from the wind, Praia do Carvalho is ideal for lounging, swimming, snorkelling and cliff diving. As there is a risk of rocks falling from the rocks, sit away from them. There are no lifeguards on duty. We observed a fog over the beach from the rocks, which was spreading and when we got down to the beach itself. A very strange phenomenon. Then she rose as suddenly as she had appeared.
Boneca Beach (Praia da Boneca)
Praia da Boneca is located adjacent to Praia da Balance in Lagos and is characterized by a peaceful atmosphere, soft golden sand and refreshing turquoise water, in addition to beautiful rock formations. The picture shows a view from the cliffs.
Praia do Pinhão
This beach can be reached by a footpath that starts from Doña Ana Beach and goes along the top of the cliff for about 300 meters. Some of the typical vegetation of the coast is observed here: daisies with gold coins, sweet alyssum, Mediterranean saltbush, which grow in abundance in the rocky hollows. Further back from the coast are mostly the typical scrub types, such as mastic trees and wild olives. The beach is divided by a rock formation with arches and caves. The smaller, northern part of the beach has an overlook with a staircase leading down to the ocean, meaning that at high tide you can dive straight into the ocean without having to walk onto the beach. A vast area of submerged rocks beckons you for an underwater expedition. Although it is quite close to the built-up area around Lagos, it is a relatively quiet beach.
Arco da Praia da Letra
It is located between Bengil Cave and Carvalho Beach.
Careanos Beach (Praia dos Careanos)
Praia dos Careanos is a small beach in the municipality of Portimao. The beach is small, surrounded by high rock formations. If you explore the area, you will find caves, arches and fossils in the rocks. From here you can walk to many other nearby beaches, such as the semi-hot Praia da Rocha, which I don’t like, but the water is warmer.
On the east side of the beach there is a rock formation separated from the cliffs. It looks like a fortress and is actually the most unique feature of Praia dos Careanos.
Near this rock formation you can see several individual rocks on the sand.
Praia dos Careanos is not very populated. Outside the summer months, the beach is practically empty. It is quieter here than Praia do Vau or Praia dos Três Castelos. This is mainly due to two reasons. Firstly, the infrastructure of Praia dos Careanos is limited. There is only a small wooden kiosk where you can get drinks and snacks. Secondly, the access to the beach is by a long and steep staircase, which can create some difficulties.
Praia Nova and Praia Nuestra Señora da Rocha, famous for its chapel on the cape of the same name, were my first exposure to Portuguese beaches and I definitely have a fondness for them, even though we only visited them on the first night. It was here that we uttered our first „ows“ and „ows“ to the rocks, the orange colored sand, the crystal blue water and the huge seashells that I have a collection of at home. Here was also the first tunnel through which we drilled into the rocks, the first contact with the water of the Atlantic Ocean, the first walk in the moonlight. Do I recommend visiting? Yes!
Where to stay in the region?
- We chose Apartamentos Vista Mar because of the proximity to the beaches, the distance from the noise of the town, the extremely well-appointed apartments in a gated complex and the presence of a pool, which we never used.
- The unique Vila Vita Parc with an exceptional rating of 9.5
- Bright A54 – Pérola Apartment with a rating of 8.7.
In addition to the listed links for boat and kayak rentals, visit Zoomarine Amusement Park, tickets here. Zoomarine offers a spectacular dolphin show, both educational and entertaining. Get up close to sea lions and seals, explore the aquarium, touch the incredible underwater world and walk among birds of prey and tropical birds in an enchanted forest. Finish with a Rapid River raft ride, a fun and exciting ride. Finally, relax at Zoomarine Beach, a new water entertainment area where you’ll find a wave pool surrounded by white sand, water slides, swimming pools and a water playground.
«If you liked this post, please share it.»
– This article contains affiliate links. For each purchase made through one of these links, I receive a small commission that goes towards maintaining this site at no additional cost to you. Thanks! –