Incredible rock formations and golden cliffs, dunes stretching for miles, hidden coves and deserted islands are all part of the 200km-long landscape of the Algarve coast. It has some of the best and most beautiful beaches in Europe, and once you’ve explored them you’ll understand why the region was voted the world’s leading beach destination. There are over 150 beaches, but to head straight to the best ones, follow these tips:
- Praia da Marinha
- Praia do Camilo
- Praia da Dona Ana
- Praia da Falésia
- Ilha da Fuseta
- Praia de Cacela Velha
- Praia de São Rafael
- Praia dos Arrifes
- Praia de Benagil
- Praia dos Pinheiros
- Ilha Deserta
- Ilha de Tavira
- Praia do Carvalho
- Praia do Barril
- Ilha da Armona
- Praia de João de Arens
- Praia do Barranco
- Praia do Ninho de Andorinha
- Praia de Odeceixe
- Praia da Coelha
- Praia da Rocha
- Praia do Beliche
- Praia da Bordeira
- Praia do Barranquinho
- Praia do Carvoeiro
- Ilha do Farol
- Praia da Arrifana
- Praia da Amoreira
- Praia das Furnas
- Praia Nova
- Praia dos Três Irmãos
- Ilha de Cabanas de Tavira
- Praia da Oura
- Praia do Alemão
- Praia de Vale do Lobo
- Praia da Quinta do Lago
- Praia de Santa Eulália
- Praia do Burgau
- Praia dos Pescadores
- Praia dos Caneiros
- Praia da Cova Redonda
- Praia de Salema
- Praia do Amado
- Praia de Vale Figueiras
- Praia do Martinhal
- Praia do Vale dos Homens
- Praia dos Três Castelos
- Meia Praia
- Praia de Vilamoura
Widely considered by international publications the must-see beach in Algarve and one of the most beautiful in the world, Praia da Marinha has illustrated tourism brochures and advertisements. It looks even more impressive in person, from the top of the golden cliffs behind it and as you get close to its intriguing rock formations in the turquoise waters. The most iconic is a double-arched rock that forms the shape of a heart when seen from above at the right angle. This is the starting point of Algarve’s best walking trail, which goes over the cliffs, past a number of other magnificent beaches.
Where to Stay: Tivoli Carvoeiro
See the Praia da Marinha Guide.
The picture-perfect view from the top of the wooden staircase that leads down to it has made this one of Algarve’s most famous beaches. The city of Lagos is known for its breathtaking coast, and here you can see it as its most beautiful. The beach is surrounded by golden rock formations and cliffs, and has crystal-clear water, which invites snorkelers. Unfortunately, it lacks space to accommodate the many visitors, so you won’t have much peace and quiet, but the scenic beauty makes up for it. It’s divided into two parts, separated by a cliff but connected by a tunnel, so it’s actually bigger than it looks when you arrive.
Where to Stay: Cascade Wellness Resort
See the Praia do Camilo Guide.
Due to social media, Praia do Camilo has taken some of the spotlight away from this beautiful beach. For years, it was where everyone wanted to go in Lagos. It’s still very popular, and international publications largely consider it one of Portugal’s best beaches. The cliffs and rock formations protect it from the winds, and there are stunning views from the top, from both the northern and southern ends.
Where to Stay: Carvi Beach Hotel
See the Praia da Dona Ana Guide.
It has everything that makes the beaches of Algarve special -- a series of coves and caves separated and surrounded by towering rock formations on the sand and in the water. However, it remains somewhat of a secret. Most people find it on a walk from the more popular beach of Três Irmãos to the west (see below). It’s one of Algarve’s most romantic, and no one should leave without heading up the cliff behind it for the panoramic view.
Where to Stay: Prainha Clube
See the Prainha Guide.
This “Grand Canyon by the sea” is one of Algarve’s longest beaches. The red and ocher cliffs behind it rise up to as much as 40 meters (130ft), and the magnificent scenery has placed it on lists of Portugal’s and even the world’s best beaches. Visitors should take some time to admire it from the top of the pine-covered cliffs, and might even make it their base to explore the region, as it has some amazing hotels within walking distance.
Where to Stay: Epic Sana Algarve
See the Praia da Falésia Guide.
Algarve has six sandy islands, all relatively little known, but this one has truly remained a top secret. Accessed by boat from a small fishing village between the cities of Olhão and Tavira, it’s mostly frequented by locals. There are calm waters in the summer, especially on the eastern end, and dunes stretching for miles.
Where to Stay: Octant Vila Monte
See the Ilha da Fuseta Guide.
Travel magazines and newspapers have placed this beach among their favorites in Europe and the world. It’s certainly one of the best in Portugal, and fortunately it remains an undiscovered gem. It’s never crowded and has a desert island feel. It is in fact an island, one of the six in the Ria Formosa Natural Park. It’s accessed by boat from Cacela Velha, one of Algarve’s tiniest, most idyllic and best-preserved villages. It stretches for nearly 2 kilometers (over one mile) and due to its shallow and calm waters and deserted areas it has become known as child-friendly and naturist-friendly.
Location: Cacela Velha
Where to Stay: Robinson Club Quinta da Ria
See the Praia de Cacela Velha Guide.
Many people will tell you that this and not Praia da Falésia is the best beach in Albufeira. It’s also one of Algarve’s most iconic, with the typical scenery of ocher cliffs and rocks, and soft golden sand. There are grottoes and small caves to explore on kayaks or paddle boards, or, when the tides allow it, on foot. It’s worth staying for the sunset views from the top of the cliff. There are some excellent hotels just a short walk away.
Where to Stay: São Rafael Atlântico
See the Praia de São Rafael Guide.
If you go when the tide is low and the water is calm, this is one of the most enjoyable beaches in Algarve. It’s a small bay, so it can get crowded, but offers a unique natural scenery. The imposing rocks in the water and the low cliffs behind it shelter it from the wind. Most people spend much of their time taking selfies in the crystal-clear water, paddleboarding or kayaking.
Where to Stay: São Rafael Suites
See the Praia dos Arrifes Guide.
Thanks to its very famous cave, this has become one of Algarve’s most popular beaches. The hidden cave can only be reached by boat, and most of the tours depart from here. Social media brought the crowds, so it’s not a beach for peace and quiet, but you’ll enjoy the views of the boats as you relax before or after a visit to the cave. From the clifftop, you can follow a walking trail to Algarve’s #1 beach (Praia da Marinha; see above), to the east.
Where to Stay: Vale de Milho Village
See the Praia de Benagil Guide.
Hidden at the bottom of a steep cliff, this wild beach is a secret paradise of extraordinary beauty. Reaching it requires a short hike down an unmarked trail, so only the young and adventurous tend to make it down to the sand. Its seclusion has made it an unofficial nude beach, and the calm water is perfect for swimming.
Where to Stay: Villas D. Dinis
See the Praia dos Pinheiros Guide.
You don’t have to go very far to escape to a desert island. You’ll find one right across from Algarve’s biggest city. This uninhabited island only has a solar-powered restaurant and a lighthouse, and the rest is a natural paradise of dunes and a 7km-long beach. It’s officially a nude beach, but the naturists tend to concentrate on the western end. You have nothing but pristine nature around you, and even in the high season there are parts where you’re completely alone. If you’re looking for peace and relaxation, this is one of the best destinations in Algarve.
Where to Stay: Hotel Faro & Beach Club
See the Ilha Deserta Guide.
The most popular of Algarve’s six islands is divided into four beaches. When you take the ferry from the city of Tavira, you arrive at the beach on the eastern end, known as Praia da Ilha de Tavira or Praia de Tavira. To reach the sand from the pier, you need to cross pinewoods, and you’ll see a campsite and restaurants, which are the only structures on the island. It can get crowded by the restaurants, where there are parasols and sunbeds for rent, but as you walk to the right, it becomes nearly deserted. In fact, it offers so much space, that many people sunbathe nude.
Where to Stay: Vila Gale Albacora
See the Ilha de Tavira Guide.
This scenic beach looks like the setting of a fairy tale. Accessed via a “secret passage” (a tunnel carved on the ground), it has a magical atmosphere, enhanced by a perfectly-centered rock emerging from the sea and a “window” hewed on the cliff to frame a postcard view. Surrounded by tall cliffs, it’s a secluded beach that was once a secret, but now many tourists come just to photograph it. Thankfully, many leave by the afternoon, when half of it is shaded. If you’re not looking to sunbathe or take the best photos, just before sunset is the best time to experience it at its most romantic and serene.
Where to Stay: Pestana Palm Gardens
See the Praia do Carvalho Guide.
This is one of the most photographed beaches in Algarve, due to a curious display of over 100 anchors on the dunes. These anchors were left behind by fishermen, when the local fishing industry declined in the 1960s. The houses where they often stayed overnight have been converted into restaurants. To get here, you have to follow a footpath over marshes or take a charming train that once served the fishing community.
Where to Stay: Pedras d’el Rei
See the Praia do Barril Guide.
This island is accessible by ferry throughout the year, as it’s home to a tiny fishing community. When you arrive, you need to walk down the village’s main street and then follow a long boardwalk over the dunes to the beach. The fine white sand stretches for kilometers and the water is usually calm, clear and shallow. The further you walk to the left, the more deserted it gets, and here you’ll see people sunbathing nude. On the dunes, you’ll spot chameleons and different species of birds. If you like to be surrounded by nature and to get away from the more crowded Algarve, this is the beach for you.
Where to Stay: Real Marina Hotel
See the Ilha da Armona Guide.
It’s hard to believe, but this splendid beach remained a secret until very recently. Because it’s hidden at the bottom of a headland, it was originally mostly frequented by the peace-seeking gay community. Today it’s popular with straight and gay couples. It’s also a nude beach and one of Algarve’s most romantic. Before you follow the trail down the cliff, take some time to admire the gorgeous view from above. A cliff ledge divides it into two parts, connected by a tunnel, so it’s a little bigger than it seems at first.
Where to Stay: Villa Casa Da Guarda
See the Praia de João de Arens Guide.
It’s a popular destination for naturists and campers, but remains undiscovered by everyone else. Its remote location to the east of Sagres, reached via an unpaved road, has kept the crowds away, and it preserves an unspoiled scenery of green hills, valleys and cliffs. The water is usually calm, so it’s not a beach for surfers, unlike most others on Algarve’s west coast. It’s a place for those who like to be surrounded by nature and sunbathe in a peaceful atmosphere.
Where to Stay: Nature Beach Resort Quinta Al-Gharb
See the Praia do Barranco Guide.
Google has added this beach to its maps, so it’s no longer a well-kept secret. It’s nestled between cliffs, and in the past people only stumbled upon it on kayak tours. However, it’s not just accessed from the water -- there’s a path with steps descending from the top of a cliff. The romantic cove is a magnet for couples and young people, who look for the perfect angles for selfies in the shallow water.
Where to Stay: Hotel Baia Grande
See the Praia do Ninho de Andorinha Guide.
Algarve’s northernmost beach has a superb setting. It’s where the Seixe River meets the Atlantic and is surrounded by the natural scenery of the Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina Natural Park. The serener river side is perfect for children, while the rougher waters of the ocean attract surfers. There are surf schools offering equipment and lessons. If it’s too crowded or if you want to avoid tan lines, go around the cliff on the southern end to Praia das Adegas, a small cove that’s an official nude beach (that’s only possible at low tide; take a wooden staircase from the top of the cliff at other times).
Location: Costa Vicentina
Where to Stay: Casas do Moinho
See the Praia de Odeceixe Guide.
It’s not very big, but rarely becomes too crowded. That’s a surprise, considering how beautiful it is. Although it’s just 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the center of Albufeira, it only has one hotel within walking distance, so it’s mostly frequented by locals. It’s hidden between ocher cliffs, and there are different coves and rock formations accessible at low tide.
Where to Stay: Hotel Baia Grande
See the Praia da Coelha Guide.
Its skyline looks more like Miami Beach than a traditional Algarve town, but this huge beach is one of the region’s most famous. Because of the many hotels and restaurants behind it, it’s a favorite of Portuguese and Northern European families. The lively nightlife also makes it a “party beach.” It stretches for over 1 kilometer, so it’s never fully packed, but gets quite crowded in July and August. A long boardwalk connects a number of bars and restaurants facing the sea, and there are water sports rentals.
Where to Stay: Bela Vista Hotel
See the Praia da Rocha Guide.
The beach at the “end of the world” (it’s between Cape St. Vincent and the Sagres Promontory, which to ancient Europeans was the edge of the Earth) is one of the most beautiful on Algarve’s west coast and has one of the most magical sunsets in Portugal. Surprisingly, it’s overlooked by many tourists and mostly attracts surfers and naturists. Its spectacular cliffs protect it from Sagres’ winds and there are small caves to explore.
Where to Stay: Mareta Beach House
See the Praia do Beliche Guide.
The largest beach in Costa Vicentina stretches for over 3 kilometers (about 2 miles). Once nearly deserted, frequented by just a few fishermen and naturists, it’s now a major surfing beach and also popular with Portuguese families. It’s more common to see wetsuits than bathing suits, while those on their birthday suits stay discreetly on the northern end. If you enjoy long walks by the sea, you’ll love this beach. It can be windy and the water cold, but it’s beautiful, with dunes stretching inland all the way to the village of Carrapateira. On the southern end, the waters of the ocean mix with those of a river, forming a lagoon. On the clifftop above it is a boardwalk serving as a lookout point.
Location: Costa Vicentina
Where to Stay: Carrapateiramar Guest House
See the Praia da Bordeira Guide.
Another former secret, this secluded beach now gets its share of tourists, mainly those staying at the hotel nearby or who discover it on a boat tour. It’s very small but quite beautiful, with a massive islet standing right in front. Getting there is part of the experience, as you have to follow an unmarked trail over the cliffs, offering magnificent views. You’ll see a bigger beach to the west, but it can only be reached from the sea. Here you have nothing but pristine nature around you, and the water is usually calm and crystal-clear.
Where to Stay: Vila Alba Eco-Resort
See the Praia do Barranquinho Guide.
Many postcards of the region are illustrated with images of this beach. That’s because it’s quintessential Algarve, with its fishing boats on the sand and white houses perched on the cliffs. The boats now take tourists around the coast, but the town of Carvoeiro preserves much of the charm of a traditional fishing village. It’s a small beach, and you can see it from above, on a terrace on the cliff on the eastern end. From there, you can follow a boardwalk to the fantastic rock formations of Algar Seco.
Where to Stay: Hotel Carvoeiro Plaza
See the Praia do Carvoeiro Guide.
A favorite of the people of Faro, this island remains undiscovered by tourists. It’s named after a 19th-century lighthouse, which stands by a small village built by a fishing community. When you arrive on a ferry, you walk past the picturesque homes in the direction of the lighthouse and you reach the beach. Here are parasols and loungers for rent, so it tends to be crowded in the summer, but if you continue walking to the left, it becomes a deserted beach. The white sand stretches as far as the eye can see, and the water is usually calm enough for swimming in the summer.
Where to Stay: Eva Senses Hotel
See the Ilha do Farol Guide.
Algarve’s most popular surfing beach is visited throughout the year by surfers from around the world. In the summer, they’re joined by local families. Above it is a ruined fortress from 1635, and there are breathtaking views from the top of the steep, dark cliffs, which protect it from the wind. Although it’s a narrow beach (especially when the tide rises), it’s relatively long. The northern end is good for diving.
Location: Costa Vicentina
Where to Stay: Arrifana Destination Boutique
See the Praia da Arrifana Guide.
Many consider this beach to be the most beautiful in Western Algarve (Costa Vicentina). On the southern side you have the clear and shallow waters of the Aljezur River, while to the west are the rougher waters of the sea. Where both meet, lagoons are sometimes formed. Children play on the river side, while surfers ride the waves of the ocean. Due to its proximity to the town of Aljezur, it’s a relatively popular beach, but it’s so big, it always offers lots of space. It’s backed by extensive dunes, and the cliff on the southern side is topped by a boardwalk offering a panoramic view.
Location: Costa Vicentina
Where to Stay: Vicentina Hotel
See the Praia da Amoreira Guide.
Go at low tide, on a day when the water is especially calm and crystal-clear, and you’ll feel like you’ve found Algarve’s best-kept secret. It’s a remote beach reached via an unpaved road, so it remains undiscovered, even by locals. It’s frequented almost exclusively by campers and naturists, who stay in the caves that give it its name. These caves look man-made but were created by the forces of nature.
Where to Stay: Hotel Mira Sagres
See the Praia das Furnas Guide.
One of Algarve’s most iconic sights can be seen from this beach -- a promontory topped by a 16th-century chapel. You can see the entire beach from the monument, and when you head down to the sand you always have plenty of space for yourself. It’s within walking distance of a number of hotels, including two of Portugal’s most luxurious resorts, but it’s never crowded. The water varies from day to day, but when it’s calm, it’s magnificent and great for swimming.
Where to Stay: Pestana Viking Beach & Spa Resort
See the Praia Nova Guide.
“Three Brothers Beach” is said to have been named after three rock formations on its eastern end. It’s a beach with tall rocks and backed by a cliff on one side, and dunes extending for a kilometer on the other. Most people stay on the rocky and more scenic eastern side, so the western offers a quieter atmosphere. It provides access (over the rocks) to the beautiful and secluded Prainha (listed above), and is a favorite of local families, as children like to play on the shallower areas around the rocks. There is also a number of hotels nearby, so there are plenty of tourists. It’s worth staying for the sunset, as you enjoy a drink or meal at the beachfront restaurant.
Where to Stay: Pestana Alvor Praia
See the Praia dos Três Irmãos Guide.
Cabanas de Tavira is a small village next to the city of Tavira and the gateway to another of the sandy islands of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Small boats reach the island in less than 5 minutes, between the months of April and October. Its beach is quite large, stretching for 7 kilometers (over 4 miles), so you’ll never find it crowded. It does attract a significant number of tourists and locals, but it’s not as popular as Ilha de Tavira (see above). In the area close to the pier are parasols and loungers for rent, but the eastern end (keep walking to the left) is deserted. A boardwalk connects the pier to the beach and the only restaurant on the island. The soft white sand is very clean and the sea is generally calm and safe for swimming.
Where to Stay: AP Cabanas Beach & Nature
See the Ilha de Cabanas de Tavira Guide.
Known as Algarve’s “party beach,” it’s located down the road from Albufeira’s “The Strip,” the nightlife street lined with bars and clubs. It’s where young tourists (mainly British) spend their day after a big night out. Behind it are a number of hotels and tourist apartments, so you won’t find many locals here. There are also restaurants facing the sea. It’s divided into two sections, separated by rocks. Almost everyone stays on the western side, unaware that there’s more beach on the other side of the rocks (this section is called Praia da Oura-Leste). The eastern side is for those who prefer quiet, and the western for those who enjoy a livelier atmosphere and water sports. Despite the development, it preserves its natural beauty, and when the tides are right, there are coves and rock formations to explore.
Where to Stay: 3HB Golden Beach
See the Praia da Oura Guide.
Found next to a green headland that escaped the overdevelopment of the city of Portimão, this is quite a beautiful beach, especially when seen from above, on the clifftop. You see a series of rocks emerging from the sea, which is usually calm, as it’s sheltered by the headland. This makes it perfect for kayaking and stand up paddleboarding, allowing you to explore the coves and caves to the west. It’s not very big, so it can get crowded. A trail over the cliff leads to the beaches of Alvor.
Where to Stay: Jardim do Vau
See the Praia do Alemão Guide.
Part of the so-called “Golden Triangle,” an area with three luxury resort towns (the others are Quinta do Lago and Vilamoura; see below), Vale do Lobo has been distinguished as the best resort in Portugal. It’s mostly residential, with luxurious villas, but there are also a few hotels for those who want to spend some time in the sun and golfing. It’s home to two extraordinary golf courses that are the most photographed in Europe due to their stunning locations overlooking the sea. The beach is backed by red cliffs and pine and palm trees. It’s never crowded and frequented almost exclusively by more affluent tourists. Above it is a cluster of upscale restaurants and bars, many of them with fabulous ocean views.
Location: Vale do Lobo
Where to Stay: Vale do Lobo Resort
See the Vale do Lobo Guide.
Quinta do Lago is one of Europe’s most luxurious resort towns, with opulent villas, some of the best hotels in all of Portugal, and three large world-class golf courses. It’s a retreat for the rich and famous, and its dune-backed beach has an exclusive feel, despite being public. It’s on the western end of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, so right before you reach the beach you can follow a trail that takes you through a beautiful landscape of lagoons and salt marshes. At the beach, you can choose to rent a parasol in the central area or walk to a more secluded spot on the 3.5km(2mi)-long stretch of sand. Those who prefer water sports to sunbathing can rent jet skis, kayaks, and other equipment. It’s very close to Faro, but is never crowded.
Location: Quinta do Lago
Where to Stay: Conrad Algarve
See the Quinta do Lago Guide.
Backed by low cliffs with palm and pine trees, this is one of the greenest beaches in Algarve. Although it attracts a significant number of tourists due to the hotels nearby, it’s usually not as crowded as the other beaches in Albufeira. The shallow and often calm waters make it child-friendly, and there’s the convenience of restaurants and rentals (parasols, sunbeds and boats).
Where to Stay: Grande Real Santa Eulalia Resort & Hotel
See the Praia de Santa Eulália Guide.
Burgau remains a small, traditional Algarve village, despite the growth of tourism. Located about 20 minutes east of Sagres and 20 minutes west of Lagos, it’s a favorite family destination, due to its beach which usually has calm and clear waters. It’s a narrow beach when the tide rises and can be crowded, but at low tide, it’s good for swimming and one of the most picturesque beaches in Western Algarve.
Where to Stay: Hotel Burgau Turismo de Natureza
See the Praia do Burgau Guide.
This is Albufeira’s main beach, located right in the center of town. It was where fishermen used to leave their boats, but they now moor them at the marina nearby. In their place are sunshades, sunbeds and sun worshippers. It’s often the stage of open-air concerts and other events, even at night and throughout the year. It’s big enough for the big summer crowds and sports activities like footvolley. Sometimes there’s also an inflatable park for children. Behind it is a number of restaurants, the narrow streets of Albufeira’s Old Town, and a lookout point offering a panoramic view.
Where to Stay: Hotel Sol e Mar
See the Praia dos Pescadores Guide.
If you visit at low tide, you get two for one. This is really two beaches separated by a cliff, and the one on the western side is only accessible from the sea when the tide rises. Located between the picturesque villages of Ferragudo and Carvoeiro, it’s a year-round destination for its restaurant which offers fresh seafood and ocean views. The sea stack right in front is the habitat of sea birds, so it’s environmentally protected. You can get close to it if you rent a paddle boat or a kayak. There are also sunshades and sunbeds for rent by the restaurant, which is a recommended sunset spot.
Where to Stay: Caneiros Luxury House & Suites
See the Praia dos Caneiros Guide.
It was once considered one of the best beaches in Europe, perhaps because of the luxury resort above it, which is one of the top thalassotherapy centers in the world. The cliffs and rock formations around it shelter it from the wind, and the water is usually calm. Because it’s hidden at the bottom of a cliff and reached via a long staircase, very few people come here, so peace and quiet are guaranteed.
Where to Stay: Vilalara Thalassa Resort
See the Praia da Cova Redonda Guide.
Salema is many people’s favorite destination in Algarve. It’s a small fishing village with a beach with a laid-back and even slightly bohemian vibe, which apparently leaves many people spellbound (American travel TV show host and writer Rick Steves says it might be Europe’s most enjoyable beach, while The Guardian considers it one of the world’s 50 best beaches). It’s rarely crowded, and the eastern end always offers seclusion. On the western end you can see large dinosaur footprints from around 150 million years ago. The water is usually calm and child-friendly, and used for kayaking, standup paddleboarding and windsurfing. A French ship sank here in 1759 and is a popular diving site.
Where to Stay: Salema Beach Village
See the Praia de Salema Guide.
It has hosted national and international surfing competitions, so it’s where pros choose to ride the waves in Algarve. It’s just as popular as Praia da Arrifana for surfers of all levels, but is also a favorite of Portuguese families. In fact, it’s the most crowded beach in the wilder and more deserted west coast (Costa Vicentina). Still, even on an August weekend, you can find a peaceful spot on the southern end. It’s backed by cliffs and valleys, which offers some protection from the wind. If you follow a trail to the north, you can reach the beach of Bordeira (listed above), passing by lookout points along the way.
Location: Costa Vicentina
Where to Stay: Monte da Vilarinha
See the Praia do Amado Guide.
This large beach becomes even larger at low tide, when you have access to two more kilometers (over a mile) of sand to the north. This northern section is often frequented by naturists, but the main beach has become a favorite of Portuguese families and surfers. Foreign tourists have yet to discover it. It’s surrounded by tall cliffs and its protected landscape invites long walks by the sea.
Location: Costa Vicentina
Where to Stay: Praia do Canal Nature Resort
See the Praia de Vale Figueiras Guide.
Ever since a resort catering to families opened behind it, it became known as one of Algarve’s most family-friendly beaches. Its waters are shallow, so generally safe for children and it’s very clean. It can just be a little windy, but that’s good news for the many windsurfers who also made it one of the region’s top destinations for the sport. Surprisingly, however, it’s never crowded. Right in front is a big islet with underwater caves, often explored by divers.
Where to Stay: Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort Hotel
See the Praia do Martinhal Guide.
This beach can be wonderful or a disappointment, depending on when you go. It practically disappears when the tides rise in the colder months, but at low tide in the summer, it’s great to relax surrounded by pristine nature. It’s very remote, with nothing but farmland behind it. It’s surrounded by schist cliffs and there are rocks along the shore. The northern end, sheltered by large rock formations, provides seclusion for naturists, while the main, southern end is frequented by families who enjoy the rock pools often formed by the tides.
Location: Costa Vicentina
Where to Stay: Hotel Alcatruz
See the Praia do Vale dos Homens Guide.
When the neighboring Praia da Rocha is just too crowded, people move to this beach on the other side of the cliff. It’s a smaller beach but has similar rock formations, and was even named after three of them. For more space and quiet, choose the western side (keep walking to the right when facing the sea). Despite being located so close to the center of the city, it’s a very clean beach. When the sea is calm, it’s good for swimming. It has a restaurant, but there are plenty of places to eat in the area, as well as several hotels within walking distance. A walkway above it offers a scenic view.
Where to Stay: Villa Mariazinha Charming Hotel
See the Praia dos Três Castelos Guide.
Lagos’ biggest beach is over 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) long and offers a different experience depending on whether you stay on the western or eastern sides. The western is the closest to the center of town, and can get very crowded with local families and tourists. If you go all the way to the end of the eastern side it feels like a different beach, as it’s nearly empty except for a few naturists. The western and middle sections have restaurants and sunshades and loungers for rent, but there are no facilities in the east. You can see all of Lagos from here, all the way to the Ponta da Piedade headland.
Where to Stay: Palmares Beach House Hotel
See the Meia Praia Guide.
Vilamoura is one of Algarve’s top destinations and although its main beach can get packed in July and August, it has the convenience of hotels, restaurants, bars and shops within walking distance. Its western end is by Portugal’s biggest marina, while the more you walk to the east, the more space and quiet you’ll have. It’s quite lively throughout the day and at night, with trendy bars offering a chillout or party atmosphere.
Where to Stay: Tivoli Marina Vilamoura
See the Vilamoura Guide.
Algarve Beaches Map
On the map below are all of Algarve’s main beaches. You’ll find others that can only be reached from the sea if you take a boat or kayak tour.
The west coast (from Praia de Odeceixe in the north to Praia do Burgau between Sagres and Lagos) is known as Costa Vicentina, and is where you’ll find the wildest and least crowded beaches, mostly frequented by surfers and naturists.
From Lagos to Albufeira, the coast is sometimes called Costa de Ouro (“Golden Coast”) due to the ocher cliffs and rock formations that Algarve is famous for. It’s the most popular part of the region, with the major beach hotels and resorts.
The eastern side (from Vilamoura to Cacela Velha) has a completely different landscape -- it’s flat and with a series of sandy islands, dunes and lagoons, all part of the protected Ria Formosa Natural Park. Although growing in popularity, it’s much quieter than the Costa de Ouro. The beaches closest to the border (from Manta Rota to Vila Real de Santo António) are mostly frequented by Portuguese families and Spanish tourists.