Praia da Rocha is the most famous beach in Algarve and the main beach in the city of Portimão. It was the first to attract mass tourism, and is where many Portuguese and northern Europeans spend their summers. It stretches for over 1km, so despite the crowds in July and August, it’s never fully packed.
What initially brought so many people here was the long stretch of sand and the landscape of ocher rocks and cliffs. Rich Portuguese families built their villas by the sea, but only a few of them remain. Instead, the beach is overlooked by tall apartment buildings and hotels from the 1980s and 90s. The skyline is more Miami Beach than a typical Portuguese resort town, but the easy access to restaurants and accommodation guarantees that it remains popular with tourists.
A long boardwalk connects bars and restaurants right on the sand. For a panoramic view, climb up a terrace known as the “Três Castelos Viewpoint,” located above the western end of the beach. Paved with cobblestones forming the traditional Portuguese wave designs, it’s where you can take the best photos. For a different angle, head to the Santa Catarina Fort on the eastern end, close to the marina. Built in 1621, the fort defended this coast from pirates and military invasions.
This is a Blue Flag beach, meaning that cleanliness and safety is guaranteed on the golden sand and the sea. There are lifeguards on duty in the bathing season. Rentals include sunshades, parasols and loungers, as well as equipment for water sports.
It’s also a beach for everyone, including those with disabilities, offering wheelchair access. It’s a family favorite, with kids building sandcastles and with inflatables on the sea, so it’s not exactly quiet.
The waves are very dependent on the currents and tides -- sometimes there are none, but there are days when they’re big enough for surfing (however, this isn’t known as a surfing beach). The main sports activity happens on the sand -- beach soccer. This has regularly been the site of an annual international beach soccer tournament organized by BSWW (Beach Soccer Worldwide), a partner of FIFA.
The name (which translates to “Rock Beach”) could suggest that there are rocks in the water, but you won’t find any when you look down through the crystal-clear water.
Due to the number of bars in the vicinity, Praia da Rocha is one of Algarve’s “party beaches” and a lively place at night. This naturally brings the younger crowds, but outside the summer it’s a quieter place, with a more mature crowd going for beach walks and dining by the sea. On the main boulevard, Avenida Tomás Cabreira, you’ll find many people going for a stroll, stopping at the restaurants, bars, shops, clubs, and even a casino. Others prefer the restaurants and bars by the marina, to the east.
Beach for: Families, Young Travelers, Budget Travelers
Bar or Restaurant: Yes
How to Get to Praia da Rocha
Praia da Rocha is a 25-minute walk from the center of Portimão. Bus 33 of the “Vai e Vem” network goes through the center of town to the fort on the eastern end of the beach every half hour. Bus 11 also terminates by the fort but only runs once per hour. If you’re driving, there’s limited parking on the street. A convenient car park can be found on Rua Dom Martinho Castelo Branco. To save a few euros, you may park outside for free, in a parking lot by the roundabout on Estrada da Rocha, about a 10-minute walk from the beach.
Beaches by Praia da Rocha
To escape the crowds, all you have to do is head to the beaches to the west of Praia da Rocha. The first one is Praia dos Três Castelos, which is also seen from the viewpoint mentioned above. It shares a long stretch of sand with Praia do Amado, further west. From here you can continue to walk west to the scenic beaches of Careanos, Vau, Alemão and Boião, all known for their rock formations by and in the sea. The walk from Praia da Rocha to Praia de Boião takes about 40 minutes. It’s quite recommended, as it’s very scenic, following promenades and a coastal road, and allows you to relax and explore the different beaches.
Hotels by Praia da Rocha
Bela Vista Hotel & Spa
The most luxurious hotel in Portimão faces Praia da Rocha, on a clifftop. It has direct access to the beach, and an interior mixing contemporary and early-20th-century design. There are beautifully-preserved tile panels and stained glass in the common areas and in some of the 38 rooms. Facilities include a spa, a Michelin-starred rooftop restaurant, and an outdoor swimming pool.
SEE PRICES, AVAILABILITY AND MORE DETAILS HERE: Bela Vista Hotel & Spa
Jupiter Algarve Hotel
If you want to be in the center of the action in Praia da Rocha, stay at this hotel on the main boulevard. It offers live entertainment, an outdoor swimming pool (which is covered in the winter), a spa, and a restaurant presenting Portuguese and international cuisine and nights of show cooking. The décor is inspired by the sea, which can be seen from some of the rooms.
SEE PRICES, AVAILABILITY AND MORE DETAILS HERE: Jupiter Algarve Hotel
AP Oriental Beach Hotel
Here you can wake up to views of Praia da Rocha. This adults-only hotel is right above the beach, and has rooms with balconies, and a large garden and pool deck facing the sea. The interior is inspired by the East, in the architecture and part of the décor.
SEE PRICES, AVAILABILITY AND MORE DETAILS HERE: AP Oriental Beach Hotel
Algarve Casino Hotel
The entrance faces the boulevard behind Praia da Rocha, but half of the rooms and the garden with two swimming pools face the beach. This is a huge hotel, which also houses a casino offering live music and entertainment in addition to the gambling. The restaurant serves regional and international dishes, and there’s also a spa with sauna and Turkish bath, and a fitness center.
SEE PRICES, AVAILABILITY AND MORE DETAILS HERE: Algarve Casino Hotel
Hotel da Rocha
It’s one of the highest-rated hotels in Portimão, and stands right by one of the main accesses to Praia da Rocha. It only has suites, all of them spacious and with balconies, and many overlooking the beach. Facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness room and a massage room.
SEE PRICES, AVAILABILITY AND MORE DETAILS HERE: Hotel da Rocha
Villa Mariazinha Charming Hotel
One of the few remaining villas by Praia da Rocha was completely renovated and became this romantic hotel. It has just ten rooms, decorated in an elegant style, and a cocktail bar. A variety of restaurants is around the corner, and the beach is a few steps away.
SEE PRICES, AVAILABILITY AND MORE DETAILS HERE: Villa Mariazinha Charming Hotel
Turim Algarve Mor Hotel
Those on a budget will want to stay at this hotel with studios and 1- and 2-bedroom apartments. They’re a little dated but spacious and with balconies, most of them with sea views. They’re also equipped with everything you need to prepare meals, but the location on the main street behind the beach means that you have plenty of places to eat and drink at your doorstep.
SEE PRICES, AVAILABILITY AND MORE DETAILS HERE: Turim Algarve Mor Hotel
Hotel Santa Catarina Algarve
Another budget option and also on the main street, this one has basic but comfortable rooms. Some of them have balconies, and those on the top floors overlook the beach. At the restaurant, guests may enjoy local or international cuisine.
SEE PRICES, AVAILABILITY AND MORE DETAILS HERE: Hotel Santa Catarina Algarve