The Algarve is blessed with over 100 beaches, or "praia" in Portuguese. From the long, open, flat beaches of the East to the trademark, red-cliff beaches of Central Algarve and the windswept, deserted beaches of the West... there is literally a beach to suit everyone! Often, the best beaches are hidden away from the most popular ones.
The exception to the above is the coastline running from the west point of Sagres up to the north. This coast is very variable and being open to the winds and Atlantic Ocean waves from the west, it normally presents different conditions to those found on the same day along the southern coastline. This area has a rugged atmosphere and at times the winds can be biting. The sea is often choppy with big waves and sometimes even a dangerous fast undercurrent.
During the summer season, all the main beaches have in the season Lifeguards on safety patrol. Many beach concessions offer all the usual water sports facilities along with restaurant food and snacks. Out of the approximately 150 named beaches some useful ones are listed below.
This beach fronts the chic area of the holiday resorts known as Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo. This beach can now be easily reached by road and one area popular for its beach restaurants is a section know as “Julias Beach” – a local lady and a character who opened the first beach place at the time when access was either by horse or by a very sandy road through the pine trees. Now Praia De Garrao is a very popular restaurant area and the restaurants are open all year round including Julia's Restaurant and bar on the beach, Izzy's Beach bar, Antonio's Seafood restaurant and Fins which are all in prime locations with excellent views of the ocean and beach. There is a beach concession run by Paradise which is open during the summer months and offers lots of watersports, banana boats, pedalo's, jet skis and canoeing. The beach has sunloungers for hire and lovely golden sand great for building sand castles with the children.
The road to Praia do Trafal follows the same path as that to Praia do Loulé Velho. On the way, you can see some of the ancient aqueducts. Closer to the sea, the terrain is marshy and the Ribeira de Carcavai forms an extensive wetland with reed beds, tamarisks and rushes. Also hidden somewhere in this area are the ruins of a Carthaginian fishing village. There is parking near the beach, which has restaurants and toilets at its western end and is supervised during the bathing season. Trafal and Cavelo Preto beach have free car parking and a beach concession with watersports during summer.
There are two restaurants in this end of the long stretch of golden sands from Faro Island through to Vilamoura. Stop and enjoy a a drink at Temperus or BJ's Oceanside whilst rambling along the beach.
This beach takes its name from the fascinating gouged red cliffs that form a backdrop to the endless stretch of sand. As these cliffs are not very tall it makes access convenient whilst acting as a suitable barrier to any winds from the north during the out-of-season. This beach is to be found west of Vilamoura before reaching Olhos de Água. There are plenty of little beach cafe's to try out including Thai Beach Club. There is plenty of parking for your day at the beach but during the high summer season there is a charge. There are sunloungers for rent but there are also parts of the beach dedicated to those who want to bring their own chairs and umbrellas. It's a hot spot for the locals especially during summer weekends but being such a large beach, it never really feels crowded.
This is another long sandy stretch but as there are no cliffs it has many point of easy access by road. This beach is located to the west of Albufeira and runs round the Bay of Armação de Pera to the town.
Located to the west of Monte Gordo it stretches westwards towards Tavira. This beach takes its name from the line of trees and bushes that line the land side of the broad endless beach. Ideally suitable for most families with their children.
To some this is the jewel in the crown of the eastern side of Faro. It is also often locally referred to as Praia das Cascas. A few minutes boat trip will take visitors from the jetty of Tavira located just outside the town across to this attractive sandy bar. For visitors with naturist inclinations there is an area reserved especially for their needs which is about a 1km walk to the west end of this beach.
This beach is really an extension of the above beach known as Praia Ilha de Tavira. However, this section is easily reached from the tourist villages of Santa Luzia and Pedras del Rey. From the later village, a small train takes the visitor across the intervening water to the sandy island bar in a slow journey which reminds everyone that they are definitely on holiday!
The three Islands of Armona, Culatra and Farol act as a barrier to the sea and on the inland side there are the extensive lagoons forming the nature reserve of Ria Formosa. Reaching these beaches can only be done by ferryboat which leaves from the fishing port of Olhão. The journeys can takes some 30 minutes and leave at about 15 minute intervals during the day. In season, each ferry will be signed with the destination to one of the three islands. As you can imagine once you arrive at the chosen Island you are going to find yourself as one of the limited number of human visitors.
This beach is a long narrow sandy bar that is accessed by a road traversing a lagoon just south of the Faro airport. Being near to the principal town of the Algarve it is usually very busy and there are many water sports faculties and plenty of restaurants.
This is probably the oldest and best known beach in the Algarve. It is located just south of the main town of Portimão and was originally much shorter in width and boasted a lot more charm. This beach in the past has been seriously enlarged with the sand that was pumped out during the dredging of the Portimão Harbor and at the same time meeting the needs of the many visiting tourists to this area.
The beach is located and accessed from the old popular fishing village of Alvor. It stretches just over 2kms from the village to the west in the direction of Lagos. The beach acts as a sand bar, creating an interior lagoon which is a form of port for Alvor. Some twenty years ago a tourist could walk at low tide by beach all the way to Lagos by wading across a small sea the then shallow outlet from the lagoon.
This beach forms the other half of the previous walk from Alvor to Lagos. It takes its name from being part of this walk as “Meia” indicates the word “half”. The approach to this beach is from the town of Lagos and it is easily accessed. This beach is popular with windsurfers and surfers alike as it faces the open Bay of Lagos and is yet protected to the west by the promontory of Ponta da Piedade. The beach is possibly a little longer than that of Alvor and there are many small beach bars to satisfy the thirst for those who wish to walk its length.
This beach is located in the Bay of Baleeira close to Sagres. Another windsurfers paradise, this smaller beach is in a reasonably shallow bay that is shouldered to the west by Ponta da Atalaia. It is recommended as a location if visiting the area of Sagres.
Priar do Casteljo is one of the few beaches on the west coast where it is safer to swim due to the underlying dangerous currents that this region is known for. The beach is located just to the north-west of the small town of Vila do Bispo. It is one of the smaller beaches and has a completely different atmosphere to those found on the southern coastline. It may not suit everyone but those that do visit tend to return.
This beach is on the west coast of the Algarve and can be reached by travelling north from Vila do Bispo. After passing the small village of Carrapateira turn seaward where there is a sign that reads “Praia”. It's virtually a long sandy beach with many sand dunes and very often deserted out of the season. Enjoy the feeling of being open to nature and exploring the surrounding area on foot.
This is a beach which also is considered to be reasonably safe for swimming and a very special place with quite stupendous views. Take the road north to Lisbon from Lagos. Just before reaching the small town of Aljezur take the turning left when you see the name “Arrifana”. On reaching Arrifana you will find the beach on your left at the bottom of a very steep narrow road with little or no parking area at the bottom.
For even more information on Algarve beaches and other holiday advice, check out Holiday Tips!