Beaches of the Algarve - The best and most beautiful ones
One of the key contributing factors that make the Algarve one of the richest provinces and regions of the country, attracting millions of domestic and foreign tourists every year, is its moderate climate characterised by mild short winters and long, hot and dry summers.
From Odeceixe to Vila Real de Santo António, the entire coastline enjoys a Mediterranean-style microclimate, with temperatures ranging from 15° C in winter to 30° C in summer.
Its warm and calm waters bordering the south coast, the natural, historical and ethnographic landscapes and the deliciously healthy food are also attributes that make this European heaven a must visit holiday destination for many and a potential place to retire for others.
Some of the best and most beautiful beaches in the world can be found in the Algarve. Unsurprisingly, the region is a favourite for those looking to enjoy calm saltwater and sunbathing as well as those who wish to appreciate our sustainably managed natural heritage.
There are beaches to suit an array of individual requirements - most of which have been awarded the EU "Blue Flag" for quality standards. The Algarve's 200 km of coastline offers an array of coves, cliffs, caves, rocky beaches and large stretches of sand.
Praia da Arrifana
The area surrounding this beach is of high ecological importance and rare natural beauty. It boasts a sandy beach that is over half a kilometre long which is surrounded by high schist cliffs, forming a small bay.
This beach is less beaten by the wind and the strong breaking of the waves making it an excellent choice for water sports such as diving, surfing or the bodyboard.
Here you will also have one of the best perspectives from the ruins of the old fortress. In the small fishing village of Arrifana, there is a selection of lovely restaurants and cafes to whet your appetite.
Praia do Amado
This is the southernmost beach in the municipality of Aljezur and is located near the village of Carrapateira.
Praia do Amado is an extensive sandy beach bounded to the south and north by high cliffs that enter the sea. At the northern limit, you will find Pontal da Carrapateira, a rocky platform of high environmental value which presents priority habitats for nature conservation – a must visit location for nature lovers.
This beach provides ideal waves for surfing and has staged various national and international competitions. It is a very popular location throughout the year benefitting from several tourist animation companies, surf and bodyboard schools.
Praia de Odeceixe
Located at the northern end of the municipality of Aljezur, Praia do Odeceixe is quite unique in that it contains a river beach, as it is limited to the east and north by Ribeira de Seixe.
Therefore, you have the option of sea or river bathing. The beach has a high landscape quality and biodiversity where you can enjoy a rare and stunning beauty from the cliff tops.
This a privileged habitat for avifauna and provides excellent conditions for bird watching.
Praia da Bordeira
This is the longest beach in the municipality of Aljezur - about 3km. Located north of Carrapateira, with strong north-westerly winds, this location is ideal for kitesurfing as well as other water sports.
The area is very well preserved in terms of the different habitats that develop along the various dune levels and is full of opportunities to explore these.
Praia da Mareta is the closest beach to Sagres town itself and one of the busiest beaches in the area.
It’s sweeps of golden sands, that stretch for nearly 800 metres and rocky headlands that provide shelter from the notorious Sagres winds, make this is a great choice.
The south-facing bay, in long sunny days, is much more sheltered from the waves than the neighbouring beaches. The sea here is not always calm, which means that throughout the year, it is used for a variety of watersports from kayaking and windsurfing to diving. There is a choice of three restaurants along the beach, toilets and parking close by.
This beach sits alongside the jutting Ponta de Sagres – a dramatic location at the tip of Portugal, exposed to the full force of the Atlantic Ocean.
Once known as ‘the edge of the world’, this popular surfer spot has a rugged charm to it. The sea can be quite unpredictable here and is renowned for having strong currents. However, in the summer, the waves tend to be a little smaller and there is a lifeguard patrol on the beach.
Vila do Bispo
Praia do Beliche is situated just to the south of the towering cliffs of Cabo São Vicente. This is one of the area’s best surf beaches with waves that are a little more manageable than at the other beaches around the headland.
Here you can enjoy a lovely stretch of golden sand which opens up as the tide goes out and if you are up for a little historical adventure, take a walk along the coast to the Fortaleza do Beliche – a fort built on the site of an earlier fortress in 1632.
Although it is now closed to the public for safety reasons, it is none-the-less a very interesting piece of history to view from close by.
Close to the fishing village that bears the same name, Salema Beach is as traditional as beaches get.
The central section is usually occupied by boats and various fishing tools which makes it the perfect place to watch the return of fishing boats and to taste scrumptious octopus or sea bream dishes at nearby restaurants.
With its beautiful promenade and the ruins of a Roman village as attractions, this is the place to revel in a mixture of tradition and history.
Integrated in the town of Burgau, this urban beach marks the border with the Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina Natural Park.
Its sandy beach extends along a small sheltered cove that also acts as a fishing port and is yet another ideal spot for watching fishing boats arrive. On the cliffs, you can see a 17th century fort and the ruins of a 16th century tower.
Praia de Dona Ana
This is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque beaches in the Algarve. Located south of Lagos and set within the cliffs of the Ponta da Piedade peninsula, Dona Ana is a calm and beautiful natural setting.
With its eroding cliffs revealing golden strata, the calm stunning turquoise waters and wonderfully soft sand, you will be in for a treat here.
There are beach restaurants, shops, and showers which make this an ideal choice for a relaxing beach day.
Praia do Camilo
Here we have a secluded picture-perfect beach located between Praia da Dona Ana and Ponta da Piedade.
This beautiful small beach, with soft sand and charming rock formations, sits in perfect harmony with the calm and exceptionally clean shallow water - superb in its green tones and almost transparent splendour.
During high tide, the beach loses half of its size so the best thing to do is to visit during low tide, otherwise there might be a lack of space. Beware that the tide can turn quite quickly (in a couple of hours). This is the perfect beach for swimming, snorkelling or kayaking.
Praia da Luz
Luz is a small fishing town in the Algarve and is one of the most popular family hotspots of the region.
There are many pretty, quaint cobbled streets that wind their way around the town which you can explore.
You can then take a walk along the pretty promenade that overlooks the beach and pop into the local shops, cafes, bars and restaurants that are dotted along that stretch.
Luz beach has lovely golden sands where you can sit and admire the impressive cliffs to the east. Should you wish to rent equipment for water sports, these facilities are available.
Porto de Mós
This extensive sandy beach is framed at the ends by high cliffs and is very scenic.
The fine golden sand feels nice between your toes though during low tide, the sea does have small rocks which can be a bit hard on your feet. For this reason, it is best to swim here during high tide.
From the Atalaia viewpoint, the landscape overlooks the coastline to Sagres and is quite breath-taking. This is the best beach in Lagos for surfing and other water sports.
Praia dos Três Irmãos
Praia dos Três Irmãos can be found on the eastern end of a huge stretch of sand which makes up Alvor beach.
It is home to some fantastical rock formations which is where it got its name. "Três Irmãos" means "three brothers" – a direct reference to three sea stacks that run across the beach.
A series of little coves enclosed in the limestone cliffs and the many hidden caves that can be explored provide great photo opportunities and stunning views.
Praia do Alemão
Also known as the Praia do Barranco das Canas, the name Praia do Alemão (meaning German's beach) came about because the first house built here belonged to a German family.
This typical Algarvian beach, backed by ochre coloured cliffs, fine golden sand and crystal-clear azure water is not only great for swimming in, but also provides you with no end of natural beauty to explore.
There are various rock formations and caves as well as a wide diversity of birds on top of the surrounding cliffs.
Praia da Rocha
Praia da Rocha is the main beach in Portimão. It is a grand beach, surrounded by one of a kind rock formations. Although the water of the Atlantic Ocean can be a bit cold, in the summer this is very refreshing.
There is a very convenient wooden boardwalk that stretches for almost the entire length of the beach, with several beach bars and restaurants dotted along the way.
Here you can enjoy some good waves as well as many other water sports including surfing, jet skiing, parasailing and kayaking. If you are looking for good nightlife near a beach, this is the place to be.
Praia do Vau
Praia do Vau is well known for its huge rock standing alone on the beach with a smaller rock just to the side of it.
This beach is surrounded by impressive red cliffs that block a part of the wind, making the area a bit more sheltered. The sand is fine and golden and the beach offers spectacular views.
Although very popular among Portuguese families and tourists in the summer, it is calmer than Praia da Rocha and during the winter or spring months, it is much quieter.
Carvoeiro / Lagoa / Ferragudo
Praia do Benagil
Benagil beach is a relatively small one, sitting between impressive gold-coloured cliffs which act as a natural wind barrier.
The sea water is of excellent quality though it does go from shallow to deep quite quickly.
Here you will find the most popular grotto within the Algarve – Algar de Benagil. Travellers come from far and wide to visit this cave that is only accessible by boat or kayak – with access dependent on the tide and sea conditions. You shouldn’t swim out to the grottos unless you are a strong swimmer, though this shouldn’t be necessary as boat trips are readily available locally at very reasonable prices.
When you enter the cave, you are treated to some of the most unique and spectacular natural lighting effects as a result of sunlight entering through the caves’ orifices and bouncing off the water’s surface.
A truly breath-taking and unique experience!
Praia da Marinha
Here we have a fairly small sandy beach, surrounded by orange limestone that forms the cliffs and iconic rock formations - wrapped in clear turquoise waters. Simply stunning!
The downsides to this beach are the lack of facilities and awkward access. You will need to take a drive off the main road followed by a steep descent down a set of steps and onto the sand.
However, it is totally worth it if you have kids as there is a wonderland of nooks, crannies and caves to explore. Snorkelling is great at this location and there are boat trips available - including paddle boat hire.
Praia do Carvoeiro
This beach was voted the best beach in Europe in 2018 by European Best Destinations. The sea here is beautiful, the water is neither too cold nor too hot and the waves can vary from strong to gentle enough for paddling and discovering the nearby caves.
This is the perfect place to capture a beautiful and picturesque image of the Algarvian coastline. The beach is small and sheltered with a good support network of restaurants, bars and terraces.
Praia Grande - Ferragudo
Praia Grande is located on the estuary of the river Arade, next to Ferragudo. It has an extensive sandy area and is surrounded by low cliffs with intense vegetation.
The river waters are calm with several boats, embarkations and nautical sports frequenting the area.
There is a small car park nearby and a bigger one next to the Agrinha Beach (250m away). Facilities include restaurants, toilets, showers and a children’s park.
Armação de Pera
Praia de Armação de Pêra
This beach has limestone cliffs to the west end and a wide sandy bay to the east. There is a pedestrian promenade overlooking the sea, with landscaped spaces and a superb view of the coastline.
If you are a nature admirer, you must explore the out of sight dunes and the wetland that forms at the mouth of the Alcantarilha stream.
When you venture into this little hidden gem, you will be treated to typical vegetation and a variety of waterfowl such as the huge grey heron or the small, tireless sandpipers.
Praia da Falésia
Falésia beach is about 6-7 kilometres long with quite calm waters. Here you can benefit from a variety of distinct activities such as hiking, nature observation, surfing, paragliding, kite surfing, sailing or, simply enjoying a book in a bar by the sea.
It is also well-served by several top-class golf courses, a plethora of restaurants and bars as well as many accommodation complexes.
With its impressive line of high cliffs in deep tones ranging from reds to off-white, this cliff beach is one of the higher quality beaches in Portugal.
Praia da Galé
Highly rated by TripAdvisor, this beautiful golden beach lies 4 kilometres west of Albufeira, between Albufeira and Armação de Pêra.
It has an undeveloped feel about it and is a nice escape from the other crowded beaches in the locality. This location is surrounded by beautiful scenery made up of rock formations and nature.
If you like collecting fossils and rocks, the east side is where you should head for. Here, the sea is calmer and quite shallow.
The west side stretches out for several kilometres making it an ideal spot for long walks along the sea. There is also a long boardwalk that takes you through the dunes to Praia da Galé.
If you’re looking for activities, you can opt for a variety of water sports such as surfing or jet skiing or for something calmer such as a spot of bird watching.
Praia da Oura
This beach is famous for its crazy nightlife, which makes it especially popular amongst young people. It is very near to the new centre of Albufeira, a lively area with lots of bars and restaurants.
During the summer, the beach is packed with tourists and is the place to see and be seen. If you like peace and quiet, this is definitely not the beach for you but, if you like to be on a beach full of activity and parties, this could be your idea of heaven!
Water activities include diving, jet skiing, parasailing or the banana boat. The beach itself benefits from soft sand, good water temperature and small waves.
Praia dos Salgados
Praia dos Salgados is approximately one kilometre east of the resort of Armação de Pêra. It is backed by low sand dunes criss-crossed with wooden boardwalks so that this conservation area is kept intact.
Beyond the sand dunes, you will find the Salgados Lagoon which provides an important habitat for migrating birds that stopover in the wetlands.
Species of interest include red herons, blue-black grassquits and curlews. The lack of cliffs to act as a protective barrier means this beach is less sheltered but, in contrast, it is a great spot for kitesurfing
and other water sports.
Praia de Vilamoura
Located next to the beautiful Vilamoura marina and close to numerous tourist developments, this beach is a lovely place to be.
Its soft golden sand and calm crystal-clear blue waters make this the ideal place to kick back and relax.
Sun loungers and parasols are available for hire and, if you are looking for a little bit of activity, there are many water sports you can take part in.
Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo
Praia do Ancão
About 30 minutes’ drive from Faro you will find Praia do Ancão. To get to the beach, you can walk along wooden boardwalks which are in place to protect the delicate sand dunes.
This exceptionally clean and well-kept beach benefits from soft, light sand, refreshing crystal clear water and relatively light winds.
There are various exclusive lounging areas and several restaurants on the beach serving meals ranging from fresh fish and seafood to tapas, salads and snacks.
Here you can also practice various water sports such as banana boating, water skiing, wakeboarding, stand up paddle, kayaking and snorkelling.
Vale do Lobo
Directly in front of the Vale do Lobo resort you will find this beach with many magical colour combinations and features.
The red and ochre tones of the cliffs and the pearly-white sand compliment each other beautifully.
Then you have the deep, refreshing green of the stone pines that shelter the local golf greens which add a stunning contrast.
The beach, awarded a Blue Flag consistently since 1987, is long but rather narrow and the sea often reaches up to the cliffs.
There is a vast offering of leisure activities including golf, tennis and water sports. As previously mentioned, this beach is also backed by golf courses - The Royal Golf Course and the Ocean Golf Course – Two of Algarve’s finest!
Praia do Garrão
Praia de Garrão stretches between Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago and features private areas dotted with sun-loungers and areas open to the general public.
This beach is situated in the borderline of Ria Formosa Natural Park surrounded by a pine forest. It is quite isolated with access either on foot across the sand from the neighbouring beaches or by car.
A good selection of water sports are available here with equipment for hire for activities such as jet skiing, banana boats or pedal boats.
Praia da Fuseta
Located at the easternmost tip of Armona Island, opposite the fishing village of Fuseta, you will find Praia da Fuseta. The New Harbour (Barra Nova) is situated about 1.5 km to the east of the beach’s bathing area.
The stretch of sand between the new harbour and the place where the old harbour used to be was given the name Praia da Barra Nova (New Harbour Beach) and is now a deserted, unspoilt stretch of sand.
A short boat ride to the island is approximately 10 minutes from Fuseta Pier. This beach is a popular one in the summer for families.
Praia da Armona
This beach is part of the natural park of Ria Formosa. It is approximately 9 kilometres in length and up to 1 kilometre wide.
There are about 50 people who live on the island permanently, but it is ‘car free’ with access only via boat or ferry.
The water here is very clean and almost transparent with two distinct areas for you to enjoy. Praia da Armona Ria has plenty of bars and restaurants and benefits from warm water.
Praia da Armona Mar faces the ocean and stretches as far as the eye can see. This is the best part of the Island though water is colder.
The sunset here is beautiful but don’t get carried away, as you could end up missing the last ferry back to the mainland!
Praia do Barril
This is one of the calmest beaches in the Algarve’s Southern coast. Just a few kilometres from the city of Tavira, access to the beach is made via a small floating bridge that crosses the Ria Formosa, followed by a footpath that crosses the Island to the beach.
During the high season, you can opt to cross the island by a mini train that was once used by the fishermen to transport goods between the village and the main road.
A well-known focal point here is The Anchor Graveyard - a unique memorial to the Portuguese tuna boats that have sailed the seas for centuries but, due to the lack of resources, are slowly ceasing activity.
The anchors were used to keep the fishing nets in place and formed giant underwater mazes which then funnelled the tuna into them.
Ilha de Tavira
Just like Armona beach, Ilha de Tavira is also a part of the natural park of Ria Formosa and considered to be one of the best beaches of the Algarve.
It stretches for about 11 kilometres and is quite wide – up to 1 kilometre. To get there, you need to catch the Ferry from Cais das Quatro Águas to Tavira Island.
During the Summer months, another ferry runs from the river harbour near the town centre. This beach boasts wide stretches of white sand, crystal-clear turquoise waters and good restaurants on the island serving up seafood specialities.
Praia Verde (Green Beach) is one of the most beautiful beaches of the Algarve. It is a peaceful beach, surrounded by a forest of green pine trees and blessed with extremely fine beautiful white sand.
The beach is very wide, flat and clean, the sea is calm and the water is warm and crystal clear. This is one of the least developed beaches of the region and is not as commercialised as others.
Access is via a long wooden stairway providing a very scenic walk downhill through the green forest. At this location, you have access to beach view restaurants and over the years, this has become a very popular wedding location due to its picture-perfect setting.
Vila Real de Sto. António
This beach is backed by low sand dunes which seem to go on forever. Many people say that the sea temperature at Manta Rosa is warmer than anywhere else in the Algarve.
This is a great beach with plenty of facilities including restaurants on the beachfront, shops, showers, toilets, sun loungers and beach umbrellas, which you can hire for the day. It is popular with the Portuguese, who come here for a relaxing day by the sea.
Praia Fluvial Pego Fundo
This river beach is currently the only one of its kind in the Algarve and is one of the biggest tourist attractions of the region, including the Spanish from across the border.
This is the river beach that enjoys the longest bathing season within Portugal - from mid-May to late September every year.
The facilities here are fantastic and include a bar (with a terrace around it), toilets, showers, First Aid Post, a shaded car park for up to 30 cars, a volleyball court and a picnic park with wooden tables.
There is plenty of shade around the beach which is accessible to people with reduced mobility. Pets are allowed on the grounds but not on the beach.
This is truly an amazing alternative to the sea beaches that are so predominant in the Algarve – a true oasis that must be visited!
So, now that you’ve had a taster of all the best beaches to visit in the South of Portugal, the hardest part will be which ones to choose! The answer to this quandary is quite simple… visit the Algarve many times and slowly check all of them off your list!