Algarve’s best beaches

It must be the Algarve’s best-known attraction: the beach. But which one? With over 200km of coastline and close to 100 beaches to choose from it’s almost a luxury problem.

No worries, we’re here to help. Just pick the beachgoer-description that fits you best and find out where to go for your ideal sun & sea time. This beach too close/far away? We also provide you with two fitting alternatives.

 

See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine June 2015

 

1. The treasure seeker

The beach should have golden sand, emerald-turquoise waters and be even prettier than those paradise advertisements. There’s no need to buy fancy postcards to send home to the family anymore, a mere print out of your holiday snaps will suffice. Key words: Attractive. Scenic. Eye candy.

Want to make a perfect picture of the picture perfect beach? Algarve-based photographer Dave Sheldrake shares his tips on beach photography in our Picture Perfect article.

 

Praia do Vau

It’s perhaps not as well-known as the other two treasure seeker beaches, but at least just as pretty. The reddish ochre coloured cliffs are stabilised by exotic vegetation such as cacti, making for a not-so-typical-Algarve look.

The clay found on this beach is thought to have beneficial properties for the skin, so make a mud mask. Walk all the way towards the east at low tide and you’ll get to Praia da Rocha, direction west will send you on a rock pool discovery journey towards the nearby Praia do Alemão.

Coordinates: 37° 7’ 12.06” N 8° 33’ 32.91” W

Picture by Aires Almeida

 

Benagil

Yes, Benagil beach is charming and the small fisherman village is delightful, but it’s the famous cave you want. Feel like a pirate of the Caribbean and hire a boat. Explore the open sea. Maybe even encounter some dolphins. Find your own treasure somewhere hidden in caves only accessible at low tide.

Too much adventure for your liking? Just join one of the many tour operators offering boat trips to the sea caves. The captains know their way around, so your pictures and experience will be just as nice.

Coordinates: 37° 5’ 14.55” N 8° 25’ 35.24” W

Picture by Hurtuv

 

Praia da Marinha (Carvoeiro)

This is one of the most photographed beaches in the Algarve, and not without reason. Wind and sea erosion have shaped the limestone cliffs into arches and the surf has carved the rocks into grottos.

Considered one of the best 100 beaches in the world, not only the rock formations are remarkable, but also the marine life. Thanks to an abundance of anemones, octopuses and sea urchins, Praia da Marinha is good for snorkelling and diving.

Coordinates: 37° 5’ 23.67” N 8° 24’ 42.08” W

Picture by Luis Ascenso Photography

 

2. The surf dude

The beach is just a stretch of sand that leads to the important bit: the waves. Whether it’s rocky, sandy, big or small, it doesn’t matter as long as the swell is good. Other watersports are allowed as well. Now where’s my board?
The Algarve has the widest swell window in Portugal. Find perfect peaks on the west coast and nice smaller waves on the south. Before you go, check surf websites such as www.magicseaweed.com for current swell reports.

 

Praia do Amado

Thanks to national and international competitions held here, it’s is one of the Algarve’s most popular surf spots. There are usually several surfing schools around if you want to brush up on your technique.

Praia do Amado is a good location for inexperienced surfers, but also some barrel breaks can be found in the versatile waves. It gets busy in summer, leading to crowded line ups in the water and campervans parked on most of the surrounding cliffs.

Coordinates: 37° 10’ 2.26” N 8° 54’ 8.72” W

Picture by Aires Aimeda

 

Arrifana

There’s a challenging world-class right point break at the northern end of the beach. When surfing it, take care with rips and large rocks in the water. On a good day, waves here can reach a height of 4-5m. They are hollow, fast and powerful with shallow boils and barrel sections.

Beware, as the spot described above is for experienced surfers only. No pro and still want to try surfing at Arrifana? Stick to the smaller beach break beneath the cliffs. There are good waves at all tide stages.
Coordinates: 37° 17’ 41.06” N 8° 51’ 58.61”W

Picture by Hendrik Dacquin

 

Praia da Rocha

Go here when the swell on the west coast gets too huge to handle. Praia da Rocha is not a classic surfer magnet, but if the waves in the west are over 2m, then the situation on the south coast is just about surfable.

You’ll find this spot in the centre of Portimão, where a hollow and inconsistent left breaks off the jetty, by the river. It needs a big swell to work, but the tubes are great. Watch out for buoys in the water. On the shore, entertainment comes in the shape of bars, restaurants and discos.

Coordinates: 37° 17’ 41.06” N 8° 51’ 58.61”W

Picture by Steven Fruitsmaak

 

3. The Family Guy

The beach is a place to build sandcastles, hunt for sea shells and discover rock pools. It should be child-friendly (read: life guarded, calm, flat and have an ice-cream shop nearby). Other families are more than welcome, especially if they’re willing share the inflatable crocodile they’ve brought.

With kids, go to a Blue Flag beach. This year 85 beaches in the Algarve have been awarded with the Blue Flag certification. This means thoses beach meet the most stringent standards for water quality, safety, environmental education and information.

 

Odeceixe

No matter their age, your kids will have plenty of fun at Odeceixe beach. The ocean waves will keep body boarding teenagers busy (there’s also a surf school), while the river mouth with shallow lagoons forming at low tide is an ideal paddling place for smaller children.

If you get into the Algarve from the north, this is the first beach you’ll encounter, so no need to drag the car journey on any longer. There’s a beach café that sells burgers.

Coordinates: 37° 26’ 28.53” N 8° 47’ 52.66” W

Picture by Antonio Sacchetti

 

Salema

‘Let’s look for dinosaur prints!’ These five words are enough to get even the stroppiest infant out of bed. At Salema it’s possible: the rocky walls on the west side of the beach boast 140 million years old footprints of Theropods and Iguanodontians.

Is your child not into fossils? Hire a kayak or watch fishermen unload their catch. Feeling hungry? The fish is served in restaurants right on the waterfront. No, that’s not Nemo you’re eating.

Coordinates: 37° 3’ 54.80” N 8° 49’ 27.28” W

Picture by Jean-Pierre Bazard

 

Barril

Getting there is half the fun and that certainly goes for Barril beach. After parking (follow the signs for Pedras Del Rei on the N125 between Olhão and Tavira), cross a narrow pontoon bridge over the river by foot. Then, take the kids on a mini-train ride through the Ria Formosa natural park.

On arrival at the beach there’s an anchor graveyard to admire as this location used to be a tuna fishing station. Facilities include toilets, restaurants and a tiny shop.

Coordinates: 37° 5’ 9.88” N 7° 39’ 43.87” W

Picture by Marijke Verschuren

 

4. The free spirit

The beach is a place to be yourself and let it all hang loose in your birthday suit. Getting a tan is nice, but tan lines are not. Hence, you prefer a stretch of sand where clothing is optional.

There are three official nudist beaches in the Algarve: Adegas, Ilha Deserta and Praia do Homem Nu. There are also plenty of unofficial ones on which nudism is tolerated – best to check the recommendation of the Portuguese Naturists Federation before stripping off (www.fpn.pt).

 

Praia das Adegas (Odeceixe)

At the end of the Algarve west coast, located in a small cove south of Odeceixe beach, you’ll find Adegas. At low tide, you can walk between the two beaches. At high tide, park your car at the top and walk down a steep wooden path with lots of steps through the rocks to get to the sands.

Part of the Costa Vicentina nature park, Adegas beach consists of a small cosy bay covered by rocks and is usually not that busy. The water is shallow for a long way and breaking waves roll in, so ideal for a play in the surf.

Coordinates: 37° 26’ 19.93” N 8° 48’ 1.92” W

Picture by Beeston

 

Ilha Deserta (Faro)

The name is a bit of a giveaway: this is as close as you’ll get to a deserted island in the Algarve. Also known as Ilha da Barreta, this beach is about 11km long, so no need to fight for towel space. Even if there are other people around, you’ll soon manage to shake them off and find your own spot of tranquillity.

Take a ferry or speedboat from Faro to get to this southernmost point of continental Portugal. Apart from a café, the island is uninhabited. It’s also bare and desolated so don’t expect a fancy row of palms to bring you shade and make sure to take your own supplies. Pure escapism.

Coordinates: 36° 57’ 53.62” N 7° 52’ 22.56” W

Picture by Animaris

 

Praia do Homem Nu (Tavira)

Clean sand, calm seas and the opportunity to walk on and on and on. Praia do Homem Nu (naked man beach) is located on Ilha de Tavira, about 1.5km west of Barril. On arriving at the anchor graveyard the beach is still textile area, but walk further to the right for another 20 minutes and the thin stretch of sand becomes nudist territory.

This unspoilt beach goes on for another 3km, almost all the way to Fuseta, where you have the ocean on one side and the Ria Formosa lagoon at the other. Ideal conditions for philosophers. It’s also accessible by boat or water taxi from either Fuseta or Tavira.

Coordinates: 37° 4’ 22.50” N 7° 41’ 22.13” W

Picture by Marijke Verschuren

See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine June 2015

 

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