The Algarve has close to 200 km of coastline at your disposal. Cliffs, extensive sandy beaches, deserted beaches, some of them awarded, others less known. The Algarve coastline starts at the Natural Park of Costa Vicentina and stretches all the way to Vila Real de Santo António, on the other end. Its tourist diversity of great natural and historic beauty enchants both foreigners and Portuguese citizens alike.
The western region is called “Barlavento” [Windward]. The coastline has extensive beaches, many bordered by rocky headlands and a coast of towering, rugged cliffs. The eastern region is called “Sotavento” [Leeward]. In this area, the waters are warmer and the marine erosion is more significant. The Sotavento region’s main characteristics are low sandy beach, with dunes.
Of all the beaches in the Algarve, we selected 15, all with different contrasting characteristics; from cliffs with arches and caves, through access by trails, to extensive, deserted beaches, we selected some we think you will not want to miss.
Falésia beach, Albufeira
The name says it all. A huge cliff with typical ochre and white tones in the Albufeira area hides the Falésia beach, a golden sand beach more than 6 kilometres long, where you will always find room for one more towel. Enjoy relaxing dips in their clear waters and with temperatures that invite you to stay in for one hour, and another, and another... The typical vegetation of the cliffs and the existing trails make for a pleasant hike at the end of the day.
Access: The beach is located 200 metres from EPIC SANA Algarve, with wooden stairs accessing it directly.
São Rafael beach, Albufeira
São Rafael beach delights its bathers. In the central area of the beach, already in the water, there are some scattered and curious rock formations, such as Ponte Pequena and Ninho das Andorinhas, two huge naturally formed cliffs. The crystal clear water allow swimmers to have a glimpse of the mysterious outlines of the submerged rocks, making it an ideal spot for snorkelling. The access to the beach has the perfect infrastructures for bathers with reduced mobility.
Access: Estrada Nacional 125 towards Portimão. Follow the signs to Guia – Galé and, then again, follow the signs indicating Beaches.
Arrifes beach, Albufeira
This small cove is sheltered by low carved cliffs. It is possible to see natural wells, arches and numerous galleries in the rocky walls. Three huge cliffs dominate the horizon. For this reason, this beach is locally known as “Três Penecos” [Three Cliffs]. The area surrounding the beach is covered by a pine forest.
Access: Follow Estrada Nacional 125 towards Portimão. Once reaching Guia, follow the signs that indicate “São Rafael”.
Marinha beach, Lagoa
The Marinha beach is an authentic paradise for snorkelling and diving lovers, mostly thanks to its crystal clear waters and abundant sea life, such as anemonas and seahorses. It’s included in Michelin Guide’s top 100 most beautiful beaches in the world. It is also the perfect place for explorers and curious, as it has some of the most beautiful caves of the Portuguese coast.
Access: Estrada Nacional 125, turning south along the Algarve International School, about 5 km away.
Benagil beach, Lagoa
High cliff scarps protect the Benagil beach. This beach has boats available for tourists, so they can visit the beaches only accessible by sea. They also tour the local sea caves, known as “algares”.
Access: Made by the west area, where the cliff crumbles into a valley. Exit Estrada Nacional 125 near the Algarve International School and head south. Follow the signs to the beach, which is about 5.5 km from Estrada Nacional 125.
Odeceixe beach, Aljezur
The beach has a long stretch of sand between the sea and the stream that flows into the northern end, where several shallow water lagoons are formed, perfect for children to play in. It is also possible to rent canoes and take a stoll by the stream, home to animals such as the grey heron or the colourful kingfisher.
The cliffs that line the beach are black, of slate, with stratified and fissured quartz veins, reminding us of Lego constructions. South of Odeceixe beach, passing the tall cliffs that surround it, there is a small cove, Adegas beach, an official naturist beach. With the high tide, the beach is accessible through a pedestrian path down the cliff, next to the Viewpoint.
Access: Tarred from Odeceixe (Estrada Nacional 120), heading towards the beach, located about 3 km away.
Dona Ana beach, Lagos
Cozy coves surrounded by caves, natural arches and crystal clear waters let glimpse the outline of the submerged rocks, inviting you on a boat trip around the region. Lagos is a city with many traditions and customs. The fishing activity, the honey and almond pastries or the regional crafts, make this one of the most typical places of the Algarve.
It is also possible to follow a trail at the top of the cliff, which reaches Pinhão beach, also a favourite for its surrounding tourist facilities. Specialty publications have considered the Dona Ana beach one of the best beaches in the world.
Access: Estrada Nacional 125 towards Portimão, until you reach Lagos. Take the Av. Dos Descobrimentos towards Ponta da Piedade.
Arrifana beach, Aljezur
Born from a beautiful shell-shaped cove, the Blue Flag Arrifana beach has a sand dune with more than half a kilometre long. This beach is shaped like a bay, therefore more sheltered from the breaking of the waves. Equipped with all the infrastructures fit for a seaside resort, this beach is sought throughout the year by surfers and bodyboarders. Next to what remains of the ruins of the Fortress of Arrifana, built by the Arabs, you can enjoy one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the Costa Vicentina.
Access: Follow the signs to the right just a few metres after the exit to the village of Aljezur, heading south. At the end of the climb, turn left, to Arrifana beach.
Cordoama beach, Vila do Bispo
With an extensive sand area and surrounded by lichens covered cliffs, the Cordoama Beach provides a breathtaking view from the viewpoint and a very peaceful setting. In it, we can also find a water line that runs through a ravine down to the beach. This beach is very popular for the practice of sports such as bodyboard and surf.
Access: In Vila do Bispo (Municipal Market) and heading towards the beaches go though about 4 km until you reach the intersection of Castelejo beach. After this, and already on a dirt road, drive about 2 km until you reach the beach.
Deserta Island (Barreta beach), Faro
Nature in its purest form! This is how we can describe Barreta beach, one of the least crowded of the Algarve and, therefore, one of the best preserved beaches in the region. This 11 km long true paradise is protected by a string of dunes that ensures the survival of the original vegetable species. A perfect beach for those seeking escape from the stress of urban life.
Access: You can only reach this unique place my boat, which you ca catch at Cais da Porta Nova, in Faro. Enjoy the 35 minute trip to contemplate, at low tide, the small sand mazes, the many channels and even the marshland banks.
If you keep your eyes on the banks, you’ll be able to see birds that live there and feed on squid, unaware of those trying to reach the beach, lie on the towel and go for a swim.
Schedule: Every day, all year round / Duration: 35 minutes
Departures / Returns:
10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:15 p.m., 3 p.m., 4:45 p.m., 6 p.m.
10:45 a.m., 12:45 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 4:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 7 p.m.
Farol beach, Faro
Farol beach is located in Culatra Island, in the municipality of Faro. Its name derives from the fact that, on it, is located the St.ª Maria Lighthouse. Diving schools practice at this beach, as well as underwater hunters and big game fishing. Despite its urban and tourism occupation, this extensive sandy beach becomes gradually quieter the further east you move.
Access: Access to Farol island is made only by boat. There are boar trips available all year round from Olhão and from Faro - here departing at Cais da Porta Nova (Portas do Mar). During the 40 minute trip you can enjoy the beauty of Ria Formosa and the diverse wildlife that inhabits this protected area.
Barril beach, Pedras D'el Rei, Tavira
Still blue waters and fine white sand. A small natural refuge located in the Ria Formosa Natural Park. You can reach the beach on foot, but we recommend that you add a little fun to your beach day and take the opportunity to take a ride on the small tourist train - it has several daily routes between Pedras D'el Rei and Barril beach. We more than recommend this experience, especially if you are traveling with children!
Access to Ria Formosa: On Estrada Nacional 125, turn towards the direction “Barril/Santa Luzia", follow the main road crossing Pedras D’el Rei, until you reach the ria.
Access to the beach: By foot or tourist train.
Cabanas island, Tavira
Cabanas island is located roughly halfway from Tavira island, a narrow stretch of fine white sand. Along the access to the beach, it is possible to go on a walking path signaled with six observation stations, allowing to contemplate the environmental richness of Ria Formosa.
The tourist equipment of the beach was adapted starting from an old tuna fishing structure, and it’s still possible to see the original houses and some fishing objects, as well as a set of great anchors that are disposed in the involving space of the beach, landscaped with plants from the dunes.
Access: It is necessary to cross a narrow pedestrian bridge that rises over an estuary channel and proceed on foot or by a small train, running on a regular schedule (about 1 km), to the beach.
Cacela Velha beach, Vila Real de Santo António
The municipality covers a coastal strip between Tavira and Castro Marim to the mouth of the Guadiana river. The beaches in the region have still and warm waters. Cacela Velha beach is situated in the extreme headwaters of Cabanas island, near the Cacela bar. In July 2015, it was considered one of the 15 best beaches in the world. The distinction was attributed by the Spanish version of "Traveler” magazine.
Access: By boat from the pier of Sítio da Fábrica, about 1.5 kms from Cacela Velha. Car parking close to the boarding site. The beach does not offer assistance nor surveillance services during bathing season.
Praia Verde, Castro Marim
A great extension of flat sand and doing justice to its name, the Verde beach [green beach] is surrounded by a vast pine forest area that extends indefinitely to east and west, making it a picture perfect image of tranquility. The stilness of the ocean and the pleasant temperature of the air and water invite you to a dream holiday, supported by infrastructure such as restaurants and nautical equipment rental.
Access: Coming from Lisbon on the A2 motorway, enter Via do Infante (A22) towards Spain, exit on Altura/Monte Gordo. Arriving at Estrada Nacional 125, turn left towards Vila Real Santo António and 300 metres ahead, turn right at Praia Verde Resort. Coming from Spain, exit on Altura/Monte Gordo, when arriving at Estrada Nacional 125, turn left towards Vila Real de Santo António and after 300 metres turn right at Praia Verde Resort.