Portugal’s southern province Algarve has so many different types of beautiful beaches that it makes choosing only five difficult. There are long, tiny, shallow, deep, rocky, fine-grained, white and golden beaches to choose from. In addition, tide makes them look different depending on the level of the sea. Anyhow, here are five nice, popular beaches that are different, and suit to different tastes and needs. The best beach destinations were extracted from the travel guide book Algarve, Southern Portugal.
Praia da Falesia
The beach of Praia da Falesia is so long and varying that you can visit it daily for a week and still discover new places along the shore. The beach is about 5 kilometers / 3 miles long. From the outskirts of the village Olhos d’Aqua, it stretches east to the port of Vilamoura. Near Olhos d’Aqua, rocky hills rise behind the beach. Gradually towards Vilamoura, the hills get lower.
There are many entry points to the beach, but the most spectacular one is in Olhos d’Aqua. A 500 meter / 550 yard -long tiny road in a gorge carved into rocky hills starts from the street of Rua Nossa Senhora Fatima at a point where the street makes a 90-degree turn. Some local people drive along the tiny gravel road down to the sea, but I would not recommend it. Check the condition of the unpaved road first. There is a small carpark down on the beach and two restaurants that attract visitors to this end of the beach, but the best thing is to park on the hill above the beach.
The long west coast of Portugal faces the Atlantic Ocean, featuring many beaches that are particularly popular among surfers. When heading south along the west coast, the community of Sagres is the point where the European continent ends, and the sea surrounds the land from the west and south. Sagres is one the highlights and most memorable sights in Algarve, and worth a visit even if you are not interested in beaches.
There is only one road to Sagres: it starts from Vila do Bispo. The beaches in Sagres are: Praia da Mareta (below the Sagres village center), Praia do Tonel (the most spectacular), Praia do Beliche (sheltered place where families like to bathe), Praia do Martinhal (near the resort of the same name). Most surfers wait for the waves on Praia do Tonel that faces the Atlantic Ocean.
Praia do Carvoeiro
Praia do Carvoeiro is a classic south coast Algarve beach and village. It is a small beach of a small fishing village where the fishermen still daily launch their boats to the sea. Located between cliffs that rise vertically from the sea, the beach and the village are sheltered from the sea. The setup creates an idyllic and pretty place – just like many people imagine a classic fishing village and its beach.
A boat tour to nearby caves is an adventure that you can book and set off from the beach. As the original village has become a (relatively small) tourist destination, small hotels and houses have been constructed around the community. Shops, cafés and restaurants have occupied the street-level apartments in the village center.
The main road (narrow and in need of maintenance) to Carvoeiro starts from the town of Lagoa. A roundabout on N125 has a sign pointing to the right direction. Parking is problematic down in the village, but carparks have been built up on the hills.
Praia da Rocha
Praia da Rocha is one of the most famous beaches of Algarve. If you have seen a brochure of Algarve with an image of a beach, it just could be Praia da Rocha. The beach is an impressive sight when you view it from the rocky hills above the coastline. Soft, sandy beaches stretch for about 3 kilometers / 2 miles under magnificent rock formations that rise from the beach and from the sea.
Praia da Rocha is located in the outskirts of Portimao, which is one of the major towns of Algarve. The beach starts from the mouth of Rio Arade and stretches to the west. Portimao town center is about 2 km/1.2 miles up river from the shore. Praia da Rocha beach area has developed into a major tourist destination with high-rise hotels and apartment blocks. Plenty of visitors also means plenty of services on the beach: restaurants, boat tours, jet ski rentals, and anything else you might want to have or do by the sea.
When you approach Portimao, there are signs pointing to Praia da Rocha. You don’t have drive through Portimao. Parking can be a problem near the beach. The tip is to be there early, well before noon.
Praia dos Salgados
The dunes of Praia dos Salgados and Praia Grande form a long stretch of soft sandy beach. It is not the only thing that attracts visitors to Salgados. The delta of Alcantarilha River is a fairly large wetland area where thousands of birds live or rest during their migration. Boardwalks and viewing towers have been built for visitors to observe birds of all sizes in the delta.
Praia dos Salgados stretches from the mouth of Alcantarilha River to the community of Gale in the east. The same beach continues to the west side of Alcantarilha River, but near the town of Armacao de Pera, it is called Praia Grande. There are several entry points to the beach, but if you want to explore local wildlife as well, head to the large carpark in Salgados that is on the east side of the river mouth. You can find it by driving along road EM526 between Pera and Albufeira. Turn to Salgados, and to street Estrada dos Salgados, and drive through an area of luxury hotels to the coast.