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Best Beaches in the Algarve (And the Most Beautiful!)

13 de June, 2024

Best Beaches in the Algarve (And the Most Beautiful!)

Discover the best beaches in the Algarve! Find out everything: locations, the best time to visit, and what each one has to offer.
Reading: 11 min

The Algarve, in southern Portugal, is a sun-drenched paradise. Famous for hosting the most beautiful beaches in Portugal and Europe, it boasts breathtaking scenery with impressive rock formations, golden cliffs, mysterious caves, crystal-clear water, and sheltered coves. In this article, we will list the best beaches in the Algarve, where they are located, the best time to visit, and what each one has to offer.

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Along its nearly 150 kilometers of coastline, the Algarve has many beaches that flaunt the prestigious Blue Flag award for water quality. It is no wonder that the region has been ranked as the best beach destination in the world by the Global World Travel Awards for several consecutive years!

In addition to its natural beauty, the Algarve also has a perfect climate to make the most of summer. With water temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius, the waters invite refreshing swims and the practice of various water sports, such as swimming, surfing, bodyboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and much more.

Moreover, many of the best beaches in the Algarve are concessioned and, therefore, have excellent infrastructure, including restrooms, sun loungers, and restaurants where you can savor the best of Portuguese food.

Mapa de praias do Algarve

Where is the Algarve?

Before listing our favorite beaches, it is important to clarify some information about the region.

First, the Algarve is neither a city nor a district. In fact, the Algarve is a region made up of 16 municipalities (concelhos), distributed between two districts. It is located in the extreme south of Portugal, between the Alentejo and eastern Spain, 280 km from Lisbon and 600 km from Porto. Among the main cities in the Algarve, we can mention Loulé, Albufeira, Portimão, Lagos, and Faro. The latter is home to the region’s main airport.

In addition to the beaches, the Algarve is famous for its picturesque villages, world-class golf courses, and a rich historical culture.

It is worth noting that southern Portugal was the last part of the country to be reconquered by the Christians from the Moors, who occupied the country from 711 to 1249. As such, it is the region of the country where the Moorish influence is most evident, present in the culture, architecture, gastronomy, and way of life. An example is the white houses with intricate chimneys typical of Moorish architecture. We can also mention Algarve cuisine, which is a blend of Moorish and Mediterranean influences. Dishes like seafood cataplana and the use of spices such as saffron are direct legacies of this occupation.

Finally, we can also point to the presence of words of Arabic origin in the Portuguese language. Note the names of the cities in the region: Aljezur, Albufeira…

Where are the best beaches? Barlavento or Sotavento?

The Algarve coast can be divided between Barlavento and Sotavento, which are nautical terms used to designate the direction in which the wind blows.

Barlavento Algarvio:

The western or occidental zone of the Algarve, the side that receives the wind. It is located between Vila do Bispo and Albufeira. The beaches of Barlavento have colder waters and larger waves. They are ideal for those who enjoy surfing and dramatic landscapes with unusual rock formations.

Municipalities in Barlavento Algarvio:

  • Albufeira
  • Alcoutim
  • Aljezur
  • Monchique
  • Lagoa
  • Lagos
  • Portimão
  • Silves
  • Vila do Bispo

Sotavento Algarvio:

This is the eastern or oriental zone of the Algarve, on the side that the wind blows from. These beaches are extensive with fine sand, shallow depth, and warmer, calmer waters. They are perfect for swimming and relaxing.

Municipalities in Sotavento Algarvio:

  • Castro Marim
  • Faro
  • Loulé
  • Olhão
  • São Brás de Alportel
  • Tavira
  • Vila Real de Santo António

Bathing Season in the Algarve

The bathing season in Portugal is the period during which the beaches are officially open for swimming and are monitored by lifeguards. During this period, water quality analyses are conducted. Additionally, restrooms and bathhouses are installed for the convenience of beachgoers.

The bathing season usually progresses from June 1 to October 31. In 2024, it started on May 15 in Albufeira.

Why Visit the Beaches of the Algarve?

  • Natural Beauty: Highlights include colorful caves and cliffs.
  • Award-Winning: The Algarve has received the award for Best Beach Destination in Europe 10 times, 5 of which were consecutive (in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023).
  • Variety: There are family beaches, lively beaches, hidden beaches accessible by trail, completely deserted beaches, and even beaches with access for people with disabilities.
  • Water Quality: Many of them have Blue Flag status, an international award recognizing the quality of water, sand, and facilities.
  • Safety: Calm waters monitored by lifeguards during the high season.
  • Great Infrastructure: Many beaches have restaurants, restrooms, showers, bars, shops, parking, and rental services for sun loungers and umbrellas.
  • Water Sports Opportunities: Including swimming, surfing, bodyboarding, windsurfing, kitesurfing, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, diving, and snorkeling.
  • Climate: With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, the Algarve has long, hot, and dry summers, and mild, wet winters. The average annual air temperature is 18 degrees Celsius, similar to the water temperature. July, the sunniest month, has 13 hours of sunshine per day.
  • Gastronomy: Many of its beaches have excellent nearby restaurants serving typical regional dishes. Highlights include fresh fish, clams, and typical dishes such as spicy piri-piri chicken.

Best Beaches in the Algarve

Check out our selection below!

Marinha Beach, Lagoa

Marinha Beach, Lagoa

We begin our selection with one of the most famous beaches in the Algarve, often listed among the world’s best by travel publications and websites such as Michelin Guide and Condé Nast Traveller.

A true postcard of the region, this gem is accessible via a staircase installed in the rocks. It is located in the municipality of Lagoa, between Carvoeiro and Armação de Pêra, two other famous beaches in the region. The highlight here is its rock formations, natural tunnels, and turquoise blue waters. Its most iconic image is of a rock with two natural arches that, when seen from above, resemble the shape of a heart (see previous photo).

Gruta de Benagil, no Algarve
Gruta de Benagil

Benagil, Lagoa

You’ve certainly seen the Benagil Cave, an impressive attraction of Benagil Beach, located in a small fishing village between Carvoeiro and Armação de Pêra. This cave is world-renowned for its natural dome with a hole at the top that allows sunlight to filter through, creating a spectacular scene formed over thousands of years of erosion. Not to mention, the colors and textures of the rocks inside the cave are breathtaking!

Access to the cave is by sea, whether by kayak, stand-up paddleboard, boat, or swimming. This exclusivity adds to its aura of mystery and beauty.

As a result, Benagil Cave is often mentioned in lists of “best sea caves in the world” by various travel publications and websites. Well-deserved praise!

Praia do Carvoeiro, uma das melhores praias do Algarve
Carvoeiro Beach

Carvoeiro Beach, Lagoa

Carvoeiro Beach is a hidden gem on the Algarve coast. Nestled next to a cliff, this small and beautiful beach is surrounded by white houses of fishermen and vacationers. Its sandy shore is sheltered and highly sought after by swimmers. You’ll find fishing boats resting on the sand, as well as boat tours that explore the stunning caves and sinkholes nearby. The atmosphere is enchanting, and the village of Carvoeiro, with its restaurants, bars, and esplanades, blends harmoniously with the beach. It’s the perfect place to spend a whole day: lay out your towel, take a break for lunch at local restaurants, explore the shops, and if you wish, walk along the over 500 meters of boardwalks, from Algar Seco to the ruins of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Lighthouse.

Dona Ana Beach

Dona Ana Beach, Lagos

In search of a beach with crystal-clear waters, perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling? You’ve just found it! Situated in Lagos, Dona Ana Beach is a charming natural retreat located next to another famous beach, Camilo Beach.

It was once voted the most beautiful beach in the world by Condé Nast Traveller in 2013. Located close to the center of Lagos, you can reach it on foot.

Dona Ana Beach is small in width and length, with gigantic rugged cliffs shaped by erosion. These jagged limestone structures have formed arches, pillars, and caves. Apart from providing a visually stunning landscape, these formations offer opportunities for exploration. Scenic trails and viewpoints provide panoramic views of the coastline and the Atlantic Ocean.

Despite its small sandy area, Dona Ana Beach offers amenities such as parking, bathrooms, viewpoints, a restaurant, and rental of beach chairs and umbrellas. Access is through staircases, and even kayaks are available to explore the waters. It’s a place that captivates all senses and invites contemplation and relaxation. Experience it at low tide for the best visit.

Falésia Beach

Falésia Beach, Albufeira

As its name suggests, this is an extensive beach with fine golden sand and red cliffs, topped with rich vegetation. It features shallow and calm waters, perfect for sports like stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking. The expansive sandy stretch extends from Olhos de Água (Albufeira) to Vilamoura (Loulé) and is also ideal for long walks, renowned for its natural beauty and tranquility. It stands out for its easy access by public transportation.

It is often ranked among the best beaches in Europe in various travel guides and tourist publications. In 2024, it was voted the world’s best beach in the Traveller’s Choice Awards (Tripadvisor).

Rocha Beach

Rocha Beach, Portimão

Do you enjoy socializing? Rocha Beach, located in Portimão, is one of the most famous and bustling beaches in the Algarve. With an extensive stretch of golden sand, lively beach bars, water activities, and a vibrant nightlife, it attracts visitors from all over the world.

The imposing sandstone cliffs provide a dramatic backdrop to the coastline that will stay etched in your memory. The soft sand invites sunbathing and seaside fun. Moreover, Rocha Beach is an excellent choice for families, offering a variety of activities for everyone to enjoy to the fullest!

Vilamoura

Vilamoura Beach, Loulé

Vilamoura is one of the main destinations in the Algarve and is home to Portugal’s largest marina, inaugurated in 1974. Its beach is located near the village of the same name. With luxury hotels, holiday homes, restaurants, a casino, water park, shopping, and services, the area is convenient and easily accessible on foot.

Due to this convenience, Vilamoura Beach is often crowded, especially during the summer vacation months of July and August. It’s lively at any time, even at night, with bars offering a chillout or party atmosphere.

Vilamoura is a popular destination for golfers year-round, with 5 different courses available. Check out our article on golf in Portugal here.

Fuseta Island

Fuseta Island, Olhão

Near the village of Fuseta, 10km from the city of Olhão, lies Fuseta Beach. You can reach it on foot from the village center and there is parking nearby. The beach is small but charming, with golden sand and calm, shallow waters, making it popular among local families. The area is excellent for birdwatching and ecological tours, with various trails and boat trips available to explore the local fauna and flora.

For even more tranquility, venture a bit further. Located very close by is Ilha da Fuseta (Fuseta Island), one of the best-kept secrets of the Algarve. Due to its location, the island acts as a natural barrier for Fuseta Beach, protecting it from ocean waves. The island separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Ria Formosa and is part of the designated Natural Park area. Therefore, it is only accessible by boat from Fuseta or Olhão. Its eastern end faces the neighboring Tavira Island and is also known as Praia da Barra Nova. Here, expect calm waters in summer and dunes that stretch for kilometers.

Forte e praia Cacela Velha ou Praia da Fábrica, entre as melhores praias do Algarve
Forte de Cacela Velha

Cacela Velha Beach or Praia da Fábrica, Vila Real de Santo António

If you prefer the tranquility of a less frequented beach, another good option is Praia da Fábrica (Factory Beach, official name because there was once a brick factory there) in the Eastern Algarve. Here, you can enjoy over 1 km of clear, fine sand bathed by calm and warm water. This beach is part of the barrier islands that make up the Ria Formosa Natural Park. It has been awarded by Condé Nast Traveler and The Guardian.

This beach is located about 15 minutes from Tavira, on an island in front of the village of Cacela Velha. It is one of the few settlements on the Algarve coast where mass tourism is not predominant, due to restrictions on real estate development.

Access here is also by boat (ferryman). In this case, from Sítio da Fábrica. The boat crossing costs €1.50. The more adventurous can venture to cross on foot during low tide, but this is not recommended.

We are talking about a less crowded beach with limited supporting infrastructure, no restaurants for eating and drinking. Therefore, if you plan to spend the day, you’ll need to bring food. Additionally, parking is limited and requires a long walk to reach the beach. Despite this, the effort pays off with the stunning views and tranquility of the location.

A curiosity: Praia da Fábrica is a pet-friendly beach where you can take your dog, even for a swim!

Some tips for enjoying the best beaches in the Algarve:

The Algarve gets crowded during the summer, so plan ahead not only to secure a place to stay but also to find better prices.

If possible, avoid July and August, opting instead for June and September, which are quieter and equally warm.

Remember, the Algarve not only has luxury hotels and resorts but also an excellent selection of local accommodations at more affordable prices.

Once at the beach, indulge in Bolas de Berlim filled with egg cream or Nutella. This treat is a fried dough covered with sugar and cinnamon, similar to Brazilian “Sonho”.

If you enjoy adventure, don’t miss out on hiking trails and water sports.

Finally, for boat trip enthusiasts, there are plenty of options including deep-sea fishing, dolphin and shark watching, and visiting sea caves.

Feeling tempted to spend an extended period in the Algarve? Speak with our consultants and discover visas for digital nomads, retirees, and investors. Reside in one of Portugal’s most desired regions!! Click here to contact us!

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Silvia Resende

Author:

Silvia Resende

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