‘People come here for the beaches”- that’s what a local guy told us. Indeed, Algarve region in Portugal is a popular destination amongst beach seeking holiday makers. We were not an exception. Our visit to Algarve in July was a beach holiday, my pregnancy ‘honey moon’. We spent most of our, pretty much all daytime, on various beautiful beaches. On some days we went not to one but several beaches. There are so many to choose from! Having a car makes getting around so much easier.
Why we loved Algarve beaches? The clear blue (and cold!) almost transparent waters of the Atlantic ocean, gold soft sand and cliff chopped that changes into a series pinnacles, crevasses, and caves- a combination that makes Algarve beaches so special and unique. Unsurprisingly, Algarve is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It a stunning destination in Europe for beach holidays. The season here is from May to September. The summer average temperature is 28C (83F), and hottest in July and August. During the day in the summer you will have plenty of sunshine as much as 12 hours. Not only it is a beautiful beach destination, it is also an option for everyones pocket (budget to luxury holiday).
In this blog, we share our Top 5 Best & Most Beautiful beaches in Algarve. We selected beached based on their uniqueness, cleanliness of both the beach and water, facilities, and just our own feeling of the beach. Also, we have shared places that you can visit near the beaches.
1. Praia da Prainha (Prainha beach), Alvor
Our top beach was Praia da Prainha. It is a stunning beach secluded by rock formations. We loved this beach as it has everything that Algarve beaches are known for: stunning views from above the cliffs and from the beach, rock formations & grottos, soft golden sand, clear blue waters. It is very clean beach with very clean water as it is awarded a blue flag (outstanding water quality).
On top of being a beautiful beach, it offers some adventures. During a low tide, you can take a break from sunbathing and explore the surrounding area, which we loved. As the water retreats, you can walk to see various dotted grottos and waterholes. The views we stumbled on were perfect reflection of Algarve beaches’ beauty. Definitely, a perfect place for some photos.
Another bonus of this beach is being near Praia da Alvor. If you get bored of Prainha beach (but I very doubt it) you can literally walk to the Alvor beach during a low tide. Alvor beach is a white sand and vast beach stretching for several kilometres. The current can be strong in this beach. Although I did not particularly like this beach, it has some big rocks in the water which looked nice. You can go for a long beach walk.
Praia da Prainha has good facilities on the beach or near by: toilets &showers, shops and restaurants for refreshments & food, you can rent beach loungers, and there are lifeguards as well.
How to get there?
The beach is located in a village of Prainha near Alvor and Portimão. There is parking near the beach but spaces are limited. During the high season (e.g. in July as we went) it was hard to find parking. This is because several other popular beaches are near by and the beach is popular with both tourists and local people. The beach is accessed via metallic staircase . There is also a beach restaurant on a cliff, which has a lift to the beach (disabled access). Although, the lift is only for the restaurant customers.
You can enter the following address in your GPS to get there: Prainha Beach, Alvor, Portimão, Algarve, Portugal.
While you are at Prainha beach- visit the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve
The Alvor beach, which is just next to the Prainha beach, is backed by dunes and the the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve. There is Alvor Boardwalk of around 3 kilometres in length taking you through the Nature Reserve. The walk has several viewpoints, providing beautiful sights over the river, the estuary and the surrounding area. This walk can be a great activity after sunbathing on the beach.
2. Praia do Camilo (Camilo beach), Lagos
Praia do Camilo is a stunning little beach located at the bottom of tall cliffs. It is probably the most instagrammable beach in Algarve. The beach itself has golden soft sand and clear blue green waters. What makes this beach unique is being surrounded by truncated cliffs making it very secluded. The sea here is calm and quite shallow so the water is not too cold. The beach has been awarded a blue flag (outstanding water quality). The TripAdvisor has named Praia da Camilo one of the best things to do in Lagos.
Why it is in the second place on our list? Mainly because it is very crowded. If you want those Instagram perfect pictures or even to get s space, you will need to arrive very early. This beach is very popular with both locals and tourists. It was extremely busy in July as you would expect. The beach is pretty small so the earlier you arrive the higher chances to get a spot. Also, when the tide comes in the beach is reduced to half of its size. My advice is to get a spot further away from the water, so you do not need to move when the tide comes in. Alternatively, avoid coming at high tide or peak times.
There are no facilities on the beach. There is only one restaurant near by.
How to get there?
Praia do Camilo beach is located at the southern end of Algarve’s region. Around 4km from old town of Lagos. We arrived with a rented car. There is no designated parking area next to the beach. You can park the car next to the road (free). Alternatively, you can park at the Ponta da Piedade car park (free) and walk to the beach (around 10 minutes). As the beach is very popular, the parking around the beach gets crowded too.
If you are travelling from Lagos, you can take a local bus or walk. Walk along Avenue dos Descobrimentos past the Parque de Campismo Trindade (camp site) and in around 30-40minutes you will be there. Taxi ride from Lagos town centre is about 10 minutes.
Once you there, you will need to take around 200 wooden stairs to get down. It requires a bit more effort after laying in the sun for hours and being drained of energy. Note that there is no disabled access.
You can enter the following address in your GPS to get there: Estrada da Ponta da Piedade, Praia do Camilo, 8600-544 Lagos, Portugal.
While you are at Camilo beach- visit Ponta da Piedade
Another thing we loved about this beach was being near Ponta da Piedade. Ponta da Piedade is a beautiful group of rock formation, caves, sea arches and grotto. There are great views from the cliffs over the beach and the bay of Lagos. You can also go down 182 steps to the sea level and see the cliffs and rock formations from below. During the summer season you can not get into the water due to boat traffic here, Some of the rock formations have names like ‘Elephant’, ‘The Kissing Couple’, ‘Camel Head’- try to spot them.
Parking: there is a designated parking area for visitors. During peak times you may struggle to get a space but just wait. Most people come to see Ponta da Piedade and move to the near beaches so you might not wait long for the parking space to free up.
3. Praia do Carvalho (Carvalho beach), Lagos
This is another small beach (you can tell that we love smaller beaches), a true hidden gem. We came across this tiny beach by a pure accident. We booked a kayaking trip to the Bengali Cave and this was the meeting point for the trip. Like other beaches, it is very clean.
Carvalho beach is unique as it has a man-made access. It is completely surrounded by rock. A tunnel with steps to get to the beach has been carved in the stone. Otherwise, the beach would be accessible only from the sea via a boat. Although it is small only around 40 metres long, it does not get crowded. Maybe because it is not very known amongst tourists.
For adrenaline lovers, there is a sort of balcony a few metres above the water and a set of steps leading to it. The brave ones have been jumping into water from the balcony! There is also a rock that looks like an obelisk just off shore around 80 metres. Some people were swimming to climb it and jump from it. Crazy!
There are no facilities on the beach.
How to get there?
Praia do Carvalho beach is located around 7 kilometres south from Lagoa and 15 kilometres from Portimão. We arrived with a rented car. There is a designated parking area close to the beach (Parking Praia do Carvalho) but it is relatively small. If you arrive in the morning, you should be fine to get a spot. The access to the beach is via a man-made tunnel carved in the stone. The tunnel has narrow path and steep steps. Please note there is no disabled access.
You can enter the following address in your GPS to get there: Carvalho beach, R. de Algarve Clube Atlântico H15, Carvoeiro, Portugal.
While you are at Carvalho beach- visit the famous Benagil cave (Algar de Benagil)
Many kayaking, canoeing and boat tours operate from this area to the iconic Benagil cave. This gigantic cave is best known for the Algar de Benagil (‘eye of Benagil cave’). The Michelin Guide considered Benagil Cave to be the 15th most beautiful cave in the world. So, it is a must to see while in Algarve!
The best way to see the cave is with a kayak, canoe, or a stand up paddle board. Boats are not allowed to stop in the cave. If you came with a boat, you will not be allowed to disembark and walk in the cave. Kayaks, canoes, and stand up paddle boards can disembark in the cave. We went with an organised kayak tour. We spent around an hour in the cave. Apart from the Bengali cave, there are other stunning caves and arches worth seeing too. Most organised trips will visit them.
Alternatively and for more adventurous ones, the Bengali cave can be reached by swimming from the Praia de Benagil (Benagil beach). Note it is not advised due to danger of being harmed by passing boats.
4. Praia da Dona Ana (Dona Ana beach), Lagos
Praia da Dona Ana is another beautiful beach in Algarve, Lagos. It is bigger than the first three beaches on our list. The beach has cliffs, rock formations and clear blue waters characteristic to beaches in Algarve. It is well protected by the cliffs from the winds and the ocean making the sea quite calm. The beach is also popular for collecting seashells. Bonus (or not) is for the beach being close to the town. Cafes, shops and restaurants are easily accessible. Facilitates you would expect in a beach are available here. The beach and water are very clean. There are many caves and grottos next to the beach. We explored some of them during a low tide.
How to get there?
The beach is located at the he south of Lagos not far from Praia do Camilo. We arrived with a car. There is a parking area close to the beach (free) but with limited spaces. If you are based in Lagos, you can walk to the beach. It is only around 2.5km from the town centre. There is also a local bus going to the location. The access to the beach is via staircase. Note that there is no disabled access.
You can enter the following address in your GPS to get there: Dona Ana, 8600-315 Lagos, Portugal.
5. Praia da Rocha (Rocha beach), Portimão
Praia da Rocha beach is vast, the biggest beach on our list. It is the main beach in Portimão. As the name suggests ‘Praia da Rocha- Rocky Beach’, the beach attracts beach lovers with impressive red-coloured cliffs. As with other beaches on the list, it is very clean with soft sand and blue turquoise waters. The beach stretches more than a kilometre. It is very popular but there is plenty of space for everyone.
We loved that this beach is next to another smaller beach-Praia dos Três Castelos. Praia dos Três Castelos name comes from three big rocks (castles) in the sea. You can walk from Praia da Rocha to Praia dos Três Castelos via tunnel in the rock formation. It is perfect for a long beach walk. There is also Três Castelos viewpoint between these two beaches. The viewpoint gives stunning views of the Algarve coastline.
The beach has all the facilitates (parking, beach loungers, toilets, life guard), except a shower. At the back of the beach there is a wide wooden promenade with many restaurants to choose from. The beach also has a disability access.
How to get there?
Praia da Rocha is located 2 km south of the city of Portimao. If you are arriving with a car there is very limited parking space next to the beach. However, there is paid parking available. We parked a bit further from the beach and walked.
You can enter the following address in your GPS to get there: Avenida Tomás Cabreira, Portimão.
While you are in the area- visit Ferragudo fishing village
This little fishing village is said to be one of the prettiest towns in Algarve. It is only 20 minutes or so drive from the beach. It is perfect for a dinner or just a nice walk and a break from a beach. The village now focuses on tourism rather than fishing. Nonetheless, it kept its traditional charm and authenticity. You will be welcomed by by fishermen’s cottages, whitewashed buildings, and narrow cobbled streets with houses covered in bougainvillea. You can wander the narrow streets in old town bursting with character and get a fresh fish lunch at the riverfront. If you don't like fish, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from.
We arrived with a car, which is the easiest way to be fair. There are several parking options. You can park close to the main square but parking spaces are limited. However, we had no issue finding a parking space in the evening (free). Alternatively, there is a bigger car park at the top.
While you are in the area- visit Ribeirinha, Portimão
Ribeirinha is a waterfront with a long row of palm trees. It follows old docks and starts at the Museu de Portimão and ends with Ponte sobre o Rio Arade bridge. It is within walking distance from the beach. The waterfront is bursting with life with many shops, restaurants and squares close by. During the summer months there is a life music, street food outlets, and even a market. If the evenings it looks even better with lights illuminated. If you are coming with a car, you can park at the top of Ribeirinha but spaces are limited.
We loved these beaches but there are many beautiful beaches in Algarve. As you noticed we preferred smaller and secluded beaches and particularly enjoyed beach walks or exploring grottos and caves during a low tide. If you have been in the area do you agree with us? Or maybe you know a hidden gem? Please share it with us. We will surely be back soon in Algarve but this time with out little boy 💙