The Algarve is simply ruined for beaches: its long coastline offers a mix of golden stretches and hidden coves, frequently dotted with limestone caves and grottoes. There is plenty of variety along the hundred miles or so of coastline, with fiercer seas and stronger winds on the west coast, ideal for surfing and paddling, and the east coast, more suited to children’s bucket-and-shovel vacations, with its softer waves that caress the beach and its warmer waters, due to its proximity to the Mediterranean, more appetizing. In between, small beach spaces are often only accessible by boat, making them the perfect summer adventure.
For more Algarve inspiration, check out our guides to the best hotels, restaurants, driving tours, nightlife and things to do in the city.
Surprisingly, this beach gem is completely off the tourist radar. Tiny, with white sands sandwiched between ocher rocks, it has no water sports, no umbrellas, no sun loungers, and few visitors. Grab a good book and soak up the sun or relax in the shade of the cliffs behind you.
bars and bites: There’s a rustic wooden bar upstairs, between the rocks, for cold beer, and a climb up the cliffs behind you will take you to Suites Alba and its elegant kitchen.
Get there: Follow the signs to Porches from Benagil. Turn left into a narrow one lane street and after a few kilometers you will reach the car park above the beach.
Praia do Ancao
This endless, golden, Blue Flag stretch of sand is popular with families, with its calm waters, lifeguards and sheltered dunes behind. There are sunbeds, umbrellas and boats for hire, plus great water skiing. The beach is a continuation of the Quinta do Lago beach, but access is via a bumpy road and parking is free.
Bars and bite: Restaurante 2Passos, one of the best fish restaurants in the Algarve, is here, with a cheery blue and white interior and specialties including black rice with cuttlefish ink. It is closed from December to February and only cash is accepted; expect to pay €30-€50 (£26-£44) per person.
Get there: From Almancil head to Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago. At the T-junction between the two, turn left towards Quinta do Lago and then right before the Pine Trees Equestrian Center. It is well signposted.
This stretch of white sand beach sits at the bottom of rocky outcroppings with flights of stone steps leading down to it. You are rewarded for the journey through the translucent seas that make Praia da Marinha the best place in the district for diving, and boats leave from here to visit the caves.
Bars and snacks: A simple wooden kiosk offers ice cream and drinks.
Get there: From Portimão, take the N125 towards Porches and once you have passed the International School of Lagoa, take the next right, signposted Praia da Marinha.
Much loved by locals and visitors alike, Alvor’s Blue Flag beach is particularly popular for kitesurfing, but pedal boats or kayaks can also be hired and the waters are wonderfully calm.
Bars and snacks: “Fresh from Bolinhos!” shout the vendors walking the sands, baskets of freshly baked cakes in hand. But for a lunchtime treat, try Dunas, at the entrance to the beach, for beautifully filleted fresh fish, cod cakes, steak baguettes and a good selection of wines.
Get there: As you drive towards Alvor, turn left downhill, signposted ‘praia’. At the roundabout where there is a pharmacy, go straight ahead and then take the second right. At the next roundabout go straight on. At the crossroads, turn left and you will find the beach car park.
This is one for naturalists, with endless rock pools that are home to starfish and sea urchins. The sea is undertow so it’s not a place for kids to swim, but the surf is great and there’s a wide expanse of sand to play on.
Bars and snacks: Bring your own picnic as there is no restaurant.
Get there: From Aljezur, near the Municipal Gym, there is a sign indicating Praia do Amoreira, about five miles away.
This blue flag beach and neighboring Praia da Dona Ana (where there are cave tours by boat) adorn many postcards of the Algarve. Admire the magnificent rocks, some rising 70 feet from the Atlantic, and the spectacular coastline of the Costa d’Oiro (Golden Coast) and explore the coves and grottoes.
Bars and snacks: Restaurante O Camilo, popular with residents, has a good variety of seafood and excellent grilled fish.
Get there: From Portimão, enter Lagos via the grand Avenue dos Descobrimentos, which runs along the side of the marina. Follow it until you reach the intersection with Estrada da Ponta da Piedade, and there turn left. This road will take you to Praia do Camilo.
This beautiful blue flag beach, located in the extreme northwest of the Algarve, where it borders the Alentejo, is spectacular. The Seixe River runs along one side of the beach and the sea on the other. Above, white storks nest on the cliffs and peregrine falcons soar and swoop.
Bars and snacks: Café Dorita serves regional dishes of black pork and fish of the day, as well as hamburgers and salads.
Get there: Exit Aljezur, heading north on the N120. Turn left at the entrance to the town of Baiona and follow the road that runs along the river to the beach.
Praia do Martinhal
Surf, body board or windsurf on this wide Blue Flag beach, or stay ashore and play beach volleyball or soccer. There is a surf school on site where you can sign up for lessons.
Bars and snacks: The Nortada wooden restaurant, behind the sand dunes, prepares excellent oysters from Sagres and juicy prawns bathed in garlic and oil, while the As Dunas restaurant at Martinhal Resort, which has a trampoline and a swimming pool to keep your children happy , is within walking distance. walk away.
Get there: Take the N125 to Vila do Bispo and continue out of the city on the N268 to Sagres. Martinhal is well signposted to the left of the main road a few kilometers before Sagres.
This is Portugal’s main surfing beach and the venue for many national and international bodyboarding and surfing competitions, with its own surf school, Amado Surfcamp, on-site. It is backed by sand dunes and bordered by cliffs, with rock pools at low tide.
Bars Y bites: Sitio do Forno can be a little more expensive than some of the other beach restaurants, but it is over the top with very good food.
Get there: Leave Aljezur on the N120 heading south and fork right after about four miles towards Sagres. Three miles after passing Bordeira, you will arrive at Carrapateira. At the Carrapateira south exit turn right, signposted Amado.
Praia do Barril
This blue flag beach is located on an island that is part of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, and you can visit the Anchor Cemetery, left behind by the tuna boats that used to set their large nets there. Windsurfing and sailing are popular and one of the few nudist spots in the Algarve is nearby.
Bars and snacks: There are five simple restaurants inside fishermen’s houses on the beach. The most beautiful of all is the restaurant of the Tuna Museum.
Get there: Head to the resort town of Pedras d’el Rei and in summer a miniature train takes you through the marshy land. Otherwise there is a narrow wooden bridge.