The Algarve is an incredible piece of COASTline located along Portugal’s south SHORE. With several unique beaches, charming villages, fantastic RESTAURANTS, and LEGENDARY nightlife, this is one of the most popular areas in the country. Keep reading for 10 Algarve beaches you need to add to your bucket list!
Famous for dramatic limestone cliffs and white-sand beaches, the Algarve was one of our favourite places in all of Portugal. Chances are, if you have looked into this stunning country at all, you have seen hundreds of photos of the diverse landscape and the turquoise blue water.
Although the Algarve can get busy, especially during peak travel times, it is 100% worth a visit. I would recommend anywhere from 3-10 days for exploring the coast depending on what you want to do and how fast you like to travel. We spent 6 full days surfing, beach hopping, and bumming around in our campervan which felt like this was the perfect amount of time.
TIP: Keep in mind that David and I typically pack quite a bit into each day. If you like to travel a bit slower and want plenty of time to relax, extend your trip to around 10 days.
There are a few options that will get you to the Algarve depending on how you like to travel. The most common is flying into Lisbon and renting either a car or a campervan. From there, it will take approximately 2.5 hours to reach the Algarve if you take the toll roads.
There are several bus tours that run along this coast. We are not huge tour people, but it’s a good option if you would like to skip the planning and just sit back, relax, and enjoy. You can also fly into one of the smaller airports in the Algarve and either rent a vehicle or take taxis to get around.
As far as accommodation goes, you can find anything from a cheap guesthouse to a luxury resort right on the beach in the Algarve. Our preferred travel method was by campervan as it was affordable and gave us a ton of freedom. There are several areas you can park for free in Portugal and it can be a really fun way to explore the area.
avoiding the crowds
As I mentioned earlier, this section of Portugal’s coastline can get extremely busy. If you would prefer to beat the crowds, like us, you are going to want to be strategic with your time. Lagos and the surrounding areas are by far the busiest. For the quietest experience, go early in the morning. We found everything started to really fill up around 11am.
Now that we’ve got that sorted, it’s time for the fun stuff! Here is a list of our favourite Algarve beaches and why we think you’ll love them, too.
The Benagil Cave
The Benagil Cave is located along the Algarve Coast, near the town of Carvoeiro. Only accessible by water, there are several tours that bring hundreds of people inside the cave each day. The remarkable natural landmark features two dome-shaped entry points and a skylightesque hole in the roof, which allows a great deal of light in. These unique features paired with the textured limestone rock and clear blue waves rolling in make it one of the most beautiful caves in the world, without a doubt.
With so much popularity, especially in recent years, it’s no surprise that the Benagil Cave can get extremely crowded. There are constantly tours coming and going with lineups of people waiting for a 30-second window to snap that “perfect Instagram shot”.
I don’t know about you, but even the thought of that stresses me the heck out! You all know that David and I will do pretty much anything to avoid a crowd…
So what if I told you that we were able to get this magnificent place all to ourselves for not one but two whole hours? That we were able to experience the incredible natural wonder without boats and people and noise and distraction.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Great news! In reality, it is not an overly difficult thing to do. It does however take a bit of planning and an early morning wake-up call. For more information, check out the blog post and YouTube video linked below!
Praia da Marinha
Praia da Marinha is located between Armação de Pêra and Carvoeiro, about 40 minutes east of Lagos. I’ll be honest, at first, we didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about. When you arrive at the beach and walk down the stairs, you see white sand and a ton of people. Very similar to hundreds of other beaches along the Algarve Coast. We were underwhelmed.
Luckily, we chose to do a little bit of exploring and walk to the far end of the beach. We passed several tide pools and boulders until arriving at an area of the beach that was far less crowded. I peeked around the corner of a limestone pillar and was delighted to find a number of massive arches and pillars carved into the rocky cliffs.
TIPS FOR VISITING: #1: Don’t go at high tide. We arrived at Praia da Marinha at low tide and it was noticeably more difficult to get back to the stairs asthe tide came in. #2: Bring water shoes! We spend about an hour climbing around, finding caves, and taking photos of the beautiful landscape. The rock can be sharp and good footwear can make a huge difference in your experience. It will also aid in getting you to places that the majority of people do not go.
If you get the chance, it is worth looking down on the arches from the top of the cliff as the rocks make a heart shape. There is also a hiking trail here called the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. Although we did not have time to do it, we have heard that the 3.5-mile hike along the cliffs between Praia da Marinha and Carvoeiro is well worth the trek.
Praia do Camilo
There are 4 incredibly photogenic beaches located in Lagos, Portugal. If you want the best chance to see them all without the crowds, I would recommend you get up early and follow the same itinerary that we did. First on the list, Praia do Camilo. We arrived around 8:00am and there wasn’t another soul in sight. Just how we like it!
Praia do Camilo is one of the most photographed beaches in the Algarve because of the 200 step staircase leading down to the ocean below. Once you get to the bottom, there is a small natural archway to the left that will bring you through the cliff and to a secluded beach on the other side.
When we visited, the sun was just beginning to shine above the cliffs making for magical photos and a surreal experience. As we were leaving around 8:30am, a few others began trickling in to soak up the magic of golden hour.
Praia dos Estudantes
Next up, we headed for Praia dos Estudantes. Only a 5-minute drive from Praiado Camilo, we lucked out again with the lack of people when we arrived. There is a small pay parking lot off the road to the left where you can claim a spot if you arrive early enough.
This beach is famous for the charming bridge that connects two pillars of rock above it. Once you get to the bottom of the cliff, continue right and make your way through the tunnel at the edge of the rock. As you emerge, you will be greeted with your first views of the bridge.
We were able to take photos and enjoy the serenity of the area all to ourselves for about 15 minutes. At that point, an endless stream of tourists marched in, waiting their turn to take an iconic photo for their feed.
Praia dos Estudantes is not necessarily one of the Algarve beaches I would hang out on for the afternoon, but I would highly recommend an early morning visit to enjoy the unusual views.
Ponta de Piedade
We leftPraia dos Estudantes around 9:15 and backtracked to Ponta da Piedade. Located just pastPraia do Camilo on the southernmost tip of Lagos, it took us 6 minutes to get there in the van. Although not technically a beach,Ponta da Piedade is somewhere you absolutely do not want to miss in the Algarve!
When you arrive, head straight for the staircase leading down to the water. The 5-minute walk offers jaw-dropping views of the crystal clear water surrounding the monumental rock formations. We had read that you could walk around the caves at the bottom at low tide, but to be honest it didn’t seem at all safe. Instead, we spent time soaking up the peace and quiet and then made our way back up to the top.
Once there, make sure to walk around the trails that wind along the top of the cliffs. The views completely blew us away and we ended up finding a hidden spot to sit and look out over the water. From there, we watched boats and kayaks make their way through the different arches and rock formations. It was incredibly serene.
Praia Dona Ana
Finally, we made some breakfast and then drove to Praia Dona Ana. This large stretch of beach is also home to fantastic rock formations and a white sandy shoreline. For all our friends with a drone, this place was made for it!
When we arrived at 10 am, a few people were setting up their towels and umbrellas for the day but overall it was still fairly quiet. The turquoise blue water rolling into the white sand in this picturesque cove is the epitome of relaxation. Spend a few hours laying in the sun, splashing in the water, and soaking up the fantastic ocean views.
Praia de Odeceixe
Praia de Odeceixe spans the border between the Alentejo and Algarve regions. Beaches in this area require a little more effort to reach, but the payoff is serene beauty and a much quieter atmosphere. This white sand beach is a great place to hang out for the day with a book. It is also popular with surfers and offers board rentals and lessons.
We decided to cut west from the main toll road on our drive south from Lisbon. Odeceixe was our first of the Algarve beaches and we would highly recommend a visit. From here, you can make your way east along the rest of the coastline before circling back to Lisbon at the end of your trip.
Praia dos Tres Irmaos
Praia dos Tres Irmaos, also known as Three Brothers Beach, was named after the three massive rock formations situated on the white sand and in the turquoise water. Accessible by a stairway leading down to the water, this beach is a great place to take photos as well as an excellent lounging location.
Sunrise and sunset can be absolutely stunning when the colourful skies dance above the limestone rock formations and the clear blue water. If you visit at low tide, you can explore the cave and wander through the double archway that will eventually lead you to another beach called Praia do Alvor.
Praia de Carvoeiro
The fishing town of Carvoeiro is overwhelmingly charming and the perfect place to unwind. This one stands out to us when thinking about the spectacular Algarve beaches because you can actually feel the ambiance of the town from the sand! Grab some drinks, your towel, and a good book, and you could enjoy this little slice of paradise all afternoon.
Hike In Beaches by Portimão
If you’re up for an adventure that will allow you to skip the crowds and take in some phenomenal views, make sure to check out the stretch of small, hike-in beaches by Portimão. We parked HERE and followed the trail. Before we knew it we were looking down at several small coves boasting white sand, rolling waves, and tons of privacy.
The trails down to most of the beaches are through narrow cliff pathways, so only visit this area if you are comfortable with a bit of trek. At the bottom, we found several caves and archways to explore while playing in the water. Make sure to visit at low tide as these little coves fill up when the water is high.
NOTE: One of the coves along this stretch is a “naturist” or nudist beach. If that’s your thing, great! If not, there is a sign before the beach that will tip you off.