Best beaches in the Algarve

There are more than 100 beaches along the 210km-long coastline of the Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region. So you can be sure that at least a handful of them will be perfect for whatever you’re looking for, whether that be family-friendly amenities, reliably big waves for surfing, seclusion for a spot of nude sunbathing, dramatic scenery close to the city, or something out in the middle of nowhere.

From Sagres in the very southwest, it’s only a two-hour drive across to Tavira, close to the border with Spain, so you’re never far from the right beach. It’s just a question of knowing where to head for, which is exactly what we aim to show you with our guide to the best Algarve beaches.

Are there sandy beaches in the Algarve?

Long answer: if ‘beach’ to you means long braids of soft, golden sand leading to azure water then the Algarve is for you. The Algarve is to sandy beaches what the Douro Valley is to wine, and what Lisbon is to Fado music. Here, you are never more than a short drive (and sometimes just a short stroll) from a beautiful stretch of coast where you can pitch up for a morning, afternoon or the whole day, with plenty of space for your towels, and very often an excellent seafood restaurant nearby too.

Short answer: Yes, loads.

Which part of the Algarve has the best beaches?

“Personally, I would say that Odeceixe and Arrifana are some of the most beautiful beaches along the Algarve’s southwest coast,” says Ricardo Estêvão, founder of our partner Vicentina Travel.

The west coast holds immense appeal for surfers, as well as walkers enjoying the Rota Vicentina trail network and its windswept views. Families, meanwhile, tend to be drawn more towards the south coast, where the sea is usually calmer especially towards the east, which is more sheltered from the Atlantic winds. There are large resorts here, including Lagos, Vilamoura, Portimão and Albufeira, with long, wide beaches and excellent facilities, as well as a range of organised activities available such as surf camps and other watersports.

Blue Flag beaches in the Algarve

The beaches of the Algarve are also in enviable condition. There are more Blue Flag beaches – a mark of quality, accessibility and safety – here than anywhere else in Portugal, and in 2022 they were found to be cleaner than ever. You can help keep them that way by bringing a bag to collect any litter you may find. Some beaches in the Algarve also lend out pocket ashtrays for smokers to store their cigarette butts, which contain hundreds of toxic chemicals, take up to 10 years to degrade, and are the most common form of plastic waste in the world.

Best beaches in western Algarve

Praia do Amado

Framed by darkly rugged cliffs and fine sand dunes, Praia do Amado is one of the Algarve’s most popular surfing beaches and regularly hosts competitions as well as seasonal surf camps. The beach is situated on the Costa Vicentina just south of Carrapateira village, reached via a scenic trail above the cliffs. You don’t need to be a board rider to enjoy Praia do Amado, though. It has a gorgeous location and is great for simply watching the waves or exploring rock pools at low tide.

Praia da Arrifana

Golden sugar-coloured sand makes Praia da Arrifana a big draw for beach lovers, with well-placed cliffs providing protection from the wind whooshing in off the Atlantic. Located around 10km southwest of Aljezur village and adjacent to Arrifana fishing village, which has some good bars and restaurants, Praia da Arrifana is a popular surfers’ beach and also has some 12th-century castle ruins, for a change of pace.

Praia de Odeceixe Mar

The tumbling waves of the Atlantic clamber over each other to reach the bronzed sands and rocky slopes of Praia de Odeceixe Mar. Revered by surfers, thanks to the break at the River Seixe, and naturists at the secluded southern cove of Praia de Adegas, the beach is about a 4km walk from Odeceixe village where there is a handful of shops and cafés to purchase lunch.

Praia de Vale Figueiras

This 14km-long and beautifully undeveloped (which means no lifeguards either) beach is hugely popular with intrepid surfers, but also wildlife watchers. Ospreys, which are threatened in Portugal, nest here, and the rare Iberian lynx has even been observed around the beach.

Best beaches in southern and central Algarve

Praia do Farol

Praia do Farol, located on Ilha do Farol (Island of the Lighthouse) in Ria Formosa Natural Park, is among the quietest beaches in the Algarve – more of a local favourite than one well-frequented by tourists. We probably shouldn’t even be telling you about it. Nevertheless, there are facilities for day-trippers: restaurants, sunloungers for hire, and it’s lifeguarded during summer. Young children will enjoy poking around the rock pools at low tide.

Praia da Manta Rota

This long, wide beach in front of the town of Manta Rota lies in the eastern part of Ria Formosa Natural Park and is a very good option for families, with shallow warm water and deliciously soft sand. While it does get busy in summer, it’s mainly with Portuguese people and Spaniards who have popped over the border for the day.

Praia dos Salgados

A large, golden Albufeira beach, Salgados is backed by sand dunes that protect a valuable wetland habitat for many migratory birds. Surfers like it here, but Salgados is equally popular with families. It’s also a 20-minute walk from Albufeira, so it doesn’t get as busy as other beaches that are closer. That being said, we’d say Salgados is most enjoyable during the spring and autumn, when you can still expect warm and sunny weather.
Travel Team
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Our travellers also ask...

Where are the best beaches for surfers in the Algarve?

“Amado, Arrifana, Ponta Ruiva, Odeceixe are all are great spots for surfing,” advises Ricardo Estêvão, who – as well as running our Algarve holiday specialist Vicentina Travel – is an accomplished guide for outdoor adventure activities in the Algarve. Inge Keizer, from our partner Quinta Alfarrobeira, recommends Praia de Vale Figueiras in Aljezur as one of the best surf beaches in the Algarve too.

Which are the best beaches for families with young children in the Algarve?

The best Algarve beaches for families tend to be those without lots of steep paths or steps, with amenities such as public toilets and places to eat, and calm waters. We recommend Praia dos Salgados, close to Albufeira, which is huge, with a large car park, excellent bathroom facilities and a lovely restaurant too.

Praia do Almargem is one of the best beaches near Vilamoura – about a 15-minute drive away. While quite peaceful, it has everything you’ll need, from sunlounger and umbrella hire to a restaurant and lifeguards during the summer months.

“Our family guests like Amoreira, Odeceixe and Amado,” says Inge. “Those with younger children also like to go to Salema and Burgau, and Meia Praia is still a favourite as well, despite being quite built up.”

Praia de Dona Ana, in Lagos, is not suitable for very young children as it is reached by steep steps and there is not much in the way of facilities. For a city beach, however, it is gorgeous, and reasonably quiet (not least because of those steps). One to consider, perhaps, if you can carry everything you need for the day in a few backpacks.

What are the best beaches for escaping the crowds in the Algarve?

If you want to find deserted beaches in the Algarve that very few people know about, your best bet is always to ask a local. Ideally, you can ask the host of your accommodation, as they’re bound to know the area better than pretty much anyone.

A couple of our favourites though include Ponta Ruiva. Just a 10-minute drive from Sagres, this is one for the purists and unless you’re confident you might want to ask someone for directions. It’s worth the journey, though, as the beach is about as untouched and natural as you’ll find in the Algarve.

Praia do Telheiro is also close to Sagres, although it feels very remote – you can enjoy clifftop strolls and watch surfers at play in the Atlantic. As with most undeveloped beaches in the Algarve, expect neither amenities nor lifeguards, so if you do go in for a dip be wary and careful of riptides.

What are the best island beaches in the Algarve?

You’ll find the best island beaches in the Algarve in Ria Formosa Natural Park. With tranquil, car-free islands, you can see an incredible breadth of birdlife in this protected area such as flamingos, Black-winged stilts and Black kites. Praia da Ilha da Culatra is an idyllic, remote wonder, while Praia da Cacela Velha is a beautiful beach suitable for children. The easiest way to reach the Ria Formosa is by ferry from Tavira, Faro or Olhão, but water taxis are available too.

Where are the rock formations in the Algarve?

The famous Ponta da Piedade rock formations are located just 3km south of Lagos. This headland is one of the most distinctive and attractive coastal landscapes in the Algarve – limestone pillars, arches and caves carved by centuries of weather erosion. Footpaths and stairs lead down to the cove, but the Ponta da Piedade can also be explored by kayak or SUP tours, as well as boat trips.

Another popular rock formation in the Algarve is the sea cave at Benagil fishing village. With a circular hole in the roof, it’s among the most photogenic spots in the region. Get there from the beach by boat, kayak or SUP – but don’t swim out, as the strong currents can make it risky.

Which are the best beaches for dramatic scenery in the Algarve?

Praia do Camilo must surely be one of the most dramatically beautiful beaches in the Algarve, fronting onto the Ponta da Piedade. It does get very busy, however, even though you need to descend a lot of steps to the beach. Other stunners in the region include Praia da Marinha near Lagos – small, with golden sands, and surrounded by tall limestone cliffs. And then there is Praia dos Arrifes, which is close to Albufeira, and known for its giant sea stacks fringed with plants.

Are there any nudist beaches in the Algarve?

There are two nudist beaches in the Algarve. The Praia do Homem Nu (the Beach of the Naked Man) is the oldest in the region and connected to Praia do Barril, near the fishing village of Saint Luzia in Ria da Formosa Natural Park. Ilha da Barreta here is also regarded as favourable for nude sunbathing.

On the west coast, meanwhile, Praia das Adegas in Aljezur is another of the best nudist beaches in the Algarve. Separated from the well-known Praia de Odeceixe by high cliffs, it has a sequestered feel that makes it appealing for naturists.

Responsible Travel would like to thank VisitAlgarve for their sponsorship of this guide.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Lucian Andrei] [Intro: Vlada Moscaliova] [Best beaches in Western Algarve: Dennis Mita] [Best beaches in Southern and Central Algarve: Vitor Oliveira] [Where are the best beaches for surfers in the Algarve?: Tiago J. G. Fernandes] [What are the best island beaches in the Algarve?: Joao Domingos]