With its imposing cliffs, turquoise waters, golden beaches and fascinating sea caves, the Algarve region in Portugal was a pleasant surprise to us, far surpassing our expectations! The pictures do not do justice to the beauty of the stunning rock formations and beaches in Algarve. Often maligned to be a very touristy destination, the Algarve region is still a must-visit – just pick the right time to go to have the most amazing experience!
Continue reading for all the information you need to plan your trip to visit the most beautiful beaches in Algarve.
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Where is the Algarve coast located?
The Algarve is the southernmost region of Portugal stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. It is well connected to other cities in Portugal & Spain through trains & buses, and to several other cities through an international airport at Faro.
What is the Algarve coast known for?
Though famous as a beach destination, the Algarve region has a lot more to offer – from historic towns to take in the culture to beautiful sea caves and cliffs for nature enthusiasts; from the serene waters of the Mediterranean to the wild waves of the Atlantic; from peaceful small towns to vibrant party places – there is a host of experiences to be had, in addition to the spectacular beaches in Algarve.
The Algarve region is safe, easy to get around and one of the least expensive destinations in Europe.
When is the best time to visit Algarve beaches?
The beaches in Algarve are very popular tourist destinations and as you would expect, these places are packed to the rafters during the summer months. However, since it’s a seasonal destination, summer is also the time when everything is open and there is a buzzing nightlife. So, if that’s on your wishlist, head to Algarve in the summer.
However, if you are looking for a more peaceful experience to enjoy the natural beauty and culture, pick the shoulder seasons of spring or fall to visit. Winter is a great time too, though quite a few places will be closed and it might be too cold to swim.
We went in December (!) and had a fantastic time! Most places we had all to ourselves and we even got into the water!
Algarve in Spring (March – May)
Algarve in spring is warm (temperatures of 20-25 C) with fairly long days (8-10 hours of sunlight) and very minimal chances of rain. This is still not the peak time so there are far fewer visitors and all facilities might not be open – Spring is one of the best times to visit Algarve beaches and have a splendid experience without jostling with the crowds.
Algarve in Summer (June – August)
High temperatures (often reaching 30 C+), almost no rainfall and very long days (~12 hours of sunlight) characterize summer in the Algarve region. This is the time that sees the most visitors and the beaches are laden with sunbathers and swimmers. If you’re looking for fun days at the beaches and a buzzing nightlife, head to Algarve in the summer. However, if you are looking for a more tranquil experience, stay far away!
Algarve in Fall (September – November)
While Algarve stays warm during fall (temperatures drop to ~20 C towards November) and has plenty of sunshine, the chances of rain increase drastically. Visit during this time to have a more quiet experience.
Algarve in Winter (December – February)
It does not get too cold during the winters (average temperatures range around 15 C) and it could actually be quite hot in the sun! Mornings and evenings could get a little chilly though and you might need a light jacket.
If you want a visit with virtually no people around (tourists and quite a few locals alike!), visit Algarve in the winter. You’ll have most places to yourself and it could even be warm enough in the sun to get into the water. That’s a win-win for me!
How to get to the Algarve coast in Portugal?
The Algarve coast is very well connected through trains, buses and flights.
Algarve from Lisbon
Algarve is located about 270 kilometres from Lisbon. To get to Algarve from Lisbon, you could,
- Easily drive from Lisbon to the Algarve in ~2.5 hours (do note that there are a lot of tolls in Portugal). With a car, you will have the flexibility to head to any of the towns in the Algarve region.
- Take a bus – There are bus connections between Lisbon and several towns in Algarve (Faro, Lagos, Albufeira, Alvor, Armação de Pêra, Tavira) and the journey takes 3-4 hours. Check out the schedules here.
- Take a train – The fast train (Alfa Pendular or AP) takes 3 hours and runs twice a day between Lison and Faro while the Intercidades takes 3.5 hours and runs thrice a day. You will need to change trains in Tunes and get on the regional trains to get to the other towns in Algarve. Check the schedules and book tickets here.
There are flights between Lisbon and Faro too but they would be too expensive and unnecessary compared to the other options.
Algarve from Spain
Bordering Spain, the Algarve region is often part of a Spain – Portugal itinerary. Seville in Spain is located only about 200 kilometres from Faro in the Algarve. However, there are no train connections between the two.
To get to Algarve from Seville, you could,
- Drive – It takes 2 hours to get to Faro from Seville
- Take a bus – There are multiple bus services operating on this route You could take the bus from Seville to Faro or several other towns in the Algarve. We took this route when we visited and it was a comfortable 2-hour journey to reach the Faro airport from Seville, where we got off and rented a car.
Algarve from anywhere else
The Faro international airport is connected to multiple cities across the world and you could easily fly in.
How to get around the Algarve coast?
Do you need a car in Algarve?
Yes. To make the most of your time and have the flexibility to visit all the places on your list, a car is ideal. The roads are great and there are parking options at all major sights.
Other ways to get around Algarve
Bus – There are 3 major bus companies: Eva, Próximo and Frota Azul Algarve that connect the major towns in Algarve. Within the towns, you could use taxis to go to the points of interest. There are also bus networks within the larger towns of Albufeira, Faro, Lagos and Portimão.
Train – Train lines connect the major towns of Lagos, Portimão, Albufeira, Loulé, Faro, Olhão, Tavira and Vila Real de Santo António. Check the schedules and book tickets here. Within the towns, you could use taxis to go to the points of interest.
Taxi – Local taxis and Uber are available in the Algarve region.
How many days do you need in the Algarve region?
A minimum of 3 days to take in the best beaches of Algarve is necessary. It will also give you time to take in a boat tour or two to get to some of the hard to reach beaches. Add more days to have time to relax and sunbathe at the beaches.
Where to stay to visit the beaches of Algarve?
Here are some towns you can consider to base yourself in Algarve,
- Lagos – Located quite centrally in the Algarve region, the city of Lagos is one of the best places to stay in. 3 of the best beaches in Algarve are a stone’s throw away from Lagos! Lagos is a major city so there are plenty of options for transportation and to stay, eat and shop.
- Portimão – Home to the long, beautiful golden beach Praia da Rocha, the town of Portimão is also very centrally located in Algarve. It’s a fairly large town with plenty of places to stay and eat.
- Albufeira – Known for its buzzing nightlife, stay at Albufeira to be close to beaches as well as to parties!
- Carvoeiro – Close to the central part of the Algarve region, this town has a more relaxed atmosphere compared to some of the larger towns. If you rent a car, Carvoeiro is a great place to base yourself at.
- Faro – Home to the international airport, Faro is located on the eastern end of the Algarve region so it can get a bit far from the major sights. However, it is a beautiful, large city with plenty of historical sites.
If you’d rather not stay in any of the cities or larger towns, there are plenty of villas and resort available along the coastline.
Algarve beaches – the top 7
The Algarve coastline reminded us a lot of the Great Ocean Drive in Australia. The stunning blue waters and the rugged cliffs of Algarve are even more beautiful than the ones in Australia. In no particular order, here’s my list of the most beautiful beaches in Algarve.
1. Praia da Marinha, Lagoa
Unique features about Praia da Marinha, Algarve: The opportunity to walk along the cliff to take in the stunning rock formations around this beach, especially the famous M rock and up to the stunning Benagil Beach
About Praia da Marinha, Algarve
This iconic beach is considered as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Beautiful blue waters, golden sand and the surrounding cliffs make it a one of a kind place. This is the beach that is featured on all the tourist guides for this region!
From the parking lot, take a right and walk along the cliff for beautiful dramatic views for miles. You can walk all the way to the famous Benagil beach in about half an hour! Back at the parking lot after your stroll, take a left and go down to the beach (there is a long flight of steps down) and relax, take a dip in the clear water or snorkel.
During the offseason, the beach is nearly empty and you’ll have the whole place to yourself!
How to get to Praia da Marinha, Algarve
GPS coordinates for Praia da Marinha – 37°05’23.6″N 8°24’47.2″W
You need a car to get to Marinha Beach. You could take a taxi (expensive!) or the bus (very infrequent!) but these wouldn’t be ideal.
Head on to N125 and exit at the International School, Lagoa and follow the signs to Marinha Beach. There is a parking lot at the end of the road.
Facilities at Praia da Marinha, Algarve: Parking, Restaurant (only during the peak season), Toilets (only during the peak season)
2. Praia de Benagil, Benagil
Unique features about Praia de Benagil, Algarve: The ridiculously beautiful cave called Algar de Benagil
About Praia de Benagil, Algarve
Praia de Benagil is a small beach surrounded by golden cliffs located in the small fishing village of Benagil. The famous Algar de Benagil is located right next to the beach. This is one of the most photogenic spots in the Algarve region – with its gorgeous arches and the eye of the cave that frames the beautiful blue sky.
This cave has a beautiful small beach which can only be accessed from the sea – either by boat/ kayak or swimming. There are several boat tours that run from nearby beaches that you can join – these will not only take you inside the cave but allow you to get down and swim! Make sure you check what all is included in your boat trip before booking.
We took a boat tour from Portimão that took us inside the Benagil Caves as well as to several more caves. Since it was cold (we went in December!), nobody got down for a swim but nevertheless we got great pictures. The boat also took us along the coast to take in the cliffs and the rock formations which look entirely mesmerizing from the water too!
While swimming to the cave is also an option – it’s only recommended for very strong swimmers so be careful!
You can also walk to the top of the cave and look down through the eye!
How to get to Praia de Benagil, Algarve
GPS coordinates for Praia da Benagil – 37°05’14.5″N 8°25’33.3″W
Located about 6 kilometres from Lagos, this beach is easy to reach by car. There is a parking lot at the top of the cliffs from where you can walk down to the beach.
You can also take the bus up to Praia de Carvalho and from there either walk (~25 minutes) or take a taxi to the beach.
Facilities at Praia de Benagil, Algarve: Parking, Restaurant (only during the peak season), Toilets (only during the peak season)
3. Praia do Camilo, Lagos
Unique features about Praia do Camilo, Algarve: Located next to the stunning Ponta da Piedade rock formations
About Praia do Camilo, Algarve
Praia do Camilo is a small beach situated amidst beautiful cliffs and rock formations. You have to walk down 200 steps (it’s a long way down!) to reach this beach but the effort is worth it. This is quite a shallow beach and great for swimming. It’s also fun to explore the rock formations and the famous arch that makes this beach instantly recognizable.
There is also a small tunnel in the cliffs that lead you to another small beach. Do take your shoes off when you go there since you’re bound to get wet! Happened with us and we ended up with soaked shoes and socks!
Do note that during the high tide, the beach gets even smaller and can get very crowded during the summer.
Ponta da Piedade (located only 1 kilometre from Praia do Camilo) is a magical series of rock formations, sea arches, grottoes and caves that you must visit when you go to this beach. There is a long walk down from the parking lot (~200 steps) to reach the bottom but the views throughout are stunning and worth the effort! You can also take boat tours here to explore more of the rock formations.
How to get to Praia do Camilo, Algarve
GPS coordinates for Praia do Camilo – 37°05’14.6″N 8°40’06.4″W
GPS coordinates for Ponta da Piedade – 37°04’53.5″N 8°40’10.3″W
Located about a 30-minute walk from Lagos, this beach is easy to reach by car. There is a parking lot at the top of the cliffs near the restaurant from where you can walk down to the beach.
Facilities at Praia do Camilo, Algarve: Parking, Restaurant located at the top of the cliff (only during the peak season), Toilets (only during the peak season)
4. Praia da Falésia, Albufeira
Unique features about Praia da Falésia, Algarve: Incredibly stunning red cliffs
About Praia da Falésia, Algarve
One of the most beautiful beaches in Algarve, Praia da Falésia is a 6 kilometres long beach ensuring you get ample space when you visit! You can take a long walk along the shoreline and take in the beautiful cliffs. The contrast between the red cliffs, blue waters and the green pine trees make for a magical view.
At the top of the cliffs, there is a hiking trail from where you can take in the spectacular views.
This beach is wonderful to be at during sunset when the golden rays bounce off the red cliffs creating a ridiculously gorgeous setting.
How to get to Praia da Falésia, Algarve
GPS coordinates for Praia da Falésia – 37°05’10.3″N 8°10’04.3″W
Located about 10 kilometres from Albufeira, this beach is easy to reach by car. There are a couple of parking lots at the top of the cliffs from where you can walk either along the cliffs or down to the beach.
Facilities at Praia da Falésia, Algarve: Parking, Restaurant (only during the peak season), Toilets (only during the peak season)
5. Praia da Dona Ana, Lagos
Unique features about Praia da Dona Ana, Algarve: Calm sea makes for great swimming & snorkelling
About Praia da Dona Ana, Algarve
This beautiful beach is located close to Praia do Camilo and Ponta da Piedade. The rock formations shelter this beach from winds and strong waves making it a fantastic place to swim. The crystal clear waters are supremely inviting, even during the winters!
You need to walk down (~100 steps) to get to the beach.
How to get to Praia da Dona Ana, Algarve
GPS coordinates for Praia da Dona Ana – 37°05’29.1″N 8°40’09.7″W
Located about 2.5 kilometres from Lagos, this beach is easy to reach by foot or by car. There is a parking lot at the top of the cliffs from where you can walk down to the beach. There is also a bus that runs from Lagos to the beach. Unlike some of the other beaches on this list, this beach is located almost within the city and has plenty of hotels around it.
Facilities at Praia da Dona Ana, Algarve: Parking, Restaurant (only during the peak season), Toilets (only during the peak season)
6. Praia da Bordeira, Carrapateira
Unique features about Praia da Bordeira, Algarve: Wild Atlantic waters make for a great contrast to the Mediterranean beaches
About Praia da Bordeira, Algarve
Praia da Bordeira is a huge beach – stretching for nearly 3 kilometres and very wide. It’s known for its wild waves and is popular among surfers. Since it’s located a bit far from the centre of Algarve, it’s usually very empty – even during the peak season! It’s a fantastic place to visit to take in the contrast from the other Mediterranean beaches.
The river Ribeira da Bordeira forms a lagoon on the south side of Praia da Bordeira and makes for a great view.
There are steep cliffs near this beach which are accessible through a wooden walkway. You can walk to the edge of the cliffs and take in the majestic scenery around you.
How to get to Praia da Bordeira, Algarve
GPS coordinates for Praia da Bordeira – 37°11’34.8″N 8°54’10.5″W
This beach can be reached by car. There is a parking lot at the top of the cliffs from where you can walk on the wooden walkway down to the beach or to the edge of the cliffs.
Facilities at Praia da Bordeira, Algarve: None
7. Praia da Rocha, Portimão
Unique features about Praia da Rocha, Algarve: One of the most organized beaches – plenty of beach bars and restaurants
About Praia da Rocha, Algarve
Praia da Rocha is one of the most popular locations along the Algarve coastline and is the main beach of the town of Portimão. Huge rock formations, narrow caves and large stretches of golden sand make this an incredibly beautiful place to visit. A boardwalk along the length of the beach makes for a great way to take a stroll.
This is also one of the most organized beaches in Algarve – beach bars and restaurants line the length of the beach and there are multiple hotels up along the boulevard. This also means that this is one of the best destinations to take in the nightlife – only during the peak season though.
Praia da Rocha is connected to Praia dos Três Castelos through tunnels in the rock formation. Praia dos Três Castelos has 3 huge rock formations, hence the name 3 castles.
How to get to Praia da Rocha, Algarve
GPS coordinates for Praia da Rocha – 37°07’07.0″N 8°32’11.5″W
This beach is easy to reach or by car or on foot from Portimão. There are a couple of parking lots from where you can walk down to the beach.
Facilities at Praia da Rocha, Algarve: Parking, Restaurant (only during the peak season), Toilets (only during the peak season)
The top beaches in Algarve, Portugal on the map
Further information for your trip to the most beautiful beaches in Algarve
- Read more about the Algarve region here and here
- Check train schedules and book tickets here. For buses, click here
- Click here to browse options to stay along the Algarve coastline.
My absolute favourite from this list of Algarve beaches was Praia da Falésia – we went back there for sunset and it was absolutely magical! Which beach do you like the best? Let me know in the comments below!
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