Portugal may be famous for its wonderful cities and countryside but it also has some of the best beaches in Europe. From family-friendly resorts with broad sweeps of golden sand and sparkling clean waters to romantic, secluded coves with spectacular sunsets, there’s something for everyone. These are our top ten:
1. Praia da Marinha
On the south-facing, western Algarve coast between Armação de Pêra and Centianes, this is undoubtedly one of Portugal’s most beautiful beaches and also one of its least touristy. Bookended by rugged, sandy-coloured cliffs, its crystal waters are perfect for snorkelling. Look out for sea anemones, prawns and starfish.
2. Praia de Benagil
The next bay along the coast from Praia da Marinha, this small fishing village is home to another lovely beach, complete with super soft to the touch, golden sand. It’s also famous for the Benagil caves, formed by centuries of erosion to the surrounding sandstone cliffs. The result is some of the most striking, almost cathedral-like caves you’re likely to find. However, the caves can only be reached by water, so you’ll either need to swim there from the beach or rent a kayak.
GALAPINHOS BEACH, ARRABIDA NATURAL PARK. PHOTO © CM SETUBAL
3. Praia da Rocha
Long considered one of Portugal’s best family-friendly beaches, Praia de Rocha has pretty much everything you could want when travelling with children: a vast, broad stretch of soft, golden sand, clean, shallow waters and plenty of facilities, with shops, restaurants and bars close at hand. You can hire deck chairs, loungers and parasols, and during the peak summer months there are lifeguards on the beach too.
4. Praia do Camilo
Just half an hour’s stroll from the busy town of Lagos, you could easily call this the quintessential Portuguese beach. With the wooden steps so typical of many beaches around these parts, this one has 200 steps winding down from the amber cliffs to the beach’s rear. The cliffs provide a wonderful natural shelter from the winds, making the golden sands and clear waters perfect for luxuriating in.
TAVIRA BARRIL BEACH. PHOTO © AT ALAGRVE
5. Praia do Guincho
On the Estorial coast, between the Sintra mountains and Cascais, the strong winds here make Praia de Guincho a favourite with surfers of all levels, as well as kite surfers. If you’re new to surfing, look no further than one of the nearby surfing schools, where you can also hire wetsuits.
With more than three and a half miles of golden sand, this is one of the longest beaches in Portugal. It’s also another of the most family-friendly, with soft sand and clear, crystalline waters. Backed by cliffs and pine trees, this vast swathe of sand is near to a good selection of restaurants and bars, and it’s also, unlike many other beaches, easily accessible by public transport.
PORTIMAO. PHOTO © CDUARTE – AT ALAGRVE
7. Arrabida National Park
This is the kind of magical landscape that holiday brochures are made of, with impeccable white sands, azure waters and rugged cliffs, not to mention some 40 miles of lush green countryside. Come here to laze on the beach or, if you’re feeling more energetic, you can go horse-riding, or follow the walking trails.
8. Praia do Amado
The large waves on Portugal’s wonderfully wild Western Atlantic coast, make this another favourite with surfers, who come from all over Europe. Two surfing schools on the beach offer a wide range of classes and courses for children and adults alike, from beginners to seasoned pros.
GUINCHO BEACH. PHOTO © TURISMO CASCAIS
On a small island in the Ria Formosa National Park in the Eastern Algarve, this is one of Portugal’s wildest beaches. With nearly seven miles of silky white sand and nary a building in sight, this is perfect for getting away from it all. Otherwise, explore the surrounding sand dunes and marshlands or take a stroll along the pine-edged footpath.
10. Zambujeira do Mar
On the lesser known Alentejjo coast, in the Costa Vicentina and Suoeste National Park, this idyllic beach sits below a sleepy coastal village on the high cliffs above. With the usual clear waters and soft sands, it’s also a Blue Flag beach, popular with both families and surfers alike. If you happen to be here in August, don’t miss the Festa do Sudoeste – one of Portugal’s biggest music festivals, with major names from around the world performing..
TEXT: EDDI FIEGEL | TOP PHOTO LAGOA BENAGIL BEACH.©CDUARTE – AT ALAGRVE.