Discovering Algarve’s best beaches is quite a challenge! Even for a local like me, trying to filter among so many unique beaches is really difficult.
But making these types of lists is a useful resource for everyone that visits the Algarve, especially for first-timers. There are different types of beaches on the list, so I’m sure you will find one (or more) that will suit you the most.
From beaches with extensive sandy beaches with fine golden sands to sublime coves embroidered by majestic cliffs, all beaches in the Algarve promise to be bathed in crystal clear waters. It is therefore no wonder that some of them have been on top of the best beaches in Europe and worldwide for consecutive years.
We’ve divided them considering the two different regions within the Algarve, Eastern Algarve (Sotavento) and Western Algarve (Barlavento and Costa Vicentina). In that, you can easily find the ones that are closer to your accommodation or to your taste. However, we can suggest visiting all of them if possible!
The west of the Algarve has colder waters but also greater undulation, in the area of Barlavento and Costa Vicentina. On contrary, the east of the Algarve is known for its beaches to have warmer and calm waters.
They all share a characteristic: they are a temptation. And they invite you to be appreciated all year round, both for their incitement to diving and for their scenic beauty.
Most beaches in the Algarve have a “Blue Flag”, a distinction of quality due to respect for the environment, safety, water and sand quality, and facilities to support the bather.
Now, put on your bathing suit, put on your slippers, put the towel on your shoulder, and let’s find the best Algarve beaches.
The Best Beaches in Western Algarve, Barlavento
We arrived at the western Algarve and here we have a radical change of scenery. It may have waters with less inviting temperatures, but it has the most beautiful beaches not only in the Algarve but worldwide.
Between Albufeira and Lagos, you will be surprised by the most beautiful and dramatic rock formations, caves, and algares that are authentic art galleries of nature and charming bays hidden in the corners of the cliffs.
Peneco, Pescadores, Inatel or Alemao (Albufeira)
Albufeira needs no introduction.
It is a holiday destination of choice for millions of tourists, especially for those who are looking for a lot of entertainment and partying, both day and night. An elevator takes – you to the foothills of the cliff to Peneco Beach and a few meters ahead you can find more towel space at Pescadores Beach (Fishermen beach).
If you enjoy walking and are looking for a quieter area, walk east where Inatel beach and Praia do Alemao will be not so crowded.
Praia da Galé
Between Albufeira and Galé, the coast is embroidered with tiny cobbled beaches. The next beach to extend the towel is exactly at Praia da Galé.
Armação de Pêra and Praia da Cova Redonda (Pêra)
Armação de Pêra, is a little gem in the coastline of Silves. Armação de Pêra is the beach holiday destination chosen by though many families. It’s also possible to enjoy Praia Grande close by, even though that’s divided by Ribeira de Alcantarilha.
From here, there are more than twenty nice beaches for those who search for places off the beaten track.
Praia da Cova Redonda is one of those to leave any wing with a jaw dropped and is one that still has an enchanting effect on me: exfoliating golden sand, waters of stunning crystalline purity, and a perfect setting of the cove at the bottom of the cliff.
Praia da Marinha (Lagoa)
Marinha Beach marks the starting point of the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. If you are a lover of hiking and venturing on this trail, it will be – if it is difficult to resist a dip in the clear waters of these scenic beaches in the Algarve
If the word Benagil does not bring you to mind the Algarve right away, then you might have missed this recent natural attraction that has been widely photographed by tourists worldwide. Benagil is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Algarve: the Benagil Cave, an incredible and imposing temple entirely built by the hands of Nature.
The Benagil beach may be small in size but it is huge in fame… And also, in natural beauty.
Still, in the municipality of Lagoa be sure to visit the wonderful rock formations of Algar Seco and take a dip in Praia do Carvoeiro, elected one of the best beaches in Europe for some time already, in the tourist awards, European Best Destinations.
Praia da Rocha and Praia do Vau (Portimão)
Already in Portimão, you arrive at what is also one of my favorite beaches of the Algarve, with its wide sand beach: Praia da Rocha.
It is true that the setting is not the most beautiful with the cliff dominated by tourist complexes. But it has almost two kilometers of walkway well served by restaurants and terraces ideal for a beautiful fish meal and a refreshing drink.
Then, close by, Praia do Vau is one of the beaches endowed with Blue Flag. With an extension that allows pleasant walks on the beach or between rock formations that allow you to reach other small beaches. Accessible to people with disabilities, Praia do Vau has several restaurants and another beach supports.
Alvor beach and Três Irmãos beach
Três Irmãos beach is characterized by having unique rock formations on the Algarve coast. This is the beach of choice for Alvor fans looking for the combination of calm waters and the scenic beauty of the Algarve cliffs.
We continue west and encounter the extensive sandy area of Alvor Beach. Served by good restaurants, easy accessibility, and lots of sand to extend the towel. The further west, the more space you have. Ideal for those who like to stretch their legs, with a choice between the sand or beautiful walkways over the Alvor Ria Formosa fed by Ribeira de Odiáxere.
Praia da Dona Ana (Lagos)
We arrived in the municipality of Lagos and the choice is abundant. Lagos has the most beautiful rock formations in the Algarve, if not the most beautiful. We speak of Ponta da Piedade, the queen of the Algarve cliffs. The Praia Dona Ana deserves our prominence for being one of the beaches in the Algarve that most often appears in the world tops of international media.
Pinhão, Camilo and Meia Praia Beaches (Lagos)
But if you are looking for corners protected from the wind between the ocher colored cliffs that are today the hallmark of the Algarve, then two other beaches in Lagos will satisfy your desire. Pinhão Beach and Camilo Beach, as they have access only by stairs, are sometimes discouraged for some. If instead, you want extensive kilometers of sand, then Meia Praia Beach is the answer to your will.
Be sure to go to Ponte da Piedade, where you will be toasted with some of the most beautiful coastal landscapes in the Algarve. It is one of my favorite spots to watch the sunset in the Algarve!
Martinhal Beach, Praia da Mareta and Tonel Beach (Sagres)
Head to Ponta de Sagres and reach the coldest and most agitated waters of the south coast of the Algarve. Sagres brings together the largest number of beaches in the Algarve for surfers, kitesurfing, and windsurfing. Some of them are observable from the Sagres to Salema Trail.
Martinhal Beach, Praia da Mareta and Tonel beach are the go-to beaches on this side of the Algarve’s coastline.
Still in the western part of the Algarve, but now turning north of Sagres there is the southern part of Costa Vicentina (that stretches north until Alentejo – check here our guide to Costa Vicentina’s best beaches.
Costa Vicentina is where you will most likely find the deserted beaches of the Algarve (at least during some parts of the year).
Between Sagres and Aljezur, climb north and travel wide kilometers of rugged landscape, tested by the strong winds characteristic of Sagres. Violent wind and rough sea joined forces and created a most beautiful and dramatic Portuguese coast area. The land changes from golden to dark ocher, as if we stepped on burnt earth.
Ideal for those looking for areas of untouched nature, this coastline is equally popular with extreme sports practitioners.
Not many go to adventure into these areas as services are scarce, non-existent, or distant from the main cities of the Algarve. The sea is rough, treacherous, and angry. So, if you want a beach for the family, don’t choose Sagres. If you have an aversion to crowds, you just want to sunbathe or practice some water sports, these are your beaches to go to in the Algarve.
Praia do Castelejo, Praia da Cordoama and Praia do Amado
Praia do Castelejo and Praia da Cordoama is the ones with the most beautiful landscapes in this region. Big waves give it somehow a rough kind of majesty to those beaches. And they have the advantage that there is even a restaurant in each one of them. But as you can’t be too safe, go prepared with a large picnic, in case the restaurant is on a “staff rest day”. For surfers, Praia do Amado is a preferred destination.
Arrifana, Monte Clérigo Beach or in Amoreira Beach (Aljezur)
Further north, in the municipality of Aljezur you already find calmer Algarve beaches. A cove protects Praia da Arrifana, calming the bravery of the waters. But you need stiff soles – the beach is full of pebbles. You can find sand at Praia do Monte Clérigo or Praia da Amoreira, where the water stream of Aljezur flows.
Last but not least, the sand shell of Praia de Odeceixe closes our list of the best beaches in the Algarve. In between Alentejo and Algarve, this beach has beautiful panoramic views of the cliffs and combines the sea beach with the sand of the mouth of the Ribeira de Seixe.
The Best Beaches in the Eastern Algarve (Sotavento region)
The sands of the Eastern Algarve with the stunning lagoon landscape of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal, are ideal for families with young children.
In the municipality of Vila Real de Santo António, from the mouth of the Guadiana river to Praia de Cacela Velha, passing through Praia Verde belonging to the municipality of Castro Marim, there is practically 15 km of sand with some of the best beaches in the Algarve. The further west, the fewer crowds you find, and you can even discover its “deserted beach” corner in the Algarve.
Add an extensive sandy beach, a placid sea, and the warmest waters of the Algarve, and find Monte Gordo.
It is like a red carpet extended to those looking for beach holidays in Portugal closer to the Mediterranean style. This is the favorite beach destination in the Algarve of the vast majority of Portuguese and even Spanish Andalusian tourists visiting the region searching for these warm waters.
In the past, Monte Gordo beach was the perfect spot for fishermen to go overboard with fishing boats to the farm. Today, this more artisanal activity is in decline and many of the boats are merely decorative. However, you can still see some resistant men taking care of the nets on a daily basis.
If you are looking for beaches in the Algarve with greater tranquility, Manta Rota is just for you. To escape the crowds of Monte Gordo, Manta Rota offers a serene beach, stretching for kilometers (and the waters are equally inviting)
Cacela Velha Beach
Curiously, Cacela Velha Beach is somehow not so well-known to many Portuguese, and, probably, for this reason, it’s one of the most authentic beaches in the Algarve. Cacela Velha has the best view of the Eastern Algarve.
I’ve to confess, it’s one of my favorite beaches on the list!
At no other point on the Algarve coast is the ocean line so defined, the island dune complex – barrier, and the Ria Formosa kissing coastal towns and cities. And all this is within sight!
It is practically here that the phenomenon of the Ria Formosa is born: a huge tongue of fine sand that protects the Algarve coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Turn south and you will have a smell of the bravery of ocean waves. Turn north and you will have the placidity of the shallow and warm waters of the Ria.
From Cacela Velha to Praia do Ancão, the peninsulas and islands – barrier of Ria Formosa, form a single lagoon system. The unique ecosystem has unique biodiversity, something impossible to stay indifferently to all nature lovers.
Most beaches in this area are only accessible by boat since the natural complex is formed by five large dune islands, namely Ilha da Barreta, Ilha da Culatra, Ilha da Armona, Tavira Island, and Cabanas Island. These extensive sand dunes separate the whirlwind of the Atlantic ocean waves from Ria Formosa and are an open invitation to water sports practitioners of all tastes.
To such an extent, it is natural to find here many of the best beaches in the Algarve. The highlight goes to the unavoidable Faro Island. Permeated by a road once flanked by fisherman’s huts, today there is more concrete. Less pleasing to the eye, it is true, but with a good offer of accommodation and services for those looking for that week of beach without city hustle and bustle.
Cabanas Beach and Barril Beach (Tavira)
It would be almost a sin not to mention Tavira Island in this list of the best beaches in the Algarve.
The campsite is one of the most popular in the Algarve in the summer months. Extend yourself in a hammock under the refreshing shade of the pine forest, burn calories by walking kilometers of sand and marshland, or delight yourself with Algarve sunbathing. All this is surrounded by pure nature.
Cabanas de Tavira is a small brown village in the municipality of Tavira that preserves much of its original charm. It escaped the unrestrained tourist development of the Algarve that transfigured many of these fishing villages. Praia de Cabanas is the beach itself on the island, which allows bathing in a still calm sea.
The crossing is only possible by boat and is well worth the ride.
And we could not fail to highlight Barril Beach (Barrel beach). On foot or on a small train, the scenic beach access tour from Pedras D’El Rei is one of the most spectacular. The brand image of Praia do Barril is its Anchor Cemetery.
Quinta do Lago Beach (Vilamoura)
Further west, in the frontier of the Sotavento region, in the municipality of Loulé, Vilamoura, Vale do Lobo, and Quinta do Lago form the now world-famous “Golden Triangle” of the Algarve for golfers. This is the Algarve of golf resorts sought by the most demanding tourist.
And Quinta do Lago Beach is worth a special mention in this list. It is located on the western peninsula of the Ria Formosa and has one of the most instagramable wooden walkways in the Algarve connecting land to the pleasant beach. Along the way, you will appreciate the unique vegetation of this national natural wonder.