Home to over 100 beaches, the Algarve has some of Europe’s most beautiful coastline. Portugal’s southernmost region features plenty of famous resort towns (Albufeira, Lagos and Vilamoura chief among them), but you’ll find a wide array of sparkling shores in every part of the region.
You can visit discreet coves hidden amid golden cliffs, long undeveloped islands and dramatic western-facing oceanfronts pounded by waves. You’ll find kid-friendly beaches with calm seas, romantic spots for a sunset stroll and remote getaways overlooked by the summertime crowds. The challenge is just deciding where to begin. Here’s our pick of the 10 best beaches in the Algarve.
Praia da Falésia, Albufeira, is perfect for sunset strolls
This long straight strip of sand 10km (6mi) east of Albufeira offers one of the region’s most impressive first glimpses of the coast as you descend from the clifftop parking lot. It’s backed by stunning cliffs in white and several shades of ochre, gouged by weather into intriguing shapes and topped by typical pines. While lovely at any time of day, around sunset, you’ll see the cliffs light up in fiery hues as the rocks appear to glow from within. The sands near the parking lot get packed in summer (especially as high tides cover much of the beach), but the beach is more than 6km (4mi) long so it’s easy enough to find plenty of breathing space.
Praia da Marinha, Lagoa, is the best beach for dramatic scenery
The south coast of the Algarve boasts several beaches with photogenic limestone rock stacks produced by erosion and dissolution. Their orangey-brown colors make them perfect for morning or evening photography, but they also provide a spectacular backdrop for beachside lounging at any time. Our favorite is Marinha, 8km (5mi) southeast of Lagoa, where the cliffs have been chopped and changed into a series of pinnacles, crevasses and caves. It'll come as no surprise that it regularly ranks among the best beaches in Europe.
Praia de Odeceixe, Odeceixe, is the Algarve's best beach for families
Driving down from Lisbon, the first beach you reach in the Algarve is one of the region’s best. Praia de Odeceixe is a tongue of sand at a river mouth flanked by imposing dark and jagged schist cliffs. It’s a particularly good option for families, as smaller children can paddle on the peaceful river side of the strand while older kids tackle the waves on the ocean side. Near the beach is a surf school and several appealing restaurants with terraces overlooking the sands. You’ll find more dining options and easy-going guesthouses in the pretty village of Odeceixe, a half-hour walk along a charming country road. The Rota Vicentina, a long-distance walking path that leads right to the southwestern tip of Portugal, passes through here, and there are great day walks in the vicinity.
Ilha de Tavira, Tavira, is a top island getaway
The eastern coast of the Algarve is characterized by the estuaries and sand islands making up the Parque Natural Ria de Formosa, an important habitat for bird and marine life. A series of spectacular island beaches sits offshore: Ilha de Tavira, easily reached by boat from the historic town of Tavira, has lots of sand to explore (it’s 11km/7mi long), offering wide, lonely stretches of beach, an anchor cemetery, a nudist zone, birdlife, sociable restaurant–bars and lagoon-side paddling for small children. There’s a campsite here and some holiday rentals, so you can stay over and claim the island as your own.
Meia Praia, Lagos, is the beach with the best party vibe
Stretching for 4km (2.5mi) alongside the lively surfer party town of Lagos, this is a fun, social beach that fills up with families, locals and backpackers, but always has plenty of spare sand on which to snooze away the hangover. There are several good bars and restaurants on the beach itself, so you can make a day of it here before heading back into town to hit the bars and do it all over again.
Praia de Cacela Velha, near Manta Rota, is great for warm water swimming
Lonely and lovely, this bow-shaped spit of sand is divided from the mainland by an estuary. One of the least crowded of all the Algarve beaches, Praia de Cacela Velha offers plenty of space to enjoy a remote stretch of shoreline. Unlike beaches further west, this one has a shallow gradient that makes for reliably warm waters. Aside from frolicking in the ocean, you can check out the dune ecosystem backing the beach, take long walks on the sands and look for birds and marine life (including the odd dolphin just offshore). There’s a low-key LGBTQI+ scene here in summer.
Praia de Cacela Velha can be reached by walking a couple of kilometers (around a mile) west from Manta Rota beach or by hiring a boat across the estuary from Fábrica, near the postcard-pretty village of Cacela Velha. During low tide, you can also wade through knee-deep waters across from Cacela Velha – but don’t attempt this at high tide.
Praia da Arrifana, Aljezur, is one of the Algarve's best surf spots
Stretching along a wide cliff-backed expanse on the west coast, Arrifana is one of the Algarve’s best surfing destinations. Surfers of all levels flock to this dramatically set beach 10km (6mi) southwest of the town of Aljezur, with various surf camps offering lessons and lodgings. After a day in the waves, you can retreat to the clifftop restaurants near the ruined fortress up above, which offers breathtaking vistas – especially around sunset.
Praia da Amoreira, Aljezur, is never crowded
The river meets the sea at Praia da Amoreira, a wide beach backed by dunes on one side and the Ribeira de Aljezur on the other. Kids can safely swim in the delightfully warm waters of the river, while those seeking waves can go surfing or bodyboarding off the Atlantic. Unlike beaches of the central Algarve, Praia da Amoreira never really gets crowded, and its vast size means you can always find a relaxing spot in the sun. You can also follow the sandy riverbank upriver in search of herons, kingfishers and even otters.
Praia de Vale Figueira, Carrapateira, is the Algarve's best secluded beach
On a remote pocket of the west coast, the Praia de Vale Figueira is a long golden-sand beach backed by cliffs. Its remoteness ensures you’ll never find a crowd here. The beach lies 15km (9mi) northwest of Carrapateira and is reached by a rough, partly paved road, at the end of which you will find no facilities. The beach faces due west and has pretty reliable surf, especially when a southeaster is blowing. It’s one of those lonely, romantic beaches that’s even great to visit on cloudy days.
Praia da Ilha Deserta has the best island beaches to explore
Though Faro doesn’t sit on the oceanfront, the town lies near some picturesque sandy getaways, some of which you can reach only by boat. One of the best beaches near Faro stretches for some 7km (4mi) along Ilha Deserta ("Desert Island"), which is also called Ilha da Barreta. Here you can escape the crowds while exploring the island’s unique facets. Take a walk along the Santa Maria boardwalk past salt marshes with views over the Ria Formosa lagoon, then stop for a swim off scenic Cabo de Santa Maria, the southernmost point on the Portuguese mainland.
There’s just one restaurant on this otherwise undeveloped island, and it’s a good one. Book ahead or plan to bring a picnic. Ferries depart every 30 minutes or so from Faro during the high season and less frequently outside of summer.