Given that the country has over 1,790 kilometres of coastline, it should come as no surprise to find that Portugal is brimming with beautiful beaches from north to south. Some of the best beaches in Portugal are relatively unspoilt and there is a great deal of variety among them.
Whether you are looking for a child-friendly Blue Flag beach or a wild, rocky beach to stroll along or take dramatic photos of, you’ll find a Portuguese beach to love in this article.
The most beautiful beaches in Northern Portugal
Praia de Afife
Afife is the kind of beach that has something for everyone. Well known for its unspoilt dunes, it has been a Blue Flag beach since 1989. Although usually windy and with strong waves (hello, surfers and windsurfers!) the southern part of the beach is great for children as a small tidal lagoon sometimes forms at the mouth of the river.
If you’re fond of walks on the beach, Afife has 4 km of fluffy white sand (and boardwalks), perfect for taking relaxing strolls while admiring the surrounding natural beauty.
Practicalities: Afife beach has a lifeguard, showers, parking, cafés and restaurants and is best reached by car as the train station is a couple of kilometres from the beach.
Vila Praia de Âncora
The beach at Vila Praia de Âncora is a local favourite and one of the few places where you can still watch fishermen at work.
It’s known in the region as the “children’s beach” because of the small river that flows across the sand and into the sea, creating safe spots for kids to play in.
Grownups don’t need to be sad as this beach has excellent conditions for surf, windsurf, bodyboard and longboard. The promenade and ecovia allow for invigorating walks or bicycle rides.
Practicalities: The village is literally named after the beach and spreads gently away from the water to offer a variety of cafés and restaurants. This also means that in the summer months parking near the beach can be complicated.
To get here you can drive, take the train or come by bus from Viana do Castelo (the beach will be a 10/15 minute walk away). This beach has lifeguards, showers and it is an accessible beach.
There’s a lot of holiday homes and apartments in Vila Praia de Âncora and the best hotel is the 4-star Hotel Meira, which has a seasonal pool and onsite restaurant. See current availability and prices.
Best beaches in Central Portugal
Praia da Costa Nova near Aveiro
Praia da Costa Nova is a unique beach on a small strip of land between the sea and the Ria de Aveiro lagoon. On the ocean side, the rough sea waves provide ideal conditions for surf and windsurf and then there’s the lagoon, which is perfect for sailing, paddle surfing or water skiing. There’s also a bicycle path if you prefer sports on two wheels.
To top it off you have the picturesque colourful striped fishing cottages, for which this beach is famous. Fishermen used these as warehouses and shelters, many decades ago, and they have recently been converted to holiday homes. There are countless fish and seafood restaurants in Costa Nova too.
Practicalities: This accessible beach has a lifeguard, showers, parking, cafés and restaurants. To get here, drive or hop on the bus that goes from Aveiro to Costa Nova.
Praia do Norte, Nazaré
Praia do Norte is a bit of a celebrity among Portuguese beaches, being commonly associated with world-renowned surfer Garret McNamara. This is where he surfed the world’s largest-ever wave, a mere 24.38 metres high!
As you can imagine this beach offers excellent conditions for surfing, body boarding, kitesurfing and windsurfing. Every now and then Praia do Norte will have no waves, but don’t be fooled as these waters are considered too dangerous for swimming. For child-friendly beaches in the Silver Coast area, see Nazaré beach, next to the town centre, or the following three options.
Practicalities: There is no public transportation to Praia do Norte but there are buses to the town of Nazaré, which is about 4 km away from the beach. Praia do Norte has parking spots but no other facilities, although cafés and restaurants are not too far away.
Nazaré has plenty of accommodations to choose from – take your pick from these options.
São Martinho do Porto beach
Famed for its natural 3 kilometre-long horseshoe bay, São Martinho do Porto’s beach is a rare case along the Portuguese coast, as the sea here is virtually wave free.
This beach is one of the best beaches in Portugal for families with children although it also appeals to lovers of nautical sports, like canoeing, windsurfing and sailing.
The promenade in front of the low-key resort town takes you around most of the length of the bay. At the far end of the bay, you’ll find the nature reserve and beach at Salir, which you can see in the foreground of the photo.
Practicalities: São Martinho do Porto is an accessible beach with lifeguard, toilets, shower, cafés and restaurants.
If you’re staying in São Martinho, there’s a good chance you’ll be a 5 or 10 minute walk away from the beach. Check out the many accommodation options in town.
There is also a bus which stops at a 15/20 minute walk away from the beach. If you come by car, parking may be a challenge in the summer months but you can try to park on the streets parallel to the beach.
Foz do Arelho lagoon beach
Foz do Arelho is another natural wonder on the Portuguese coast and my favourite beach in Portugal.
This large sandy strip has the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the peaceful waters of the Óbidos Lagoon on the other. The lagoon side of the beach is full of natural beauty and is perfect for families with children. The ocean side is windy and can have big waves, so it’s no wonder it’s a well known spot for surf, bodyboard and windsurf.
Practicalities: Foz do Arelho is an accessible beach that has a lifeguard, showers, cafés and restaurants.
Tip: Even though there are plenty of parking spots they fill up quickly at the busiest times of the year, so it’s a good idea to get there early. Or take a taxi from Caldas da Rainha or Obidos if you are using those towns as your base but don’t have a car.
Baleal beach near Peniche
Baleal beach to the north of Peniche, is known for its natural beauty and fine white sand. I’m also rather partial to the pancake rock formations on the headland. The beach straddles a road and the part I like most is to the north of this road, closer to the rocks and a tiny beach with fishing boats on it.
The coastline creates different types of waves, meaning this beach is a good option for families with small children but also for windsurfers as well as surfers and body boarders of all levels.
The bay of Baleal beach is 4 km long, so you can go for walks while enjoying this picture-perfect location.
Practicalities: If you’re driving, take the N114 until just before you enter Peniche and then follow the signposts to Baleal. This beach has lifeguards, showers, parking, cafés and restaurants. It is also an accessible beach.
Beautiful beaches near Lisbon
Praia da Adraga in Sintra-Cascais Natural Park
Praia da Adraga is a fairly wild spot in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park that’s famous for its jagged rocks, grottoes, tunnels and quaint rocky arch that looks a bit like an elephant.
For me, it’s just the perfect beach for a stroll or a bit of wave-gazing. Although the waves here are usually rough, at low tide there will likely be several small pools to explore among the rocks.
It’s not ideal for swimming or for children but it can be fun, provided you take extra care. There are other beaches in the Sintra area that are safer for swimming – see this article for more information.
Practicalities: To get to Praia da Adraga you can either drive along the N247 to Almoçageme and then follow the signposts or take a bus to Almoçageme and walk for a couple of kilometres.
Adraga is an accessible beach with a lifeguard, parking spots (which fill up quickly in the summer), a café/restaurant (book ahead as this is deservedly popular) and showers.
You can visit as a day trip from Lisbon, Sintra or Cascais or base yourself in a nearby village if you have a car.
Praia de Galapinhos
While getting to Praia de Galapinhos might prove to be a bit of a challenge, if you’re keen on breathtaking natural gems you’ll find it is worth it. After all, it was dubbed one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe by the European Best Destinations organization and I’m inclined to agree.
Located in the Arrábida Natural Park near Setúbal, this beach offers white sand and crystal-clear azure waters backed by green hills.
Practicalities: Whether you’re coming from Azeitão, Sesimbra or Setúbal you’ll have to head through the Arrábida Natural Park towards Arrábida / Portinho da Arrábida and eventually take the N379-1. There’s a free shuttle from the car park that will leave you at the top of the cliff. After that, you’ll have to find your way downhill to the beach (follow the locals).
In the summer, i.e. 15th June to 15th September, there is restricted vehicular access to Arrábida beaches to avoid congestion and pollution. Use the Arrábida Sem Carros information (right click and translate the page into English if you’re using Google Chrome) to see which roads are blocked, where to park and timetables for special beach bus services.
Galapinhos has no lifeguard and no showers, but it has a small café for drinks and snacks.
A firm favourite of many people living in the greater Lisbon area, the Tróia peninsular offers calm waters and pristine beaches with silky white sand close to pine forests with the Serra da Arrábida hills just in front.
You’ll find Tróia resort and its facilities at the tip of the headland and from there, simply follow the boardwalks to your left to find a spot you like. My preference would be for the quieter Bico das Lulas beach, which has great views of the sand spits and the mountains.
Practicalities: Reaching Tróia is easy even if you’re coming from Lisbon – simply head over to Setúbal and take the ferry from there. It’s possible to use the ferry whether you’re on foot or have a car or bike, just make sure you get on the right one as they land in different places.
Tróia is an accessible beach that has wonderful conditions for fans of sailing and windsurfing while also providing facilities for volleyball, football and rugby. This vast beach has lifeguards, showers, parking, cafés and restaurants.
Accommodation in Tróia ranges from holiday apartments to luxury hotels – find something to suit you.
There’s also a great golf course here and, of more interest to me, some interesting Roman ruins.
Gorgeous Alentejo beaches
Praia da Samoqueira near Porto Covo
Surrounded by steep cliffs, Praia da Samoqueira is famous for its extraordinary rock formations, characteristic of so many beaches along the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park.
This beach is a small sandy area with a wild kind of allure. It features a series of caves that you can get to on foot when the tide is low and which become amazing diving spots when the tide is high.
Practicalities: There’s no public transport to the beach so you’ll need to drive or take a cab from Porto Covo (approx 5 kms). Parking is easy but you can only access the beach via some steepish steps so it may not be suitable if you have mobility issues.
Samoqueira has no lifeguard, showers, cafés or restaurants so bring your own supplies and take your rubbish with you.
Praia da Franquia in Vila Nova de Milfontes
Praia da Franquia is the busiest beach in Vila Nova de Milfontes and with good reason. Close to town, sheltered from the wind, at the mouth of the River Mira and with very few waves, this beach is highly sought after by families with children. And people like me who can’t be bothered to brave the waves for a dip.
If you’re into paddle surf, windsurf or canoeing, you’ll probably enjoy Franquia as well. For a wilder beach nearby, there’s always Praia das Furnas to the south of the river.
Practicalities: Although there are parking spots available, they get busy in the summer months. If you’re staying in the town, it’s better to walk to the beach (in general it will be a 10-15 minute walk).
Franquia beach is accessible and has a lifeguard, bathrooms, showers and a restaurant/café.
Odeceixe beach has one foot in the Alentejo and the other in the Algarve, being located at the mouth of the river Seixe, which marks the border between the two regions.
This is a vast and beautiful sandy beach with a steady fan base and is popular with both surfers (there’s a surf school here) and families. When the tide is low there will usually be at least one pool, perfect for small children and for the less adventurous adults (like me!).
The clifftop walk south of the beach is part of the Rota Vicentina Fishermen’s Trail and offers spectacular views.
Practicalities: Odeceixe beach is about 4 km from Odeceixe village and in the summer months there is a road-train that runs between the two. If you feel like walking you can follow the Rota Vicentina (look out for the blue and green painted markers) through the river valley until you reach the beach. There are several places to park, although in peak season parking may prove tricky.
Odeceixe beach has a lifeguard, showers, bathrooms, cafés and restaurants.
Algarve beaches you will love
Castelejo beach in the wild western Algarve
Castelejo beach is backed by imposing huge black schist cliffs that rise out of the sand. These rock formations are the reason why I love it so much. That said, these features bring a risk of landslides and Castelejo is classed as a restricted use beach, which means you should be extra careful.
When the tide is out, you can walk north from here to the next beach, Praia da Cordoama, which will take you past some wonderful rock formations.
Locally it is a popular beach for fishing and surfing – it’s the first easily accessible surf spot on the Atlantic coast if you’re coming from places like Sagres or Lagos.
Practicalities: This beach is about 4 km outside the nearest town, Vila do Bispo so you’ll need a car to get here.
Castelejo has a lifeguard, parking, cafés and restaurants but you need to go down some steps to access the beach.
Praia da Luz
Part of an important fishing town centuries ago, Praia da Luz is now a low-key summer holiday resort that’s popular with families. This relatively sheltered bay has very few waves, making it ideal for windsurfing, sailing, kite surfing, canoeing and even diving.
On one side of the beach you’ll find a rocky platform with reddish tones where you can hunt for marine fossils. On the other side there’s a cliff standing out against the landscape known as Rocha Negra (Black Rock). This is actually a volcanic vein coming from the Monchique hills and extending towards the sea.
Practicalities: The seafront promenade offers plenty of cafés and restaurants as well as entertainment during the summer. Praia da Luz has lifeguards, parking and showers. It is also an accessible beach.
Praia Dona Ana in Lagos
Praia Dona Ana is often considered the best beach in the Algarve and it’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal. Its sandstone cliffs, stunning rock formations, grottoes and azure waters certainly contribute to this status.
So much beauty comes with a price, however, and there is a very real danger of stones coming loose and falling on to the beach. For that reason Praia Dona Ana is considered a restricted use beach.
Access to the beach is via a series of wooden steps, which will obviously not be suitable for everyone.
Practicalities: You can reach Dona Ana beach by following the road from Lagos towards Ponta da Piedade. This beach has a lifeguard, bathrooms, parking and a bar/restaurant.
From Lagos you can take boat tours that will allow you a closer look at the unusual rock formations and grottoes around Dona Ana.
Or, if you’re feeling more active, try a 2-hour kayaking trip through the caves.
Praia da Fuzeta in the eastern Algarve
Deep blue crystalline waters, natural pools at low tide and a sense of peacefulness are among the features that make Praia da Fuzeta so appealing.
Add to that the generally calm and warmish water temperature (21 ºC to 22 ºC) and the unspoilt sand spits and you have the recipe for a beach beloved by many families.
Fuzeta is superb for sailing, windsurfing, canoeing and long, leisurely nature walks.
Practicalities: The easiest part of Fuzeta beach to access is in front of the village. However, there is also an ocean-side beach on a small island separating the Atlantic Ocean from the Ria Formosa estuary. To reach it you have to take a boat from either Fuzeta or Olhão.
This beach has a lifeguard, bathrooms and a café/restaurant. It is also an accessible beach.
Practicalities for going to the beach in Portugal
While it´s rare for a stunning beach to lose its charms, there are certain things worth bearing in mind when planning a trip to the beach in Portugal.
Respect the flag systems that are there to protect you from dangerous undercurrents. If the red flag is flying, don’t go in the water, no matter how hot it is.
The same goes for warnings about falling rocks. People have died after ignoring the signs and using the cliffs for shade. Take your own beach umbrella or hire one.
Understand that some characteristics of a beach can change from one year to the next, like blue flag, wooden boardwalks over the dunes (they may not always be placed in the same spots) or sunshade rentals.
Dunes may also change from one year to another, especially after serious storms, for example.
Bathrooms, if there are any, may not always be right in front of the main entrance to the beach and sometimes they’re in a café/restaurant with separate access (meaning you don’t have to buy anything in order to use the bathrooms).
Showers are, in most cases, placed on the sand but sometimes they’ll be next to the bathrooms (as is the case with Franquia and Odeceixe, for example).
When’s the best time to spend time on the beach in Portugal?
I like to walk along beaches rather than sunbathe or swim so unless it’s windy or raining, any month is a good month to go to the beach in my book.
If the weather’s good, you will see hardy sun lovers soaking up the rays even in December, although most people are fully clothed between October and April.
Portuguese beaches will usually be busiest during the summer holiday period between mid June and mid September with July and August being the peak months.
River beaches in Portugal, which I haven’t covered in this article, are usually only fully operational between July and August although some extend their periods into June and September.
Surfing beaches like Praia do Norte in Nazaré tend to get their biggest waves around November while the sea is usually much calmer in the summer months. You’ll still want a wetsuit even in high summer – the Atlantic Ocean is cold! Surf schools will supply these if you’re just dabbling in the sport and don’t have your own.
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