The Algarve region is one of Portugal’s most popular destinations, thanks mainly to its pleasant climate and stunning beaches. The caves and cliff stacks that back golden sands and turquoise waters (when the light is right) draw holidaymakers in their droves but the Algarve is more diverse than most people realise.
It’s got mountains, small villages, natural parks, fun parks, castles, rocky beaches, lagoons, deserted islands, wineries, Roman, Islamic and even prehistoric roots.
Before you start looking for the best place to stay in the Algarve, you should work out which area suits your interests.
To help you choose where to stay in the Algarve, these towns and villages make good bases for certain types of holiday:
Surfing – Western Algarve
Alternatively, you can simply scroll through the article to see what appeals to you from my descriptions. As I did with my post about things to do in the Algarve, I’ve started in the west and worked my way south then gradually eastwards.
Click to jump to a particular sub-region within the Algarve
Best places to stay in Western Algarve
The west coast is one of my favourite parts of the Algarve region since most of it is within a natural park. It begins at the village of Odeceixe, at the mouth of the River Seixe, and continues south to Sagres and along the bottom edge of Portugal to just before Lagos, which is the end of the natural park areas and the beginning of the more built up parts of the Algarve.
Within the western Algarve, you have the Rota Vicentina walking and cycling trails that enable you to explore inland villages and countryside of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentina Coast Natural Park as well as the stunning, unspoilt coastline. The beaches here are also popular with surfers.
Once you reach Lagos, you’re in the more developed part of the region, with more facilities and lots more people.
Odeceixe has a beautiful beach that’s good for families and surfers thanks to the river that runs across the sands. Great walks and a cute village with several restaurants make it a good base for exploring the area and enjoying its natural beauty.
Accommodation in Odeceixe village
Casas do Moinho is a cluster of beautifully renovated cottages spreading uphill as you leave the village. With an outdoor pool and views to die for plus a nearby restaurant, you may not want to leave, especially since there’s a thoughtful welcome package. Choose from rooms, suites and mezzanine apartments.
The small but pretty town of Aljezur is a gateway to stunning beaches such as Monte Clérigo (good for families) and Arrifana (good for surfers). Little information plaques in the streets help you discover local history and there are several short walking trails as well as the Rota Vicentina to explore.
Apartments and Guesthouses in Aljezur
Herdade Quinta Natura Turismo Rural offers 4 private suites each with its own terrace. The outdoor swimming pool is seasonal, but you can walk around the property to enjoy the beautiful greenery and the river that crosses through it. Great breakfasts are provided and the self-serving kitchen is open all day for guests to use. Check availability and see photos
The Apartamentos Apfel are a 5-minute drive from the closest beaches – Praia do Medo da Fonte Santa and Monte Clérigo –, surrounded by the Costa Vicentina Natural Park. Offering a swimming pool, a fitness centre and an outdoor dining area. You can buy provisions at the next-door supermarket, a mere 3-minute walk away and use your fully equipped kitchen. See photos and check availability
Another small village with two lovely beaches within walking distance, Carrapateira is popular with surfers.
Carrapateiramar Guest House provides six small houses with a common swimming pool and terrace. Within walking distance from Bordeira and Amado beaches, the property is firmly ensconced within the Costa Vicentina Natural Park. It is also close to a decent number of restaurants and grocery stores. See photos and check availability
Vila do Bispo
This quaint little village in the southwest of the Algarve has a calm, unhurried atmosphere and pleasant cobbled streets to explore. Look out for windmills and marble sculptures as you wander.
Best of all, it’s only a short drive to one of my favourite Algarve beaches, Castelejo. When the tide is out, you can walk along the sands to the neighbouring Praia da Cordoama. Both have beach bars and attract surfers and walkers.
Where to stay in Vila do Bispo
The 3-star Hotel Mira Sagres overlooks the 16th century parish church of Vila do Bispo. It features spa facilities, an indoor pool and several wellness services in a modern environment, perfect for soothing weary muscles if you’re walking the Rota Vicentina or Via Algarviana trails. Check current prices
If you’d rather stay in a typical Algarvian house, then Pure Flor de Esteva in Vila do Bispo is a good budget choice. Breakfast is included but you can also use the shared kitchen facilities to prepare a packed lunch or simple meal. Check the photos and the reviews
At the very tip of the Algarve region, Sagres has an important naval history. Prince Henry the Navigator set sail from here to explore the world and the fortress is worth a visit if you’re interested in such things. The town itself is small and popular with surfers so there are several bars and a range of restaurants. The fishing harbour is interesting and you can walk across the cliffs or head to the beach.
Accommodation in Sagres
For a luxurious retreat for quality time with the kids, consider the Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort Hotel. It’s just 2 minutes away from Martinhal beach and 3 km from the historic fishing port of Sagres. Choose between boutique-style rooms and villas with private balconies and terraces. With 3 restaurants, 3 adult pools, a tennis court, a spa and wellness centre as well as shuttle services, this resort is non-smoking throughout. See photos and choose your preferred view
For unrivalled views of the ocean and fortress, stay at the boutique Pousada da Sagres. Rooms and public spaces feature a classical style with a tasteful maritime theme. Service is excellent and there’s a decent-sized pool. Grab a room with sea views
Mareta View Boutique Bed & Breakfast is a mere 2-minute stroll from Mareta beach and handily located for restaurants. The well-maintained garden with native plants, the lively décor, facilities adapted for disabled guests and the array of activities available make this property a great option. Street parking only. Choose a room with sea view
Salema, Burgau and Luz
As you head east along the southern coast, the next two fishing villages of note are Salema and Burgau. Salema has attracted more attention and therefore investment in recent years but they are both protected by being within the natural park so not overdeveloped.
Read more about Salema’s charms in this post.
Luz is the first beach and town after leaving the natural park and is dominated by a massive cliff. The pleasant promenade is lined with cafés and restaurants and there are more of these as you head up the hill and into the village, which is a mixture of the traditional and the tourist-oriented and still quite attractive, especially when compared to some of the more popular destinations between Lagos and Faro.
Casa Praia Mar is a small modern guesthouse with a pool that’s just a couple of minutes walk from Salema’s beach and restaurants. Some rooms have balconies and kitchen facilities and there’s free parking! Grab a room with a view
Set back from the beach by about 1 km you’ll find the cute and colourful Quinta do Mar da Luz, Burgau, which offers various types of apartments and rooms in a stone building and outlying wings surrounding a pool. Perfect for relaxing in natural surroundings. See photos and check availablility
If you want a private villa with your own pool and cooking facilities, take a look at Alma Verde Village & Spa Resort near Burgau. You’ll need a car to get around as there’s no shop or restaurant on site and the beach is almost 3 km away but it makes for a convenient base if you have transport. Choose a villa to suit
You really can’t get closer to the beach than Luz Beach Apartments. This row of self-catering accommodation offers you furnished balconies with sea views, including a second private outside area for the larger apartments. There are several restaurants and bars serving traditional and international delicacies a 2-minute walk away. There is free public parking available as well as bike rental and shuttle services. See photos and check availability
Lagos has some of the region’s most attractive beaches, with and without cliff stacks. Many of the hotels are on the cliff between the old town and the Ponte da Piedade headland although there are some accommodations in the historical centre or opposite the marina.
You’ll find the remains of an old fortress and a few monuments and museums dotted around the cobbled streets of old Lagos. Not to mention a profusion of tourist-oriented shops, bars and restaurants. I’m too old for clubbing but if you are looking for a party town, this is a good bet.
Lagos hotels, apartments and villas
If you want to stay in the old town, the 4-star Casa Mãe combines traditional details of local architecture with a strikingly contemporary finish. It has a seasonal outdoor pool if you can’t face a 10 minute walk to Meia Praia beach and onsite wellness services and restaurant. There is also free public parking nearby. Choose an ocean, city, garden or pool view
Villas D. Dinis Charming Residence is a cheerful adult only complex of villas with private patios set around a pool and an exotic garden with palm trees. Only a 5-minute walk from Praia Dona Ana Beach, there are several restaurants and a supermarket within walking distance. All the main landmarks are less than a mile away, including Lagos Castle, Ponta da Piedade Lighthouse and Meia Praia Beach. See photos and check availability
For a romantic stay just outside Lagos, try the Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda. Here you can relax with majestic surroundings, an outdoor pool, spa, sauna and massage services and a short walk to Porto de Mós beach. Check verified reviews and availability
If you’re not too fussed about being near the beach and prefer mountains and greenery with good hiking options, Monchique might suit you as a place to stay. The spa village of Caldas de Monchique is a few kilometres below the main town and is the best place if you’re looking for a well-being break.
If you want somewhere a little livelier, with more facilities, continue up the hill to Monchique town or find a country retreat in the surrounding hills.
Accommodation options near Monchique
If you want to feel fully pampered, relaxed or revived, the luxury Macdonald Monchique Resort & Spa should do the trick. Surrounded by greenery and stunning views, the hotel’s pool and treatment facilities make use of the thermal springs that have been making people feel better since Roman times. With onsite restaurant bars and entertainment, there’s no need to leave unless you want to explore the area. See photos and current prices
A more modest option with stunning mountain views and an outdoor pool is the small, attractive Vila Foia, between Monchique and Foia mountain. The spacious modern rooms have balconies and there are plenty of lounging options in the gardens. You’ll want a car if you’re staying here. Check availability and reviews
Another lovely rural retreat is the cute Quinta do Tempo, which offers whitewashed stone cottages with self-catering facilities surrounded by fruit trees and greenery. There’s no swimming pool so you’ll need a car if you want to go for a swim. See photos and prices
Where to stay in Central Algarve
The stretch of coastline between Lagos and Faro is the most popular area for Algarve holidays, mostly due to the cliff stacks and caves that you’ll find between Lagos and Albufeira and the profusion of holiday resorts. There is great variety within this area too so choose your base to suit your budget and interests.
A small village rising away from a sandy cove, Carvoeiro is a popular holiday destination, as evidenced by the number of clifftop resorts and villas. If you don’t need much from your base apart from beach and restaurants, this could work for you.
Overlooking the beach you’ll find Castelo Guesthouse. Simple and cheerful, the rooms all have air conditioning and private bathrooms although they vary in size and decor. Some have balconies with stunning sea views. Choose a room to suit
A 5-minute walk from Carvoeiro beach, the 4-star Hotel Mirachoro Praia offers a lush garden with an outdoor pool and spa facilities. In the colourful onsite restaurant, you can taste typical regional and international dishes. Choose a room with a balcony
Luxury resorts between Carvoeiro and Albufeira
Vale D’Oliveiras Quinta Resort & Spa is close to Carvoeiro and the nearby golf courses. It’s perhaps not the ideal choice if beach time is your priority but if you like a country setting and have a car, it’s a good base for exploring the area. Choose between rooms and private townhouses.
A better bet if you want to be able to walk down the cliff to a private beach and enjoy sea views is Vila Vita Parc in Armação da Pêra, just a little further along the coast. With a choice of 10 onsite restaurants and top notch spa and wellness facilities, not to mention an impressive wine cellar, you may not want to leave the multi award-winning resort. Again, you can stay in rooms or private villas and if you need catering and butler facilities, all you need to do is ask. See photos and check availability
Vila Joya is at the other end of Praia dos Salgados and, as a smaller property, offers a more intimate boutique luxury experience. The two onsite restaurants are world class and as well as the expected pools and spa service, they also have a golf academy. See more details and availability
Albufeira is one of the most popular Algarve towns for holidays thanks to its proximity to a large sandy beach and a range of small museums and sights. Even so, you can still escape from the very touristy centre by wandering around some of the back streets. This is another party town if you’re after nightlife.
It’s good for families too and there are countless restaurants and activities on offer and it’s not far from ZooMarine if you’re in need of a waterpark.
You won’t get much closer to the beach than 4-star Hotel Sol e Mar and it’s also right next to the lively heart of Albufeira. The onsite restaurant has a privileged view of the ocean while the bar has live music overlooking the beach. There is no parking available, but there are small public parking areas that fill up quickly. See photos and check availability
If you don’t need 24-hour reception and are happy to use the shared kitchen instead of having breakfast provided, the Al-Buhera Palace guesthouse is worth considering. Close enough to the town centre but away from the noise, it overlooks the beach. Rooms are individually styled and spacious, some have enviable balconies. Check current prices and availability
A luxury choice that’s good for families as well as couples and only 3 km away from Albufeira centre is Grande Real Santa Eulalia Resort & Hotel Spa. It offers direct access to Santa Eulália beach, 4 outdoor swimming pools, a tennis court, a Thalassotherapy Spa and a fitness centre. Choose between 3 restaurants, 3 bars and 3 pool bars. During high season there is also a disco. Free private parking. See photos and check availability
If you are looking for a comfortable and unpretentious self-catering option, choose Apartamentos Pescadores. Right in the heart of Albufeira, the studios and apartments are 1-minute walk from Pescadores beach. Featuring sea views, air conditioning, a seating area and full kitchenettes, the clean and modern property is 400 metres away from countless restaurants and bars. Read reviews and check availability
Vilamoura and Quinta do Lago
Vilamoura is a purpose built resort town with an award-winning marina and wide sandy beach. It attracts a moneyed crowd, whereas neighbouring Quarteira is more down to earth and full of apartment blocks.
Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago are lands of mansions that cost millions, luxury resorts, lakes and golf courses between the stone pine forests.
Located in Vale do Lobo golf resort between Vilamoura (21-minute drive) and Faro (29-minute drive), Dunas Douradas Beach Club is exclusive and decidedly luxurious. This property offers apartments, a private beach, 3 outdoor pools and an indoor pool, spa and wellness centre as well as a restaurant and bar overlooking the ocean. Free private parking, which is good because you’ll need a car in order to explore offsite. See photos and check availability
Quinta do Lago Country Club is a 10-minute walk from the beach. This beautifully bright luxury resort offers an indoor and outdoor pool, golf courses and fitness centre. Each apartment has spa bath, a kitchenette and a private patio. The nearest supermarkets are a short drive away and for a wider choice of restaurants and bars you’ll need to take a 5-minute drive. Make sure to choose a room with sea view
Dom Pedro Marina’s tiled floors and shaded balconies overlook the International Yacht Marina and Vilamoura beach. The onsite restaurant serves extensive Mediterranean food and Portuguese specialities although you can walk to nearby alternatives. It also boasts an outdoor pool, a jacuzzi and a wide assortment of entertainment activities. Read reviews and check availability
If you’re not too bothered about staying in a coastal area, head inland to the small town of Loulé. This quiet, attractive town has a strong local community and plenty of culture and creativity. It has a castle, a couple of art galleries and a great market and it’s conveniently located for the motorway.
There are some good walks in this area, especially if you have a car to get around.
Where to stay in Loulé
I’ve stayed twice in the Loulé Jardim Hotel and would gladly do it again. For a 3 star hotel, it has an amazingly rich and varied breakfast and to top it all, there’s a rooftop pool. Check availability and grab a room if you can.
As the region’s capital city, Faro has a lot to offer in terms of history and culture and although you need to travel (by car, bus or boat) to reach a beach, it makes a handy base for exploring the Algarve. You don’t even need a car as the train connects you with eastern and western towns and there are plenty of buses to inland towns and villages.
Faro hotels and guesthouses
4-star Hotel Eva is right next to the marina and features a rooftop pool, bar and restaurant with great views of the Ria Formosa. There’s also a spa and gym should you feel the need. Try to get a room with a balcony
Opus One Luxury Guest House is a delightful luxury boutique guest house located between the chapel of bones and the shopping streets. The thoughtful hosts have paid attention to details throughout in their interior design and welcoming touches. Breakfast is very good and there’s a small but cute outdoor pool and spa facilities. Choose one of the uniquely decorated rooms
The 3-star Faro Boutique Hotel is centrally with clean, crisp modern lines and contemporary furnishings. Best of all, it has a rooftop bar and very comfy beds. Some rooms have balconies. See photos and check prices.
Best places to stay in Eastern Algarve
While Olhão waterfront is lined with restaurants and there are plenty of boat trips to the islands and beaches in the Ria Formosa, the rest of the town is very much workaday and not overrun with tourists. The red brick market is a must see and as you’d expect, offers the freshest of fish and seafood as well as other local delights.
Hotels in Olhão
Overlooking the Ria Formosa Nature Park and marina, the 5-star Real Marina Hotel & Spa takes advantages of its surrounding landscape, providing indoor and outdoor pools with panoramic sea views. It also offers an exceptional fitness centre and spa and wellness services. Olhão’s old town and market are just a 6-minute walk away. Book a room with a sea view
The 3-star Hotel Cidade de Olhão is located right in the heart of town, less than 1-minute walk away from the train and bus station. As well as clean, modern rooms it also offers studios with a kitchenette and a living area. The outdoor swimming pool is surrounded by a sun terrace. The property is wheelchair accessible and has adapted toilets. Street parking only. Check rooms and availability
For a more rural setting near Olhão, try the gorgeous Quinta dos Poetas. Set in attractive grounds with an outdoor pool, this popular property offers rooms and private self-catering apartments with outdoor terraces. You’ll need a car but this is a great place to retreat from the hustle and bustle and parking is free. See available options
Rich in history and culture, Tavira is the perfect place to take your time and soak up the peaceful atmosphere. Unspoilt and decidedly laid back, this is one of my favourite towns in this southern region. There are plenty of things to do in Tavira including several small museums and the remains of a hilltop castle. If you need beach time, take a ferry to one of the islands in the Ria Formosa.
Places to stay in Tavira
The 16th century Our Lady of Grace convent near Tavira castle has been transformed into a luxury hotel with a delightful cloistered courtyard. Free parking, an outdoor pool and onsite spa facilities and restaurant add to the appeal of Pousada Convento de Tavira. Grab a room with a balcony if you can
Quinta do Caracol olive farm offers rooms and apartments of varying sizes in a charming garden setting within walking distance of the main sights. It offers rooms and apartments, free parking and an outdoor pool. See photos and check availability
Calçada Guesthouse is a cosy and inviting renovated townhouse in the centre of Tavira with a wonderful rooftop terrace. There’s no pool but you can top up your tan on the sun terrace if you need to. Check current prices and availability
While the town of Monte Gordo is not especially inspiring and is more built up than most places in the eastern Algarve, it has the undeniable attraction of being just across the road from a massive beach. It has plenty of restaurants, shops and cafés to serve the summer influx and is popular with wintering Europeans.
If you walk to the western end of the wooden boardwalk, you’ll find the fishing boats and a restaurant/café run by the local fishing community.
Where to stay in Monte Gordo
Hotel Vasco da Gama is a 3-minute walk from one of the most famous Algarve beaches. The 3-star hotel offers 2 outdoor pools and a seaside terrace, 2 tennis courts, a fitness centre and a mini golf course. The 2 onsite restaurants and snack bar have beach and pool views and there are plenty of others within walking distance. Check availability and reviews
Vila Real de Santo António
Just across the river from Spain and at the the very eastern end of the Algarve lies Vila Real de Santo António. Purpose built to support the local fishing industry, the grid of streets opposite the marina were originally organised by activity, such as shoe-making, butchers’, goldsmiths and other trades.
You’ll find panels in the street which go into more detail and offer insights into 18th century Algarve. You can take a seasonal tourist train to the beach and boat trips on the Guadiana River.
Vila Real Main Square By Marc Ryckaert (MJJR)Hotel in Vila Real de Santo António
Hotel Apolo is located in Vila Real de Santo António town centre, a 30-minute drive from Faro Airport. You will find spacious rooms with private balconies, an outdoor swimming pool and several activities. 2 supermarkets and numerous restaurants are within walking distance. There is free parking onsite, making it a good base if you want to explore by car. Check current prices and availability
With its medieval castle and pretty gardens in Arab-Islamic style, Castro Marim has plenty of charm. It’s also a centre for salt production and the surrounding salt pans and wetlands are a haven for birds, especially flamingos, storks and gulls.
If you like the idea of staying in a more rural, traditional part of the Algarve, Castro Marim offers countryside, traditional towns and easy access to Praia Verde beach.
Algarve guide books and maps
Pack a dedicated regional guide book and map to help you make the most out of your stay in the Algarve.
Click to see more about these on Amazon:Algarve Travel Guide: 54 Cities/Towns/Villages gives you an overview of the most significant settlements in the Algarve with practical information that’s useful for holidaymakers as well as those researching a place for relocation.
If you’re just coming to the Algarve for a holiday, this pocket guide covers the key places of interest and more Algarve Marco Polo Spiral Guide (Marco Polo Spiral Guides)
You may find a map comes in handy too: Algarve Marco Polo Map 1:150,000 (Marco Polo Holiday Maps)
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