On the spectacular Southern Coast of Portugal, the Algarve with its golden beaches, dramatic cliffs and fantastic weather is one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations.
Here we share where to find the best beaches and sandstone cliffs, unreal rock formations and caves, beautiful hiking trails, vibey beach towns and charming fishing villages. The variety of things to do in the Algarve is amazing. We landed here by chance and loved it so much we decided to stay!
Table of Contents
Enjoy the Algarve´s Breathtaking Beaches.
The south of Portugal has one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, and the Algarve is best known for its amazing beaches. The 300 km of coastline is home to a huge variety of beaches, from long sandy beaches to rocky beaches and the famous Algarve beaches with golden sand, huge sandstone cliffs and amazing structures carved over thousands of years. The Algarve has two coastlines, the west coast and the south coast. Beaches located on the west coast are exposed to and have big waves and rough sea conditions while beaches on the south coast, are often protected from the wind and the large oceanic swells resulting in calmer, flat conditions.
The Beach Trail in Lagos
There are several spectacular beaches in Lagos located close to the Old Town. Explore all of them by walking from beach to beach at low tide. Start at Praia da Batata next to the harbor (below Mar restaurant), keep on walking – Praia dos Estudantes, Praia Pinhao, Praia de Dona Ana, Praia do Camilho. Keep on walking to the unreal Ponta Piedade! At low tide it is easier to walk from beach to beach since the sand strips connecting the beaches can be underwater at high tide. Or pick your favorite beach and chill for a couple of hours.
Praia do Marinha
Praia da Marinha is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Algarve and has often been rated as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Typical Algarve scenery with towering cliffs, white sand and many coves to explore in a series of arches. The beach is protect against the winds by the surrounding cliffs and with calm water this secluded beach is perfect for visiting with children.
The location can be admired from the top of the cliffs when walking the 7 hanging valleys hiking trail. Walk to the beach with a trail from the main road or visit this highlight of Portugal by boat.
Marvel at the Spectacular Ponta Piedade Headland
Ponta da Piedade is a breath-taking rocky cape located in the town of Lagos and is one of our top things to do in the Algarve. The peninsula is famous for its unusual rock formations, caves, and natural arches in the high cliffs bordering the ocean.
The views of the structures and caves are amazing from the water by boat, or from the overhanging cliffs. Ponta da Piedade is located 2,5 km from the Old Town of Lagos and can be visited by driving or walking from town, taking the tourist train or by boat or kayak tour. See our detailed guide on visiting Ponta da Piedade. Visiting the cape by kayak tour is an awesome activity to do from Lagos.
Have Fun on a Boat Tour from Lagos
Exploring the Algarve Coastline by boat is something not to miss when visiting Portugal! The Lagos Marina is an excellent departure point for a variety of amazing boat tours. See our articles on The Best Boat Tours from Lagos. Explore the amazing Ponta Piedade by catamaran with water trampolines, Stand Up Paddle Boards and enjoy a cocktail on board! Go on a sailboat for an incredible half-day cruise or explore the coast by small boat.
Explore the Amazing Benagil Sea Cave
The Benagil cave, known as Algar de Benagil in Portuguese, is one of the most famous natural attractions in the Algarve. The unreal cave was created by the erosion of the sandstone cliffs over millions of years. The roof of the cave makes it unique. ´The eye´, is a wide-open hole in the center of the roof of the cave that lets in natural light. There is a small beach inside that is a popular photo spot. Reaching the cave is part of the adventure. The mouth of the cave faces the ocean and can only be reached from the water. The small beach inside can be reached by boat, kayak, Stand Up Paddle or even swimming! (swimming is not recommended due to boat traffic and currents). The entrance to the cave is located between two beaches, Praia de Benagil and Praia da Marinha facing the ocean close to the small village of Benagil. Boat tours depart to the Benagil cave from Lagos, Portimão, Albufeira, and Benagil itself. You can not go on to the beach from boat tours, so if you want to have access to the beach go by kayak. The boats stay in the shallows and you have a good view of the beach.
- Benagil Cave Kayak Experience – Meeting Benagil Beach
- Benagil Cave Caves & Dolphin Watching Boat Tour – from Albufeira
- Benagil Caves Speed Boat Tour with Sunset Option – from Portimao
- Benagil Caves Speedboat Adventure – from Lagos
Visit Cabo de São Vicente
Cape St. Vincent or Cabo de São Vicente in Portuguese is the southwestern most point of Portugal and continental Europe. Until the end of the 14th century this was one of the borders of the known world. When you see the sun setting from the high cliffs, you can see why this dramatic setting was considered as the énd of the world´ for Millenia. The dramatic landscape and breathtaking views make the cape one of the not-to-miss places in the Algarve. It is an awesome experience to hike along the cliffs to faraway lookout points and hidden beaches. You can watch fishermen angling from the 80m high cliffs in the ocean far below. Cape St Vincent is walking distance from Sagres. Driving here is 6 km from Sagres, 40 km from Lagos, 90 km from Albufeira, and 120 km from Faro.
Explore the Wonderful Algar Seco
Algar Seco is an amazing group of tunnels, passages, and caves carved in yellow limestone cliffs of the Algarve coast at the beach town Carvoeiro. There are long staircases leading down to the cliffs with which you can explore the passages. A Boneca is a well known cave to visit here, it is a small cave with two big holes/windows opening to the sea. Boneca Bar is an open-air restaurant located between the cliffs next to A Boneca Cave is probably the restaurant with the most picturesque location in the Algarve.
Walk some of the Awesome Algarve Boardwalks
For an easy picturesque walk in the Algarve there are several boardwalks along the coast offering nice, flat walking with beautiful views along the coast.
Alvor Boardwalk – A range of wooden boardwalks built between the beach and the river banks in Alvor. Nice spot for hiking or jogging. Escape the tourist crowds, usually not too busy. There is some walking on gravel road and on the beach on this road. Easy walk, but not stroller friendly.
Distance – 5 km/3,1 mi, circular route, Time required – 1h30min. – 2 hours
The Loulé boardwalk is a linear wooden walkway along the coast connecting Praia do Garão with Quinta do Lago. This is an easy walk that can be walked or done jogging pushing a stroller, suitable for cycling. Several beautiful beaches along the route can be visited as a part of the walk.
Distance 4,7 km one way (9.4 km return). It takes between 1 and 1h30min. to walk one way, so 2-3 hours out and back. It’s possible to extend the walk by adding the Ludo Trail at the end of the boardwalk.
The Carvoeiro boardwalk is a wooden walkway on the edge of the limestone cliffs in the town of Carvoeiro with spectacular views of the ocean. From the boardwalk, you can visit the Algar Seco and Carvoeiro Beach.
Distance 600 m one way, 1.2 km return.
Hiking along the coast of southern Portugal is the best way to discovery the beauty of the region. With spectacular trails following the rugged cliffs and hiking on miles of white sandy beaches the Algarve is home to some of the best coastal hiking in Europe.
The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
The Seven Hanging Valleys trail is an incredible day hike. The route takes hikers past some of the top attractions in the Algarve such as Marinha Beach and Benagil Cave. The trail starts at the Marinha Beach in the town Lagoa and ends at Praia do Vale de Centianes in Carvoeiro. It is a 6-kilometres linear route that can be walked in either direction and takes about 2 hours to walk one way.
The Fishermen´s Trail
Want to escape for a couple of days? Amazing days of hiking on the beach and following the coastline on the breathtaking cliffs looking over the ocean. The Fishermen´s trail is a challenging 230 km/143 mi multi-day hike, you need 12-14 days to complete the whole route.
Go Dolphin Watching
The Algarve coast is a fantastic place to interact with dolphins and other marine animals. Dolphin watching from Lagos is excellent with more than a 90% success rate of seeing dolphins with most companies. Dolphin watching tours are also available from Albufeira, Faro/Olhão, Lagoa, Portimao, Sagres and Vilamoura.
Visit Picture Perfect Villages
The Algarve coastline is filled with charming villages with beautiful white washed houses, cobble stone streets and yellow sandstone cliffs facing the turquoise ocean.
Praia da Luz
Praia da Luz is a cosmopolitan summer holiday village located close to Lagos. An important fishing town many years ago, but today the town revolve around beach tourism. Luz beach is a lovely, sandy beach with beautiful views and impressive cliffs! Most activities in town revolve around the beach that is nice for swimming, sunbathing, relaxing and playing beach-games. Luz has a beautiful promenade lined with little cafes and bars perfect for breakfast, coffee or a beer looking over the ocean.
Praia do Carvoeiro has soft white sand, turquoise water surrounded by golden cliffs and traditional white houses. A spectacular town and the beach is a great place to spend a day. Boat trips leave from the beach, it can get very busy in season.
Salema is a quaint seaside village located on the west coast of the Algarve. If you are looking for a beautiful, quiet village that retains it original charm, Salema is the town for you. This is one of few traditional fishing villages where you can still see fishermen practicing their trade. The cobblestone streets, lined with fishing cottages and holiday apartments, are beautiful and interesting to explore on foot. The blue flag beach is stunning.
Far removed from beach tourism is the mountain town Monchique. The highest point in the Algarve is located in the Serra de Monchique mountain range this spa town is cooler than the beach area. It is known for the health spa at Caldas de Monchique, traditional food served in first class restaurants, excellent mineral water at roadside springs and good hiking.
Road Trip on the West Coast
The rugged and wild west coast of the Algarve is beautiful and unspoiled by tourism. Between the windswept beaches with massive waves you sometimes find unreal beautiful beaches that are empty! A fantastic area for a road trip. Drive to Sagres, Carrapateira, Arrifana, Zambujeira do Mar and Odexeice. Massive swell from the Atlantic brings big waves to these beaches in winter. Good surfing.
- Take a West Coast Full-Day Tour from Lagos to discover the sights and see the stunning beauty of the area.
Take a Surf Lesson
Surfing is very popular in the Algarve and you will see plenty of surf shops around. Sagres and Lagos are good places to stay if you want to learn. Both towns have plenty of surf shops and surf instructors. If you stay in on of the surf hostels everything is about surfing!
Check out these Algarve Surf Camps