Portugal is a small country but it has two shores exposed to the Atlantic Ocean, which means there are loads of gorgeous beaches, from the northwest tip to the southern edge. Apart from the coastal beaches, there are many beautiful ones located in the countryside and others in the archipelagos of Açores and Madeira.
As you see there is a wide variety and not to mention the most spectacular sunsets, which makes travelling in Portugal an absolute joy for beach fans. Find below which are our favourite ones.
Beaches in the Minho region
The Minho region is located in the northwest part of the country and combines the best of the countryside and beautiful coastal beaches. Most of them are long and sheltered by wild dunes, which creates a very peaceful scenery.
The weather in this region is a bit unpredictable and sometimes it changes quickly, giving the impression that the seasons can change in a day. It's quite frequent to have days of nortada, strong gushes of wind sweeping from north to south, which create great conditions for water sports such as kitesurf and windsurf.
There are many beaches worth visiting between Viana do Castelo and Caminha, but we have a soft spot for praia de Moledo, which is less than 1h driving from Porto. This beach is pretty as a picture and has a laidback vibe. The small island with an abandoned fort, the dunes, the pine tree forest and the surrounding mountains, make the panoramic views drop-dead gorgeous.
Beaches near Lisboa
Lisboa has a fantastic location to explore both the northern and the southern coasts of the country, but we feel like there are plenty of spectacular beaches in the surrounding area that are worth exploring. The beaches that are closer to the city centre tend to be quite crowded, specially during summer time. However, a train ride or a 45 minute drive will take you to some great spots that are well worth the extra miles!
Ericeira is a small fishermen village with a chilled atmosphere located north of Lisboa, famous for the great surfing breaks. In fact one of the Challenger Series of the WSL (World Surf League) takes place in praia de Ribeira d'Ilhas, only 5 minutes driving from Ericeira. This year the EDP Billabong Pro Ericeira, how it is usually called, will be held between the 22nd and the 27th of September.
To the south of Lisboa there are three locations with idyllic beaches: Sintra-Cascais, Serra da Arrábida and Comporta.
Sintra and Cascais are only 30 min. away from Lisboa and inside the natural park there are many nice beaches. Some are easy to get to and tend to be more sought for - Praia do Guincho -, and others are pretty much deserted as they require a bit of a hike - Praia da Ursa. That's part of the charm and the reason we feel like this Natural Park is the best when it comes to merging historical and natural heritage.
Inside Serra da Arrábida Natural Park there are postcard-like beaches with thin sand, turquoise waters and lush green vegetation. We also have to say that the ocean here is a lot warmer as the beaches are sheltered, so it's common to spot dolphins enjoying themselves. Portinho da Arrábida and Galapos are the most famous ones, but they're small and get quite busy during summer time. Nevertheless it's worth going there for a dip and, if lounging isn't the plan, it's possible to walk along the hiking trails that snake inside the park to get to quieter beaches.
Last but not least, there's the boho chic Comporta. This town has been buzzing in every single international's magazine as the go-to destination for those looking for R&R near the capital. The village has a cool atmosphere, nice restaurants and some cute shops, but the main attraction are the beaches. To get to them you have to cross the rice fields or the pine tree forests, and then it's golden plains as far as the eye can see.
Beaches inside Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina Natural Park
Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina Natural Park is heaven for beach fans. The park stretches for more than 100 km and along the coast there are many different beaches for all sorts of travellers: vitamin D stockers, hikers, surfers, foodies...
Also, it is a top notch destination for those looking to relax and explore the wild landscapes of this natural reserve. Truth be told it wasn't by chance that we chose this natural park as our destination of choice for July 2020. Read this journal post to find the highlights of this natural park.
Rota Vicentina is part of the reason we absolutely love the southwest coast of Portugal. This full hiking trail is physically challenging, but it's possible to select an easy stretch and enjoy the most beautiful ocean views on the way. Read more about it here.
Beaches in Algarve
Everyone has seen a picture of those golden cliffs surrounded by beautiful emerald waters, right? Algarve has been the Summer destination of choice for Portuguese and tourists for many many years and it's all due to the stunning coastline that sprawls from the southwest corner to the border with Spain.
Another plus in Algarve is the nice warm weather, which is a given between April and October. To top it all of it's a safe place for those who won't even dip a toe on the cool waters of the west shore, as the ocean temperature here is way better.
The rock formations that are constantly shaped by nature, the clear waters and the incredible grottoes are the reason why praia do Camilo and Prainha are our favourite ones. The best way to get to know them is waking up before everyone else, renting a kayak or a SUP board and venturing along the coast to really take in the stunning scenery. These are located in the southwest part of Algarve, near Lagos and Portimão and 1 hour driving from Faro.
Beaches in the islands of Açores and Madeira
Açores has 9 islands in total and they're a paradise for nature lovers due to the luxurious green forests, spectacular lagoons and incredible marine life. When it comes to beaches we have to highlight praia de Santa Bárbara in São Miguel and praia de Porto Pim in Faial. These are two rare examples of sandy beaches and they're both incredibly beautiful.
The archipelago of Madeira is located far more to the south, near the African coast, which explains why the water temperature is much warmer. The natural scenery is a joy to explore hiking and after a day exercising there's nothing better than heading to the coast for a swim. The islands of Madeira and Porto Santo are the only ones that are inhabited and they're only a ferry journey away from each other. In Madeira island the rugged coastline forms awesome natural pools which are filled with water by the tides. For those who need sand on their feet Porto Santo is a winner because of the long stretch of sand and calm waters.
We've written about coastal beaches, but Portugal has more to offer inland. In the countryside there are many spectacular riverbank beaches, which are a relief on hot Summer days.
In Trás-os-Montes, the most remote region in the country, lies one of the most beautiful riverbank beaches: praia do Rabaçal. It has a sandy area which is perfect to sunbathe, a green natural setting and a picturesque roman bridge to complete the fairy tale scenario. There it's possible to try rafting, canoeing, fishing or just to swim and soak up the sun.
Another one of our favourites is praia de Loriga, inside Serra da Estrela Natural Park. This beach is gorgeous due to its location in a glacier valley, mountainous surrounding landscape and crystal clear waters.
There's another hidden gem in the margins of Castelo de Bode reservoir: Praia da Castanheira. This beach is also known as "Blue Lake" and the most adventurous can explore it kayaking, sailing, wake boarding and windsurfing.
Last but not least there are a handful of awesome beaches around the Alqueva, the biggest artificial lake in Portugal, located in the countryside of Alentejo. The reservoir is extremely beautiful, specially when the sun is going down, and can be discovered by boat, canoeing or doing SUP. It's even possible to stop in some of the islets to sunbathe and do a picnic. What more can you ask for?
Apart from all these beaches we've mentioned, there are also some wild beaches that have been kept a secret and wow whoever visits... and we're keeping it that way :)
If you're a beach fan and would like some help planning an escape in Portugal, we'd be thrilled to help! In the meantime don't forget to subscribe to our monthly newsletter.