Europe is no stranger to gorgeous beaches with the Mediterranean, Adriatic, and Black Sea, but the Algarve may be one home to some of the best beaches on the continent and is one of the best places to go in Europe. The Algarve beaches have the tastiest waves, cleanest water, and most dramatic landscapes. To top it off, the Algarve boasts an average of 300 days of sunshine each year!
It’s a fabulous spot to head in the summer and shoulder season when the rest of Europe begins to get a little dreary. Forget the October blues – the Algarve is still warm and sunny. We debated where to head for November in Europe, as winter in Europe isn’t always known for having the best weather. We ultimately (and thankfully) landed on Portugal.
Portugal is a year-round destination where vacationers and locals alike can be found body surfing, parasailing, deep-sea fishing, water skiing, and surfing year-round. We spent November and December gallivanting around the best beaches in the Algarve and enjoyed every sun-kissed day to the fullest. Here are a few of our favorite spots!
How to Get Around These Algarve Beaches?
The Algarve is spread out, and public transport is limited to many remote beaches. It’s best to rent a car while spending your time in the Algarve. This will allow you to travel where you want when you want.
It’s the best way to see multiple locations within a day and stop whenever you see something beautiful. We like to use Discover Car Hire to compare rental car prices.
The Best Beaches in the Algarve
Praia do Tonel
Praia do Tonel is one of the most popular beaches in the Algarve region and one of the best beaches in Portugal. This Algarve beach is located just outside Sagres and draws quite a crowd in the summer. As the beach area is large, you can easily come here in the middle of the summer and still maintain your own personal space.
The beach is located down a set of stairs. There is plenty of parking nearby and a few cafes and surf shops around the Sagres fortress. During the summer you’ll find restaurants, a WC, and a surfing school on the beach. The waves here seemed mild and a good place for beginner surfers to come and practice!
Praia da Figueira
Praia da Figueira beach requires a bit more effort to reach than most, but still not a ton! Visitors will have to park almost a kilometer away from the beach and hike through a serene valley. The inaccessibility means there are fewer people here and no imposing cars or engine sounds.
Warm-colored cliffs surround the beach, and if you go for a walk to the east, you will see 16th-century ruins. Out of all the beaches on this list, this is probably the least visited, making it an easy addition to the best beaches in the Algarve.
Praia do Zavial
Praia do Zavial beach is the best beach in all of the Algarve, in our opinion. Zavial is located in Vila Do Bispo, where the Atlantic meets the warm Mediterranean. The cliff to the west is majestic and massive, with limestone tiers covered in Mediterranean scrub.
We had a fun day here soaking up the warm sun and even declared Zavial to be one of the best beaches to visit in the world.
There are a few trails to climb around the cliffs here, and you’ll have to head to the beach’s eastern end for a quieter experience. We came here for some sunbathing, but the real show started around 4 pm when the sun began to set and the surf picked with a line up of surfers. It’s well known for having some of the best surf in the Algarve!
Praia do Amado
Another one of my favorite Algarve beaches in Portugal and all of Europe! Praia do Amado is the largest beach we visited in the Algarve. Situated in the south of Aljezur, Amado’s long stretch of beach covers three valleys and features warm red cliffs. The waves here are constantly changing, making it another excellent place to surf in the Algarve.
I didn’t know this when we visited but I later learned that this beach is famed for hosting international surf competitions. On the beach, there is a surfing school. Nearby to the rather large parking area, you can also find a year-round food truck with picnic table benches.
Even though this beach is popular, its size makes it effortless to tuck away and enjoy your privacy. There are wooden walkways above the beach, making it easy for visitors to stroll around and enjoy the views.
Praia do Beliche
Praia do Beliche is a stunning Algarve beach situated in a bay between Cape St. Vincent and Sagres Point. Because of its location, the beach is sheltered from harsh winds. Here there is a large parking lot with about 100 campervans scattered about.
From there, an easy and wide staircase will take you down to the beach. It’s a great beach for sunbathing, but given the lack of wind, Beliche beach is great for bodyboarding and surfing. This beach is also an optimal place for sunset viewing. You can watch nature’s show daily on top of the rock formations.
Cabo de Sao Vicente
This is not an Algarve beach, but we felt we should mention the Cape of Saint Vincent as it’s the tip of Portugal. The cape is the Southwesternmost point in Europe. Here the jagged cliffs rise up 60 meters to house a lighthouse, one of the brightest in Europe, that can be seen up to 60 miles out to sea!
Cabo Sao Vicente lies only 6km west of Sagres and about 40km from Lagos. You can’t lay out on the beach here, but come here for sunset and magnificent views! There is also a museum, an outdoor cafe, and a little souvenir shop.
Praia da Balança
This was the first beach we visited in the Algarve, and it blew us away. It’s only a few minutes’ drive out of Lagos is Praia Da Balança, but you could also walk there from Lagos if you have the energy.
Comprised of small sandy bays on the eastern side of Ponta da Piedade, Balança provides impressive views of stand-alone cliffs. There are a few walking trails where you can see the dwarf fan palm and other Mediterranean wonders. You can get up to the top of some of these for the brave.
The effects of erosion are incredible at Praia da Balanća as you’ll see many rocky ledges, arches, caves, and sinkholes. You can also set off a boat trip from nearby Ponta da Piedad lighthouse to check out the rock formations from the water. There isn’t an easy way to access the beach here without risking a fall. So the best way to get on a beach is by boat – otherwise, it’s wise to admire from above!
Praia do Canavial
Praia do Canavial is an isolated beach near Lagos city center and is entirely peaceful and surreal. It’s narrow and framed by cliff faces and certainly one of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal. Because it’s so narrow, it is advised to only visit Canavial during low tide.
Access is only by foot from a small trail along the clifftop where you can park your car (though parking is limited). Depending on the tides, I suggest coming here at sunset!
Praia dos Estudantes
I wouldn’t say that Praia dos Estudantes is the most beautiful beach in the Algarve, but given its accessibility to the center of Lagos, it’s a must-visit if you are in town. You can walk right onto this beach from the town and enjoy the sun all within a few steps of a nearby cafe or restaurant.
It’s a small space where young, old, and smokers from all walks of life could come and be at the beach with the world. A few small tunnels have been dug by hand, one giving access to a small bay nearby. I wouldn’t recommend crawling through these if you are claustrophobic.
Praia de Benagil
Praia de Benagil beach is compact but well commercialized because of the nearby Benagil Sea Caves, which tourists can visit via boat (or swim if you are a decent swimmer). Parking is at the top of the valley, and it is about a 500-meter walk down to this beach. A small fishing village surrounds Praia de Benagil.
The area is not absent of restaurants, cafes, and quite a few cats! If you want to get out to the sea caves by boat I recommend booking online in the summertime. In the off-season, walking up to the small booth and being on the next boat out is quite easy. The tours last around an hour and a half and are €30.
Praia do Carvalho
Next to Praia de Benagil is Carvalho Beach, one of the most beautiful Algarve beaches. Either you can walk to it from Benagil or drive your vehicle. This beach is popular for cliff jumping, and there is a trail that leads through a series of cliffs to watch.
You’ll also have fantastic panoramic views of the entire coastline from the cliff. The plants you’ll be surrounded by on the cliffs are Mediterranean saltbush and saltwort. This is an ideal beach for swimming in the summertime as there are arches and caves to swim into.
Carvoeiro Beach is a decent-sized Algarve beach when the tide is out and is right next to the town of Carvoeiro. If you’re looking for a beach that you can just walk on and off of in between bar hopping, ice cream, and shopping Carvoeiro is for you.
During the summers, you’ll find loungers to hire around the beach, which is great because you get sun here for most of the day. Its proximity to town means easy access and lots of people. Sometimes they’ll even have live bands nearby! Which can make it one of the best beaches in the Algarve, depending on what type of person you are!
Praia da Marinha
Nearby to Benagil, Praia da Marinha is one of the most popular and beautiful beaches in the Algarve, if not one of the best beaches in Portugal. Praia da Marinha is a small bay with bright blue and turquoise water surrounded by emerging limestone cliffs.
There are various rock formations, including arches, caves, and ledges, which are all easily accessible from the shore and make for a nice swim.
It’s possible to scuba dive or snorkel here and see the various octopuses, seahorses, and bream. You can embark on a nature walk, have a picnic, or admire the east and the west at the clifftop. Both of which are equally beautiful. If you can only visit one beach in the Algarve, I would recommend it to be this one.
Praia do Camilo
Only a few minutes’ walk away from Praia da Balança is Praia do Camilo, another one of the best beaches in the Algarve. In the summertime, this beach is packed, but if you are here in the off-season, you may be lucky and have the beach to yourself (like us). Views from this beach are beautiful, and you can swim in the water among impressive calcarenite cliffs.
To access the beach, there is a car park with a small cafe at the top. A long wooden staircase leads to this heaven. From there, you’ll find there are actually two beaches that used to be separated by a massive cliff, but a tunnel has been dug out by hand to allow passage.
Best Algarve Beaches Map
What to Pack for Portugal
Portugal is a long and narrow country, and the weather in the North often differs from the South. The Algarve, in the South of Portugal, gets around 300 days of sunshine annually. On the other hand, Porto and the North of Portugal have very different climates.
During winter, the weather can be damp, gray, and wet. If you’re planning on visiting both the North and South of Portugal, especially during winter, keep this in mind as you’ll need to pack appropriately for both types of weather.
Plan For Your Trip
- Protect Your Trip: We don’t travel without travel insurance, nor should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
- Find Cheap Flights: Sign up for Going (formerly Scotts Cheap Flights) to get notified when prices get low.
- Book a Rental Car: We use Discover Car to book all our rental cars! You can also read our top tips for renting a car abroad here.
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.
- Travel Backpack: We like the Nomatic Travel Backpack for our travels. Check the price here.
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always ALLBIRDS! Check them out on their site!
- Get a Travel Credit Card: We travel worldwide for free because we have leveraged our spending into points. See why you should get a travel credit card and how you can do the same with our favorite travel credit cards.