One of the main draws of the Algarve are its beautiful unspoiled beaches (praias). From the east coast to west, you’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches in the world right here. In fact, in the 2020 World Travel Awards, the Algarve was voted as the World’s Best Beach Destination.It’s no surprise, with over 200-kilometres of coastline with 87 EU Blue Flag beaches (as of summer 2021). Whatever type of beach ‘floats your barco, you’ll find it on the Algarve; from long stretches of golden sand to rocky beaches and incredible rock formations; from hidden coves and inlets, to islands separated from the mainland by the natural estuary.
The best thing about a beach holiday in the Algarve is the gorgeous Mediterranean microclimate, which means you’ll be able to enjoy the Algarve’s beaches all year round!
Check out our top picks of Algarve beaches, which we’ve broken down into Eastern, Central and Western Algarve, so wherever you’re staying you’ll find the best beaches on our list. Stay in our wonderful villas in Algarve and discover all that this Portuguese region has to offer.
The Eastern Algarve stretches from Faro, along the Rio Formosa estuary all the way to the Guadiana Estuary, which separates Portugal and Spain.
Here the beaches are very special and stand alone (literally) as they take the form of islands (ihla) which are separated from the mainland by the Rio Formosa estuary. Legions of “barrier” islands are separated from the mainland of this part of the Algarve by the Ria Formosa and its rivulets.
Taking a boat to an island to enjoy a day at the beach is a fantastic experience for children and adults alike – it’s so much more of an adventure.
The most popular islands to visit are Ilha de Tavira and Ilha de Armona (Olhao) – both are accessed by short boat rides and have stunning beaches which are long spits of golden sand, and feature cafes, restaurants, even campsites, so you don’t have to pack or picnic or head back across the mainland when you’re feeling peckish.
The gorgeous windswept Prai Barril around Tavira, is accessed via a railway line trail that cuts through the Rio Formosa scrubland. This is a lovely walk and well worth the exercise - although you can also catch the train along. As you arrive, you’ll find cafes and restaurants, and in front is Prai Barril, an immense stretch of beach backed by sand dunes and wild grasses and the rolling Atlantic waves sweep the shore.
Ilha de Culatra (Olhao) and Ilha de Farreta (Faro), are a little further, with a longer boat trip.
Heading further along the eastern coast towards the Spanish border are the villages of Manta Rota and Manta Gorda where the seas are calmer. Manta Rota has a lovely play area for children and the beach at Manta Gorda is a long and wide stretch of golden sand, which gets very busy in July and August.
The best places to stay if you want to experience the island beaches of the Eastern Algarve are Vilamoura or the luxury Quinta do Lago resort.
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The Central Algarve is a firm favourite for beach holidays where golden sand stretches sweep down to crystal clear and calm waters and smaller inlets which are only revealed at low tide.
The Atlantic Ocean still shows its magnificence on some of the central Algarve’s beaches where water sports are popular, but you’ll also find family-friendly safe and calmer areas where you can happily play in the gently breaking surf .
Ilha de Faro (Faro Island) is the central Algarve’s Island hopping beach. This is a laid-back and authentically Portuguese beach unlike the nearby glamorous beaches on the mainland of Vilamoura, Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo. You can reach Ilha de Faro via a single road which crosses over a narrow bridge.
If you want to head away from the crowds and find a quieter beach, we recommend a day trip to Praia do Ancao (Ancao Beach). Centrally located reaching from Ilha Faro to Vilamoura and Faro, the beach is an endless stretch of golden sands with calm seas that gently lap against the shores, making it ideal for families.
Voted as one of the Top 10 European Beaches by the Michelin Guide, Praia Marinha (Benagil) is not huge, but its worth sacrificing space for the amazing rock formations: sea caves and sandstone arches, including a double arch. The more daring can climb through or over the rocks to get to tiny Praia de Mesquita next door.
The white sands are accessed by descending a rocky headland, but it’s worth the danger, as the translucent waters here make for some of the best snorkelling conditions on The Algarve.
Praia de Falésia, between Albufeira and Vilamoura, was named after the Portuguese word for ‘cliff’ - Falésia. The pure golden sands of Falésia Beach are backed by terracotta cliffs which change to orange, white and grey hues as you head further down towards Vilamoura.
The cliff tops along this 3-kilometre stretch of beach are topped with pine forests, which make for a beautiful backdrop for a stroll along Praia de Falésia.
In fact many of the beaches in Central Algarve are backed by spectacular striped sandstone cliffs. Bear in mind that this means you often have to access the beach by steps, not ideal for pushchairs or the mobility challenged.
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Algarve’s Western region is synonymous with a wild and rugged coastline and if you are looking for a beach holiday on one of the last unspoilt coastlines of southern Europe, this is it.
The Western Algarve runs from Sagres to Portimão, with Lagos bang smack in the centre. Around the rocky headlands of Sagres, striped in shades from pale amber to terracotta, you will find beaches with big waves.
Here the Atlantic rollers crash onto the sandy shores. The region is particularly popular with windsurfers and surfers.
Meia Praia is located on the eastern side of Lagos and you can walk along the sandy stretch all the way to the relaxed town of Alvor. With its shores looking directly out to the Bay of Lagos and protected Ponta da Piedade to the west, this is a particularly popular beach for water sports enthusiasts. The beach is backed with restaurants, cafes and amenities.
Praia de Rocha (Portimao) is becoming increasingly popular with holidaymakers and can get very busy during the summer months. Characterised by a vast area of sand with a backdrop of cliffs which protect beachgoers from the wind, Praia de Rocha is ideal for families and friend groups as it has lots of amenities both on and off the beach.
The sandy beach is cut through by walkways which take you along to sunbeds and parasols, or down close to the water, where the sand is wet and doesn’t burn your feet.
Praia de Luz is a popular beach with families, and is also good for surfing. Also known as Luz, the gorgeous sandy bay is backed by a seaside resort of the same name.
Luz’s long sandy beach is sheltered by the Rocha Negra headland and the sea here is calm - although cold - and perfect for smaller children to play in the gently lapping waves. The beach is backed by a selection of cafes and restaurants.
Praia de Dona Ana (Lagos) is one of the most picturesque on the Algarve. Located to the south of Lagos, the beach is nestled under impressive limestone cliffs. With calm turquoise seas, an idyllic natural setting and facilities which make a day trip more comfortable, Praia de Dona Ana is one of our absolute favourite Algarve beaches. Nearby is Praia do Camilo, which is smaller but has some fascinating rock arches.
Stay in our wonderful villas in Algarve and discover all that Western Algarve and Portugal has to offer.
So, there you have a selection of our favourite Algarve beaches from east to west. What’s your favourite? If it’s not included here, tell us all about it and we’ll give it a mention. Stay in our villas in Algarve in Portugal and experience all these beautiful beaches.