In a small country with over 1 700km of coastline, you are never far away from a stunning beach in Portugal. Stretched out along the coast of mainland Portugal and around the islands of Madeira and the Azores, you’ll find charming coastal towns, seaside getaways, and frothy surf to entice even self-proclaimed beach haters. “So, where are the best Portugal beach towns?” we hear you ask.
There is plenty of fish in the sea when choosing the best beach town. It all comes down to what you want for a perfect beach holiday. Whether you’re looking for quaint fishing villages, beach and surf towns or holiday resorts, Portugal has something for everyone. Our guide to beach towns in Portugal (listed in no particular order from north to south) will show you where you want to go.
If you can’t live on sunshine, sea salt, sand, and bliss alone (what’s wrong with you??), it’s easy to head over to Lisbon or Porto to revel in all that culture and city vibes after a day or two on the beach.
Before we start, a word of warning: this guide to the best beach towns in Portugal might trigger strong desires for long days on the beach, not giving a damn and fresh seafood!
Best Beach Towns in Madeira & Azores
Camara de Lobos
Coastal towns in Portugal don’t get much prettier than Camara de Lobos in Madeira. Picture high cliffs dropping into the Atlantic with houses, churches and streets clinging to them.
Camara de Lobos is still a fishing village at heart, seen by the colourful fishing boats dotting the waters and beaches around town. These boats are fishing for black scabbardfish, which comes to the surface at night. For a unique local experience, head down to the beach in the morning to greet the returning fishermen and perhaps join them for a drink or two of the local firewater, Poncho, at the bars in town.
Madeira is known for its irrigation system called Levada, and embarking on a Levada Walk is an experience unique to Madeira. The Levada Norte walk happens to be one of the best walks in Madeira.
The Levada Norte is a 15 km hike starting in town and takes about 5 hours to complete. Following the irrigation canal, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of Madeira, fresh air and friendly settlements along the way.
Of course, no visit to Madeira is complete without trying the island’s fortified wine. Wineries with vineyards growing on the sunny slopes behind town welcome visitors to learn about making Madeira wine and offer ample opportunities for tasting.
Angra do Heroísmo
Sitting in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on the island of Terceira, Angra do Heroísmo is one of the three capital cities of the Azores. Angra, for short, is a beautiful coastal town with some incredible cultural and natural sights to explore.
Thanks to its mid-Atlantic location, Angra was a strategic port of call during the Age of Discoveries for Portuguese fleets to and from the Indies and the colonies in Africa. The wealth these armadas brought back to Angra funded beautiful manors, convents, churches and fortifications uncommon for such a small town (population less than 40 000).
Make sure to visit the stunning Sé de Angra (Cathedral), the largest religious building in the Azores. Continue exploring Angra’s history and culture with visits to the distinct blue Igreja da Misericórdia (church), Convent of São Francisco, Palácio dos Capitães Generais (Palace), Castle of São Sebastião and the Town Hall.
Head down to the marina to check out the yachts and sailboats. You can also get boats for snorkelling trips, whale watching or sailing trips along the Terceira coastline. Terceira is one of the most beautiful places in Portugal, even more so from the water.
The small beach in town near the marina, Prainha de Angra, has dark sand and is one of the most popular places on a sunny day.
For the best view in town, head up to Alto da Memória for a panoramic view over the town and the Atlantic ocean beyond.
Best Beach Towns in Northern Portugal
Ofir is a small coastal town in northern Portugal, located only 30 minutes from beautiful Braga. It is the perfect town for a beach vacation if you are looking for a local beach town away from the big resorts.
Ofir is a quaint seaside town with a few cafés and restaurants. Restaurante Martins Dos Frangos is a great place to eat if you are looking for fried chicken! Another enjoyable activity to do in Ofir is the walk through the estuary of the Cávado River, which offers beautiful views of the fauna and flora, all the way to Esposende.
Ofir is right on the beach, which is definitely a perk! You’ll find a few cafés and a small shop on the promenade along the beach. Bar Pirata is a great little place for a drink or an ice cream. The beach here is vast and perfect for taking long walks to the piers. Another popular activity here is beach volley! The dunes behind the beach are also fantastic to explore.
Pizzeria Ofir is a great place that offers fantastic views of the beach and the Atlantic ocean if you’re looking for lunch or dinner with a view.
Vila do Conde
Vila do Conde is a coastal town in northern Portugal close to Porto, just 25 km away. The city has some of the best beaches in northern Portugal.
In summer it is packed with people sunbathing or swimming in the sea. The beaches have fine sand, clear water, and good waves. Although it is a popular destination with the Portuguese, it remains an almost hidden gem for outsiders.
Besides the beach, Vila do Conde has a picturesque historical centre surrounded by a river. The city has several points of interest, like Santa Clara Convent, on top of the hill, a 5-km long medieval aqueduct, and a 16th-century ship replica in the river built in Vila do Conde. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the city used to be an important centre of shipbuilding.
The city is also a great place to go for a run along the beach, ride bicycles, and do watersports. It is also possible to do other sports such as tennis and football as in the centre of the city, there are several tennis courts and football fields you can rent.
Vila do Conde is one of the best spots to eat fresh fish or seafood. There are several good restaurants on the seafront with affordable prices.
Vila do Conde is easily reachable from Porto by metro (40 minutes) or by car (30 minutes).
Best Beach Towns Between Porto & Lisbon
If you’re looking for a unique experience in Portugal, then you should consider visiting the little beach town of Costa Nova.
Costa Nova is mostly famous for its striped, colourful houses, making the town completely unique and different from other beach towns in Portugal. But you’ll find that there are so many other things to do in Costa Nova, such as surfing, watching beautiful sunsets, and hiking to Portugal’s tallest lighthouse in Barra.
It’s an excellent destination for couples and families alike since you’ll find many water activities to do during the summer months. Yet, the atmosphere is very romantic because of the great sunsets and cosy restaurants you’ll find around town. Especially the Bronze Seafood & Lounge Bar is an ideal place to enjoy some fresh seafood and watch a sunset because the restaurant is located directly on the beach.
Costa Nova is a popular beach town on Portugal’s north coast. It’s located only a short drive away from the beautiful canal city of Aveiro in Northern Portugal. You can reach Costa Nova with the local bus from Aveiro, taxi, or drive yourself.
Beautiful Nazare is the perfect spot for an Atlantic beach holiday in Portugal. This town on the Costa da Prata has expansive, wild beaches, gigantic waves, delicious seafood, beautiful views and beach town vibes to extend your stay indefinitely.
Nazare is divided into two sections: Sitio sits on a cliff high above Nazare town and its beach below. Ride the funicular up to Sitio for a sweeping view over the whitewashed houses and their orange roofs with the Atlantic next to them.
While in Sitio, check out the Igreja Nossa Senhora da Nazaré (Church). This pretty Baroque church is popular with pilgrims who come to see a wooden carving of the Virgin Mary, believed to come from Joseph of Nazareth.
Casa Pires, next to the church, has excellent seafood and is so popular that it doesn’t even display its name on the outside.
Nazare is all about big waves. Home to the largest waves ever surfed, Nazare hosts the annual Red Bull Tow Surfing Challenge. Surfers and big wave junkies want to go to Praia do Norte to meet these monster waves in person. For non-surfers, Praia do Norte is just the place for a long walk along the empty beach with crashing waves, salt in the air and the wind in your hair.
Praia do Nazare is the town beach, sheltered from the big waves and perfect for leisurely dips in the cool Atlantic. The calmer waters are also good for surfing lessons. Beach cabanas can be rented by the day, week, month or season.
Not too far from Lisbon, Cascais is the perfect beach town day trip from the Portuguese capital. Cascais is considered a premier coastline destination as it used to be a summer retreat place for the Portuguese elite. Today it’s a traditional fishing town, which has also developed into a popular tourist resort, attracting visitors from all over the world.
Walking around the cobbled town centre, you will find interesting museums, an impressive fortress, beautiful villas, and restaurants and bars.
The beaches of Cascais are among some of the best beaches in all of Portugal. Whether you want to lay in the sun, go for a swim or just enjoy the beautiful views, head to one of the three beaches in Cascais – Praia da Ribeira, Praia da Rainha, and Praia da Conceição.
Like elsewhere in Portugal, the food in Cascais is fresh and delicious. Besides the usual Portuguese delicacies, you can try some unique local dishes here, such as santiaguiños – tiny slipper lobsters found only in the region.
Some of the best things to do in Cascais include visiting the local farmers’ market Mercado Da Vila, seeing the beautiful view at Boca do Inferno and visiting the Fortaleza da Cidadela.
Azenhas do Mar
Azenhas do Mar is a beautiful little beach town located about 35 kilometres northwest of Lisbon.
The town’s natural setting is stunning, perched on steep cliffs overlooking the Atlantic. Its architecture is typical of the area – traditional whitewashed buildings with orange tiled roofs – and some houses are built right into the cliff edge. It’s a romantic place – perfect for couples – with incredible views out to sea and gorgeous sunsets.
Originally a fishing community, Azenhas do Mar has long been a favourite holiday destination for Lisbonites. Despite feeling tranquil and delightfully separate from the outside world, the village is actually very easy to reach from the capital, taking less than an hour by car.
Alternatively, you can take a taxi from the town of Sintra, which is a mere 10 kilometres away.
At the bottom of the cliffs, a little beach is reachable via a steep staircase cut into the rock. Here you’ll find a natural swimming pool that fills up at high tide. There’s also an excellent (if a little pricey) restaurant called “Azenhas do Mar” that serves excellent seafood and cocktails.
Azenhas do Mar is a perfect place to base yourself when exploring the stunning beaches of Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. Several of the best beaches in the region are within easy walking distance, including Praia das Maçãs and Praia do Magoito. Many others are a short drive away.
Other highlights that are easily reachable from Azenhas do Mar include Cabo da Roca – the westernmost point of continental Europe.
Don’t miss the Praia das Maçãs market for the ultimate DIY seafood meal. Here you buy deliciously fresh fish and seafood, perfect for barbecuing (open every morning except Mondays).
Best Beach Towns South of Lisbon & Algarve
Spain has Ibiza, France has St Tropez, the USA has the Hamptons, and you have Uluwatu in Bali. Portugal’s answer to them all is Comporta, a charming beach town about an hour’s drive south of Lisbon.
Situated on the Alentejo coast, Comporta is blessed with long stretches of empty beach backed by dunes, pine forests and rice paddies. And between all of this, you’ll find lovely Comporta, a hideout for celebrities, artists, architects, well-heeled A-listers, and those searching for one of the best hideouts in Europe.
Don’t be fooled into thinking Comporta is stuck up. Rather picture sexy summer vibes filled with low-key desires, boho-chic and casual barefoot luxury.
Embrace the sophisticated lifestyle and join the crème of society on the beaches of Praia da Comporta, Praia do Pego and Praia do Carvahal. You’ll find a restaurant or two on these beaches, each serving top class food and something cold and bubbly. Pinkies in the air are frowned upon, so dress down, let go and enjoy being anonymous!
Comporta has some excellent accommodation for that secluded hideaway we all yearn for. Revel in all that Comporta is, get a pool villa and live it up like the glitterati.
Vila Nova de Milfontes
The largest of a series of great beach towns on the Alentejo Coast, beautiful Vila Nova de Milfontes features an exceptional combination of beaches, history and nightlife. Praia da Franquia is located right next to town where the Mira River meets the Atlantic Ocean, providing a choice between salt and fresh water; plus, several top surfing beaches are nearby.
Praia do Malhão offers the best waves, along with board rentals and lessons. Nearby Praia das Furnas is typically a better choice for beginners, and there are several more secluded spots along the coast where locals go for a quieter ride.
Vila Nova de Milfontes is about more than just beaches and catching waves, though. There are also impressive clifftop viewpoints, phenomenal sand dunes to enjoy stunning Atlantic Coast sunsets (A Choupana is an excellent place for a sunset dinner) and the classic 16th century Forte de Sao Clemente, built to defend the village from pirates back in the day. Meanwhile, the stunning 75-kilometre Fishermen’s Trail runs through Vila Nova de Milfontes, meaning terrific hiking along the coast.
The population of Vila Nova de Milfontes swells as high as 50,000 in summer, which means packed beaches, hopping bars and busy waves. This is perfect for those looking for a festive beach atmosphere, while others should visit in the shoulder seasons of May-June or September-October to enjoy the same fantastic weather without the crowds.
Sagres is a picturesque beach town in the Algarve region of southern Portugal. The town is located 10 km south-east of Cabo de S.Vicente, the southwesternmost point of continental Europe. It’s still an off-the-beaten-path destination compared to the other more popular beach towns in the Algarve.
If you don’t like tourist crowds but love surfing and other outdoor activities, Sagres is one of the best beach towns in the Algarve to come to for a holiday.
The town has three beautiful sandy beaches; Praia do Martinhal, Praia da Mareta, and Praia do Tonel. Tonel Beach is a popular surfing spot in the Algarve. There are several surf shops and schools in Sagres where you can rent a board or take surfing lessons. If you really want to improve your surfing skills, joining a surf camp is the way to go. You can book a package that includes accommodation, surf lessons, and gear rental for the entire duration of your holiday.
Hiking is another popular activity in Sagres. There are several day hiking trails along the coast that offer fantastic views. If you want to do a longer hike, you can follow the Fisherman’s Trail and walk from Sagres to Lagos, Odeceixe, or all the way to Porto Covo.
Sagres has two perfect spots for watching the sunset; Cabo de S.Vicente and Cabo de Sagres. Both capes offer spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and the rugged coast at sunset.
Praia da Luz
SHE Media Praia da Luz is a charming seaside town located in the western Algarve. Also just called Luz, this used to be a fishing town years ago, but nowadays everything in this picturesque village with its great climate revolves around tourism.
The tranquil town with narrow streets and whitewashed houses is blessed with two beautiful beaches, Praia da Luz and Praia Prainha. Praia da Luz is a medium-size sandy beach with amazing views bordered by impressive cliffs and loads of watersports. In the summertime, there is little swell, and the calm flat ocean is excellent for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding or motorised sports such as wakeboarding, tubing or jet skiing.
Praia da Luz is sometimes a nice surf spot with the right conditions with the incoming winter swell. The fairly large beach with soft sand and excellent facilities is the perfect spot to spend the day on the beach.
There is a nice hiking route on the cliffs, looking out over the ocean that goes all the way to the nearby town of Lagos. Luz beach has an extensive palm tree-lined promenade with many open-air cafés and restaurants lining this trail with traditional Portuguese paving and spectacular views over the ocean.
In season going for a walk and stopping for drinks or food on this pathway with its festive atmosphere is a great experience. This beautiful little holiday town is great for family holidays with a relaxed atmosphere, safe beach, lovely restaurants and plenty of activities.
The beautiful Algarve region in southern Portugal ends in red and yellow cliffs, sea caves, and rocky outcrops on golden beaches. This Atlantic Coast draws millions of visitors each year for its superb beaches. The long coastline is dotted with towns that travellers use as a base for exploring the region (Faro district).
Lagos is one of the most interesting of these towns and is located right beside some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, such as Praia Marinha, Meai Praia and Porto de Mós. Don’t miss Ponta da Piedade and the old fishing village of Praia de Luz.
The town itself is ancient, and its buildings and monuments and public squares show the history of the Atlantic fishing fleets and Portugal during its Age of Discovery when it was the largest Empire in the world. There are Neolithic, Moorish and Roman remains as well!
All this means you can spend hours wandering the narrow streets and seeing this historical past in the architecture but also in the food that’s served in Lagos. Santa Maria Church is a highlight, but don’t miss the Slave Market as well.
Lagos has a lively nightlife, so it’s a beach town that offers something for every kind of traveller but it is best for families because it is away from the ‘younger’ and overcrowded beach towns further east.
When looking for the best beach towns to visit in Portugal, you can’t miss out on Faro. Since the city is known as the hub of the Algarve, many tourists arrive here before shooting off to other cities and towns in the south of Portugal.
However, oozing in history and culture, you have landmarks in the historic centre that are well worth stopping over to explore and even booking accommodation for a couple of nights.
For example, by spending just 3 days in Faro, you can easily see all the best landmarks and beaches. The Arco da Vila is a beautiful arch that marks the entrance to the oldest parts of the town and helps you feel as if you were stepping back hundreds of years in time. The Moorish walls and the neo-classical architectural style make it a pleasure to stroll around all year round.
Praia da Ilha de Faro, which is around 20 minutes from the old centre by car, is one of the most popular beaches in Faro, packed with restaurants, bars, and plenty of entrainment for its visitors.
Faro also makes the perfect romantic getaway for couples, and in the shoulder months of April and May as well as October, you can enjoy warm weather with much fewer crowds, even in the most well-known tourist spots.
One of Portugal’s most underrated beach towns is hands down the enchanting Tavira in the eastern Algarve. Tavira has no beach off the coast but is linked to the mesmerising Tavira Island, where you find some of the best beaches in Portugal.
Most travellers opt for the boat from Tavira centre to the island to enjoy the Tavira beach. Yet, one of the best things to do in Tavira is, without a doubt, to cross the footbridge and take the little train ride to Barril beach and see the Anchor Cemetery. This is one of the most unique beaches in Tavira, with over 200 anchors lined up on the sand dune behind the beach.
For active travellers, it is possible to walk all the way to Barril beach, stroll the 5 kilometres to Tavira beach, and take the boat back. You get deserted beaches at the far end of the island if you want solitude.
Tavira is super charming to walk around and discover the old castle ruins and tiled houses in the fisherman’s quarter. Go for a stroll along the river with a tasty ice cream or grab a bite to eat at any of the many restaurants in town.