There’s no doubt about it – Portugal is a fantastic destination for beach-lovers, with an embarrassment of spots dotted along its shores. Between the mainland, the Azores and Madeira, there’s plenty of sandy shores, rocky cliffs and spectacular views to choose from. Here’s our round-up of the best.
Praia de Benagil
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One of the most heavily photographed caves in the Algarve, in a fishing village called Benagil, near Carvoeiro, the Algar (Grotto) de Benagil is the standout feature of the local beach and is only accessible by water. The Praia de Benagil is much more than this singular feature, however; it is one of the quieter and more secluded spots due to limited parking nearby. It is also surrounded by steep cliffs that are a common element found across the Algarve.
Praia da Marinha
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The Praia da Marinha, in Lagoa, is another striking beach, covered in soft sand and fringed with colourful cliffs. It is also among the quietest spots in the area, perhaps because it is only really accessible by car followed by a steep climb down the cliffside. Bring snorkel gear with your suncream, as the Praia da Marinha enjoys calmer waters that are perfect for swimming the day away.
Praia da Rocha
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Closer to the tourist centres is Praia da Rocha, in Portimão, a beautiful long beach that’s close to hotels, cafes, restaurants and bars. It is also considered one of the Algarve’s best resort beaches.
Praia da Nazaré
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Nazaré, in central Portugal, is renowned as a top surf spot. In fact, the tallest wave in the world was surfed here, so it should be enjoyed only by those with serious wave riding chops. The best time to visit is during spring and fall, while the weather is still lovely but tourists are mercifully few. In addition to the coast itself, Nazaré is a great place for fresh seafood and to immerse yourself in Portugal’s rich fishing culture.
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Powdery white sands, sparkling blue ocean, majestic birds and frolicking dolphins only begin to describe the Tróia Peninsula. Approximately 18km (11mi) long, it extends from Comporta on one end to the mouth of the Sado estuary on the other. Its striking beauty has seen this once remote spot dubbed the “new Algarve”.
Praia Zambujeira do Mar
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Many people know Alentejo for its large fields and delicious wine, but it is also home to some beautiful beaches. In the Costa Vicentina e Sudoeste Alentejano Natural Park, is a quiet surf beach surrounded by wild countryside, with an almost mysterious beauty. The only time this fishing village really comes alive is in August when the area hosts one of the country’s largest music festivals. Otherwise, it’s a great place to get away from the crowds and enjoy the quiet, whether on the beach itself or the surrounding natural park.
Praia do Guincho
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Praia do Guincho, one of the wilder and more rugged beaches near Lisbon, between Cascais and the Sintra mountains, is a popular spot for surfers of all kinds (from traditional to kitesurfing) and is much-loved by the locals. This isn’t one of the easiest beaches to reach by public transportation – you’ll need to take the train and bus from Lisbon – but it is a great spot if you’re driving with buddies and in need of waves.
Portinho da Arrábida
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Just under an hour south of Lisbon is the Serra da Arrabida, a popular hiking spot that tucks away more stunning beaches along the mountainside. Among the top choices is Portinho da Arrábida with its shimmering water and white sands. Nearby are many quaint fishing villages, where you can enjoy traditional Portuguese cuisine and culture.
Praia da Miramar
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The Capela do Senhor da Pedra is a beautiful solitary chapel that sits on a rocky stage and adds charm to the Praia da Miramar in northern Portugal. The beach around the chapel is large, often uncrowded and offers exceptional sunsets (especially when the chapel is included in the backdrop).
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One of the most beautiful beaches in the Azores is Praia Formosa, in Santa Maria. The standout feature is its yellow-white sands that lie between the bright blue Atlantic and green rolling hills. Better still, you can camp nearby and spend a few days enjoying this Atlantic pearl.