Praia dos Coelhos
Photograph: Arlindo CamachoPraia dos Coelhos

The 11 best beaches in Portugal

Sun, sea, sand and surf, the best beaches in Portugal have everything that a sun-worshipper dreams of embracing


Portugal has no shortage of great beaches. Visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to coastline here, with 1,700 kilometres of sun, sea and sand waiting for worshippers to make the pilgrimage. If you’re looking for a sun-kissed adventure or just fancy relaxing by the water for as long as you can physically cope, the best beaches in Portugal will sort you out.

We’ve made no secret of our love for Portugal. It is a special country, and our expert knowledge of Lisbon and Porto will have you realising the same thing. In fact, why not explore the two big cities and then head to our selection of best beaches to consider the majesty of it all, and maybe even draw up plans to move here in the future? Go on, you know it makes sense.

Best beaches in Portugal

Praia do Norte, Nazaré

‘Welcome to the biggest waves in the world,’ reads the sign at Praia do Norte. This beach in Nazaré has become a site of pilgrimage for surfers around the world thanks to its giant breaking waves. In 2011 Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara hit headlines after surfing a 78-foot-high wave here – a world record that was later broken by Brazilian Rodrigo Koxa, who rode an 80-footer in 2017. Even if you don’t surf, it’s worth coming along to watch. And the Celeste beach restaurant also serves ‘the best rice pudding in the world’, according to McNamara.

Praia da Samouqeira, Aljezur

The seas here are the closest you’ll get to the tropics in the whole country. Samoqueira’s waters are a beautiful emerald hue, and the beach itself is small, secluded and mostly unspoiled. Though slightly out of the way and surrounded by cliffs, it is easier to access than many other beaches in the Algarve region thanks to stairs that have been carved out of the rock. Come at low tide and you can explore a series of millennia-old caves.


Praia da Formosa, Santa Cruz

There are few pleasures dearer to the Portuguese than a quick post-Sunday lunch swimming trip. And few beaches are better suited to a glorious dip in the Atlantic than this picture-postcard spot in Santa Cruz, just north of Lisbon. The seas are calm in the quiet surrounding bay, making Formosa an ideal base for families with young swimmers keen to take the plunge.

Praia dos Coelhos, Sétubal

The setting for innumerable films and advertising campaigns, this idyllic, secluded beach on the Arrábida coastline boasts some of the clearest waters you’ll likely ever swim in. Though increasingly on the tourist trail, it’s still relatively crowd-free. One of the last truly ‘wild’ beaches on this magnificent stretch of shoreline just south of Lisbon.


Praia de São Lourenço, Ericeira

Follow the road to Ericeira, northwards from the Portuguese capital, and you’ll soon spy directions to this exquisite white sand beach. Most famous for its lofty, surf-friendly waves, São Lourenço also draws hordes of paddle tennis players who set up nets whenever the sun comes out (which, because this is Portugal, is pretty much all the time).

Praia da Ursa, Sintra

The walk down to this remote beach near Sintra may be long (and occasionally a bit tricky), but what staggering beauty awaits. Not far from Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in continental Europe, Ursa owes its higgledy-piggledy rocky formation to millions of years of being bashed up by the Atlantic. At low tide, you can explore the magical coves of Palaia, to the south, and Pesquiro do Abrigo, to the north. Note that at high tide, there may be limited space to kick back on the sand.


Praia de Benagil, Lagoa

The ‘skylight’ at the nearby Algar de Benagil cave draws tens of thousands of visitors every year – and for good reason. The perfect framing of the blue sky, the gold cliffs, the shaded beach: it’s the stuff of photogenic summer-vacay dreams. But the Praia de Benagil itself shouldn’t be overlooked, either. Crystal-clear waters make this a tip-top snorkelling spot, and you can rent kayaks to head over to the picturesque cave. (If you’re a strong swimmer, you can brave the 200-metre distance yourself.)

Praia da Figueirinha, Sétubal

Just south of Lisbon, Figueirinha is the longest stretch of sand between popular year-round destinations Sesimbra and Sétubal. A sandbank stretches out into the sea, creating a tranquil cove of sorts, while thanks to its proximity to the mouth of the Sado river, the water is usually a degree or two warmer than at other beaches along the coast. As backdrops go, you could do much worse than the wooded Serra da Arrábida hills.


Praia dos Arrifes, Albufeira

Head here at high tide, and might you miss the Praia dos Arrifes altogether. One of the smallest in the Albufeira area, it often disappears completely – so time your visit right. Also known as Praia dos Três Penecos for the three huge rocks that jut out of the sea, Arrifes is popular among young families and draws few tourists. If you’re looking to cool down after a day in the sun, we recommend a walk through the surrounding pine woods.

Praia de Melides, Melides

A vast expanse of sand separating the Atlantic from the Melides lagoon, the Praia de Melides is one of the Alentejo coast’s most charming bathing spots. You can swim in both fresh and salt water here, and once you’ve worked up an appetite, the Flor de Sal by Melides restaurant will fill you up with brilliantly elaborate Portuguese dishes. Melides itself is a traditional Alentejo village brimming with charming white houses, and well worth a detour.


Praia de Tróia Mar, Sétubal

At the very tip of the Tróia Mar peninsula, this beautifully curved beach is fringed by towering sand dunes and offers views across to the charming Serra da Arrábida national park. The seas are calm in these parts, and kitesurfers and windsurfers predictably abound. If you’re coming from Lisbon, catch the ferry across the Sado river, and once you’re here, grab a beer and ice cream from one of a handful of excellent beach vendors.

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