Our long coastline is bathed by the Atlantic ocean, which brought Portugal closer to other peoples and cultures. For company, there is bright sunshine that turns the skin golden and warms the soul.
The sun fills the fine white sands of our beaches with light and joy. Whether they are immense stretches of sand as far as the eye can see, or little coves sheltered by rocks, each beach has its own dazzling and surprising beauty. Some are crowded, with lots of entertainment, while other remain deserted and unexplored, holding secrets waiting to be unveiled... there’s always something for every taste and state of mind, whether it’s to stretch out and relax on the sand, take a walk by the sea, to enjoy a date or to have fun and party the night away.
But despite their many differences, the beaches do have something in common: their quality, demonstrated by the large number of EU blue flags awarded each year, certifying their excellent conditions and amenities.
The clear waters of the sea also have different moods. Some beaches have quiet, peaceful seas, especially in the Algarve, which even in the winter is a great holiday destination; others have livelier seas, with waves that are just right for various high adrenaline sports.
Many hotels and resorts enjoy stunning views of the ocean and are the perfect places to relax and enjoy their genuine hospitality. In addition, you can sit at a restaurant table to savour the delicious Portuguese cuisine, also tempered by the sun and the sea.
Covering more than 850km, the Portuguese coast boasts such a large number of fine, white sandy beaches that it’s almost impossible to keep count. All bathed by the Atlantic Ocean and all different, their beauty is hard to describe, so there’s nothing better than to discover them for yourself.
The most famous are in the Algarve. With three thousand hours of sun per year and warm waters, there are beaches along its 200km length to suit every taste and many dreamlike resorts. The choices are many, from sandy stretches extending as far as the eye can see to the smaller coves, sheltered by jagged cliffs, the trade image of the region, and they are always accompanied by a clear, calm sea which is ideal for practising various water sports.
Sagres, on the southwestern tip of the European continent, marks the transition. It is situated on the Vicentina Coast which forms, together with Southwestern Alentejo, one of the best preserved stretches of the European coastline. There are deserted beaches here, of a wild beauty, where you can enjoy an unparalleled contact with Nature. And near Sines a stretch of sand starts that extends for over 60km to end in Troia, a challenge for trekking buffs!
In Costa da Caparica, the beaches are particularly dear to Lisbonites who have many different options around the capital for sun and sea bathing. There’s a wide variety from the Estoril coastline, with its cosmopolitan feel and signs of a golden age when it was the refuge of Kings and aristocrats, to the secluded beaches of the idyllic area of Sintra. And the sea offers perfect waves for surfing, whose ultimate expression is to be found further north on the Ericeira, Peniche and Nazaré beaches.
In the centre, you will find very wide sandy stretches, to which traditional fishing adds a picturesque touch. And further north, the colder waters and the invigorating sea are tempered by the welcoming atmosphere and the clean air of the mountains and the forests. And don’t forget the islands. In the Madeira archipelago, the highlight is the long, golden sandy beach of the Island of Porto Santo with its therapeutic properties, and in the Azores you will find black sand of volcanic origin, framed by every shade of green, typical of a well preserved environment.
Despite all their differences, they all share one thing: quality. They are safe and offer a wide range of support and recreational services, which meet every need of their users, and a large number of Portuguese beaches are granted the European blue flag every year, a distinction that is an indication of their excellent conditions.
Another distinction that many of our beaches take pride in displaying is that of accessible beach. That is how those with access for persons with reduced mobility are identified, many of which actually offer equipment to allow everyone to enjoy bathing in the sea.
But the beach attractions in Portugal are not restricted to the bathing season. All year round, they are the ideal places for a stroll, for sports, for admiring nature or tasting the delicious Portuguese cuisine, in which the best fish in the world and the seafood have pride of place, always with breath-taking views over the sea. Could there be a better programme?
The Best Beaches
A long coastline where all the beaches have white, fine sand, a long summer and many hours of sunshine throughout the year make Portugal a natural holiday destination.
Reviews and reports in the international media frequently recognise the quality and beauty of Portuguese beaches. It’s no coincidence that 298 of our beaches have been awarded Europe’s Blue Flag!
We know it’s not easy to choose one, because the variety is so great and the scenery changes along the coast, but here we mention some of the best beaches.
2nd place in the ranking of beaches chosen by European consumers as the most beautiful in Europe in 2014. This beach is appreciated for its high cliffs and for its rock formations in different shades of orange, so characteristic of the Algarve coast.
Another of those chosen by consumers as being amongst the most beautiful beaches in Europe, ranking in 8th place. 9 km of fine golden sand, calm seas and therapeutic qualities as well. The ideal place to rest.
The turquoise water and the natural slopes earned it the choice of Condé Nast Traveller magazine as one of the 50 most beautiful in the world in 2013. One of the most photographed beaches in the Algarve.
Ericeira has several beaches with excellent conditions for surfing, such as Ribeira de Ilhas, Coxos and Empa. Its 8km coastline has been classified as the 1st Surfing Reserve in Europe and the 2nd in the world, according to the worldwide organisation "Save the Waves Coalition".
As it turns out, several of the award-winning beaches are in the Algarve, a fact reinforced by the prize earned in the World Travel Awards in 2013, as the Best Beach Destination in Europe.
But in fact, Portugal has many beaches and there’s always one appropriate to our state of mind: sometimes we feel like a more natural, secluded beach, with very few people; at other times we need something more lively, and a party in the evening with our feet in the sand is the ideal; or we might prefer wide horizons and beaches on which to take invigorating seaside walks.
This list only serves as inspiration. The best thing is to go for a walk along the shore and take a look... the only essential stops are for a refreshing swim and to watch the sun set over the sea. Not to be missed!
Aquaparks in Portugal
There are water parks from the north to the south of Portugal, which guarantee moments of great fun under the generous Portuguese sun.
The sun and sea are a constant in this country with more than 800km of coastline, but it is no longer necessary to spend the day on the beach to take away memories of hours spent in the water, with or without the children. The busiest water parks are located in the Algarve (Slide & Splash, Aqualand Big One), but there are other equally entertaining parks in the rest of the country, with pools and slides for all tastes, tubes, tunnels and slopes, Jacuzzis and many other ways to captivate you, whether you’re seeking more radical sport or a quieter experience without so much adrenaline.
The water rides are closed in winter and open in summer. But some also have animals, be it to admire them or get to know them better, playing with them in the water, like at Zoomarine and Aqua Show Family Park in the Algarve. But they all offer well looked after leisure areas, restaurants, and some even have accommodation, always with sports facilities and other ways of amusing even the most demanding visitor.
Even those who are inland or don’t want to go to the beach, can go to the Amarante Aquatic Park or Naturwaterpark in Vila Real, in northern Portugal, Panoramic Aqua Park near Pombal, Norpark in Nazaré or Sportágua in Peniche, in the Centre. And in Madeira, visit Aqua Park Santa Cruz.
While we’ve mentioned a few of the water parks, it’s also worth going to the artificial beaches: In Central Portugal there’s the Live Beach Mangualde, close to Viseu, and Rocas Beach (with artificial waves) in Castanheira de Pera. Like the parks, they offer great refreshing days for diving, jumping, sliding in the water, and playing with the children... Wherever you go, days full of excitement!