The Algarve’s nearly 200 km of coastline provide some of the most beautiful beaches to be had in Europe, many of which are holders of the prestigious Blue Flag or belong to the “Accessible Beach Project - Beaches for Everyone”, aimed at providing easy access for those with reduced mobility.
Although the number of beaches on offer is significant, it is essentially their quality and variety that marvel visitors. There are beaches for all tastes: luxury beaches equipped with every imaginable amenity; long stretches of uninterrupted sand dunes for those who like to soak in the sun; beaches where the cliffs form grottoes and rock pools that provide pleasant sources of discovery; wild, rugged beaches offering seclusion and closer contact with Nature; animated beaches where beach-going goes hand in hand with socialising; nudist beaches; beaches specially equipped for the handicapped and even river beaches.
The western Vincentine coast is a protected area so limited building and sources of animation guarantee wilder and more secluded beaches. Tall escarpments characterise this coast which is punctuated by either long stretches of sand or smaller coves and beaches that are sometimes difficult to access on foot. Windier than the south coast beaches, the Atlantic waves make this coast a favourite with body boarders and surfers. Arrifana and Carrapateira are good examples of the beauty of these long, unspoilt beaches.
Rounding the Cape of St. Vincent lie the remaining 150 km of the Mediterranean-influenced southern coast of the Algarve. The westernmost area of this southern coastline is referred to as the Barlavento region, where placid, warm waters and golden sand are framed by the natural sculptures carved out in the cliffs. Grottoes and subterranean tunnels caused by erosion sometimes link these beaches and provide enchanting hideyholes to go exploring. Porto Mós is one such beach, where guided boat trips will take you on exploratory journeys inside the grottoes and underground canals. It is also an excellent location for snorkelling or diving. The blue flag beaches of Meia Praia, Alvor and Praia da Rocha further along the coast have several kilometre-long sand dunes and provide a host of amenities and sporting activities.
The Sotavento region refers to the eastern side of the southern coastline, where long expanses of sandy beaches are interrupted by the Ria Formosa. The highly popular blue flag beaches of Vilamoura, Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago are situated here, in an area that has witnessed a surge of luxury resorts and a subsequent increase in quality amenities and entertainment. Further eastwards lies the protected area of the Ria Formosa, a natural wonder composed of islands, thin stretches of sand and marshes. Warm, still waters bathe the shores of these islands where relaxing days spent on the beach are complemented by the serenity of the landscape and contemplation of the rich fauna and flora. Faro, Barreta, Culatra, Fuseta, Armona, Tavira and Cabanas islands all provide these idyllic settings.
Those visiting the inland, mountainous region of the Algarve and the historical town of Alcoutim can likewise stop for a quick, refreshing dip in the river beach of Pego Fundo, on the banks of the River Guadiana, before returning to the coast.