The best independent guide to the Algarve
The best independent guide to the Algarve
The Praia de Faro is the best beach in the Faro region and is easily accessible from the city, via the regular bus service that also serves the airport (see later in this guide for details of the bus service).
The glorious soft golden sands of the beach extend for 5km, along the entire sea facing side of the Ilha de Faro (Faro Island), while the rear of the island overlooks the lagoons and tidal mud flats of the Ria Formosa national park. It is hard to believe that this laid-back resort town is less than 5 minutes from Faro airport, and that it’s virtually unknown by foreign tourists!
The stunning beach of the Praia de Faro
The Ilha de Faro is connected to the mainland via a single road bridge, and this central area is the most developed section of the beach, with bars, restaurants and low rise hotels. There is a road which follows the beach in both directions and is lined with Portuguese holiday homes and smaller beach bars, that eventually leads to deserted beaches at either end of the Ilha de Faro.
The Praia de Faro has a relaxed and easy-going atmosphere, as it mainly caters for Portuguese tourists, and it’s unique when compared to the rest of the hectic Algarve. Faro Island can make for an enjoyable and alternative beach based holiday destination, and it is unbelievable that it is less than 5 minutes away from the airport.
The Praia de Faro is a popular holiday destination with the Portuguese and it is very low key affair that has avoided the ugly construction of mass development.
To the north-eastern side of Ilha de Faro is the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a large protected area of salt water lagoons and mudflats, which are important feeding grounds for migratory birds and habitats for specialist marine life.
During low tide it is common to see Portuguese fishermen wading through these mudflats hunting for clams, mussels and other shell fish.
Ilha de Faro as seen by the air
Collecting shell fish at low tide, by the road bridge
The sea waters of the Praia de Faro are clean, and the waves are strong enough for surfing on them, but be aware that the sea temperature is surprisingly cold, even in the height of the summer. The Praia de Faro beach is suitable for families as well, as during the summer season the popular sections of the beach are supervised by lifeguards. The only possible disadvantage this beach has is that the central region can get very busy in the summer, and that it can be challenging to find a car parking space.
The Ria Formosa National Park
Praia de Faro is situated 10km to the south-west of Faro, and 3.5km from Faro airport. The recommended means of travel to Faro beach is the bus; the beach is connected with Faro by the bus route number 16, the same bus route which serves the airport.
A single ticket from Faro to Praia de Faro costs €2.50 (the same fare as the airport), there are no return tickets, so for the return journey, another single must be purchased. During daylight hours there is a departure every 30-40 minutes, a frequency which drops to hourly departures during the evening.
The relaxed and calm beach resort on the Ilha de Faro
In Faro, the number 16 bus departs from the newly constructed open-air bus terminal. The departure bay is the second furthest from the old bus terminal. At Praia de Faro, the bus stops at the bridge and passengers must cross to the island on foot. As the bus service connects the airport with Faro, there are many late evening departures – don’t forget to always check for seasonal and annual timetables. The problem with bus travel to Praia de Faro is that a comparatively long walk is required to reach the quieter areas of the beach.
Another section of the stunning Praia de Faro coastline
Driving to the beach opens up the entire island, but you should take into account that the traffic lights on the bridge are a permanent bottleneck during the summer, and that parking in the central section can be notoriously difficult. In order to reach the more deserted beaches, you must head to the eastern end of the island.
Another way to travel to the beach is to hire a bike from Faro and cycle along the back roads to the beach; to rent a bike in Faro costs €12-15 for a 1-day hire. There is one hotel on the Praia de Faro, the 23-bed “Hotel Aeromar”; you’ll find all the information at their website: www.aeromar.net.
The main activities on the Praia de Faro are simply relaxing, topping up the tan, or chilling out in one of the beach bars. For the more active visitors, there is a surf school which provides lessons and hires surfboards.
Kayaks and stand-up paddleboards can also be hired from the “Centro Náutico da Praia de Faro” to explore the waterways of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Swimming in the sea is not a very pleasant activity, as the sea temperature is shockingly cold, only rising to 15ºC during the summer months.