The best independent guide to the Algarve
The best independent guide to the Algarve
The Faro coast offers many glorious sandy beaches, but none of these are within walking distance of the city itself.
The sandy coastline of Faro lies along the southern side of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, on the three sandbar islands that shelter the mudflats and salt marshes of the nature park. These islands provide some of the quietest and most pristine beaches of the Algarve, with kilometres of golden sands that are lapped by calm turquoise seawaters.
To reach these idyllic beaches, you will need to catch either a ferry, taxi or bus, depending on which island you wish to travel to. The lack of beaches close to the city centre means Faro is not regarded as a beach holiday destination, but there are wonderful beaches within easy travelling distance if you do wish to spend a day on one.
This article will detail the best beaches in Faro, helping you to get the most from your trip.
Related articles: Faro introduction – Top 10 Faro
The golden sands of the Praia de Faro
The Praia da Ilha Deserta (Deserted Island beach), as the name implies, is always deserted…
The Faro region boasts a coastline of beautiful sandy beaches, with the best beaches being:
1) Praia de Faro 2) Praia da Culatra 3) Praia da Ilha Deserta 4) Praia do Farol 5) Praia da Barreta
The interactive map below displays the location of Faro's beaches and the three sandbar islands; the Ilha de Faro (yellow), the Ilha Deserta (blue) and the Ilha da Culatra (green).
The beaches of the Faro Region 1) Praia de Faro (main) 2) Praia de Faro East (quieter) 3) Praia da Barreta 4) Cabo de Santa Maria 5) Praia da Ilha Deserta 6) Praia do Farol 7) Praia da Culatra
Insight: The Cabo de Santa Maria is the most southerly point of Portugal
Faro is not really considered as a beach holiday destination due to there being no beaches within walking distance of the city centre. Faro is much suited for a cultural holiday or as a central base from which to explore the Algarve region. For a beach-focused holiday consider Albufeira, Vilamoura, Lagos, or Praia da Rocha.
The three sandbar islands that surround the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa are the Ilha da Culatra, Ilha Deserta and the Ilha de Faro.
The Ilha da Culatra is to the south-east of Faro, Ilha de Faro is to the southwest (beyond the airport) while the Ilha Deserta is directly south of Faro at the widest part of Ria Formosa salt marshes (6km).
On the seaward side of each of the islands are beautiful beaches with soft golden sands, calm seawaters and gentle rolling sand dunes. The beaches are all very similar, but the islands have varying levels of tourist development, which is directly related to the ease of travelling to them.
The Ilha de Faro is the only island connected to the mainland by a road and is the most developed. The Ilha da Culatra has regular ferries and two small communities, while the Ilha Deserta requires a tour boat or tourist ferry and is virtually deserted (hence the name).
Note: The official name for the Ilha Deserta is the Ilha da Barreta, but everyone one refers to it as the deserted island (Ilha Deserta).
The best way to sum up the beach islands is:
• Ilha Deserta – unspoilt and empty beaches, but expensive to travel to and no tourist facilities once there.
• Ilha de Faro – great for families, easily accessible from Faro by bus, but can be crowded in the summer.
• Ilha da Culatra – calm beaches with two traditional Portuguese villages but is a long ferry ride from Faro.
The Praia de Faro surprisingly attracts few foreign visitors considering it is only 10 minutes from the airport
Ilha de Faro is the most developed of the three beach islands in Faro. It is connected to the mainland by a road and there is a regular bus service from Faro bus station.
The beach faces a south-westerly direction and, under the right weather conditions, is good for surfing or bodyboarding. The beach is also popular with families and is a favourite with the Portuguese.
The Praia de Faro is a beautiful sandy beach
The Praia de Faro beach extends for 10km, but the main tourist development is centred around the bridge. Within this small community you’ll find an assortment of cafes, restaurants and even a hotel, and there are shops where you can hire watersports equipment.
During the summer, this central section of the beach can get very busy, but a short walk in either direction leads to quieter sections of shoreline.
The best means of travel to the Praia de Faro is to catch the number 16 bus from Faro bus station, with the journey taking 25 minutes. This is the same bus service that connects Faro to the airport.
The northern side of the Ilha de Faro overlooks the mudflats and calm waterways of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa
The Ilha Deserta is the complete opposite of the Praia de Faro, and as the name implies (the Deserted Island) it is one of the most remote locations of the Algarve.
The 9km southern shoreline of the island boasts pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters, with only a handful of tourists visiting each day. There is just a single building on the Ilha Deserta Island - an exclusive seafood restaurant called Estaminé, which is to the east of the island close to the harbour.
Found on the Ilha Deserta coastline is the Cabo de Santa Maria, the most southerly point of Portugal. This sand dune headland is marked by a monument constructed from driftwood and sea debris. There is a pleasant 2km walk from the harbour to the Cabo de Santa Maria, which follows a wooden boardwalk and passes through the unspoilt sand dunes.
The main factor that keeps the Ilha Deserta so peaceful is that there is no regular public transport to the island from Faro. The only method to travel there is via an organised tour or tourist ferry (€10 - 15min) – click here for tickets.
Estaminé Restaurant: https://www.ilhadeserta.com/estamine-restaurant/
The Cabo de Santa Maria is so remote and quiet that it’s difficult to believe that it is in the ever so popular Algarve
The boardwalk connecting the harbour to the Cabo de Santa Maria
The Ilha da Culatra is to the east of Faro and has a beautiful sand dune beach that extends along the entire 6km south-eastern shoreline. On the island are two small villages, Farol and Culatra, but the island is unique in that there are no cars or paved roads.
Culatra is a characterful fishing village, with a colourful harbour, streets made of sand, and a community that uses sustainable and traditional techniques to fish the Ria Formosa. The little village is a delight to explore and a great place to enjoy a lunch of freshly-caught fish.
The Praia da Culatra
Farol is situated on the western edge of the island and is a collection of Portuguese holiday homes that lie in the shadow of the massive lighthouse.
There is a scenic beachside footpath that connects the two villages and also provides access to the quieter sections of the coastline.
The Ilha da Culatra has more character and charm than the Ilha de Faro, but there are limited ferries to the island. The main ferry route connects Culatra with Olhão, as it is closer than Faro. During the summer, there are tourist ferry services between Faro and the Ilha da Culatra, but these are seasonal and demand dependent.
The Praia do Farol is named after the tallest lighthouse in the central Algarve
Culatra has a traditional fishing community