The best independent guide to the Algarve
The best independent guide to the Algarve
Faro is rarely considered for its beaches or as a beach destintion, as there are no beaches within walking distance of the city centre.
There are beautiful beaches to be found within the Faro region, but a bus or ferry is needed to travel to them. Faro’s beaches are located along the southern side of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, on the sand bar islands that shelter the mudflats and saltmarshes.
These beaches require some effort to travel to, but you will be rewarded with unspoilt beaches, and some of the quietest beaches of the Algarve.
This article will provide a guide to the best beaches of the Faro region.
Related articles: Faro introduction – Top 10 Faro
The three sand bar 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 sea waters and gentle rolling sand dunes. The beaches are all very similar, but each of the islands has varying levels of tourist development, which are 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 has the most tourist developments. 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.
The interactive map below displays the location of Faro's beaches and the three sandbar islands. The Ilha de Faro is marked in yellow, the Ilha Deserta in blue and the Ilha da Culatra is 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
The best way to sum up the beach islands is:
• Ilha Deserta – unspoilt and very quiet 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
The following section details each of the beaches in-depth and provide links to useful articles and websites.
The Praia de Faro beach extends for 10 km, but the main tourist development is close to the bridge. Within this small community can be found an assortment of cafes, restaurants and even a hotel, and there are shops to hire water sports equipment.
During the summer this central section of the beach can get very busy, but a short walk either east or west leads to quieter sections of the beach.
The best means of travel to the Praia de Faro is to catch the number 16 from Faro bus station, and the journey takes 25 minutes. This is the same bus service that connects Faro to the airport.
There are many enjoyable paid activities in Faro, and some of the best offered by GetYourGuide.com include:
The Ilha Deserta is the complete opposite to 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 provides pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters, with only a handful of tourists visiting per 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, near 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.
One of the factors which keeps the Ilha Deserta so peaceful is that there is no regular public transport to the island from Faro and the only method to travel there is via an organised tour, a tourist ferry (€5 - 45min) or speed boat (€10 - 15min).
Ferry to Ilha Deserta: Online tickets from GetYourGuide.com
Estaminé Restaurant: https://www.ilhadeserta.com/estamine-restaurant/
Speed boat: https://www.ilhadeserta.com/
Farol is situated on the western edge of the island and is a collection of Portuguese holiday homes that are in the shadow of the massive lighthouse.
There is a scenic beachside footpath which 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 season and demand dependant.