The best independent guide to Portimão
The best independent guide to Portimão
Portimão lies along the Arade River Estuary and is close to a beautiful coastline that offers many glorious sandy beaches.
The closest beach to Portimão is the Praia da Rocha, 1.5km to the south of the city. This is a magnificent beach boasting a 1.2km shoreline, a vast expanse of golden sand and turquoise sea waters. Another popular option is to cross the Arade River by ferry and head to the Praia Grande, which is just to the south of Ferragudo.
The Praia da Rocha beach is a glorious sandy beach
Most tourists in Portimão head to the Praia da Rocha for their beach day trip, but there are many other wonderful beaches within the surrounding region to discover. These include the secluded cove beaches near Vau, the pristine beaches south of Ferragudo or the deserted beaches to the east of Alvor.
The beaches of the Portimão region are ideal for families and young children, while for teenagers and thrill-seeking couples, there are many exciting sea activities and beach sports.
Being a popular tourist region, Portimão’s beaches offer outstanding facilities, including lively beach bars, varied shops and delicious seafood restaurants. Outside of the tourist areas, the coastline is pristine and boasts beautiful natural scenery that is crossed by scenic cliff-top hiking trails.
This guide will help you discover the best beaches of the Portimão region.
The five best beaches of Portimão are:
1) Praia da Rocha 2) Praia Grande (Ferragudo) 3) Praia dos Caneiros 4) Praia dos Três Irmãos 5) Praia do Vau
The interactive map below shows all of the beaches within 3km of Portimão.
Legend: 1) Praia da Torralta 2) Praia dos Três Irmãos 3) Praia do Alemão 4) Praia do Vau 5) Praia dos Careanos 6) Praia do Amado 7) Praia dos Três Castelos 8) Praia da Rocha 9) Praia da Angrinha 10) Praia Grande 11) Praia do Molhe 12) Praia dos Caneiros 13) Praia da Afurada (only accessible by boat or kayak)
Note: Between Três Irmãos (2) and Alemão (3) is a rocky headland, marked by the yellow line. There are many small but inaccessible beaches within this headland. Some of these beaches can be clambered down or kayaked to, but they haven’t been included in this guide as they are not easily accessible.
The best beaches of the Portimão region:
1) The Praia da Rocha – The largest beach of the region and always a hive of activity during the summer.
2) Praia Grande – A vast beach that extends along the eastern side of the Arade River Estuary.
3) Praia dos Caneiros – A picturesque beach situated within the Ponta do Altar headland.
4) Praia dos Três Castelos – An idyllic beach nestled at the base of towering limestone cliffs.
5) Praia do Vau – A calm and sheltered beach with a relaxed atmosphere, at the far western side of Praia da Rocha.
If you are at the early stages of planning your holiday to the Portimão region, and want to know if the beaches of the central Algarve are fantastic, then the simple answer is yes.
The consideration with Portimão is that the city lies slightly inland, and it will involve a taxi ride or long walk to reach them. Often the towns of Praia da Rocha, Alvor or Carvoeiro are better for a beach-focused holiday.
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The weather is suitable for spending time on Portimão’s beaches from the middle of May until the end of September. Outside of this time, there can be many warm sunny days, but the chance of cooler grey days increases closer to December and January.
The peak season is July and August, and this is when the beaches will be at their busiest.
The sea temperature along the western Algarve is always chilly, only reaching a maximum of 22C in the hot summer months. The seawater is always cold as it flows from the Atlantic Ocean. The water of the Arade River Estuary will always be slightly warmer than the sea, but the water quality will never be as good as the open ocean.
The beaches to the west of the Arade River can be easily reached from Portimão, and the Praia da Rocha can even be walked to. There are three major beaches within this region: the Praia da Rocha, the Praia dos Tres Castelos and the Praia do Vau.
Praia da Rocha
Praia da Rocha is the best beach of the region and is the reason why the town of Praia da Rocha grew into such a popular holiday destination.
The beach has a 1.2km-long shoreline, with the Portimão Estuary to the east and a headland that shelters the beach to the west. Rocha beach has a very shallow incline into the sea, and the large waves make it suitable for body-boarding and even surfing in the winter. During the summer, the beach is supervised by lifeguards.
This is a lively beach with banana boat rides, parasailing and jet skiing available, along with a giant inflatable in the sea. Sunbeds and parasols can be hired (20 euros per day), but there is plenty of space if you wish to bring your own towels and sunshades.
The Praia da Rocha is an amazing beach, and it is easy to understand why many visitors do not explore the coastline further.
During the summer the Praia da Rocha beach will be busy
To the eastern side of the Praia da Rocha beach, large waves roll on the beach
Praia dos Tres Castelos
Heading west from the Praia da Rocha, the cliffs rise up and the beach narrows. The Praia dos Tres Castelos is the largest of the three cliff beaches and the closest to Praia da Rocha.
The beach is named after the three rocky outcrops in the sea – ‘the three castles’. It offers an idyllic natural setting surrounded by golden limestone cliffs and is great for snorkelling between the rocks.
The Praia do Amado and Praia dos Careanos are very similar to the Praia dos Tres Castelos, but they tend to be slightly quieter. The Praia dos Careanos is highly recommended for a scenic and relaxing beach within walking distance of Praia da Rocha.
The Praia dos Tres Castelos as seen at low tide – the beach is much smaller at high tide
The beautiful Praia dos Careanos
Praia do Vau
At the Praia do Vau, the cliffs lessen and the beach fills a small valley. This is another beautiful beach, with soft sands and calm seawater. The Praia do Vau is a fantastic beach that makes a great alternative to Praia da Rocha.
Vau is a 40-minute walk (3km) from central Portimão, but only a 6-minute taxi (or Uber) ride. The beach is also served by the number 14 bus that connects Portimao (Alameda Sul bus stop) to Alvor.
Beyond the small headland of the Praia do Vau beach is the secluded Praia do Alemão.
The Praia do Vau and Praia do Alemão beaches
The Praia Grande
The Praia Grande is a great beach overlooking the Arade Estuary. This is the main beach of Ferragudo and a popular location with the Portuguese.
The beach features an impressively sandy shoreline, which is almost as long as the Praia da Rocha. Found at the northern side are two trendy beach bars, Kalu and Club Nau. Heading further south, the beach becomes more tranquil, offering ample space even during peak summer months.
The only consideration is that being on the estuary, the water quality may not be as good as that of the open sea.
The water taxi service connects Portimão and Praia da Rocha to Ferragudo, and from the harbour in Ferragudo it is just a short walk to the Praia Grande beach.
The quiet southern side of the Praia Grande
The Praia da Angrinha
The Praia da Angrinha lies further up the Arade River, and is directly opposite Portimão. It is very similar to the Praia Grande, but being close to the shipping lanes of Portimão, the water quality is not advisable for swimming.
At the southern end is the Castelo de São João do Arade.
The Praia dos Caneiros
Praia dos Caneiros is one of the finest beaches of the Portimão region.
This beautiful beach nestles in a valley surrounded by golden cliffs and the Ponta do Altar headland. The beach offers soft golden sands and overlooks the Leixão das Gaivotas, a rocky outcrop island. To the rear of the beach is the excellent Rei das Praias restaurant, a great location for a romantic evening meal.
Caneiros Beach is one of the most pristine beaches of the region, but the downside is that a car is needed to travel here, and the car park fills up quickly during the summer months.
Caneiros beach is wonderful if you have a car
The tower on the headland is part of the Ponta do Altar lighthouse complex
Praia do Molhe
Molhe Beach is situated around the protective breakwater that stretches far into the mouth of the Arade River. The seaward side experiences large waves, while the river side is calm and free from any waves.
Molhe is only a small beach, but it’s seawall is a unique attraction
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