The port city of Portimão is one of the best beach destinations in the Algarve, with beautiful balmy weather and pristine golden praias (seasides) that continuously attract scores of vacationers. You won’t have to venture far to find an idyllic stretch of sand – the gorgeous cliff-studded Praia da Rocha lies a mere 5-minute drive from the heart of the charming old town.

    Of course, if you’re in Portimão for more than a couple of days, it’s worth checking out other nearby options as well. Here are the top beaches in Portimão to visit for an unforgettable Algarve vacation.

    1

    Praia da Rocha

    Chill out on Portimão’s best beach

    The Algarve has no shortage of spectacular beaches but Praia da Rocha, located right at the heart of Portimão, is one of the most convenient. The name translates to “rocky beach” and it’s a literal one, with hunks of limestone marooned amid a sea of yellow sand. The beach stretches for 1 km or so, and is popular with families as it shelves gently into the clear water.

    Though it’s tempting just to lie in the sun, there are many water sports available near the beach for those who prefer to stay active, including surfing, jet skiing, parasailing and kayaking. Stroll along to the neighboring Praia dos Três Castelos, where you’ll find a trio of rocks in the sea which inspired its name, "Three Castles" Beach.

    Location: Praia da Rocha, Portimão, Portugal

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    photo by Steven Fruitsmaak (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    2

    Praia do Tres Castelos

    Rock formations and hidden caves

    Praia do Tres Castelos, also known as Three Castles Beach, sits directly to the west of Praia da Rocha – you can easily combine a visit to enjoy both. When the tide’s low, you can stroll along the sand to Praia dos Careanos and beyond. It requires a steep trek up and down the stairs to reach, so get ready to work up a sweat.

    Praia do Tres Castelos is famed for its sharp rock formations and pretty hidden caves; both wonderful to explore on foot. If it all looks a bit too daunting, soak up the views from the winding hiking trail on the clifftop instead.

    Location: R. da Falésia, Portimão, Portugal

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    3

    Praia dos Careanos

    A lesser-known Portimão praia

    Praia dos Careanos is around 2 km west of Praia da Rocha, making it easily accessible to anyone staying in downtown Portimão. Even so, this lesser-known option attracts far fewer visitors than its neighbours because parking is limited, and it needs a steep downhill descent to reach.

    It’s certainly worth a visit as this beautiful beach, framed by ochre-colored cliffs, is one of the region’s real hidden gems. The fact it welcomes relatively few visitors – at least outside of the peak season – adds to the appeal. Be sure to hike along the path up top for the best coastal views.

    Location: Estr do Vau, Portimão, Portugal

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    4

    Praia do Vau

    A popular alternate to Praia da Rocha

    Praia do Vau sits tucked between cragged cliffs about 2 km west of Praia da Rocha and just past Praia dos Careanos, making it a top alternate beach in Portimão. If you’re feeling energetic, the best way to get here is by following the scenic boardwalk that lines the cliffs up above.

    Praia do Vau becomes quite busy during the peak season, so don’t come expecting a secluded expanse. Still, gentle waves and a lifeguard service make it a great choice to bring the little ones to. Wander over to the western edge to find hidden caves and the picturesque Praia do Barranco das Canas cove.

    Location: Coral do Vau, Portimão, Portugal

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    5

    Praia de Alvor

    The main beach of Alvor

    Praia de Alvor lines the quaint whitewashed coastal town of Alvor, some 8 km west of Portimão. This expansive stretch of pristine sand spans several kilometers, from the estuary of the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve to the dramatic cliffs of Praia dos Três Irmãos. Due to its strategic location, you’ll have to share Praia de Alvor with scores of other vacationers, though there’s usually enough space to find a secluded spot.

    The currents can be treacherous, and there are hidden jagged rocks on the east end of the beach, so keep a close eye on the little ones. Once you’re done soaking up the sun, go for a hike along the boardwalk of the birdlife-rich Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve.

    Location: Praia de Alvor, 8501-906 Alvor, Portugal

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    6

    Praia Grande

    A family-friendly option in Ferragudo

    Praia Grande sits on the eastern banks of the River Arade, directly opposite Praia da Rocha. As the main beach of the pretty town of Ferragudo, it’s a popular spot so don’t come expecting peaceful respite in the summer. At least you’ll find a wide stretch of pristine sand backed by limestone cliffs, which host the historical São João do Arade Fort that once defended the town from pirates.

    Praia Grande is sheltered from the Atlantic Ocean, so it’s a top spot for the little ones as well as novice windsurfers. A dedicated lifeguard service and a kid’s playground make this an excellent option for families.

    Location: R. Dr. Coelho de Carvalho 8, Ferragudo, Portugal

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    photo by Joseolgon (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    Harry Stewart | Contributing Writer

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