With glistening turquoise waters sweeping against golden sand, Portugal’s beaches are as distinctive as they are otherworldly. In the Algarve, Alentejo, Ribatejo, and the Azores, postcard-perfect coastlines are shaped by hidden coves, unique landscapes, and colourful cliffs. Each region has its fair share of sublime, Blue Flag beaches, and here are some the best according to travellers:
Perhaps one of the most recognizable and iconic beaches in the Algarve, Praia da Marinha is surrounded by dramatic, golden cliffs, and lapped by crystal-clear, azure waters. Despite its popularity, the beach is relatively secluded. The only way to get to it is by descending a flight of stairs from the top of the cliffs. Once here, you can spend the day sunbathing on its soft, clean sand, and swim and snorkel in the warm, calm waters.
A photogenic beach best known for its unique dome-shaped grotto that resembles a Roman oculus, Praia de Benagil is both a tourist landmark and a landscape photographer’s dream. This gold sand waterfront is easily accessible from the nearby fishing village, Benagil. But to reach the grotto, algar, and its hidden beach you’ll need to charter a boat.
A peaceful sliver of sand nestled between plunging sandstone cliffs and shallow turquoise waters, Praia do Carvalho is a hideaway beach fringed by sapphire blue waters that’s never busy. A single tunnel with steps hewn from rocks connects the beach to the outside world. Nearby, the cliffs are riddled with caverns and blowholes that spray jets of ocean during high tides.
Located at the western edge of the Algarve, Praia de Odeceixe is an expansive swath of sand wedged between the mouth of a river and the ocean. Spacious, and relatively quiet during offseason, Odeceixe grows into a buzzing surf spot comes summertime. To the east, the sleepy terra cotta-roofed village Odeceixe provides convenient lodgings and places to eat. While the surrounding green valleys offer chances for scenic nature walks and hikes.
Backed by colourful red and white cliffs, Praia da Falésia is considered one of the most picturesque beaches In Portugal. At 7-km long and stretching between the coastline of Albufeira and Faro, this narrow waterfront is ideal for beach walks. Nearby, above the colourful clifftops, are nature trails leading to lookout points. While to the north, the resort town of Vilamoura is filled with restaurants, shops, and golf courses.
Just south of Lisbon, the coastal village of Porto Côvo is a convenient launching pad for exploring a series of small beaches along Portugal’s hilly Alentejo coast. Each sandy cove is dotted by dramatic black rock formations, inlet lapped by azure tides, and golden sand dappled with natural pools. The largest among them, Praia Grande, is closest to town and is encircled by jagged cliffs that lead to secluded beaches.
Just south of the city of Setúbal, a 20-km-long thin bar of land called the Tróia Peninsula divides the Sado Estuary from the Atlantic Ocean. Comporta, located at the southernmost point of the peninsula, is a belt of powder-white sand edged by verdant shrubs and pines. Tranquil, uncrowded, with plenty of room for beachside activities, Comporta is only a stone’s throw from a handful of trendy seaside cafes and restaurants.
Located at the western edge of the Algarve and inside a nature reserve, Praia da Arrifana is a 500-m long beach hemmed in by steep rust-coloured cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean. Arrifana is only accessible through a rocky, coastal path, but close enough to the outskirt of Aljezur, a bustling coastal town with plenty of restaurants, cheap lodgings, and cultural attractions.
Nazaré is a fishing village that blossomed into a tourist hotspot. Best known for its many traditional charms and classical buildings, this seaside resort town is within reach of a vast, gold sand beach with crashing waves. It’s also where the world’s tallest recorded wave was surfed. With quick access to cafes, restaurants, bars, and funicular to lookout points, Nazaré Beach remains one of the most visited beaches in the country.
Praia Formosa is one of the only two beaches on Santa Maria Island that has light yellow sand, contrary to the volcanic black sand beaches typical in the Azores. Frequented by locals for its serene atmosphere, Formosa is never crowded, making it an ideal spot for picnics, lounging, and water sports. Nearby, you’ll find a quiet campsite resting against sweeping pastures and lush green hills, as well as other quaint lodgings for experiencing authentic seaside living on Portugal’s islands.
A beach that’s also an island, the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo is the remnant of a submerged volcano just off the coast of São Miguel. This rocky crater forms a perfectly circular natural pool at the centre of the island that’s calm enough for swimming, diving, and snorkelling. Along the edge of the lagoon, there is a small beach that’s wide enough for lounging and sunbathing. In recent years, the islet became a popular destination for cliff diving since the Red Bull Cliff Diving world championship holds a yearly event here.