The Algarve coast line stretches for 200 Km from the western-most tip to the Spanish border to the East, and as well as being most well known for its expansive and extensive beaches of fine golden sands, you will also find some of the most dramatic cliff faces and rock-formations in the world. When you see the sign "Praia" this means in Portuguese "beach".
The western end which juts out into the Atlantic is a rugged, undeveloped area, which has retained its natural charm, and is extremely dramatic, with cliffs of black rock. Nothing appears to have changed over the centuries, and the entire area is virtually untouched by tourism. The beaches here vary from tiny, intimate coves to long lengths of open soft sand, where the Atlantic waves crash and retreat.
It is important to know that many Algarve beaches are now classified as 'Accessible Beaches'; meaning that not only do they provide the essential safe approaches such as ramps, footpaths and walkways directly to the sand, but also meet all safety criteria for restaurants, bars and counter heights.
Naturally, they also have first aid posts and disabled toilets, walking aids and other equipment capable of being used in the sea as well as on the beach.
BEACH SAFETY FLAG IDENTIFICATION AS FOLLOWS:
Green Flag: Swimming permitted.
Yellow Flag: Swimming forbidden
Red flag: Swimming & entering water strictly forbidden.
Blue and White Chequered Flag: Beach temporarily unattended by life guards.
Important Note: Although the accessible beaches (Praias Acessiveis) do have the disabled logo around them, it is advisable for those who are disabled, to check with rentin-algarve.com that there are wheel chairs and walking aids available.
The highlight of visiting the western coast is Cape St. Vincent - the most south-westerly point in Europe. Migrating birds fly overhead, using this area as a stop off point en route from Northern Europe to Africa. From this western point up to the North, the coast is very variable and being open to the winds and Atlantic Ocean waves from the west it normally presents different conditions to those found on the same day along the southern coastline. This area has a rugged atmosphere and the at times the winds can be biting. The sea is many times choppy with big waves and often combined with a dangerous fast undercurrent.
The more southern coastline is home to the fabulous beaches of golden sands and clear seas for which the Algarve is famous for. You are sure to find the perfect stretch of sand for you, whether it be a quiet, intimate cove where you can relax by yourself, or a lively, more active beach with shops and restaurants aplenty, and water sports and family fun.
From the small sheltered coves to broad endless stretches of sea washed sand, each of the beaches in the Algarve vary. Equally the sea bed near to the beach can vary from a comfortable shallow shelve to a more sudden east to west along the coast, the beaches become more subject to seasonal currents.
All main beaches have in the season Lifeguards on safety patrol. Many beach concessions offer all the usual water sports facilities along with restaurant food and snacks.
Out of the approximately 150 named beaches, some useful ones are listed below:
Located to the west of Monte Gordo it stretches westwards towards Tavira. This beach takes its name from the line of trees and bushes that line the broad, endless beach. Ideally suitable for families with children.
PRAIA ILHA DE TAVIRA
To some this is the jewel in the crown of the eastern side of Faro. It is also often locally referred to as Praia das Cascas. A few minutes boat trip will take visitors from the jetty of Tavira across to this attractive sandy bar. For visitors with naturist inclinations there is an area reserved especially for their needs which is about one kilometre walk to the west end of this beach.
PRAIA DO BARRIL
This beach is really an extension of the above beach known as Praia Ilha de Tavira. However, this section is easily reached from the tourist villages of Santa Luzia and Pedras del Rey. From the later village a small train takes the visitor across the intervening water to the sandy island bar in a slow journey which reminds everyone that they are definitely on holiday!
PRAIA DA ARMONA
The three Islands of Armona, Culatra and Farol act as a barrier to the sea and on the inland side there are the extensive lagoons forming the nature reserve of Ria Formosa. Reaching these beaches can only be done by Ferryboat which leaves from the fishing port of Olhão.
PRAIA DA ILHA DE FARO
This beach is a long narrow sandy bar that is accessed by a road traversing a lagoon just south of the Faro airport. Being near to the principal town of the Algarve, it is usually very busy and there are many water sports faculties and plenty of restaurants.
PRAIA DE GARRÃO beach fronts the chic area of the holiday resorts known as 'The Golden Triangle', which are: Almancil, Quinta do Logo, and Quarteira.
Priaia De Garrao: This beach can be easily reached by road and one area popular for its beach restaurants is a section know as "Julias" a local lady and a character who opened the first beach place at the time when access was either by horse or by a very sandy road through the pine trees.
Praia da Quinta do Lago: Lies at the western end of Ilha de Faro, and is a sand spit of the outer edge of the Ria Formosa, and is reached by a long walkway across an estuary of the Ria Formosa, as has life guards overlooking it during the high season.
A lovely long stretch of golden sand which runs all the way to Vale do Lobo, with its own restaurant at the beach end of the walkway with views over the Ria Formosa.
Priaia de Vale do Lobo:
A quite a narrow, but relatively long, sandy beach backed by sandstone cliffs, with car parking just behind the beach and restaurants and toilet facilities, as well as sun loungers to hire, and of course life guards during the high season.
PRAIA DA FALÉSIA
This beach takes its name from the fascinating gouged red cliffs that form a back the north during the out-of-season. This beach is to be found west of Vilamoura before reaching Olhos de Água.
PRAIA DA GALÉ
Another long sandy stretch of beach, but as there are no cliffs it has easy access by road. This beach is located to the west of Albufeira and runs round the Bay of Armação de Pera to the town.
PRAIA DA ROCHA
This is probably the oldest and best know beach in the Algarve. It is located just south of the main town of Portimão and was originally much shorter in width. This beach in the past has been seriously enlarged with the sand that was pumped out during the dredging of the Portimão Harbour and at the same time meeting the needs of the many visiting tourists to this area.
PRAIA DE ALVOR
The beach is located and accessed from the old popular fishing village of Alvor. It stretches just over two kilometres from the village to the west in the direction of Lagos. This beach acts as a sand bar creating an interior lagoon which acts as a form of port for Alvor.
This beach forms the other half of the previous walk from Alvor to Lagos. It takes its name from being part of this walk as "Meia" indicates the word "half". The approach to this beach is from the town of Lagos and it is easily accessed. This beach is popular with windsurfers and surfers alike as it faces the open Bay of Lagos and also protected to the west by the promontory of Ponta da Piedade.
PRAIA DO MARTINHAL
This beach is located in the Bay of Baleeira close to Sagres. Another windsurfers paradise and is a smaller beach in a reasonably shallow bay that is shouldered to the west by Ponta da Atalaia.
PRAIA DO CASTELEJO
One of the few beaches on the west coast where it is safer to swim due to the underlying dangerous currents. This beach is located just to the north-west of the small town of Vila do Bispo. It is one of the smaller beaches and has a completely different atmosphere to those found on the southern coastline. It may not suit everyone but those that do visit tend to return.
PRAIA DA BORDEIRA
This beach is on the west coast of the Algarve and can be reached by travelling north from Vila do Bispo, then passing the small village of Carrapateira. Virtually a long sandy beach with many sand dunes and very often virtually deserted out of the season.
PRAIA DA ARRIFANA
This is a beach which also is considered to be reasonably safe for swimming and a very special place with quite stupendous views. On reaching Arrifana you will find the beach on your left at the bottom of a very steep narrow road with little or no parking area at the bottom. A visit to this beach out of season is seriously recommended.
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