Portugal's coastline boasts some of Europe's best beaches. There's variety too, with a choice of superb surfing beaches facing the Atlantic full on, or sheltered family holiday beaches on the Algarve with full resort facilities close to hand. Portugal's Algarve beaches are renowned for their blue flag status and beauty. To the west Algarve the dramatic rock formations add character, whilst on the east Algarve coast beaches are influenced by estuaries and are flatter and more sheltered. Top of the Algarve beach charts reign Praia da Rocha, all 9 Lagos beaches but particularly Praia do Porto Mos and Praia da Luz, the beaches around the estuaries of both Tavira and Faro and push to the far West to the unspoilt beaches around Sagres and up to Carrapateira.
Best beaches on the Algarve abound on the Central and Eastern Algarve Leeward coast. Alongside top Algarve resorts such as Albufeira, Quarteira, Vilamoura and Montegordo you've superb sheltered long sandy beaches, perfect for Algarve family beach holidays. The Leeward coast of the Algarve has the more sheltered flatter beaches in contrast to the rocky beach bays to the west on the Windward Coast.
Around both Faro and Tavira around the Ria Formosa Natural Park sit some of the most remote and stunning blue flag beaches in Portugal. Many of these sublime sandy beaches can only be reached by ferry. Checkout the comprehensive Algarve beach guide on the Visit Algarve weblink right.
Algarve beaches to the west range from pretty beach bays around Carvoeiro and Ferragudo to possibly the best resort beach on the Algarve - Praia da Rocha. Move further west to Lagos and discover a choice of 9 beautiful beaches here. To the Far west at Sagres, and up to Carrapateira, the best of the Algarve's surfing beaches are here. Algarve beaches get wilder as you move further west - good news for surfers, windsurfers and kitesurfers!
One of the most popular Algarve beaches is beautiful Praia da Rocha on Portimao's beachfront. With endless golden sands and a choice of watersports, with easy access to a choice of beach hotels, bars and restaurants just behind the beach, you can see why Praia da Rocha is one of the Algarve's most popular beach holiday spots. Surfers would do well to head further west to beaches around Sagres, and up to Carrapateira.
Estoril coast beaches are today one of its biggest attractions and many have Blue Flag beach awards. The casino town of Estoril boasts pretty Tamariz beach which is good for bathing and is nicely sheltered. Move further along the coast to Cascais and the urban beaches here are idyllic indeed. A fishing centre of old (one of Cascais's beaches is called Fishermen's Beach) there's also a modern Marina here at Cascais.
On the South Coast nearest Lisbon city centre there's a choice of cove beaches. Travelling west from Lisbon along the Cascais line, the first beach you come to is pretty Torre beach between S.Juliao da Barra fort and Picina Oceanica. Good bathing to be had here, plus excellent local facilities including bars and restaurants.
Move further west to renowned Carcavelos beach - you're moving towards the end of the Tagus Estuary here. Popular with body boarders and surfers, Carcavelos's endless sands pull in the crowds night and day. Here there's a superb choice of restaurants and bars, plus easy access into central Lisbon.
Other beaches on Estoril's South coast include small beach bay Parede towards Estoril. Waters here are rich in iodine and have long been considered to have therapeutic qualities.
The Costa de Caparica is the Costa Azul's main hub, with its 8km stretch of sandy beach. Costa Da Caparica is easily reached from Lisbon centre via ferries (from Cais do Sodre) and buses. Not surprising then that this north west coastal stretch of the Setubal Peninsula gets crowded with Lisboans crossing the river. Surfing and windsurfing are both on the menu here, as is general beach activities.
South of Setubal, across the Sado Estuary sits Troia (officially the northern tip of the Alentejo area of Portugal, perched on the edge of the Troia Peninsula). The dunes of the peninsula give the beaches here around Troia a real edge. Car Ferries run regularly from Setubal to Troia (takes around 20 minutes) - watch out for the dolphins in the estuary!
The beaches to the west of Setubal, backed on as they are by the Arrabida Natural Park, are stunning. Not by chance is this southern Lisbon coastal area known as Costa Azul! Best beaches West of Setubal include Portinho da Arrabida Galapos and Figueirinha. You can hop on a bus from central Setubal to all these beaches.
Moving south on the Costa Azul coast into Alentejo territory, it's really the sublime coastal village of Porto Covo and its beaches to the south of Sines centre that pull in the crowds. Backed on and sheltered by the natural parks of Sudoeste Alentejano and Costa Vincentina, these beaches are some of Portugal's best! Perfect for family bathing, the beaches of Morgavel, Vale Figueiros, Grande/Porto Covo, Ilha do Pessegueiro and S.Torpes all have Blue Flag beach awards. There's even a naturist beach down here - Praia do Salto situated between Cerro da Aguia and Cerca Nova. Sao Torpes beach nearest to Sines centre tends to be the most crowded, with beaches getting more remote as you push south along the Alentejo coast.
Madeira is not renowned for its beaches, but there's a few good ones here including Calheta to the west which has two charming sheltered beach bays perfect for family bathing. Naturally formed lidos dot the Madeira coast, with one of the best to the North at Porto Moniz.
The Azores offers a superb choice of remote surfing beaches. Two particular surfer favourites are Ribeira Grande and Rabo de Peixe, both of which sit on the north coast of Sao Miguel. Expect consistent waves and a powerful beachbreak at both these Sao Miguel surfing Azores hotspots.
Another potential surfing hotspot on the Azores is Praia do Norte on the north coast of Faial Island. It's pretty exposed up here, and the surf is pretty consistent, with a mix of groundswells and windswells. It's remote up here too and rarely gets crowded! Click on the Activity Holidays Azores weblink right for more details on Azores Surf, and activity holidays on the Azores.
The coastline from Lisbon up to Porto makes up the Costa de Prata, the Silver Coast. If you like long sandy beaches and huge crashing Atlantic breakers then the Portugal coast line will fit the bill. Long windswept sandy beaches and rugged Atlantic coast are its trademark; good for windsurfers, surfers and sun worshippers. The Silver Coast has a plethora of different types of resorts from quiet traditional fishing villages to busy family fun oriented destinations. Many of the pretty villages along the Silver Coast have retained a traditional Portuguese culture and way-of-life amongst some of the best European beaches.
From Porto up to the Spanish border is the Costa Verde, the Green Coast. This includes the regions of the Douro Litoral and the Minho. The northern Portugal Coast from Povoa Varzim to Caminha is pretty much one long beach. The coastline around Porto includes several vibrant resorts that have often been the holiday destinations for the city dwellers of Porto and the Portuguese from north and central Portugal. The further north you go the more traditional the resorts and some of the smaller towns retain their traditional seafaring traditions. Much of this coast is protected from development and interesting methods of agriculture have evolved including cultivation between the sand dunes.