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.
At just 18 kilometres south of Porto, Espinho is a lively beach resort where you have a choice of activities. You can laze on the beach, surf the Atlantic breakers, play a round of golf at Portugal's oldest course or gamble the night away at the casino.
It is hugely popular in the summer and draws Portuguese in from all over north and central Portugal particularly in July and August when the sea is at its warmest. Then the sands fill with sizzling bodies taking a break from cosmopolitan city life.
Vila do Conde is both seaside resort and important shipbuilding town that hasn't lost all its local charm giving it a calm and peaceful atmosphere.
It is within easy reach of Porto (27 kilometres) particularly since the new Metro stops at Vila do Conde along Line B (the red line). The beach is 3 kilometres of white sand with the fantastic Atlantic Ocean crashing on its shore.
It's a popular breach for surfers and sun-worshippers alike. Praia da Forno and Praia de Nossa Senhora da Guia have calm seas suitable for children while the swells near the castelo are favoured by surfers.
Povoa de Vazim is four kilometres north of Vila do Conde and only 39 kilometres from Porto, linked by the Metro. Povoa de Varzim is another lively Porto getaway geared up for fun and frolics on its enormous sandy beach and the nearby casino.
Povoa is a lively, touristy, developed resort aimed at the sun-worshipping, out-for-a-good-time masses. As such it has the usual accoutrements such as the 8 kilometre long beach, a casino and stacks of hotels, restaurants and bars offering good value for money.
Surfing and watersports are also popular and there are several campos desportivos in Povoa de Varzim.
Twenty kilometres north of Povoa de Varzim is Esposende, a more chilled out resort than both Povoa or Viana do Castelo to the north. It sits on the Rio Cavado estuary and is essentially an old fishing village with modern sprawl around the town's outskirts.
Esposende is a friendly, low key resort with kilometres of sandy beach lined by sand dunes. The water here is clean and reputedly healthy being full of iodine. All the way up the coast you'll find deserted little beaches amongst the busier main beaches. Surfing and watersports are popular in this region as the Atlantic continues to pound the coast.
Viana do Castelo, a lively resort with a historic centre that is famed for its festivals.
You can have the best of both worlds, lazing on the beach or finding out about one of Portugal's most important historic ports.
All the way up the Costa Verde are a string of beautiful beaches and seaside resorts with the majority not being hugely touristy. Viana do Castelo's beach is the huge, one kilometre, Praia do Cabedelo one of Minho's best. There is not much development to spoil it and it is of Blue Flag status with disabled access.
North of Viana do Castelo is the city of Ancora. Ancora is located at the end of the River Ancora, in the valley sheltered from the winds by the Serra d'Arga hills in the north the Monte de Santa Luzia in the south. It has long been an area of settlements dating from the Palaeolitic era.
The beach of Vila Praia da Ancora is great for surfing. It tends to be better for bathers on the beach joining the Avenida Marginal coast road, where the waters are calmer and access is easier. If you want to get away from everyone, the southern area surrounded by the protected sand dunes, is accessible to walkers only over a wooden walkway and is almost always deserted.
Caminha is the first (or last) town on the River Minho as you head inland from the Costa Verde. These days it is a small, quiet market town but was once an important strategic point in Portugal's defences against the various invaders over the centuries.
From Caminha you are well placed to explore the rural North Minho area and the pretty towns of Ponte da Barca and Ponte de Lima. There are several beaches in and around the town including Moledo, Ancora, Afife and of course Viana do Castelo are within easy reach. Ancora and Vila Praia da Ancora, south of Caminha, have some important historic origins. Beaches here are great for surfing, bathing and getting away from the crows and enjoying the protected sand dunes of the Parque Natural do Litoral Norte.