The Ultimate Guide to Portugal's Algarve.
Portugal is the hidden gem of Europe and the Algarve is the hidden gem of Portugal. It's seriously an absolute dream. Between the breathtaking coastline and majestic coves and grottos to the deep blue waters and stunning beaches, the Algarve is truly unlike anywhere else and an absolute must if you're planning a trip to Portugal. Whether you're a surfer, beach lover, or adventurer, the charming beach towns of the Algarve will absolutely steal your heart. They've definitely stolen ours.
The best way to get to the Algarve is by car. We rented a car in Lisbon and it took about three hours to drive to Sagres. You can also get to Faro from Lisbon by train pretty easily, but the public transportation/bus situation once you're in the Algarve region is pretty limited. So if you're wanting to hop around between the different towns and beaches, we wouldn't suggest relying on public transportation, because it will really limit what you are able to see and do. If you rent a car, it's a straight shot on the highway to the Algarve and it's pretty easy to drive around Portugal (be prepared for a lot of roundabouts though). You can also fly straight into the Faro airport.
There are so many different adorable towns and beach cities in the Algarve, but here are our top three:
Sagres is the westernmost point of Portugal and used to be thought of as the end of the World. It's a total laid-back surfer town and a great place to escape and unwind. If you're a surfer, definitely spend some time here are there are some beaches with great breaks.
What to do:
Cabo de São Vicente: Cabo de São Vicente, or the End of the World, is the south-westernmost point of continental Europe. It's also where Europeans believed the earth ended back when they thought the world was flat. It's majestic and powerful and one of those places you could sit and stare into the nothingness in total awe for hours. It reminds us a lot of Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Be sure to bring a jacket, because it can get really windy. There's a beautiful lighthouse you can go inside of as well.
Ceramics Shop: Portugal is known for it's pottery and unique designs. Almost all the plates and cups we have from Anthropolgie were made actually made in Portugal. There are the cutest little ceramics shops in Sagres that have their store front walls full of plates, so they're hard to miss. Go inside and pick up a new mug or plate as a souvenier.
Where to Eat:
Three Little Birds: This adorably trendy restaurant is perfect for any foodie and Instagram lover. If you're looking for a break from traditional Portuguese food, this is the perfect place. The house lemonade has fresh mint from the garden in the backyard, and it's absolutely delicious. Their tacos, burgers, and chocolate cake are all to die for.
Where to Stay:
We stayed at Memmo Baleeira Hotel and it was so beautiful. It's right in the heart of Sagres, and tucked in the harbor, so you have a beautiful ocean view and it's super easy to walk into town. The town is pretty small, but definitely worth spending some the time in. At Memmo Baleeira, you can take surfing lessons, go on a bike ride, practice morning yoga, or relax with a massage at the spa. The pool is absolutely beautiful and they have their own private beach, but it's within walking distance to other beautiful beaches as well.
The breakfast is absolutely delicious with tons of different options ranging from traditional Portuguese breakfast foods to more American breakfast options and there is an entire section dedicated to a more health-conscious breakfast. There were a lot of people staying there who were avid surfers or spending their time cycling the coast, and it's definitely an amazing hotel that caters to all different types of lifestyles.
Lagos is personally my favorite town in the Algarve. Probably because I lived there for about six months, so I might be a bit biased, but it's honestly so beautiful and no matter how many times I go back, it's literally just as breathtaking as the last. From the adorable white buildings in town center to the amazing rock formations sitting in the middle of the ocean, I'll just never get over how pretty it is.
What to do:
Play in the sun on Praia Dona Ana: "Praia" means beach in Portugal, so if you see anywhere that says Praia, it's probably worth checking out. Praia Dona Ana is one of the most picturesque beaches in Lagos. It's surrounded by beautiful rock formations, but it can also get pretty crowded, so get there early to claim your spot.
Hang out at Praia da Batata: Potato Beach is a great place to hang out and start your day of exploring the beaches of Lagos. It's a quick walk from town center and the water is crystal clear, so it's the perfect place to spend the day in the sun. When you want to hop over to the next beach and explore a bit more, you can climb through the rocks and head over to Praia dos Estudantes, another more secluded little beach.
Take a Boat Tour through the Grottos: This was one of our favorite things we did. We took a boat tours with BlueFleet Portugal and loved getting to see the coastline from the water. The boat drivers are also insanely skilled and take you through the smallest openings in the rocks to see these amazing caves and most beautiful shades of blue water. If you're feeling more adventurous, you can also take a kayaking tour through the grottos.
Explore Praia do Camilo: Praia do Camilo has amazing hiking trails at the top, so you can see all the cliffs and coastline into the next town over, Portimão. It is 200 stairs down to the beach, so be prepared for the leg workout on the way back up, but the beach is absolutely beautiful and surrounded by the most breathtaking rocks.
Hike Around Ponta da Piedade: Ponta da Piedade is my favorite spot in all of Lagos. From the top, it's absolutely breathtaking and it's so fun to hike around and explore. There are so many different views and angles you can walk around and see. It's a photographer's dream. You can also hop in a boat from here to take a tour through the grottos.
Where to Eat:
Maharaja Tasty Indian: If you like Indian food, you have to go here. It's really authentic and seriously delicious. The Chicken Tikka Masala and garlic naan are our favorites.
Harley's Cafe: Harley's Cafe is right in the heart of town with outdoor seating, so you can enjoy the small beach town environment. They have delicious salads and açai bowls, so it's the perfect after-beach lunch spot.
And don't forget to treat yourself to some ice cream from the town square.
The Best Beaches:
Praia da Marinha: Praia da Marinha is the most epic and beautiful beach in Carvoeiro. There is a giant stretch of classic beach, so there's plenty of room to spread out. But then there is a whole area that's basically like a giant natural playground. There are tons of rocks to walk around and climb on and various caves and coves to walk into. There's also lots of crabs around, so if you like sea life, be sure to spend some time over on the rocky side.
Algar Seco: Algar Seco is another incredible coastline drop off and the perfect place for cliff jumping. Even if you don't jump in the water, it's absolutely beautiful and definitely worth spending some time checking it out.
Praia da Benagil: Praia da Benagil is the most magical natural cave. You can hike around the top of the hole and look down onto the beach or take a boat tour and see the cave from the water. You can also swim or kayak there, but if you do, we suggest going very early in the morning before the boats start their tours, because it gets very busy later in the day, and it'd be very dangerous to be swimming in that area with all the boats driving around.
Where to Eat:
Earth Shop & Cafe: For smoothies, avocado toast, salads and all things healthy, Earth Shop & Cafe is the best spot to eat after a long morning of cliff jumping or beach hopping. It also has the cutest little shop with different salts and spices, soaps, ceramics, and traditional Portuguese goods. It's the perfect place to pick up a souvenir that's not a "trinket."
Where to Stay:
We stayed at Monte Santo Resort and it has so much to offer. The resort itself is beautiful and has a variety of options for accommodations from traditional hotel rooms to suites to two-story townhouses. There is a beautiful outdoor pool with Balibeds and a pool bar, so you can spend the day fully relaxing by the pool. There are also jacuzzis, an indoor pool, a fitness center, and spa. The staff is super helpful and very accommodating and made sure all of our needs were taken care of.
Whether you're a family traveling through the Algarve or a couple looking for a romantic getaway, Monte Santo Resort is a great place to stay and has options for everyone.
If you're looking for other things to do and places to visit in Portugal, check out our Ultimate Guide to Portugal! Thank you Monte Santo Resort and Memmo Baleeira Hotel for hosting us during our time in the Algarve!