Ponta da Piedade on the Algarve coast of Southern Portugal, for Ellen Blazer's travel blog To Travel and Bloom
Portugal

4 Stunning Beaches in Southern Portugal

I arrived in Portugal with a lot of expectations… my mind ran wild with anticipation of sandstone coastal cliffs awaiting my encounter. The streets would be narrow and winding, with hills steeper than San Francisco. Restaurant tables spilling precariously into cobblestone streets, with port wine as cheap as water. I couldn’t stop scouring Instagram and Google Images with searches of the Algarve coast.

Exploring Portugal's beaches and the cliffs above Benagil Cave, for Ellen Blazer's travel blog To Travel and Bloom

What comes to mind for you, when you think of Portugal? 

It could be ornate hand-painted tiles, enveloping row homes. Or sizzling plates of the freshest seafood, accompanied by lively Fado music, & dancing into the night. Crumbling, old castles like Sao Jorge over the Tagus River. It is likely that you will also be thinking of bright, bright sunshine…Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon, is one of the sunniest places in Europe.

Exploring the winding streets of Bairro Alto in Lisbon, Portugal, for Ellen Blazer's travel blog To Travel and Bloom
Beautiful Portuguese tiles in Lisbon, Portugal, for Ellen Blazer's travel blog To Travel and Bloom
Ellen looking out over Lisbon at sunset in Portugal, for Ellen Blazer's travel blog To Travel and Bloom
A glass of porto during a sunset over Lisbon, Portugal for Ellen Blazer's travel blog To Travel and Bloom

Despite all of this beauty, in my opinion, the beaches still steal the show.

Ellen Blazer at Benagil Cave along the Algarve Coast of Portugal for travel blog To Travel and Bloom

Read on to learn about 3 incredible beaches along Portugal’s southern coast (in no particular order).

1. Praia Dona Ana

This was one of the first beaches I visited in Portugal, and one of my favorites. Praia Dona Ana is tucked down below the towering coastal cliffs, as many of the Algarve’s beaches are, in the city of Lagos

It’s not huge, and as more and more beach-goers arrive for some sun, it does get crowded. And parking nearby becomes less and less fun. But it’s worth it to arrive early and secure a spot, then just soak in the sights and sun. I loved the vibe here — so bright and happy.

There are a number of other similar small beaches tucked below cliffs nearby, such as Praia do Camilo — equally stunning! Depending on the level of the tide, you can wade through the ocean or climb over rocks to get from one beach to another.

2. Praia de Benagil

The beach inside Benagil Cave in Southern Portugal, for Ellen Blazer's travel blog To Travel and Bloom

So Benagil Cave is exactly that — a cave — that has been carved into those sandstone cliffs along the coast. I stayed in the nearby city Portimao (Lagoa is also close), then took a day trip.

There are actually tons of caves in the area, and you can take a boat tour to explore them all. Benagil Cave is the most popular one because it is so spacious, with a sandy beach inside. 

Though it’s not technically allowed (and depending how strong of a swimmer you are, not safe) that people swim to the inside cave from the main beach, there were still plenty of tourists dawning full-face snorkels and making the journey.

I didn’t want to risk the swim because there was a lot of wake from all of the boats, so I rented a kayak instead. Even kayaking in the semi-rough waters was tricky! A boat tour is definitely the safest way to experience the caves (although they usually don’t let you get off the boat and onto the interior beach), with a kayak coming in second. 

Once you finally make it inside the cave, you can see sunlight pouring in through a round opening in the cave’s ceiling. When you’re done at the beach, you can also hike a short trail from the parking lot to the top of that opening, and look down in. It’s worth it to get all angles!

3. Praia da Marinha

Praia da Marinha, a beach in southern Portugal along the Algarve Coast, for Ellen Blazer's travel blog To Travel and Bloom

Praia da Marinha is also nearby Portimao & Lagoa, and is considered by some to be the most beautiful beach in the Algarve. It reminded me a lot of Praia Dona Ana — the way it’s comprised of smaller secluded beaches separated by cliffs and boulders. 

Depending on the level of the tide, you can walk along sand or wade through water to get from one area to another. I had to hoist my bag overhead and wade through several feet in some places!

The rock formations are so cool and easy to climb on. People were jumping off of the archway pictured above, and of course, posing for photos. 

I found this beach to be very crowded, and I had to park quite far away and walk for awhile for access. There are long flights of stairs that bring you down a hillside, and then you can vie for a spot near the turquoise waters. There’s a little restaurant on the beach with some pricey snacks and beers.

Although it’s a beach you have to work for, it is, like the others, undeniably beautiful

4. Ponta da Piedade

This last spot is less of a beach, and more of a coastal vista. 

But I had to add it to this list, because it was the place in the Algarve I was most looking forward to, and the place I continue to daydream about most. I gushed in a separate post about the feeling of awe I had in the Swiss Alps, and I felt captivated in a similar way staring at this coastline. 

The yellow-gold rocks tower out of blue-green waters, with shadows slowly shifting with the morning sun. There are winding trails that present endless new lookouts and angles, guaranteeing your jaw will drop at least once. 

Ponta da Piedade and a sunspot, in Lagos, Portugal on the southern Algarve coast, for Ellen Blazer's travel blog To Travel and Bloom
Ponta da Piedade in the early morning, with a staircase and trail for Ellen Blazer's travel blog To Travel and Bloom
Kayaker at Ponta da Piedade in Lagos, Portugal, for Ellen Blazer's travel blog To Travel and Bloom
View of Porto de Mos Beach in southern Portugal, from Ponta da Piedade, for Ellen Blazer's travel blog To Travel and Bloom
Ellen watching boats pass in the distant ocean in southern Portugal, for Ellen Blazer's travel blog To Travel and Bloom

The beaches of Southern Portugal were undeniably some of my favorites I’ve ever seen. 

They were bursting with color and life, peppered with the sounds of every European language among gentle breaking waves. There are endless caves and coves to discover.

Thank you, Lagos… Don’t miss out on Southern Portugal!

Ellen Blazer

I am an avid traveler & I work as a Travel Agent for Dreamavoo Travel & Tours (CCRA-certified, registered with TPI, member of Ensemble). I specialize in the Caribbean, Mexico, honeymoons, Europe, and SE Asia travel. My travel blog To Travel and Bloom is designed to instill confidence in my clients & inspire them as they consider destinations around the world.

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