When it comes to the Algarve, the western region of Lagos may get a lot of shine, but there’s tons more to do along the coast of the Central Algarve.
The Central Algarve in Portugal consists of the area between Albufeira to Alvor, including the towns of Portimão, Ferragudo and Caroveiro. Many of the Algarve’s most notable beaches and natural landmarks can be found in this region, which offers lots of opportunities for fabulous beach days and adventures. Check out the nine must do’s that you can’t miss in the Central Algarve!
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Praia da Marinha
Praia da Marinha is no doubt the beach on everyone’s mind when visiting the Algarve. And it’s not difficult to see why. This impossibly picturesque beach with dramatic cliffs, bright turquoise waters and floating rock formations will make anyone’s jaw drop. You can drink in this very view straight out of the pages of travel magazines, from an ample lookout point which offers various angles of the rugged rock formations. However, Praia da Marinha’s popularity also makes it one of the most crowded beaches in the Algarve, so be prepared to be met with many tour buses and tourists when you get there.
It’s a steep walk to get down to the beach. There’s a path to the left of the lookout point that will take you to the eastern end of the beach. The entire beach is almost cut into two separate beaches by the rocks: the longer stretch starting from the beach entrance and a smaller swatch of beach closer to the rocks for those who are adventurous enough to climb over. Being the stellar tourist attraction that it is, you can always expect Praia da Marinha to be crowded in the summer months. But the views and the mesmerizing colors of the water on this part of the coast are always worth it!
Praia do Alemão
On the way to Praia do Vau, you might run into this delicious little slice of beach from the cliffs. If it has shallow jade waters and droplets of pretty little rocks on the side of the beach, you’ve luckily stumbled upon Praia do Alemão. This beach really is delightful. It’s not too big and the sand is soft. Bright yellow lounge chairs dot the powdery sand. The water is shallow enough that you can walk out and swim out to the grotto encased between the rock formations. For a beautiful chill little beach that you can truly relax on, don’t miss out on the soft sands of Praia do Alemão. SEE ALSO: 8 Of the Best Beaches in Lagos
Praia João de Arens
For those days when you’re in the mood to get extra in touch with nature, Praia João de Arens is one of the premier nude beaches in the Algarve. Praia João de Arens is tucked away among the rocks that form a small cape between Praia do Vau and Praia do Submarino. The beach is split into two sections and is very discreet and effectively hidden away from the public.
Other than the fact that you can lounge in the nude, Praia João de Arens is drop dead gorgeous. Jagged stone arches separate two bays, in which the color of the water goes from royal blue to turquoise green. Down on the beach, you can climb and wander between the stone arches which frame even more beautiful views of the coast on either side.
Praia da Galé
Situated next to the peaceful sand dunes of Os Salgados, Praia da Galé is the perfect answer for those days when you just want a wide, sandy beach to lie on. Praia da Galé goes on for about a mile with lots of room and sand for everyone to play on. This beach acts as the backyard for many resorts in the Salgados area, which makes me a very family-friendly option. While it might not have the dramatic cliffs and rock views that the Algarve is known for, Praia da Galé is highly relaxing and scenic with views of the ondulating sand dunes and shallow water that’s great for swimming. SEE ALSO: 13 of the Best Things to do in Lagos
Benagil Cave Tour
Benagil Cave is the most famous natural attraction in the Algarve. The cave with a serene beach inside and circular hole in the ceiling is only reachable by boat. There are tons of boat tours that take you to Benagil Cave, and we thoroughly enjoyed the one by Atlantis Tours that we got from Get Your Guide which leaves from Portimão. This tour was great because it not only takes you to Benagil Cave, but it also takes you in and out of many other caves, secluded beaches and rock formations along the central coast. The guides are friendly and informative as they teach you about which sites smugglers used to hide their goods and what times of day to go to various beaches depending on the wind and sun. Doing at least one boat tour is the best way to see many of the Algarve’s beautiful natural landscapes that are only accessible from the sea.
R. Mal. Carmona 23, Ferragudo
Portugal is a paradise for seafood lovers. And if there’s one restaurant in the central Algarve that you can always depend on for a fresh catch it’s Maré Cheia in Ferragudo. Maré Cheia is a straightforward, no-frills type of place. The interior of the restaurant is cozy and welcoming, but don’t expect anything super fancy.
The seafood is the main focus and at Maré Cheia, you can order all the ocean delicacies your heart desires: anything from spider and velvet crab, snapper, razor clams, oysters, barnacles and king lobster.
The menu offers mouthwatering seafood platters with at least 10 different types of seafood, as well as hearty house specials like monkfish rice and cataplana (shellfish and fish stew). Even the very affordable lunch specials are super yummy with simple Portuguese dishes like grilled sardines with tomato rice or a perfectly crisped bacalao. Maré Cheia is the ultimate spot for fresh, wonderfully prepared seafood that will no doubt have you going back more than once. SEE ALSO: 4 Michelin Restaurants in Lagos
With so many caves, rock formations and secret beaches to discover, you wouldn’t get the full Algarve experience without kayaking in the ocean at least once. Kayaking is the best way to see the coastal landscape, since the tiny boats allow you to weave in and out of the rocks easily. We booked the sunset kayak tour with Seacret Tours which leaves from Albufeira Port. The boat takes you out to sea and then you get to kayak 7-10 km along the coast with a pit stop at a small beach that’s only accessible from the ocean. Even for beginners, kayaking is the best way to get fully in touch with nature and the gorgeous seascapes that the Algarve has to offer!
Rei das Praias
Praia dos Caneiros, 8400-272 Ferragudo, Portugal
Get ready because Rei das Praias at Praia dos Caneiros is about to become your new favorite beachfront restaurant. Rei das Praias has everything going for it: picturesque yet not-too-crowded beach location, irresistible rustic seaside décor and fresh, top-quality seafood.
The main restaurant really is the ideal beachfront restaurant with simple boho-seaside decor and wide windows so that the azure waters of the Algarve are visible from every angle. If you’re able to snag a table reservation (which we recommend doing so with ample time in advance), you can get all the freshest seafood at market price the region has to offer, including scorpion fish, white grouper, carabinero tiger prawns, lobster and crayfish.
Not only does Rei das Praias have an enviable rooftop terrace, but it also has an inviting bar lounge down in the sand plus its own beach chairs for hire. Praia dos Caneiros is very chill, with surrounding rock walls which protect the beach from the wind and tourist crowds. You could easily spend an entire day eating and drinking like a king at Rei das Praias, which is what the name of the restaurant cheerfully encourages you to do.
R. da Boca da Alagoa Lote 1, 8200-424 Guia, Portugal
For the perfect resort to disconnect and enjoy a beachside vacation in the Algarve, look no further than VidaMar Algarve. VidaMar Algarve has all the elements that you’re looking for: plentiful ocean views with direct access to the beach, sleek modern design and options for separate adults-only areas. The rooms are spacious and highly functional, and the hotel has a diverse array of food and beverage options to keep you busy. Plus, its ideal location next to Salgados Dunes and Praia da Galé makes it a great base from which to explore nearby Albufeira, Vilamoura, Portimão and Ferragudo. VidaMar Algarve is the perfect resort in the area that’s chic and relaxing without being pretentious or overly grand.