The Best Beach Towns in Portugal

Portugal Port

Summary of the Best Beach Towns in Portugal

CascaisArt & all-levels surf waves
TaviraLive music & culture 
PenicheGnarly waves for pro / advanced surfers 
Ponta DelgadaIsland capital / “Little Lisbon” 
Aveiro“The Venice of Portugal”

Portugal is envied as one of Europe’s best beach cities. Because of its relatively low costs, many ventures out here on holidays, retirement, and even as a digital nomad. 

If you like beaches, then you’ll definitely have your fair share of them in this country. Portugal has almost 590 miles of beach coast on the mainland, as well as Atlantic Ocean islands to the west. 

The beaches, food, and the architecture varies, depending on which part of the country; however, there are some constants like fishing, Moor influence, 16th century architecture, and charming villas that we found (with a few exceptions, of course). 

The coast used to function mainly as a port and for the fishing industry, but nowadays, Portugal’s coast is home to every type of beach; including the touristy ones, those filled with expats and retired foreigners, and some “hidden gems” we’ll show you. 

In our list of the best beach towns in Portugal, we thought we’d show you some variety of the beaches and not just the tourist traps. 

Although, when you venture out here, you might realize that these are still traps of their own; in other words, you may see why many “visit” Portugal and end up staying here for years and years after. 

Cascais 

Ponta Delgada 

The General Vibe

The General Vibe

In this Atlantic fishing town, you’ll find a whole lot of charm and rustic buildings. Historically, Cascais is where the Portuguese Royals escaped to as a retreat. 

Years and years later, it still has this relaxed, slow pace to it. If you’re looking for a place with tons and tons of fancy attractions, then this might not be your spot. This is good for someone wanting a quiet, but scenic area. It offers perfect waves for surfing, since it has waves that vary for any surfing level. 

It also offers some inspiration, with all the old architecture, hospitality, and cobblestone paths. Art and history seems to drip off every surface here in Cascais, and it has an annual national art festival called Muraliza (for street art). 

Even better— if you want somewhere quiet but still want to be close to the major spots such as Lisbon, Cascais makes for a perfect base location. 

The Bar, Nightlife & Culinary Scene

The Bar, Nightlife & Culinary Scene in Portugal

This slow-paced, sleepy fishing town does wind up a bit at night. You’ll find a mix of tourists and locals shuffling in and out the pubs. During the day, you’ll need to check out the bazaar, Cascais Fish market. You’ll find incredibly fresh and mouth-watering cuts there in the morning. 

Since you’re in a fishing town, you definitely need to check out the fresh seafood restaurants. For fresh seafood at dinner or lunch, few spots can beat O Cantinho da Belinha. 

However, it may [or may not] surprise you that you’ll find quite a few sushi restaurants here if some Japanese in Portugal also floats your boat! 

Sites & Daytime Fun

Sites & Daytime Fun in Portugal

Let’s, of course, start with the beaches. These beaches have both rocky cliffs as well as fine, golden sand. 

This makes for an incredibly picturesque beach, especially in the evening sunset hour. On the shore, you can count on a rather quiet, calm-water beach. However, go out further, you’ll notice surfers of all levels, from the pros to the rookies. The waters range here from calm at the shore to gnarly. 

So if you’ve ever wanted to try surfing, this place is a great start. 

For nature lovers, this scenic, rugged coastal town has many rocky cliffs and walking opportunities. One of the people’s favorites is Boca do Inferno, “The Jaws of Hell,” cliff formation. 

If you want to learn some local history, all you need to do is wander through the cobblestone streets in this rustic town. You’ll certainly feel transported back in time, and you can catch a city tour or go rogue. 

The Museu do Mar (Museum of the Sea) will teach you all about the marina and fishing history of this charming town. The most popular, must-see museum would have to be Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães, which will definitely feel like a time machine. 

There’s also an art museum, Casa das Histórias, in honor of Paula Rega. However, you can also check out plenty of art on the streets and on graffiti and building murals throughout. 

Nearest Airport
Lisbon (approx. 17 miles)

Tavira 

Tavira 

The General Vibe

There’s a reason they call this place the Venice of Algarve (not to be confused with Aveiro, the ‘Venice of Portugal’). While it might be a lesser known destination, this hidden gem has a romantic river known as Gilão, which runs in the middle. 

Gilão’s old, Roman bridge still connects the two halves of the city, and you can float along under its archways on a small boat in the sunset. It might be sleepy, but it’s more than a sleepy fishing town. 

Going to Cabanas beach, you’ll notice no crowds except for some locals and a few more on vacation. However, it’s generally very laid back and lokey in Tavira. 

The Bar, Nightlife & Restaurant Scene

The Bar, Nightlife & Restaurant Scene in Portugal
Santa Lucia Bar

For such a quaint place, Tavira has not just spectacular scenery but some bustling nightlife as well. It’s not exactly a Miami party scene, though. 

You’ll find more lounge bars with live Portuguese music, gin cocktails, and intellectuals. Then, you can count on sports bars with several screens of games and leagues playing all at once. 

Some places in Tavira have all of the above!

Because of its still fairly hidden status, this town still has affordable eats, including tapas and traditional Portuguese food. The staff in the small diners and ‘hole-in-the-wall’ restaurants are incredibly hospitable to newcomers. 

Sites & Daytime Fun

Sites attractions & Daytime Fun in Portugal

You can learn about Portugal’s Moorish history and heritage in the Nucleo Museologico Islamico (a museum of Islamic cultural heritage). You’ll learn about the interesting historic landmarks, as well as artifacts like pottery and other remains of that time period in this city and at this museum. 

For art, you’ll have the Palacio Galeria, a 16th-century palace and now an exhibition museum dedicated to Paula Rego and contemporary Portuguese artists. 

This town also has several historical churches and Moorish architecture worth wandering to while you’re here. The Nossa Senhora do Rosario has a bell tower from which you can view this gorgeous city. 

When you want to settle down, don’t forget Ilha de Tavira’s beautiful beach with teal waters and golden sand, or a Parque natural (natural park). l  

Nearest Airport
• Faro

Peniche 

Peniche 

The General Vibe

Once a small fishing village, this city has turned into one of Portugal’s surfing headquarters. 

Typically, people visit towns in Portugal like these for many reasons; however, here, you’ll find a large number of people who just came specifically for the waves and surfing. 

Because the waves are so big and challenging, only those who want to get better or are already advanced level should venture out into these waters with a surfboard.. 

Besides surfing, you’ll find opportunities for nature and history lovers, or really anyone who wants an escape from regular life for a bit. You’ll also see some spectacular scenery and sandy beaches in this busy fishing port. 

The Bar, Nightlife & Restaurant Scene

The Bar, Nightlife Scene & Restaurant Scene in Portugal

The nightlife scene is on the laid-back side, but still worth trying. You can go for a pint at one of its sports pubs or else cocktails and live music at the bars. 

For the best gastronomie experience, head to the Avenida do Mar harbor. It has the best seafood restaurants that serve it in the traditional Portuguese style. 

Sites & Daytime Fun

Baleal Surf Camp

The waves are not for the faint of heart or beginner surfers. It’s not quite the waves of Nazaré, but it’s got great tube waves. However, there’s still plenty of amazing things in Peniche, from the calm beaches to flat-out parties on the shore. 

You’ll have plenty of historical forts to wander to, unexpected beach activities such as horseback riding on the sandy beach and some jaw-dropping, spectacular scenery. 

Just 10 km away, you can ride a boat out to the Berlengas Archipelago. It’s currently uninhabited and somewhere halfway between paradise and wilderness. Going through the town, you’ll find colorful buildings and old churches, as well as many locals living their lives. 

This isn’t as tousity as other beaches, so you won’t find as many tourist attractions. Still, it has forts, museums, boating activities, and lively markets. For something more exciting, there’s a waterpark called Sporágua. 

Lastly, if you can escape the sandy beach for a bit, don’t miss the little town less than 20 minutes away: Óbidos. This is one of the most gorgeous towns in all of Portugal, as it was funded by Portuguese queens in the Middle Ages. 

 

Nearest Airport
• Lisbon

Ponta Delgada 

Ponta Delgada 

The General Vibe

This is actually an island city, located on Sao Miguel Island in the Azores Islands. This is the busy capital of the Azores Islands, in which you’ll find its own airport, little Lisbon vibes, and a whole lot of charm. 

Here, the old world meets the new world and the untamed wilderness all at once. You’ll still feel like you’re walking in Portugal’s mainland, with its narrow, cobblestone streets, 16th-century buildings, and, of course, the iconic marina.  

The Bar, Nightlife & Restaurant Scene

Nightlife & Restaurant Scene in Portugal

The nightlife scene consists of both laid back pubs to more swanky jazz joints that serve up gin. Being the capital of the island, this city is a great spot for live jazz and folk music at night. 

The gastronomie scene is among the best in the country (technically, this is outside the country, since it’s on an island). You can find fresh seafood at the local mom n’ pop shops as well as fine dining. 

There’s a melting pot of variety, from traditional, to regional, to Japanese, Irish, and other national cuisines. This is probably another reason people consider it a miniature Lisbon. 

When you’re finished, you can head to the furnas for a relaxing thermal night-time bath. 

Sites & Daytime Fun

Sites & Daytime Fun Attractions in Portugal

For starters, there’s more to this place than its beautiful beaches and hilly, rocky landscapes. Just wandering through the city squares will make you forget what year it is. It’s the home of many religious festivals and, therefore, old churches and religious sites. 

You’ll have access to Igreja do Santo Cristo, a gorgeous Catholic church from the 1500’s. You can also find museums, forts, botanical gardens, and a pineapple plantation here. 

If you want more contemporary activities, don’t think you’re deserted. Ponta Delgada has sophisticated watersports, and it’s the headquarters of many, many tours. 

Some tours are cultural, as in history, art, food, Portuguese wine and local culture, while others venture out into the archipelago’s wilderness for more rugged adventures. 

Of course, one of the best adventures is its rugged cliffs and beaches. The turquoise water and unique terrain will keep your eyes entertained at the very least. 

Nearest Airport
• Ponta Delgada Airport

Aveiro  

Aveiro

The General Vibe

Known as the “Portuguese Venice,” this port city is considered one of Europe’s most beautiful destinations. In addition to beautiful beaches, it has a river running through, making it truly one of the most beautiful seaside towns in all of Portugal. 

By bridge, you can get to Costa Nova, a small and incredibly vibrant town in which people rush to book one of its colorful houses a while in advance.  

The Bar, Nightlife & Restaurant Scene

Here, you have a mix of everything, from tiny pubs for beer to colossal nightclubs fitting 900 people inside. 

The surge of nightlife reflects the history of this once sleepy fishing village into a more major port. Thanks to its canals, it’s become a more lively area and a place where you find more Portuguese culture. 

The most iconic spot is definitely the Estacao da Luz, followed by NB Club (a disco bar). 

Since it’s a mainland and a port city, this place has a little of everything as far as eats. You’ll find the cosmopolitan, local, and national spirits reflected in its cuisine. 

Everything from traditional Portuguese seafood to sushi and Arabic dishes are enjoyed here in Aveiro. 

Sites & Daytime Fun

Aveiro Canal in Portugal

Aveiro offers lots of museums and cultural activities like church and monastery tours. However, an absolute must is a boat ride on its canals. The canal is fed by the Aveiro lagoon and has lots of charm. 

From the canals, you can get the best tour of the city. 

Costa Nova village in Portugal

The Costa Nova village is where you should go for the best photos. It’s the main spot with the iconic rainbow of houses, and it sits right on the peninsula in between the lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean. 

You’ll also see some gorgeous art nouveau-style houses designed by Brazilians who returned to the homeland. 

Nearest Airport
• Porto— Francisco Sá Carneiro

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What are the most popular beaches in Portugal? 

 As far as tourist destinations, Portugal has many, many popular beaches. After all, so much of the country is made up of coast. 

For our list, we decided to include some popular, as well as hidden gems that we thought deserved more attention. 

Doing that, we couldn’t name every single beach in Portugal, but here are some more well-known (and well-documented) beaches in Portugal;

• Ferragado
• Lagos
• Praia da Rainha

These are also some beautiful seaside towns in Portugal. 

These also have some of the best views and fresh seafood in the country. 

Seaside Towns in Portugal

They tend to get lots of attention in the travel media and vacation brochures. 

People come to them for surfing, romantic getaways, retirement, family vacations, or simply escapes. 

Are there Covid Restrictions in Portugal? 

As of March of 2022, most of the restrictions have been lifted. To enter the country, you need a valid vaccination proof, negative PCR taken 72 hours ahead, or a negative antigen taken 24 hours ahead. 

Luckily, Portugal is filled with lots of charming fishing villages that aren’t overly crowded with people. You’ll want to avoid a crowded beach if you’re trying to limit Covid-19 exposure. 

If all fails, you can visit a charming West Algarvan village or dramatic coastline dotted with grand rocks for a memorable vacation. 

How much does a trip to Portugal cost? 

On average, for a comfortable trip, you should estimate about $175 per person per day ($1200 per individual per week / $2000 per couple per week). 

Accommodations range pretty drastically depending on the time of year and accommodation type. If you go during the high season (roughly April through October), you can expect to pay a couple hundred a night for a hotel. 

Vacation home rentals and Airbnb may save you a lot, especially if you bring a family or group. They range from $150 a night up to $500 a night, depending on the level of luxury, size, and proximity to a beach. 

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