Best Hidden Beaches in Algarve
PRAIA DA CARRIAGEM
Ready for an adventure off the beaten path? Take your map and hiking boots to discover this wild hideout in the beautiful Vicentine Coast. A long and narrow beach bordered by rugged cliffs, Carriagem faces the full force of the Atlantic rollers crashing on to the rocky foreshore at high tide. At low tide, the receding waters uncover gorgeous geological formations with warped hollows carved into the rocks as if a sea monster had risen from the deep and taken giant bites out of the schist. On a windy day, Carriagem is an eerie place and a visceral reminder of the power of the ocean; but on calmer days, it is also the perfect location to go rock pooling. This distant beach can only be accessed by a dirt road and a dizzying staircase. Image: A Terceira Dimensão
PRAIA DA MURRAÇÃO
Otherwise known as the ‘Jewel of the Vicentine Coast’, Murração is an outstanding beach located at the mouth of a pretty valley. Here, a smooth palette of grey, blue and green is formed between the lush dunes over the unruly ocean and the scattering of dark schist on both sides of the sand. In Murração, it will be easy to enter in communion with the pristine landscape and become part of it as a fully-free, fully-awake being. But reaching this remote place isn’t going to be that easy: extending for six kilometres, there’s only a very winding, very bumpy dirt track leading to this true jewel. If swimming, beware of the dangerous rip currents and stay far away from the jagged rocks. Image: A Terceira Dimensão
PRAIA DO CARVALHO
The cliffs of the western Algarve are dotted with concealed beaches that can only be reached by tunnels and rock-hewn steps. One such beach is Praia do Carvalho, a secluded, old smuggler’s hideaway where the sea resembles an emerald spearhead wedged deeply in the rock faces encircling the sand. The best time to visit Carvalho is a couple of hours before sunset, when an atmosphere of true intimacy permeates the serene environment – people will be gone by then, leaving you all alone to enjoy the magical sunlight effects and the sun-heated waters. Carvalho is located slightly to the west of the world-famous Benagil Sea Cave.
PRAIA DA CORREDOURA
It is the kind of setting pirate tales are made from: bathed by iridescent waters, Corredoura is a mere pocket of sand backed by golden cliffs with various gaping caves on both sides of the little bay. Here you can laze on the sand and soak up the lovely backdrop, swim in the sheltered waters, snorkel, or just collect shells and driftwood. Zoom in on the map above, and on the western side of this beach you’ll see a dinghy, as well as a couple basking in the sun: the couple wouldn’t be there without the dinghy, since this little gem is only accessible by boat. To the east of Corredoura, there are other stunning ‘pirate hideouts’ – only acessible by boat, as well – called Praia do Buraco, Praia do Pau and Praia da Morena (please check the map above).
PRAIA DO BARRANQUINHO
This forgotten place is one of the most intriguing of Lagoa’s many coves. By walking down an unsigned, little-used path you’ll come upon a long and slender valley ending on a beach where the horizon is interrupted by a sea stack rising from the waters. This beach has an odd shape because the stretch of sand between its access and the ocean is much larger than the enclosed beachfront. Such peculiar shape creates plenty of shade, as well as an intimate ambience, for anyone desiring a retreat from the scorching heat. People on kayaks sometimes make an appearance, but you’ll likely have the sands all to yourself most of the time. If the previous winter was rough, you might encounter exposed rocks blocking the way to the water.
Are you willing to walk the extra mile? If you are, then you’ll certainly find this unspoilt spot located between the overdeveloped Praia de Faro and the pleasant but popular Praia da Quinta do Lago. The location on the map is well worth the effort: on the south side of the large dunes there are smooth sands, gentle waves and not much more; on the north side, surrounded by small shorebirds and beautiful shrubbery, you’ll have Ria Formosa’s main channel all to yourself. The channel’s saltwater is warm and peaceful, making it perfect for a more relaxed swim. The spot can be reached either through Quinta do Lago (an arduous but more enjoyable option), or through Praia de Faro (walk along the sea and avoid the fishermen’s shacks). On the dunes, please follow the main trails and do not step on the rare and highly threatened plants.
Also known as Barreta Island, this is a huge sandbar to the south of Faro. The beach and the dunes here stretch for miles, making it simple to find your own little piece of heaven if you’re prepared to walk with some intent. Leave behind the shabby area around the island’s pier, and sooner or later you’ll find yourself surrounded solely by water and sand. The landscape is flat, luminous and devoid of any shades, but the island’s clear waters are also the warmest in mainland Portugal. Ilha Deserta is a good place to observe seabirds and seahorses, and to collect an array of different shells. Pack a sunshade, sunscreen, some food and plenty of water before jumping aboard the ferry boat that departs from the jetty outside Faro’s old town (speedboats are also available). There’s only one restaurant in the island.