Portugal is one of Europe’s most popular summer destinations thanks to the number of stunning beaches and charming beach towns to choose from along the Atlantic Coast.
Portugal is also a famed surfing destination – Nazaré, which we list as one of the best places to visit in Portugal, is world-renowned thanks to the Big Wave surf competition.
Beyond Nazaré, there are plenty of world-class surf beaches in Portugal, but there is also no shortage of beach towns that will appeal to all styles of beachgoers. From quaint fishing villages to bustling party towns, Portugal has a beach vibe for everyone.
Whether you’re an experienced surfer or just looking to unwind by the sea, these towns won’t disappoint.
The Most Charming Coastal Towns in Portugal
Having lived in Portugal for five years, we have explored the Portuguese coast at length from south to north. We have lived in the Algarve’s southern coastal towns and the central Silver Coast. There are so many varied and picturesque beach destinations for visitors to explore. Many will share a more authentic version of Portugal than you might expect.
Whitewashed houses trimmed in blue and yellow, fishing villages decorated in traditional azulejo tiles, freshly washed clothes flapping in the wind above narrow cobblestoned streets, and vibrant street cafés. These are just some charming scenes you will encounter when traveling through Portugal’s coastal villages and towns.
Surfers flock to some of these towns year-round, while others are sleepy villages in winter, waiting for the summer months to burst back to life.
Travelers come from around the world to soak up the sun on Portugal’s stunning beaches and enjoy the charming atmosphere and incredible cuisine you’ll only find on the Portuguese coast.
With so many incredible beach towns to choose from, we’ve narrowed down some of the best towns and villages along Portugal’s magnificent coast to help you plan your next vacation.
Getting Around Portugal
Portugal is well connected with train and bus services, especially for major cities and towns. However, many of Portugal’s best beach towns are off the main transport routes. Driving in Portugal is very easy, and traveling by car is the best way to enjoy most of Portugal’s coast.
Car hire from Lisbon airport is very reasonable. You can compare rental car companies and rates here with no fees and free cancellation. We recommend a small to mid-size car for Portugal for parking and navigating smaller villages.
Best Beach Towns in Portugal
Lagos is arguably one of the most well known towns in the Algarve, attracting surfers and backpackers to families and those looking for a luxury beach escape.
With iconic natural attractions like the famous rock formations of Ponta de Piedade and a handful of mesmerizing beaches like Dos Estudiantes Beach, Santa Ana Beach, and Camilo Beach, there is plenty to do in Lagos.
Lagos is also the perfect destination to learn how to scuba dive. For the more experienced divers, there are some fantastic underwater caves to be discovered. Daily boat trips take you to hidden caves and secluded beaches, including the famous Benagil Cave.
Lagos has many historical attractions and beautiful beaches, such as the Fortress and the Lagos Castle. The Algarve has a rich and varied history independent of Portugal. The region was under Moorish occupation for more than 500 years, between 711-1250, and you can still see many Moorish influences in Lagos and throughout the Algarve.
In Lagos, you will also find The Mercado de Escravos (Slave Market). The historical building is where the modern era’s first African slave market occurred in 1444. The building is now a museum dedicated to the story of slavery.
Lagos caters to a diverse array of travelers with plenty of hostels and nightlife options for budget travelers and surfers. Conversely, Lagos caters to groups, families, and luxury travelers with beautiful private villas, apartments, and all-inclusive hotels.
Lagos offers an incredible number of tours and activities both on land and on water. Explore all available boat tours and activities in Lagos here.
Ericeira is one of Portugal’s most vibrant coastal cities. It is also the only protected World Surfing Reserve in Europe, attracting surfers of all levels throughout the year. But even if you don’t surf, Ericeira has a lot to offer.
Ericeira is an excellent beach destination as it combines Portuguese heritage with a modern edge thanks to the lively surf scene. While the charming fishing and surf town caters exceptionally well to tourists – primarily surfers and Portuguese tourists, it is yet to be discovered by mass tourism. This means Ericeira is a great value-for-money destination.
Ericeira offers visitors pristine beaches and coastline, incredible local seafood, and a charming cobbled old town with white-washed houses and fisherman cottages. You’ll also find sleek lounge bars and restaurants.
There is also plenty to do around Ericeira, whether exploring the various beaches, taking a surf lesson at the surf school, or taking a day trip to nearby Mafra to visit the monumental Baroque and Neoclassical palace-monastery, the National Palace of Mafra. A day trip to Sintra is also possible. Ericeira is also within easy reach of Lisbon – less than an hour by direct bus.
Take a combined day trip from Lisbon to Ericeira, including a visit to the Palace of Mafra and other coastal villages such as the famous Azenhas do Mar.
Albufeira is one of Portugal’s most popular party beach towns thanks to its famous party area, “The Strip” in New Town. Albufeira attracts young travelers from all over Europe and the UK hungry for a coastal party scene. While famous for its legendary nightlife, there are plenty of things to do in Albufeira for active travelers, families, and couples.
Albufeira is famous for its beautiful beaches, where you can find a large variety of water sports, from parasailing to scuba diving. There are also plenty of water tour options, from speed boat tours to dolphin watching, deep sea fishing, and a water park. If you’re chasing land activities, you’ll find world-class golf courses, 4WD tours, and easy access to plenty of day trips around the Algarve.
Albufeira has many lovely beaches, including the Praia dos Pescadores that extends along the front of the town. Overlooking the beach is the charming white-washed cobbled old town, where you will find plenty of restaurants and bars to explore.
See all the boat tours, watersports, and on-land activities and tours available in Albufeira here.
Aljezur is a small sleepy coastal town in the northwestern Algarve in the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina. Aljezur feels like a more authentic, timeless version of the Algarve with some of Portugal’s most beautiful, unspoiled beaches.
The primarily agricultural town attracts surfers chasing the swell at Arrifana and Praia do Amado. The beaches of Amoreira, Odeceixe, and Bordeira at the mouth of the river, where natural lagoons form, are perfect for swimming as you can choose between river or sea. You can also rent canoes to explore upriver.
Take a guided mountain bike or horse riding tour to explore the diverse landscape of cork oak and eucalypt forests, the river valleys and lakes, and surrounding farmland.
Aljezur also boasts some of the most scenic cliff walks in Portugal along jaw-dropping cliffs that plummet down to the crashing waves below – the perfect place for sunset. Just be mindful to stay very clear from the edge.
The charming old town cascades beneath the ruins of a 10th-century Moorish castle, where shops and restaurants sell typical local produce such as sweet potato dishes from local crops (the Sweet Potato Festival is in October) and incredible local seafood. Don’t miss the chance to try local Goose Barnacles harvested from the rugged wave-swept rocks by local fishermen.
Take a full-day SUV Coastal Tour of the Alentejo Natural Park and the ancient town of Aljezur.
Sagres is probably the most famous surf destination in southern Portugal, but it is also one of the quieter coastal towns in Portugal.
At the westernmost point of the Algarve, Sagres is a beautiful, barren, windswept landscape that offers plenty to see and do. It is a mecca for lovers of the outdoors, both on land and sea.
Visitors can take advantage of scenic hiking trails that trace Sagre’s famous limestone cliffs or cycle on open roads with majestic views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Most day trippers to Sagres visit the iconic Cabo de São Vincente lighthouse on the westernmost tip and the Fortaleza de Sagres. The Sagres Fort is unique because it only requires one defensive wall on the southern edge. The other three sides are guarded by the impressive sheer cliffs of the headland.
Considering the rugged coastline, Sagres offers a good selection of beaches close to the town, from the Praia do Tonel, where you’ll find some of the biggest waves in the region, to Praia da Mareta which offers moderate surfing waves, or the protected Praia do Martinhal which has a beautiful beach with calm water protected from the prevailing winds.
The little fishing village of Sagres has several hotels and surf shops to buy and rent gear – or to book a surf lesson if you are a newbie.
Take a 3-hour Sagres Sunset Wine and Cheese tour of Cabo São Vincente and the most beautiful secret spots of the Sagres Natural Park.
If you want to see some of the biggest waves in the world, Nazaré is the most famous surf town in Portugal and possibly the world. The small fishing town made a name for itself when big wave surfer Garret McNamara set a record for the biggest wave ever surfed near the lighthouse off Praia do Norte in 2011.
Nazaré now has the attention of big wave surfers worldwide, chasing the elusive 100-foot wave and snaring the annual Big Wave Surf title.
Aside from surfing, the beach town of Nazaré is a favorite seaside resort for Portuguese summer visitors. Nazaré still has an authentic fishing town atmosphere where traditions hold firm.
Explore the snug fisherman’s quarters, where streets are barely wide enough to walk down. Visit the ladies drying neatly arranged displays of fish on racks on the long stretch of sand on Praia da Nazaré, where fisherman gossip while mending nets in colorful boats.
For the best views of Nazaré’s rugged coastline, take the funicular 110 meters to the top of the headland in the Sítio district and pay a visit to The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazaré and the Ermita da Memoria chapel. From there, walk to the famous lighthouse, now home to an exhibition on the big wave surfers who braved the Nazaré canyon’s massive swells.
Summer is the best time to visit Nazaré for a chilled beach holiday, and between October and April is when the big wave surfers will be in town.
Take a day trip to Nazaré from Lisbon: Take a combined day trip to Nazaré, including some of the Silver Coast’s best attractions. Visit Fatima, Obidos, Batalha, and Nazaré on a small group full-day tour.
One of the most underrated Portuguese coastal villages is a small town in the central Algarve where whitewashed houses cascade like theater seats onto the urban beach. Carvoeiro is full of life, with its pretty cafes and restaurants spilling onto the narrow streets.
Carvoeiro attracts those looking for a laid-back beach escape with the atmosphere of a traditional Portuguese beach town. If you want more than the beach, Carvoeiro is well-placed for cycling, golf, and access to the Algarve water parks.
Besides the pristine beach and quaint village, there are not many attractions in the town itself. However, you don’t have to stroll far along the Carvoeiro Boardwalk to see impressive rock formations, natural tunnels, and caves with natural windows opening onto the glittering Atlantic Ocean at the Algar Seco rock formations.
Venture further, and you will reach the Alfanzina Lighthouse and even further along, you will reach Benagil Beach, where you can rent a kayak to enter the world-famous Benagil Cave.
See the full range of activities and tours available in Carvoeiro, including the Benagil Cave, water parks, kayaking, and more.
One of Lisbon’s most popular day trips is the enchanting coastal town of Cascais, 30 km west of the capital.
The charming village has been a favorite summer escape for affluent Lisbonites since King Luis I repurposed the Nossa Senhora da Luz Fort and the Citadel Palace in the nineteenth century. He transformed the medieval fortification into a summer retreat for royalty and nobility, cementing Cascais’s status as one of the most popular beach towns to visit near Lisbon.
Cascais still boasts some of the best beaches near Lisbon and a charming old town lined with typical calçada Portuguesa (cobbled mosaic streets), fascinating historical sites, great restaurants, bars, and shopping.
Visit the famous Boca do Inferno, where you can witness the waves vigorously crashing into the rock walls. Walk along Marina de Cascais and visit the Santa Marta lighthouse & museum and Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães, set in a 1900s palace. Admire some of Cacscais’s most beautiful homes along the waterfront past the Citadel.
Visit Cascais on a day trip from Lisbon: Take a combined Pena Palace, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, & Cascais Daytrip from Lisbon and see the best sights in an all-inclusive day tour.
Aveiro lays claim as the “Venice of Portugal.” Famous for its canals and the colorful traditional wooden Moliceiro boats, Aveiro also has one of the cheeriest beach towns in Portugal.
Costa Nova, a short drive from the historical center of Aveiro, is one of the city’s top attractions for the colorful striped houses.
Initially, the striped houses were nothing more than shacks called palheiros (meaning haystacks as they were made from straw) used by fishermen to store their equipment. Over time, the huts evolved into proper houses.
Around the mid-19th century, Costa Nova’s beaches started attracting summer visitors, so the poorer fishermen decided to rent their palheiros during the busy summer. They took inspiration from the Moliceiro boats and painted the homes with bright colored stripes to make them more attractive to tourists.
The tradition remains, and the candy-stripped houses of Costa Nova have found fame, especially on social media.
Costa Nova has some of Portugal’s most beautiful white sand beaches, quaint beach bars, and a relaxed atmosphere. You can easily spend a few days or a long, lazy summer there, especially considering its proximity to Aveiro. While most travelers head to Costa Nova from Aveiro for a short visit to photograph the houses, the coastal town deserves more time.
Head to the lighthouse on Barra Beach (the tallest lighthouse in Portugal) and climb the 271 steps to the top for sweeping views of the glittering ocean and the charming Costa Nova below you.
The port area on the lagoon side of the narrow sandbank where Costa Nova is built is lovely at sunset. see the rows of sailboats become pretty silhouettes against the pink-colored reflections of the calm water. There are also plenty of restaurants to enjoy typical local food in Costa Nova.
If you don’t have transport from Aveiro, you can take a 1.5 hr tour of Barra Beach Lighthouse & Costa Nova from Aveiro.
Tavira in the far eastern Algarve is one of Portugal’s most charming beach towns, a place we had the privilege to call home for two years.
Located on the Ria Formosa, Tavira does not have a beach right in the town, but it is the perfect beach destination for those who prefer long, white sand beaches and calm water.
Isla de Tavira is one of the Ria Formosa Natural Park’s barrier islands with numerous organized beaches, including Praia de Tavira, Praia da Terra Estreita, Praia do Barril, and Praia do Homem Nú. The island boasts primarily calm waters and long stretches of white sand, which makes it popular with people who want to relax on the beach soaking in the sun.
You can take the short ferry ride directly from Tavira to Praia de Tavira Island or the Cais das Quatro Águas pier.
Further along the Ria Formosa, still in the municipality of Tavira, is the quaint fishing town of Santa Luzia. In Santa Luzia, you will find some of the best octopus restaurants in Portugal along the waterfront, where fishing boats are stacked high with terracotta octopus pots.
From Santa Luzia, in season, you can take the ferry to Praia da Terra Estreita or walk along the waterfront to catch the small tourist train to Barril Beach. You can also walk along the boardwalk crossing the Ria Formosa.
Once you reach Barril Beach, you will find the anchor cemetery. Large, rusty anchors lined up on the sandbanks in front of the beach in tribute to the bygone tuna fishing industry that thrived from Barril.
A kind of mini fishing village, the abandoned buildings once used to store fishing equipment, process the catch, and provide shelter to working fishermen, have been restored and repurposed into restaurants, cafes, and facilities for beachgoers.
Beyond the pristine beaches that protect Tavira from the wild elements of the Atlantic, Tavira is worth visiting in its own right. The town has a unique and charming atmosphere – from the tangle of cobbled streets where bright pink bougainvillea spills over white-washed walls to centuries-old churches with magnificent displays of azulejo tiles and the pretty Roman bridge that joins the two sides of the town over the Rio Gilão.
Explore the garden in the Moorish castle ruins on the hill, see the town from a different perspective from the Camera Obscura, see the Ruínas Fenícias de Tavira archeological site, and visit the Islamic Museum to discover the Moorish history of the Algarve.
Visit the 13th-century Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo church. The church houses magnificent Azulejo panels and the tombs of seven knights who fell to the Moors during the conquering of Tavira.
From Tuk Tuk city tours to wine tastings, boat tours, dolphin watching, and more, you can find all the activities, tours, and services available in Tavira here.
With the entire western side of the country on the coast, some of the best beaches in Europe, and a long and celebrated maritime history, it’s not surprising Portugal has some great beach towns.
Whether it’s the southern coastal towns of the Algarve, the central surf towns of the Silver Coast, or those closest to the cities, Portugal has a beach destination for every traveler and season. (Our residence for two years)