Tips from a Portuguese. The "must go" beaches and restaurants in Lagos, Sagres and Vila do Bispo, Algarve, Portugal.
I am Portuguese, and although I am from a town close to Lisbon, my family used to spend summer vacations in Algarve even since before I was born.
Until I moved to Norway we had a summer house in the city of Lagos and used to spend there two months during summer plus several weekends along the year. So Lagos feels like a second home to me.
Sagres and Vila do Bispo where also places we used to visit a lot because my dad did underwater fishing and preferred the wild hidden beaches there.
When someone is planning a trip to this area of Algarve I tend to be the person they come asking for tips. Finally I have this blog post with the top beaches and restaurants to share with people! And of course there are many other amazing places in Algarve, but these are my absolute favorite ones.
Lagos has a very special place in my heart! As I said, I used to come here several times during the year, every year. I know every street, every beach, every corner.
I have other favorite towns in Algarve, but Lagos will always be on top of my list.
One of the reasons I love this city so much it's the fact that it looks and feels like a traditional town, with small cute houses and a pedestrian city center with lot's of local stores. In general there are not towers of hotels or huge resorts. Although there are many tourists, there are still also a lot of locals that live and work in Lagos.
Another thing that makes Lagos so great is that its coast line forms kind of a tip, creating different types of beaches depending where they are positioned. Beaches vary from small to big, with rocks and grouts to clean and open, from orange thick sand to white thin sand, etc.
Some of my favorite restaurants are:
O Escondidinho : amazing fresh fish and all you can eat Sardines.
Alma Lusa : exquisite traditional Portuguese food. Must try the octopus.
Pizzeria Gato pardo : the best pizzas and garlic bread.
Tasca da Lota : fresh fish/seafood and great petiscos.
Some of my favorite regional sweets/pastry are:
Bola de Berlim : you buy these on the beach to the person who's passing screaming "Bolinhaaaaaa".
Dom Rodrigo : little metallic colorful bags with an egg and almond sweet inside.
Bolinhos de Amendoa : almond cakes with fruit and animal shapes.
Torta de amendoa : almond rolled cake.
Praia do Camilo:
I am sure you have heard of this beach before! It is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and I can definitely vouch for that. It is also my favorite beach in Lagos.
But beauty does not come easy...
The parking lot for this beach is tiny and always completely full, so make sure you come early. The access to the beach is done by a long set of wooden stairs, so don't forget, going down is much easier than going up.
The beach it is also very very small! So when the tide comes up there is almost no space left with sand.
From the main beach you can reach a secondary beach through a tunnel carved on the cliffs but my advice is to stay at the main beach since it has longer hours of sun exposure and less rocks under the water.
When the tide is at it's lowest point, you can also reach other smaller beaches and secret grouts by passing through holes in rocks. This is one of the reasons I love this beach, there are just so many things to discover! I could literally make a blog post solely talking about all the secrets of Camilo beach.
Praia da Dona Ana:
This beach has a very interesting story that most tourists do not know about. A couple of years ago, Dona Ana beach looked completely different! It had way less sand, more rocks, an extra restaurant, a different access, etc.
Then Lagos municipality decided to bring sand from the bottom of the ocean and fill up the beach. That is why you can find so many shells mixed with the sand here. This was done to prevent erosion from destroying the beach. So for me it's a bitter sweet feeling because this is no longer the beach I grew up in and loved, but of course it is better than not existing at all.
Despite all this, it still is one of the most stunning beaches in Algarve and totally worth the visit.
Praia de Porto Mós:
Our house in Algarve was right next to this beach, so we used to spend a lot of time here.
The best part about Porto Mós beach is that it is very big but it still has that feeling of a small beach, if you know what I mean.
It is also a favorite among those who love long walks at the beach.
On the right side of the beach there are beautiful steep cliffs that in specific places pour from it's rocky walls a type of clay that it is said to be medicinal. So if you see people walking covered in grey clay from head to toe, you'll know why.
Porto de Mós it is a very family friendly beach and also popular among younger generations. You'll definitely see people playing beach rackets, volleyball or even football.
There are also 2 really good restaurants right at the beach.
If you like white sand beaches that stretch for miles, then this is your beach!
Meia praia is so long that it starts in Lagos and ends almost in Alvor, the neighboring town.
The tip closer to Lagos has several restaurants and a couple of small hotels along the coast. It also has lounge and sun hat areas that you can rent for the day, and several water sports points. Whilst the tip furthest away is more deserted, calmer, and with less people.
Although I love to go to Meia praia once in a while, I don't think it has the same charm as the other beaches in Lagos, maybe because it has no rock formations. I also always advice people not to go to this beach if it is a windy day because if it is a bit windy in the city center, then at this beach it would be blowing double as hard.
But I understand why so many people love Meia praia. The facts that there is always space at the beach, the white clean sand full of little shells, the crystal blue water with playful waves, and normally warmer than the other beaches.
This is not a beach but an experience that you really need to have in Lagos!
You can book a canoe or boat trip along the coast of Lagos to visit the several incredible grouts and secret paths. It is SO worth it!!
When in Lagos city center and Marina you'll find several stands selling these experiences You can also book a boat tour in Dona Ana beach and the boat will pick you up directly at the beach.
I recommend the canoe trip just because you can go into the smaller passages and therefore visit a bigger number of grouts.
SAGRES & Vila do Bispo
If you want more wild, natural and deserted beaches, Sagres is the ideal place for you!
In the area of Sagres and Vila do Bispo you can find what, in my opinion, are some of the most beautiful beaches in Algarve. A big plus, in my opinion, is that the beaches are normally huge and with very little people.
But of course this also comes with some disadvantages. Reaching some of these beaches can be an adventure, so be ready to drive in sand/rocky roads or hike for a couple of hours.
You wont find any toilets or lifeguards either. But you'll see that it is all worth it!
The weather here can be a bit tricky. Sometimes you are in Lagos and it's a perfect sunny day, and as soon as you start getting closer to Sagres you'll see this big could of fog along the coast line. It is in general more windy as well, especially in the afternoon.
This of course is not set in stone. I had perfect hot sunny days in Sagres too. And in those excruciating hot summer days, these beaches are a great option.
Another thing about this area is that there are normally waves, huge ones sometimes, which obviously attracts many surfers. I am a lover of playing in the waves, so for me this is a plus.
Praia da Pedra Ruiva:
This is my all time favorite beach, not only in Algarve, but in Portugal!
I come here since I can remember and spend numerous hours exploring the rock formations around the big pointy red rock that stands proudly at the beach, that by the way, can be hiked up to the top.
The beach it is absolutely huge, and has a rich sea life. With low tide you can find all types of shells, starfish, crabs, octopus, and other cool ocean creatures.
The access to the beach can be tricky, especially if you have a city car. The roads are mainly hard sand with lots of stones. You'll have to drive slowly and carefully. There is parking spaces close to the beach thought, so you wont need to walk a lot.
Praia da Cordoama:
Cordoama is one of those places I have to come back at least once every summer.
Every time I know someone is visiting Algarve I try to convince them to go to Cordoama cause it is SO worth it!
There are 3 things that make me fall in love every-time.
Firstly, before starting descending the steep road to the beach, there is a road to the left that will take you to a jaw dropping view point. From here you can see the beach from a drone view, together with the rest of the steep cliffs of the Portuguese coastline. It really is one of those powerful moments..
Secondly, Cordoama has an amazing restaurant! The small and only beach restaurant may look a bit simple but it has the best Lulinhas fritas (fried small squid) you'll ever eat, plus other great dishes with fresh local fish.
And finally the beach! Big, with waves and a background that looks like out of a movie.
Praia do Beliche:
Beliche beach is one of the most famous in Sagres, so you can expect to find it a bit crowded sometimes.
The beach lies surrounded by steep cliffs and it's trans-lucid blue water catches your eyes as you are driving by. You can't not stop and check it out.
There are several small parking lots along the cliff edge. You access the beach through a extensive concrete stair.
Praia da Boca do rio:
I find it surprisingly that not many people know about this stunning beach.
Its name translates to "Mouth of the river" because it has a small river that during winter connects to the ocean by crossing the left side of the beach.
The access is extremely easy having a road right until the beach. It does have a small parking lot so try to be early to find a parking space.
It is a spacious white sand beach, with deep blue water and normally very little amount of people. Since it lies on the southern coast, the weather here is likely to be more pleasant than in sagres.
Praia da Figueira:
This beach is another one of my favorites, and also not known by many. Probably because besides having to do a 45 minutes hike to get there, it is also a nudist beach.
Now, if you are an avid reader of my blog, you'll know I am a fan of nudist beaches. I find them quite relaxing and liberating but also very wild and empty.
Figueira beach is quite big and with a low tide it gets connected to other beaches. I love to go for a long walk and visit the deserted neighboring beaches while also exploring the exposed rocks full of mussels. Sometimes we even take a bucket with us to pick them for dinner.