On Portugal’s southern coast, you’ll find the picturesque region of Algarve. It’s the country’s sunshine region, where you can catch rays more than 300 days a year while lounging in crystal clear waters. If the Mediterranean climate is not enough to prompt you to book a plane ticket ASAP, the Portuguese paradise is where the dramatic episode of The Bachelor was filmed. Also, if you’re a connoisseur for quality food and wine, then this is definitely Europe’s lesser-known culinary destination that should be on your travel list, as it combines the best of the region’s diverse seafood and meats.
Most travelers planning a trip to Portugal immediately think of heading to Lisbon or Porto (both are totally worth a visit too!), but a quick three-hour drive down the coast is where the magic is. Whether you have one day or two weeks in Algarve, you’ll leave the destination wanting more and counting down the days until your next return. From hidden beaches to local wine tastings, there’s so much more to Algarve than meets the eye. Read on to learn why this blissful region in Portugal should be your next European beach getaway and what to do while you’re there.
WHAT TO DO
First stop: Grab your swimsuit and head to some of Europe’s finest beaches in Algarve. While there are tons of popular public beaches in the area such as Praia da Marinha and Praia do Camilo, it’s not hard to venture off on your own to find a hidden beach without the crowds and potentially without any other person in sight. While on the beach, you can get your tan on or go the more active route by kayaking, paddle boarding, or snorkeling.
The beach of Vale Centianes, near Carvoeiro, is home to the most beautiful sea caves of Algarve. The Benagil cave is the most well-known and the ultimate Instagram-worthy hot spot. One of the best ways to get to the Benagil sea cave is by joining a boat cruise. There are many companies running boat tours in Algarve and the cruises usually book up quickly, so book it in advance! Located right on the beach, Centianes Boat Trip is a great budget-friendly option for a short one-hour trip through the region’s gorgeous caves and can be booked last-minute while in the destination. For a more luxe experience, book Alvor Boat Trip’s sunset sailing that includes unlimited champagne and strawberries while onboard.
Portugal has been getting well-deserved recognition throughout the world as one of the hottest travel destinations, and part of it has to do with its wine. The Algarve region recently started to revitalize its wine sector by replanting varieties of grapes and modernizing wineries, so a wine tasting should be on your to-do list. A few standout wineries and vineyards include Quinta Dos Vales Wine Estate, Monte da Casteleja, and Adega do Cantor.
WHERE TO STAY
For those who love relaxing by a luxe hotel pool and enjoying all of the five-star amenities, while also having the freedom to immerse in the local town just a few minutes away, Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve Resort is a true gem nestled on a clifftop. This chic property has easy access, via a climb down the nearby cliffs, to a small exclusive beach that not many know about. The hotel’s trendy rooftop lounge overlooking the coast, Sky Bar Carvoeiro, is perfect for grabbing a cocktail, watching the sunset, and listening to chill music after a long day. If you’re a sucker for waking up to a view, Tivoli Carvoeiro was recently renovated to ensure that every single room is facing the ocean with floor-to-ceiling windows.
There are endless options for guests who want to be adventurous too, such as a guided hike along the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail that lasts about three to four hours (the panoramic views are worth the trek). This exclusive experience also includes a gourmet picnic that’s prepared by the hotel’s Executive Chef who uses all local produce. End the trip by pampering yourself at the spa with a signature massage or facial.
Other superb hotels in the area include Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, which is a more quiet retreat with various wellness offerings, and the family-friendly Tivoli Marina Vilamoura that’s within a 15-minute walking distance to the beach. Another option is to book your accommodations on Airbnb, which has more unique options. There’s everything from countryside homes, ocean-view villas, and studio apartments with private pools.
WHERE TO EAT
Algarve is loved for its renowned fresh seafood, coastal delicacies, and plenty of Michelin-starred restaurants, such as Sao Gabriel. However, some of the most delicious meals can be found at local hole-in-the-wall spots. For example, Casa Algarvia should be your go-to when looking for traditional Portuguese cuisine on the coast: fresh fish, sardines, chicken piri piri, and Algarve-style steak. In town, there’s also the meat-focused The Wolf Bar & Grill and healthy brunch option Earth Shop & Cafe.
For a more sophisticated experience, The One Wine Boutique Restaurant will stimulate all your senses with a full-on wine pairing along with each dish. The restaurant’s main focus is on local winemakers and it combines the Portuguese fare with a French and Asian fusion. The beachside restaurant Rei das Praias sits on stilts on the beach (talk about ideal location) featuring idyllic views and fresh food.
Better yet, TAP Air Portugal makes it easier than ever to get to the Algarve region with its affordable flights to Faro Airport from the US.