TRAVEL GUIDE: THE ALGARVE, PORTUGAL

 

What is more magical than a beach getaway with bottomless wine and all the sunshine? Not much to be honest, not much.

Andrew and I typically like to split our holidays up into two trips – a city trip and a beach trip. Clearly, we like to cram as much as possible into one vacation. Our recent trip to Portugal was no different.

We started our holiday in Lisbon (travel guide here) and then took a drive down to the southern coast to visit various beach towns in The Algarve. Starting at the western most tip, we stayed in Sagres, then hit up Lagos and finished the beach retreat off with Portimao.

Renting a car was super simple and relatively inexpensive. I’ve read that you can easily bus down to The Algarve, but considering we were staying in so many different towns, we wanted to have the flexibility to bop around and make our own schedule. We are both not the most patient humans, so when weighing our options, it just made sense for us to get the car.

*Note: Andrew drove the entire time because it was stick and everyone in Europe apparently drives 140mph. No thanks!

SAGRES

Sagres was absolutely gorgeous. In most part due to the fabulous hotel we stayed at that was steps away from both the beach and the port. While the town itself was tiny and extremely quiet, it was a nice relaxing escape. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a cold front while we were there in early August, which made nights extremely difficult. The wind was whipping like 100 mph while the temps were in the mid-50’s – not exactly hang outside  with a cocktail and catch the sunset kind of weather.

WHERE TO STAY:
You must stay at the Memmo Baleeria Hotel Sagres. It is by far the most stunning hotel in Sagres with the most prime location. We stayed here and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves (besides the weather mentioned above, ugh). A short walk to the beach, overlooking the port and a full service pool on the deck. Large firepits and cute nooks to hang out on overlooking the ocean. The breakfast buffet is BOMB.

WHERE TO EAT:

  • Mar A VistaSeafood, seafood, seafood. Get here early or drop by in the early afternoon to make a reservation for dinner. Classic spot.

WHAT TO DO:

  • Praia do Beliche – The most stunning beach. We waked to Praia do Mertinhal  on our first day and it was unbearably windy with sand basically pelting your body – not ideal. Praia do Beliche is a short drive from town, but well worth it. Located between a carved out cliff, which makes it optimal for stunning views. There is a small shack on the beach for food and drinks.

LAGOS

Lagos is the most popular beach town in The Algarve. Due to that fact, we decided to visit in fear of missing out (hello FOMO), but only opted to stay in town one night in order to explore the lesser known areas (i.e. Sagres & Portimao). While Lagos was fun and had an exciting night life culture, it was definitely the largest and most touristy of the three.

That being said, Lagos did have one of my favorite beaches of the trip. Would *highly* recommend a stop just for this specific beach.

WHERE TO STAY:
Since we were only staying in Lagos for one night, we didn’t look too much into hotels. We stayed at the Tivoli Lagos, which was mediocre and MASSIVE. Like so massive we got lost several times trying to find the wing our room was located in. I wouldn’t recommend this place – the room was a bit stuffy with one of those old quilts on the bed. Not sure what that was all about as that was certainly not displayed on the website, but I am super anti-quilts in hotel rooms. They do have a private beach club, which was okay but relative to other beaches in the area, it was nothing special and wouldn’t recommend wasting your time here.

WHERE TO EAT/DRINK:

  • Bon Vivant – Rooftop cocktails! Go in the late afternoon to get a spot and stay for sunset.
  • Mullen’s – A great spot for dinner in town. Great staff, great food, great atmosphere. Reservations available and recommended. Cash only.

WHAT TO DO:

  • Praia de Camilo – THIS IS THE SPOT. With stunning clear blue waters, perfectly colored sandy beaches and rock like formations all around, I HIGHLY recommend dropping by Praia de Camilo at least once during your trip (you will want to come back for more). This is how I envisioned all beaches in the Algarve, but many were far from this stunner. Note that it’s a hike to get down the stairs leading to the beach, and the tide comes up in the early afternoon, leaving a small sliver of sand. Get there early as parking fills up and so does the prime beach real estate.

PORTIMAO 

Poritmao was easily my favorite town of the three. We stayed in a large hotel right off of the marina. It was the perfect location for the beach, restaurants and nightlife.

WHERE TO STAY:
Keeping the Tivoli theme alive, we decided to stay at the Tivoli Marina Portimao. As you guessed, we were on the marina, which ended up being a great location relative to everything we wanted to do. I would also recommend Bela Vista Hotel & Spa.

WHERE TO EAT/DRINK:

  • Along the main beach strip, there are tons of restaurants that are basically the same. We ate here both nights and had great meals, nothing to write home about though. If you’re looking to spend some loot, look into No Solo Agua (below) for dinner)

WHAT TO DO:

  • No Solo Agua Club – You will need to make a reservation for beach chairs ahead of time for this location, or just get there early and put your name on the wait list – it’s well worth it. Lounge all day on the beach with a full service restaurant and bar with servers. We posted up here for hours and I was as happy as a clam.
  • Blanco Beach Club – If you’re like us, you will have to stop into at least one club on each trip. Blanco Beach Club is an outdoor club beach club with white chic everything and pool in the center. Not bad for a drink or two after dinner.

 

PRO TIP: While driving down the coast, carve out time to stop by Restaurante Canico, or make the short trip from Portimao for dinner. Located in a luxe living neighborhood, this restaurant offers magical views of the ocean along with cocktails and fabulous food. I would highly recommend this for the experience. Reservations are recommended.

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