10 best beaches in Portugal for this COVID-19 summer (hidden beaches)
Want to go to the beach but want to avoid the crowds to stay safe from this coronavirus pandemic? Here’s a list of the best beaches in Portugal away from the tourists’ radar.
Portugal has an enormously long coast, 1794 km to be exact! There are so many beautiful beaches all over the country. Tourists tend to visit the same ones, the most talked about online. Our list is different. We decided to share our favourite 10 secret beaches in Portugal with you, from north to south. They are beautiful, secluded and stunning and, best of all, crowds-free!
Note: Please keep in mind that the south coast of Portugal is facing the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea and it is where the beaches with the calmest and warmest waters are. However, this area is way more popular and crowded. The west coast is where beaches face the ocean. That means waves, ocean breeze and colder ocean water. If you want to surf, the west coast is the place to go.
Tip: While you are reading this article, give a look to NomadX’s accommodation options nearby these beaches and you might even find your next place to stay!
Best Beaches in Portugal – SOUTH
The Algarve is by far the most popular summer destination for its warm waters but it is by far the most crowded too. To still enjoy warmer temperatures but avoid the crowds, we recommend the following four secret beaches:
1. Praia do Tonel – Zambujeira do Mar
Praia do Tonel is a secluded beach with fine clear sand and a dramatic cliff backdrop close to Zambujeira do Mar town.
It is perfect for nature lovers and hikers as there is a serious downhill walk to get to it. Make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear and that you are comfortable with heights. There are also fantastic photo opportunities on the way there or walking along the clifftops. Check the tide charts as, during high tide, the beach is almost completely underwater.
Festival Sudoeste takes place in Zambujeira do Mar town and it is one of the biggest summer music festivals in Portugal. The 2020 edition has been canceled because of Covid-19 but the 2021 dates have already been announced. Unless you are going to the festival avoid the region on those dates as all prices spike.
About the region
Zambujeira do Mar is a sparsely populated area where agriculture, cattle and fishing are the main economic resources, not tourism. Still undiscovered by most, the coast is stunning. It has folding clifftops intercalated with small sandy beaches.
Warning: Don’t confuse Praia do Tonel in Zambujeira do Mar with the homonym Praia do Tonel in Algarve.
2. Praia dos Galapinhos – Setúbal
Praia dos Galapinhos in Setúbal is one of the best beaches in Portugal, and probably the most crowd-affected on this list. The beach is so spectacular that it was elected as the best European beach in 2017. With clear blue water, golden-white sand, and dense vegetation sheltering it, this pristine beach is hard to beat. Don’t expect to find a sign for the beach, you will have to ask around for directions or rely on Maps.
Access is through a steep, uneven and narrow path which helps limit the number of visitors. If you time your arrival and departure right, you can also walk in from Galapinhos beach using the rocks exposed by the low tide. It can get a bit busy in summer as there is a shuttle bus running from the town center and it is only 1hour away from Lisbon.
There is no lifeguarding in place but it does have a small stand selling snacks on summer weekends.
Setúbal and the surrounding beaches are beautiful but somewhat off-the-beaten tracks. The tourism of the area isn’t very developed and the industrial working feel is still predominant making most holiday-makers choose a different location for their summer holiday. A win if you ask us!
About the region
This beach is inside the Arrábida Natural Park. The park has several idyllic beaches at the base of steep forested hills.
3. Praia da Comporta – Setúbal
Praia da Comporta is a beautiful and off the radar beach at the base of the Tróia peninsula. It has kilometers of powdery white sand and even at the peak of summer, you can find your own uncrowded spot. It used to be a forgotten and deserted area and even if in the last couple of decades it has started to be more visited, it is still totally worth a visit, especially if you are looking for an isolated beach.
The place is laid back and groovy, there are a few cafés and trendy restaurants at the beach access points. There you can also find sun umbrellas and chairs for rent, together with lifeguard service. The water is lively and it’s great for kitesurfing and other water sports.
You can access this beach by car from Alcácer do Sal or Grândola that are both 30 minutes away, or if you are coming from Lisbon, you can get a ferry from Setúbal.
You can find rice paddies on the other side of the dunes.
About the region
Tróia Peninsula is a 20 km long spit of sand that stands between the Sado estuary (the river south of Lisbon) and the Atlantic Ocean. The northern part has been developed for mass tourism but Comporta is mainly unchanged so far. Comporta also gives place to the only stilt dock in Europe, the “Cais da Carrasqueira”.
4. Praia da Culatra – Ilha da Culatra , Faro
Praia da Culatra is an isolated beach on Culatra Island, one of the many islands in the Algarve region. Since Algarve is the most touristic area in Portugal, it isn’t easy to find a beautiful beach away from crowds. Culatra Island is just outside of Faro and it isn’t the only island there. If you are looking for more uncrowded beaches, you should explore these islands. If you are willing to go far enough, you’ll find beaches without any humans nearby as they aren’t easily accessible.
Praia da Culatra, is a huge beautiful beach perfect to relax in peace. Fine sand, crystal clear water, very little human development. Three perfect points if you ask us. It is also surrounded by dunes, a nice change from most beaches in Algarve that are cliff backed (or surrounded by buildings). You can be alone on this beach any day of the year. Watch out for the fishermen’s boats and the rare pods of dolphins.
It is an island and there are no roads! The only way to access it is by boat and the only way to explore the island is by walking.
About the region
Ilha da Culatra is one of the several spectacular islands in the natural park of Ria Formosa, a wetland of international importance. You can access these and other islands from Faro and/or Olhão. Please research first as this may change.
Best Beaches in Portugal – CENTER
5. Praia da Mexilhoeira – Santa Cruz
It is hard to find beautiful but still isolated beaches around Lisbon. Praia da Mexilhoeira is an exception. A real hidden gem in the west region close to Santa Cruz town, this secluded beach is hidden by a steep rocky cliff. The white-walled steps that lead to the beach are a great photo spot. Rock formations at both ends of the beach give it a cosier feel than the main beach, in front of Santa Cruz. The water can get rough, though, and there is no lifesaving service offered at this beach.
The west region is known for its constant windy conditions. Praia da Mexilhoeira is a perfect beach to avoid that problem as it has a hidden corner that will keep you protected from the winds.
About the region
Santa Cruz is the beach village of Torres Vedras which is a city in the district of Lisbon especially known for its wine production and its Carnival festival. Santa Cruz has perfect ocean conditions and is thus very popular for water sports such as surfing and skimming.
6. Praia do Bom Sucesso – Óbidos
Praia do Bom Sucesso is in the southern part of the estuary of Lagoa de Óbidos. That means you have the rough Atlantic Ocean waves in front of you and the quiet lagoon water with its own ecosystem and rugged cliffs as a background. This beach has a lifeguard on duty in summer as well as services and amenities.
This area was completely unexplored until a few years ago, and now, even though there are some tourist developments, it is still a very calm place. Is a short car ride away from Óbidos and only 1:20h north of Lisbon.
It is a lively place, essentially during summer. The windy conditions make it a popular beach for surfers and kitesurfers.
About the region
Óbidos Lagoon is one of the largest natural lakes in Europe, it’s great to explore the shore on foot or take advantage of the calm water for wind sailing, windsurfing and rowing.
7. Praia da Torreira – Aveiro
Praia da Torreira, close to the iconic and historical city of Aveiro, is a sandy quiet beach, uncrowded and with a wide range of activity options on offer. It is a good destination for families as it has nearby bars and restaurants and a lifeguard service in summer. The ocean beach is hidden by a ridge of dunes and it continues uninterrupted all the way south to São Jacinto point. The hike through the nature reserve to the point will take you about 5h return but it’s well worth it for the untouched white sand, deserted waterfront and birdwatching opportunities.
Look out for the brightly coloured fishing boats taking to the sea, a continued fishing tradition.
About the region
In Aveiro, you can find both stunning ocean beaches and the Serra da Freita, Arestal and Caramulo mountains inland.
Best Beaches in Portugal – NORTH
8. Praia do Senhor da Pedra – Vila Nova de Gaia
The eye-catching little chapel of Senhor da Pedra gives the name to the beach. The chapel is built on a rocky output and it’s a truly unique sight. Visit when the ocean is big for really spectacular photos of the waves crashing over and around the chapel. The beach can get busy on the occasional summer weekend as it’s close to Porto but it’s peaceful and quiet on most days, even in summer. It is also well worth a visit in the off-season for a lovely beach walk. It’s a good surfing spot but beware of submerged rocks.
This bizarre location for the chapel was chosen because the site was originally used for pagan worship. It was a way to show Christian dominance over the local beliefs.
About the region
Vila Nova de Gaia divide the banks of the Douro river with Porto, the second biggest city in the country. This region is particularly famous for its production of the Porto wine (“vinho do Porto”) that is produced with grapes grown near the river and the wine is stored in warehouses in Vila Nova de Gaia.
9. Praia do Cabedelo – Viana do Castelo
The north of Portugal is not particularly known for its beaches, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t beautiful beaches worth a visit and, who knows, a dive! In fact, it only means it is easy to find beautiful scenery without many humans around.
This is a paradise location for wind and kite surfers. The ocean side of the beach often has the perfect wind conditions for these sports. You can also find good waves for surfing at the southern end or, if you head north in the river mouth, calmer waters for SUP. A pine forest before the grassy dune ridge protects the sandy beach and there are never too many people sunbathing. Grab a drink at one of the few beach bars and stay until sunset for a spectacular colour show.
Viana do Castelo, the city across the estuary, is often described as ‘Entre o mar, o rio e a montanha’ (between the sea, the river and the mountains), and it is exactly that. There are views and activities to satisfy anyone’s taste.
About the region
Minho region is the most northwestern region in Portugal. It offers a variety of fine white sand backed by low dunes and extensive pine forests. Inland it has formidable nature with green sceneries and big rivers as well as history with Celtic and Roman ruins to visit.
10. Praia de Vila Praia de Âncora – Viana do Castelo
Last but not least, Praia de Vila Praia de Âncora is a stunning beach completely under-the-radar. The ocean is often rough and normally cold (15-17 ºC cold). Surfers will have top-quality waves while swimmers can check out the river mouth for calmer waters. The southern area of the beach, only accessible through a wooden walkway, showcases practically always deserted spaces, surrounded by green protecting sand dunes. Just behind the beach, Vila Praia de Âncora is an unspoiled sleepy seaside town with authentic Portuguese cafes and restaurants.
For a different day, or if the weather isn’t good enough for a beach day, explore the Ecovia do Atlântico. You can walk or cycle three different trails that are a part of the Camino de Santiago Senda del Litoral.
About the region
Like Praia do Cabedelo, this beach is in the Minho Region.
Special mention – Best beaches in the Portuguese Islands’
An article on the best beaches in Portugal would not be complete without a special mention to the beautiful Portuguese islands that are not included in this list: Azores, Madeira and Berlengas. In these three archipelagos that have in total more than 20 islands, sand beaches are very rare but are stunning and magical. We could literally make an extra post just for them, let us know if you would like us to!
We hope this article inspire you to visit and explore these not-so-popular beautiful beaches in Portugal. There are many more along the country, specially taking the islands into consideration, but we had to choose the 10 best beaches in Portugal and this is our best suggestion.
Take a look into NomadX’s accommodation options nearby these beaches and you might even find your next place stay for a while!
Have you visited any of these beaches? If not, each one are you going to? Let us know in the comments!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matilde & Miguel are a Portuguese couple who combined the passion for traveling with entrepreneurship and became Digital Nomads. They created the TravelB4Settle brand in late 2017 and since then they focused on Content Creation and Digital Marketing. Their main goal is to inspire and educate others to become Digital Nomads and help businesses all around the world to grow their presence online.