With over 1,000 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline, the best beaches in Portugal come in many magnificent forms. From craggy coves and dune-backed shorelines to island bays lapped by crystal-clear sapphire waters, Portugal’s paradisiacal sands are as scenic as they are relaxing.
Remember, too, that the volcanic Atlantic archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores are Portuguese, offering exciting beaches of their own.
Whether you’re seeking a coastal escape from Lisbon, a surf-friendly swell on the volcanic archipelagos, or a sunbathing spot far from the crowds, these are the best beaches in Portugal.
Praia de Galápos, Setúbal
Enveloped by the pristine nature of Setubal’s verdant Parque Natural da Arrábida, the crystal-clear waters and invitingly soft sands of Praia de Galápos dazzle.
Less than an hour from Lisbon, this half-moon bay backed by forested hills is pretty as a postcard, crafting a panorama that could easily be mistaken for the Caribbean.
Of course, the Atlantic Ocean’s temperatures aren’t quite as inviting as a tropical island, though it’s still a wonderful place for a swim, thanks to the calmer waters of the estuary.
As one of the best beaches in Portugal, crowds can be expected on weekends and at the height of summer, meaning a mid-week visit usually promises a more serene sunbathing session.
São Jacinto Beach, Aveiro
Untouched dunes, pine-forested trails, and ample birdwatching await at São Jacinto Dune Nature Reserve, an hour south of Porto.
Reachable either by road circumnavigating the Ria de Aveiro lagoon or a short ferry ride from nearby Aveiro, this protected swathe of the coast is not just relatively untouched, but also rich in fauna and flora.
Enjoy long windswept walks along the nearly footprint-free sands, enter the bird-watching hides hidden among the trees, and paddle in the pristine waters far from the crowds. São Jacinto is a true Atlantic-facing paradise.
Praia do Porto do Seixal, Madeira
Backed by fern-coated cliffs and tumbling waterfalls, Praia do Porto do Seixal is one of the best beaches in Madeira to get away from it all.
A 40-minute drive from Funchal, this bay of black volcanic sand is quite the sight to behold. With a breakwater for protection, the waves gently lap against the sparkling slate shoreline, providing a tranquil swim even though the island’s north is renowned for its wild waters.
If you’d prefer another unique natural bathing opportunity, continue further west to Porto Moniz. Here, dramatic pools carved into weathered lava sparkle like jewels, with nothing but endless ocean views beyond.
Praia das Azenhas do Mar, Sintra
Azenhas do Mar—a cluster of whitewashed homes perched atop a cliff—is one of Portugal’s prettiest villages and less than an hour from Lisbon.
After you’ve admired the magnificent vista from above, an equally scenic staircase will lead you to the pocket of golden sand and azure sea below the tiny village.
Depending on the tides, you’ll either find a wider bay or the beach lido the perfect spot for swimming. With the Atlantic waves often tumbling over the edge of the sea pool, and the dramatic Sintra coastline in the background, it’s one of the most beautiful places in Portugal for a dip.
After enjoying the majestic cove, head into the nearby forested park, where the fairytale castles of Sintra provide a perfect slice of post-bathing sightseeing.
Praia do Guincho, Cascais
Three miles beyond Cascais’s grand villas and high-end restaurants, wind-whipped Praia do Guincho is an enticing, dune-backed escape from Lisbon.
Along this stretch of the Estoril coast, the ocean breeze and waves shape the landscapes. After following the boardwalk across the sugary dunes, you’ll be greeted by a sky dotted with colorful kites.
Atop the cerulean waters, windsurfers seemingly float, providing quite the show as you lounge on the sands or sip a crisp Lisbon white wine in the waterfront beach bar.
Praia do Areal de Santa Bárbara, São Miguel
On the north side of São Miguel, a 20-minute drive from Ponta Delgada, the black sands of Praia do Areal de Santa Bárbara provide one of the Azores’ best beaches.
As a volcanic archipelago, the beaches of the Azores are more than a little dramatic. Shaped by millenia of seismic shifts, lava flows, and crashing Atlantic waves, the shoreline is as impressive as the islands’ jagged peaks.
This beach is regarded as one of the best in Portugal for surfing, and wave-riders will relish the swell here, while surf schools provide the chance for introductory lessons.
If you’re seeking a less adrenaline-fuelled beach day, Praia do Areal de Santa Bárbara is still a breathtaking side trip from Ponta Delgada.
With beach bars and a broad swathe of sand, it’s a great place to top up your tan and appreciate the call of the Atlantic—even if these waters can be a little rough for swimming.
Read: Best Places to Learn How to Surf in the World
Praia do Norte, Nazaré
You don’t need to be a surfer to appreciate the world-famous big waves of Nazaré, a beach-fronted town 90 minutes north of Lisbon.
This beach is renowned as the home of the highest waves in the world, and champion surfers from across the globe come to take on the challenge. A terrifying 86 feet is the highest wave ridden here, and you can feel the adrenaline even as a spectator.
After taking in the incredible wave-riding talent from the lighthouse viewing platform, head down to the sands for a more tranquil view. At Praia do Norte, kitesurfers make the most of the prevailing winds, adding an array of colors to the sky. Alternatively, a ride down the funicular to Nazare means plenty of fresh seafood restaurants and a more expansive beach to enjoy.
Praia do Ouro, Sesimbra
South of Lisbon, the town of Sesimbra is decked out with seaside credentials. From the extensive golden sands lapped by cyan waters to the mural-decorated side streets lined with fresh seafood restaurants, this is the perfect coastal escape from the capital.
Born from a fishing village, the town has grown into a sophisticated destination. Thankfully, it’s retained much of its past charm and historical sights, all worth a visit if you can tear yourself away from the curved bay’s inviting waters.
Alongside the beach is Forte de Santiago, an old defensive station. Inside, you’ll find turret windows framing the perfect beach photo and a small café and museum to escape the mid-day sun.
Overlooking the town and beach are the remains of a Moorish castle perched on a hilltop high above. The steep walk to reach the ruins requires comfortable shoes, but the magnificent panoramas are reward enough for doing the climb.
Praia dos Ingleses, Porto
Praia dos Ingleses is one of the best beaches in Porto if you’re looking for an easy escape from the country’s second city.
With a Blue Flag designation for its water quality, this stretch is ideal for a refreshing dip on a sunny day. Framed by rocky features, the sandy shoreline might be a little chiller than those further south, but as a city beach, there is plenty on offer.
After getting your fill of sun and sand, take a stroll along the promenade. Situated in an upscale district, you’ll find plenty of bars and cafés to enjoy the world-famous Douro wines or sample one of Porto’s signature dishes, the Francesinha, a stacked sandwich of meats and cheeses.
Read: Best Things to Do in Porto
Praia do Fogo, São Miguel
For a beachside sampling of São Miguel’s volcanic activity, head to Praia do Fogo, which literally translates to “fire beach”.
A 60-minute drive from Ponta Delgada, this unique beach is blessed with hydrothermal vents below the sands. Dig your feet in, and you’ll feel the warmth radiating from below.
These extra few degrees also make these waters some of the most inviting for swimming in the Azores. En route to the beach, you’ll have the chance to marvel at mountains, waterfalls, and ancient lava flows that tumbled into the ocean before arriving at the village of Ribeira Quente—the journey being as memorable as the bay.
Read: The Ultimate Azores Food Guide
Ribeira Brava Beach, Madeira
Situated in a spectacular valley flanked by vegetation-coated mountains, the quaint village of Ribeira Brava is home to one of the best beaches in Portugal.
Just a 20-minute drive from Funchal, this pebble and dark sand beach encapsulates the magic of Madeira’s volcanic coastline.
While you’ll want beach shoes to bathe here, the breakwater beyond the bay ensures calmer waters. There’s also a municipal pool on the shoreline for a salty swim without clambering over the rocks.
With a handful of typical restaurants serving the island’s signature dishes, such as scabbard fish with banana, and an Ethnographic Museum sharing Madeira’s heritage, Ribeira Brava offers plenty of entertainment if you tire of the refreshing waters.
Praia da Costa Nova, Aveiro
Costa Nova is characterized by photogenic palheiros, typical wooden houses adorned with colorful stripes of blues, reds, and greens. In days gone by, these huts were used by fishermen to store their equipment, though nowadays, most are holiday homes and popular photoshoot backgrounds.
Behind the handful of streets, the vast beach extends south as far as the eye can see. Low dunes back the expanse of sand, and seasonal lifeguards oversee the designated bathing areas. At the far end of the beach, slightly rougher waves provide a haven for surfers.
If you’re keen to enjoy some water sports without the swell, head to the inland waters of Costa Nova. This area, part of the protected Ria de Aveiro lagoon, is much calmer, making it a perfect place to kayak or SUP.
With plenty of beach bars, cafés, and catch-of-the-day restaurants—including a fine dining option on a permanently moored ship—you’ll find everything you need to enjoy the Costa Nova coast within a short stroll.
Praia Baleal, Peniche
Long regarded as one of the best beaches in Portugal by surfers and sun-seekers alike, Praia Baleal, slightly north of Peniche, is a breathtaking double-sided bathing spot.
Connecting the mainland with the minuscule isle of Baeal, two powder-soft beaches sit on either side of a narrow road leading to the whitewashed hamlet. With more of a slower-paced and fishing village feel than some of the nearby surfing towns, Praia Baleal retains an essence of traditional coastal escape.
Beyond the shoreline, the Berlengas archipelago can be seen. From Peniche, seasonal boat trips will take you to the largest of the uninhabited islands.
On the crossing, you might spot dolphins playing in the cerulean waters before arriving at the main island, home to an old defensive fort and an array of native birdlife.
Gondarém Beach, Porto
Gondarém Beach, a 15-minute ride from downtown, is a great choice if you’re exploring Porto and craving a side trip to the seaside.
A popular escape for the city’s residents, this sandy spot peppered with rocky outcrops is an urban beach, meaning a slightly less tranquil setting but plenty of facilities.
With a plethora of restaurants and bars just back from the shore, many of which are along the esplanade, you won’t need to head back into the city for lunch. Instead, savor your seafood with a sea view, rounded off with a glass of the region’s most famous fortified wine, Port.
Costa da Caparica, Almada
Costa da Caparica provides some of the best beaches near Lisbon, just a short boat or bus hop from the city—perfect if you don’t want to venture too far from the capital.
Spanning around 20 miles, this stretch of sand has it all. From surf spots and trendy beach clubs to family-friendly enclaves and more secluded swathes, multiple named beaches lead away from the city of Almada and towards the Alentejo coast further south.
On route to Costa da Caparica, you can easily combine your beach day with a visit to some of the most famous attractions on the River Tagus’ southern bank.
Admire the architecture of the San Francisco-inspired Ponte 25 de Abril bridge, climb the towering statue of Christ for sweeping views overlooking the city, and then continue to the shoreline for a catch-of-the-day lunch overlooking the Atlantic—all before diving into the refreshing waters.
Read: Best Neighborhoods in Lisbon
Machico Beach, Madeira
One of a few golden-sand beaches on Madeira—where pebble bays and dark volcanic sands rule supreme—Machico (also known as Praia da Banda d’Além) is a calm and inviting location for an island beach day.
You can relax into the sands of this protected crescent-shaped bay, knowing lifeguards are on duty in the bathing season, or head off to explore either the town or deep blue.
With whale-watching tours departing from Machico, and plenty of cafés and ice-cream parlors just back from the beach, there’s plenty to keep you entertained in the corner of this year-round springtime island.
Have you been lured into lounging on these gorgeous beaches? Explore Celebrity’s Portugal cruises to start planning your dream vacation to this sun-kissed European nation.