Surf & Sun in the Algarve

The final stretch of our Portugal trip was spent in the Algarve, the southern region of Portugal known for its beautiful beaches, surfing, and fresh seafood. Lagos is the main town in the Algarve, but we opted to stay in Sagres (the surf town) about 30 minutes drive from Lagos. We had heard Sagres was much more chill and relaxed than Lagos (which is a bit of young party town) – we definitely made the right choice. We did spend a bit of time in Lagos though since it was easy to get to and offered some more variety than Sagres.

Sagres is very relaxed, a small town dotted with hotels and surf camps. Because it’s located on the southwesternmost point of Portugal (and Europe overall), it tends to be very windy. We were there in July and it was actually pretty chilly in the evenings! But that wind is also what makes it a perfect area for surfing.

Spoiler: The beaches here look amazing, BUT they are very windy and the water is very cold. You have been warned.

Getting there: 

We rented a car in Lisbon from Amoita Rental and drove to Sagres. We had directions from our Eat Portugal tour guide to take a more scenic route there which was a nice way to spend the afternoon. The drive probably took around 5 hours in total, but it’s about 3 hours on the highway. Our road trip included taking a ferry in Setubal to Troia (about 20 minutes) – there are tons of jellyfish in the water here! Leaving Troia, we looked for Comporto, a small beach town. We visited the beach quickly, ordering iced coffees at the beach cafe and soaking up the sun. We then had lunch in Porto Covo, an adorable little beach town with matching blue and white buildings. Marques, recommended for lunch, was closed unfortunately. But there are a number of small seafood restaurants around the main square so we stopped at one of them – Hortela. Lunch was pretty good: sardines, octopus, and Imperial beers. If you choose to drive to Sagres, there are other beach towns to visit as you make your way south – Cabo Sardão, Odeceixe, Aljezur, and Carrapateira.

You can also fly into/out of Faro, which is also in the Algarve, if you aren’t traveling between Lisbon and the south.

Where to Stay:

We had rooms at Mareta Beach and Mareta View hotels which are adjacent to each other (our friends stayed in one of the rooms). Our room at the Mareta Beach had a balcony, but it was so windy we didn’t really use it at all. The View has a much nicer lounge/dining area, you can come here for drinks or breakfast even if you are staying at the other hotel. Breakfast at the Beach was in the basement so not as nice of a space, but offered pretty good food options (fruit, ham, cheese, yogurt, cereal, coffee, juice). The hotel has some games to borrow in the lobby which is nice (we got a lot of use out of the Uno deck). There is also a small cafe on the first floor serving coffee and snacks.

There are a few hotels in Sagres, some fancier than others, so this may alter your choice of lodging. Sagres also offers a few surf camps which are a bit more hostel-like in their accommodations.

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Sunset at Cabo de Sao Vicente

 

Things to do:

Beaches – You are here to relax and enjoy the beaches. But be warned that they are windy and the water can be quite cold. The beach next to our hotel was pretty nice, we rented loungers at Repaso, a restaurant at the beach, for 11 euro for 2 chairs. Beach was calm and quiet, not very busy or many kids (mostly older British couples here). Ingrina Beach in Vila do Bispo, about 10-15 min away from Sagres, is a nice and quiet little cove. But the water is cold and it is very windy. There’s a restaurant at the beach with unfriendly service and pretty tasty food. No one asked us for money for the lounge chairs here. But it was so windy we didn’t stay here long and returned to the beach next to our hotel.

Surfing – We did a 1-day lesson at Sagres Natura Surf School (55 euro per person). The class was from 9:30-5:30, about 15 people total in the group, some more advanced than others. We surfed at Tonel beach which had many waves, and there were a few other surf schools also here. We were put in small groups of 4 for our lesson. The instructors were really helpful and we all managed to do pretty well for first time surfers! After a few hours of practice, we had lunch on the beach (BYO lunch). After surfing, the instructors took us to another beach – Beliche – to hang out. Lots of steps to get down there but a really nice beach. Lots of topless sunbathing here, FYI.

Watch the sunset at Cabo do Sao Vicente – The most southwestern tip of Europe, really incredible watching the sunset here, looks like you are at the end of the world. It’s also extremely windy! And there are many people here for the sunset!  We brought some snacks/wine and ended up eating in the car because it was so windy! Definitely worth checking out one night while you are there.

Sagres Fort – I went on a run and came to check out the fort, but not much to see there. Very windy.

What to Eat & Drink:

Sagres is a pretty small town and there are not a ton of options for dining. I think we went to nearly all of them! Food options are better in Lagos.

Vila Velha – Short walk from our hotel. Very cozy space with a large variety of food (and not all Portuguese food), which was great for a group. Try the Portuguese coffee for dessert.

D’Italia – Italian restaurant adjacent to our hotel. Pizzas, pastas, etc. Big portions.

Restaurant Gigi – Disappointing meal. Ordered cataplana and it was not very good.

Check Out Lagos – Fun to visit for a day or in the evening for dinner/nightlife. It’s definitely a young crowd that stays here, lots of hostels and bars and partying going on. Tons of souvenir shops in the town.

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Things to do:

Bom Dia sailing – Spend the afternoon out on the water! We did a full day sail, left at 1p and returned around 5:30, about 20 people total on the boat. They offer lunch and drinks on the boat. We had some time for swimming, and after lunch we were able to go on smaller boats to tour the caves/grottoes which was pretty cool. Drinks cost extra, but they were pretty cheap. Really fun afternoon – highly recommended! Make reservations in advance!

Meia Praia – Large beach (4 km) which restaurants/loungers. Many of the other beaches in Lagos there were recommended were harder to get to or closed. Only 1 euro for parking. Beach is gorgeous and water is beautiful. BUT COLD. Much windier than the beach near our hotel, by mid-afternoon it was quite unpleasant.

Eating in Lagos:

You must have cataplana when you are in the Algarve. It’s like a seafood stew with a curry sauce served in a large silver pan (a cataplana, similar to a wok) and it is delicious. Served with rice and potatoes on the side. It is unique to this region as our tour guides in Lisbon were not familiar with the dish. Best place is Casinha do Petisco – you must get here early to put your name in for a table. We arrived at 7 and were seated around 8:20 (for a table of 4 it was slower than for 2).

Kohinoor – We were in the mood for Indian food after so much Portugeuse eating. This place smelled delicious and looked popular. And it was fantastic. Really great meal and good people watching if you sit outside.

There are plenty of bars in Lagos, we didn’t really hang out here much after dinner but definitely a party town!

 

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