I’m from Miami, so I’m no stranger to awesome beaches. But I had never been somewhere with so many beaches so close together all accessible on foot. Lagos is surrounded by water on every side and there would sooner be a shortage of sea gulls than a shortage of scenic sandy spots to lay out. After careful exploration, here is a complete guide to the best beaches in Lagos.
Beaches east of Ponta da Piedade
Ponta da Piedade
The lower peak of Lagos separates the beaches that face the east and the beaches that face the west. Ponta da Piedade is where you’ll find the greatest concentration of rocky cliffs. The best view of this area is midday when the sun is right above it. When the sun is rising the light will be behind the cliffs making it hard to see with the glare. When the sun is setting, it looks great but photographs terribly because the cliffs create long shadows on other cliffs.
Protip: Before you even think about hitting the sand, take a boat around Lagos and through the grottos beneath the cliffs. Morning is a good time to take a boat tour around the area because then the sun is hitting the rocks directly. This allows you to pass by all the beaches and see how busy they are to decide where you want to stop. If you’re taking a private boat, you can ask them to drop you off at one of the beaches.
When you’re at the tip of Ponta da Piedade facing the ocean, the best small beaches are eastward to the left.
Camilo Beach is easily accessible from the road that takes you to Ponta da Piedade by a very long wooden staircase. The beach is small and cozy with caves that you can go into just to see the light coming in through the top. There’s also a restaurant, Restaurante O Camilo, conveniently right at the top of the stairs so you don’t have to go far to have lunch or just grab a drink and use the bathroom.
Dona Ana Beach
For slightly easier access and a wider stretch of sand, you can head north to Dona Ana. It’s still scenic, though the rocks around this beach are not as intricate as the ones closer to the peak. But it’s one of the longest stretches of sand on that side of Lagos and has calm waters, making it a popular spot especially in the summer.
Praia do Pinhão
North of Dona Ana, there is a slightly smaller beach with almost as much space to lay out that’s nestled between rocks. Because the walk to it is a little longer, it feels more secluded than Dona Ana. It is particularly nice when the tide is low and you can see some of the grottos without the need of a boat.
Lagos Stairs Playa
This one is my favorite. When you’re walking toward Praia do Pinhão, you’ll pass a set of stone steps that seemingly lead to nowhere. The steps aren’t long enough to get to the beach and they’re blocked off. Looking down at the stretch of sand, it looks like all the sand is covered by water because the cliff overhang doesn’t allow you to see the whole thing. But there is a small stretch of dry sand, at least for part of the day, and it’s beautifully intimate.
This beach is accessible two ways: from Praia do Pinhão through a thin cave, that based on the dryness of the sand looks like it’s never or hardly ever underwater. You can also access it from a cave on the other side from Praia dos Estudantes. This cave and the thin passageway to it against the cliffs is underwater if the tide is high, so that route is sometimes closed off.
Praia dos Estudantes
This one is also easily accessible by a stone staircase that leads down from another restaurant at the top, Cafe do Mar. What I like about Praia dos Estudantes, though it’s small is that it has really nice greenery, something which is largely missing from the stony beaches around it. There are interesting plants and grass on the top part of the cliffs, so it’s uniquely picturesque. It also has the remains of a small fort that once linked one of the rocks to the mainland. So on one end, there is a giant stone archway. You would pass this archway to get to Lagos Stairs Playa.
This is another favorite though it’s really popular. It’s the closest to city center, right next to the the maritime fort, Forte da Ponta da Bandeira. You don’t need to go down any stairs to access it, you can just walk on the beach. There’s a free public bathroom right next to it and if you need to eat, you’re less than 10 minutes away to the heart of city center. And just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its share of secluded nooks. You can walk around the rocks for various rocky hideaways, some facing the water and some not. At the southernmost point of the Batata, there’s a perfectly square cave in the cliff that you can get to by swimming or stepping on large rocks beneath when the tide is low. This takes you across to Praia dos Estudantes.
From all these beaches, you’ll be able to see a long stretch of white sand to your left. This is Meia Praia. Though it doesn’t have the same dramatic look as the other beaches, it does face them and the cliffs. And it gets unobstructed sun all day long because it faces almost due south instead of east or west. In peak season, this beach is full of umbrellas and beach chairs but at the beginning of spring it was nearly empty, with sand as far as the eye can see. Getting there is tricky because it’s separated from the rest of the city by the Ribeira de Bensafrim. You have to access it by crossing the bridge into the Marina de Lagos.
Beaches west of Ponta da Piedade
Praia de Porto de Mos
This beach strikes me as the rich beach in town. Whereas the beaches on the east are surrounded by snack bars and dives, the roads leading to Praia de Porto de Mos are full of expensive communities with infinity pools and glass balconies. Since it’s mostly vacation residential, the area is boring. And the restaurants on the edge of the ocean are expensive and mediocre. But the beach is stunning, especially when the sun sets, because it shines directly on the rocks and you get a view you can’t get from the other parts of Lagos. This beach is popular with surfers, because the waves tend to be a little higher.
Praia da Luz
All the aforementioned beaches are accessible on foot, even if they require a little hiking. This one is a little farther out because Praia de Porto de Mos is two miles long, and it’s west of that. Past a lot more upscale resorts and condos, you’ll get to this small beach which is also famous for the sunset that gives it its name. It’s lined with palm trees and restaurants.
Whew. That’s a lot of beach. You could spend over a week in Lagos and never go to the same beach twice.
Get the GPS-guided version of this and other Lagos guides on GPSmyCity here.