For anyone seeking out things to do in the Algarve, I have you covered right here! This is one of my favorite places in the world, and I’m stoked to share it with you…
It’s so gorgeous, and I’m humbled to have actually spent nearly a year collectively in the Algarve! *pinch me*
There are tons of things to do in the Algarve area, and all of them offer up some jaw-dropping scenery as a little bonus.
You can spend your time hiking, surfing or beach bumming… The cliffsides are where the hikers are, and just below the cliffs are the beach bums and surfers.
Life is good in the Algarve! Here are a few ideas (and some inspiration) for your Algarve adventure.
Things to Do in the Algarve
Hiking, beach bumming, and surfing… Oh, my! Between these three things, trust me, you’ll be more than booked up on your Algarve itinerary.
These are the main things to do in the Algarve, but I have plenty of other ideas to fill your time between beach days. Here’s the low down on everything…
Spoiler alert: They are all super beautiful and worth it!
1. Enjoy the Views as You Trek Along the Coast
The Algarve doesn’t do hiking like other places. At least don’t think so! I can’t think of too many places in the world where there are miles and miles of coastline hikes above rocky cliff edges that take you to hidden beaches – can you?
The dilapidated rocks that have taken over the craggy coastline make for a wonderful wander!
Grab your hiking shoes (or if you were born in flip flops like I was, those can work too, but be careful!) and let’s head to the dusty trails of the Algarve…
High above the beach on the tops of those cliffs are barely marked and slimly trodden trails that you can meander for days – literally.
The trails go on for what seems like forever, and numerous paths are scattered around the entire region. Most of them are along the coastline, and to be honest, those are the best ones.
For miles and miles for as long as you want, you can experience hiking in the Algarve thanks to the network of trails along the coast. And when you’ve had enough, find your way down to a beach to cool off and get those toes into the sand.
Some of them are hidden in a cove or take monkey-like skills to get to while risking your life (half joking) hopping from rock to rock. Some will seem impossible to get to – because they are. Unless you have a boat or kayak!
There were many beaches that evaded me during my days exploring the Algarve – but that’s OK! I just went and scrambled to find the next one.
I can’t tell you how incredible it is to hike along these cliffs, and this is by far the coolest thing to do in the Algarve, in my opinion.
The Best Hikes in The Algarve
Now if you don’t want to spend your entire vacation on the trails (what’s wrong with you!?), you’ll need to narrow it down to a single hike or two. My absolute favorite trail in the Algarve is Sete Vales. This epic hike starts in Carvoeiro and follows the coast to Benagil, where you can peer down into the famous Benagil Cave (more on that later). It’s *chef’s kiss*
The trails in the Algarve are all quite impressive, but a few of my favs include:
- Telheiro Beach trail
- Ponte de Piedade trail
- Carrapateira trail
- Sete Vales trail
Somethings to keep in mind while hiking around The Algarve:
- All trails are very exposed – there’s literally zero tree coverage. Bring all the sunscreen and hats you can carry!
- Flip-flops are probably not a great idea, so maybe don’t copy me on that. These are dusty dirt trails with lots of rocks crumbling around you. Proper shoes are a better move. But on that note, don’t forget the flip-flops for when you make it down to the beach!
- Most of these trails are very easy. There isn’t too much climbing up and down.
- You don’t have to walk a certain amount to get views. Just go in any direction for any amount of time, and it will likely be beautiful!
- Be extremely careful exploring the little beaches you may see along your hikes. Some are not meant to be found, and we don’t need you falling off rocks! Be smart while you’re wandering.
- There aren’t a lot of trail markings. You’re kind of just wandering at some points, so don’t get too close to any of the edges and keep track of where you parked.
2. Sun Your Bums on Some of the Best Beaches in the Entire World
I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll mention it again. The Algarve beaches are STUNNERS.
I’ve really never seen beaches that are so dramatic and gorgeous.
The soft golden sand, clear deep blue water, and sounds of the crests smashing onto the shores… It just doesn’t get old!
The beaches here are almost all surrounded by incredibly sunkissed sandy cliffs, which is what makes them so unique and jaw-droppingly beautiful.
Some of my favorites are in the Vila do Bispo area, but I have an entirely different post just on the Algarve’s most beautiful beaches that I absolutely love.
Check that post out to see which beaches you’re interested in and which you can fit into your schedule.
Don’t worry, though – it’s hard to make a bad choice!
My top picks real quick:
- Praia do Amado
- Praia do Beliche
- Praia do Martinhal
- Praia da Marinha
- Praia das Furnas
- Praia de Carvoeiro
- Praia da Carvalho
- Praia da Coelha
Recommended beach tours:
- Pirate Ship Cruise along the Algarve Coast
- Algarve Golden Coast Cruise
- Caves and Coastline to Benagil
3. Shred Some Waves (It’s a Religion Here!)
For anyone who surfs, the Algarve is a haven. I have surfed here a few times, but not as much as I would have liked to!
The waves are a bit bigger and rougher than the waves I’ve been on in Ecuador, Morocco, Mexico, and Indonesia… But there are some areas that are kinder to beginners/fraidy cats, and of course, you can always take a lesson (recommended unless you have experience)!
Taking a lesson and going out with a group is probably the best way to get yourself in the surf while visiting the Algarve. Some of the best beginner waves are out in Amado Beach, but it’s, unfortunately, a drive away from the major towns. No worries, though, as you’ll find some great surf classes on beaches around Albufeira and Lagos, too, if you don’t have a car.
Recommended Surf Lessons:
4. Let Your Jaw Drop at Benagil Cave
If you’ve ever seen a picture of the Algarve, you’ve probably seen a picture of Benagil Cave. It’s simply one of the best things to do in the Algarve. You can hike to the top along the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, but the best way to see it is from below.
If the weather is nice, you can take a kayak or boat tour of Benagil Cave, which is the only way to get into the actual cave part since the cliffs surrounding it are so high.
Benagil is a natural sea cave that was formed over hundreds of thousands of years of erosion. This place is seriously amazing, but don’t take my word for it! Rent a kayak, take a tour, and hike to the top. Whatever. Just don’t miss it, okay?
Recommended Benagil Tours and Kayak Rentals:
- Rent a kayak and go solo! (This is what I did)
- Explore more with a SUP or Kayak tour.
- Take a boat tour from one of these towns in the Algarve:
TIP: Booking a Benagil Tour for the morning is best. It’s less crowded at this time.
5. Travel to Another World at Ponta da Piedade
Ponta da Piedade and the beaches and trails in this area are from another world. This ethereal collection of cliffs, caves, grottos, and delicate arches will blow. your. mind. And it’s easily one of the best things to do in the Algarve.
You can either take a boat tour to Ponta de Piedade or hop on one of the many trails that crisscross the area. I’d recommend both so you can see the formations from several different angles.
Ponta de Piedade is near Lagos, which is a fantastic city to wander around, eat and shop. Clamoring around the rocks and trails here is EPIC, and it’s one of the best views in the region.
If you don’t have your own car, then you’ll definitely want to do a tour!
6. Chill Out in Sagres
You’ll no doubt realize pretty quickly that the Algarve is an action-packed region. But when you’re ready to chill out in a cool town, there’s no better place than Sagres.
Located on the Algarve’s western tip, Sagres is pretty remote, which is just part of the allure here.
Sagres has all the ingredients of a Nina-approved destination – beautiful beaches (it’s the Algarve, so, duh), dramatic landscapes, some great surf spots, and oh, plenty of restaurants!
I end up basing here when I’m in the Algarve as it’s a laidback town—maybe a bit too laidback for some. It’s sleepy, in fact!—but I have a friend here and love coming back to chill for a while. If you’re only here for a few days, I wouldn’t recommend basing here as it’s a bit more removed from the other things to do in the Algarve. Just visit for a day if anything.
7. Laze on the Laidback Shores of Luz
Praia da Luz, or, Beach of Light, is a beautiful beach near Lagos, though it’s definitely a destination in its own right.
The fine, golden sand beach is worth the journey alone, but add in a long, palm-lined esplanade and a selection of charming beach cafes and restaurants, and you’ve got one of the best things to do in the Algarve.
Luz is basically a dream resort town, but it’s small enough to still feel sleepy and underrated, which is my cup of tea!
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8. Discover the Magic of Carvoeiro
While I recommend seeing every last square inch of the Algarve if you can manage it, I totally get that sometimes you want to just pick a spot and stick there, especially if you’re short on time. If that’s you, check out Carvoeiro.
The town’s main beach sits right by the main town area, so once you’ve had enough of the sun, you can wander down the white-washed streets and seek out ice cream parlors, cute boutiques, and restaurants.
Carvoeiro also has a stunning cliff-top boardwalk, offering epic views of the city below and the cliffs stretching out along the coastline.
Would this really be an Algarve beach town if it didn’t have some sort of cave or rock formation? I vote no, and luckily Carvoiera has a pretty cool one.
Algar Seco is a rock formation with caves, underwater pools, and tunnels carved into a cliff by the sea, with some pretty sick views across the water. You can access the caves right from the boardwalk or take a boat or kayak tour for a different view.
9. See What Makes Marinha Beach So Popular
Is this one of the best beaches in the Algarve? Absolutely. Is it one of the most popular beaches in all of Portugal? Possibly! While I usually shy away from attractions that are known as the most popular (read, most touristy), Marinha Beach is actually worth the hype, in my opinion.
Yes, it can get crowded, but the sandy stretch is large enough that you can find your own space to hunker down for a relaxing beach day.
If you get bored of sunning your cheeks, you can walk to the right side of the beach and catch a glimpse of the two famous arches that make Marinha Beach so popular!
TIP: Go at low tide and you can actually walk out and get a better view of these famous arches. If it’s high tide, enjoy them from above on the trail.
10. Learn About the Algarve Surf Scene at Amado
Big waves. Soft sand. Renowned surf schools. What more could you ask for when you’re learning to surf? Oh, did I mention the incredible views?
Welcome to Praia do Amado, one of the best spots to learn all about the Algarve surf scene. This is one of the beaches where I learned to surf too! Check out this surf school and hit the waves.
11. Have the Experience of a Lifetime on a Dolphin Watching Tour
One of the best things to do in the Algarve is discover what creatures live off the coast. And one of the coolest specimens is dolphins! Both bottlenose and common dolphins swim in these waters, so why not have the experience of a lifetime and try to spot some of these awesome creatures?
There are tons of tours that take you out dolphin watching for an afternoon all around the Algarve, so no matter where you’re staying, you’ll likely be able to find a good tour.
12. Let the Locals Be Your Guide to the Algarve
Speaking of tours, I love to do a tour or two wherever I go. And if dolphins aren’t really your thing, there are plenty of other great tour options in the Algarve.
There are tours on land and sea, tours based on food and wine, and of course, plenty of adventurous options for all my daredevils out there.
Some unique tours around The Algarve:
- 6-Hour Yacht Cruise with BBQ Lunch
- Half-Day Algarve Jeep Safari
- 4×4 Off-Road Safari & Vineyard Wine Tasting
- Guided Tour by Tuk-Tuk
- Safari Excursion in the Algarve Mountains
READ MORE: 11 Adventurous Algarve Tours Worth Taking
13. Gorge Yourself on Seafood
Did you really go to the Algarve if you didn’t gorge yourself on seafood??
Eating is one of the best things to do in the Algarve – there’s just so much fresh seafood available across the entire region. You really can’t go wrong no matter which places you decide to add to your itinerary – just be sure to go a little bit off the main drag to get more authentic stuff.
If you’re unsure of where to begin, there are some great food tours available across the Algarve. This is a great way to get an overview of Portugal’s food history and culture, plus try a bunch of tasty dishes!
14. Get Lost in the Old Town Centers
I know, I know. Why would you go anywhere other than the beach while you’re exploring the Algarve?
Well, because some of the town centers are straight out of a daydream!
I’m partial to the old towns in Lagos and Albufeira, with their quaint cobblestone streets and historic architecture, but honestly, most towns I mention whenever I talk about the Algarve have pretty cute old towns to wander and get lost in.
You’ll find tons of tucked-away cute cafes, little shops full of trinkets, and cobbled walkways leading to a captivating church or small park.
3 Day Algarve Itinerary
If you only have around 3 days in the Algarve, I’d suggest…
Visiting Marinha and Carvalho Beaches and doing the Seven Hanging Valleys trail.
The trail can be as long or as short as you want. It’s a ridiculously gorgeous area, so chill and enjoy.
If you can and if weather permits, throw in a tour to Benagil Cave.
It’s a uniquely beautiful cave beach that can only be accessed by water.
You can kayak or boat to it. If the weather isn’t nice and the water is too rough, the Seven Hanging Valleys trail you’re wandering around will take you to the top of it so you can peer down inside.
Next, I’d either grab a few surf lessons on the west side of The Algarve and see if you can be an overnight pro… Or, if surfing isn’t your thing, go for another coastal walk.
Ponta da Piedade and the beaches and trails in this area are from another world. This is near Lagos, which is a fantastic city to wander around, eat and shop.
- Algarve 3-Hour Caves and Coastline Boat Trip
- If you want to go to Ponta da Piedade, do one of these tours – Boat tour | Kayak tour
- Benagil Cave Tour – This one is a must!
5-7-Day Algarve Itinerary
Have an extra few days? Sweet!
I’d add in another surf day or two to your schedule because you want to be a pro, right?! If not, just observe the surfers from afar and beach bum some more. Check my Algarve beach post, for tons of info on the best beaches.
If you’re curious to wander around a town, and you’ve done Lagos, then I’d recommend Albufeira for a happening and lively spot, or Luz if you want a more chill time.
For something in between these two (quite literally), head to Carvoeiro! A gorgeous beach town that definitely gets busy, but its vibe isn’t as crazy as Albufeira but not as sleepy as Luz.
All three of these have very cool Old Towns to wander around, stunning beaches, and yes, they have those coastal trails if you’d like to wander those some more too.
NOTE: The above itineraries might be a bit ambitious if you don’t have a car or aren’t willing to book tours, so take the itineraries above as suggestions on what you could do… Keep reading for info on how to great around and car rentals!
Where Should I Stay in the Algarve?
Luckily, a lot of the best things to do in the Algarve sit pretty close to one another, and if you have a car, you’re GOLDEN.
I can’t really answer this, it all depends on what you want to do and how much time you have…
I’m partial to sleepy Sagres. It’s where I base myself when I visit the Algarve. (It’s less sleepy in summer).
But, you’re probably going to want a livelier place, so I’d recommend Lagos, Albufeira, Carvoeiro, or Faro. Faro is closest to the airport, so if you don’t have much time, you might consider staying there.
If you’re surfing, you need to stay as west as possible, as that’s where the best surf is. Sagres is one of the best spots since there are so many surfing havens near it.
Overall, I’d recommend not moving around TOO much because, again, if you have a car, just drive to the spots you want to see (under an hour almost anywhere you want to go) rather than waste part of your day packing and unpacking and checking in and out of hotels.
With that said, you might not want to rent a car, and that’s fine too. More on that in a sec…
Best Places to Stay in The Algarve
Here are some of the best places to stay in the Algarve. If you want a happening base for your adventures, these are the most recommended towns and hotels in the Algarve!
- Boutique Taghostel – With rooms overlooking the marina, you’ll be within easy reach of the best parts of Lagos.
- The Salty Lodge – Choose from stylish studios, one- or two-bedroom apartments in the heart of the historical center.
- Casa Luma B&B – Bright modern rooms, with free breakfast and a cool rooftop terrace make this a popular place to stay.
- Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda – Just five minutes from the beach, this hotel offers individually decorated rooms, each with a private balcony.
- Salgados Dunas Suites – Enjoy luxurious rooms and top-grade facilities surrounded by palm trees, with direct access to the beach.
- Pine Cliffs Resort – This high-end resort offers tennis courts, a golf course, on-site spa and, of course, stunning views over the Atlantic.
- Alisios Hotel – A few steps from this hotel you’ll find the lovely Alemães Beach, or you can just enjoy the view from the sweeping terrace restaurant.
- Son of a Beach Hostel – For a budget-friendly but fun option, this hostel offers dorms, private rooms, a bar and a rooftop terrace.
- O Quintal Guesthouse – Just 200 meters from the beach, this B&B offers great value for money with cozy rooms and a charming terrace.
- Castelo Guesthouse – Perfect for couples, you can enjoy breakfast overlooking the ocean from your private terrace.
- Algar Seco Parque – This hotel is a great choice at any time of year, with all rooms offering a private balcony, fully equipped kitchen and a wood-burning stove.
- Terraços De Benagil – With a clifftop location, you’ll get stunning views from a range of private apartments, the garden terrace and swimming pool.
- Hotel Faro and Beach Club – This resort offers the best of both worlds with a central Faro location and a free shuttle to its own beach club.
- Sunlight House – Charming pastel rooms, a spacious terrace and a handy location make this a perfect romantic stay.
- Hostel Casa d’Alagoa – Choose from budget dorms or private rooms in a renovated historical building in the Old Town.
- The Pocket Pillow House – This clean and bright guesthouse is simple but charmingly decorated, with a location in the entertainment district.
How Far Away Is Everything in the Algarve?
This is the great thing about the Algarve. Whether you have 3 days or 7 days in the Algarve, everything is relatively close, so you don’t need to panic that you won’t get to finish everything on your list.
Faro to Sagres is only 1.5 hours! Pretty much all the best things to do in the Algarve are between those two spots, with the exception of a few trails and beaches north of Sagres. You can get a lot done in a short amount of time BUT there’s one key thing…
How to Get Around the Algarve
There’s great news here! The Algarve is SO easy to get around…
*wait for it*
…When you have your own car.
This could be a plus, or a total bummer, depending on when you get here and how you like to travel.
The car hires in the Algarve get cheaper during the shoulder and off-season.
I’m talking less than $200 for a whole month cheap (what I paid in 2018, update for 2023, it’s about double now during off-season)! But during high season, you’ll easily pay more than $1200 USD for a month.
If you’re going with friends, the burden of the cost won’t burn too bad, but if you’re a couple or solo, it could hurt your pockets.
The bad news about the Algarve is that it’s kind of difficult to get around without your own car.
Sure, there are buses that can take you from city to city, but then you’ll need to hire private taxis or book tours to every attraction, and sometimes, it’s not even possible.
There are no tours at the hiking trails really – you’ll have to get a taxi there.
Once you’re done, you’ll need to call one to get you as this isn’t New York City, where you can just wave one down, plus, some of these spots are a bit in the middle of nowhere.
So what about booking buses? Luckily it’s pretty easy! You can book buses around Portugal (and Europe) here.
Once you’re IN the town, it’s also easily walkable; just book a hotel around the Old Town center, and you’ll be golden. You can easily book tours to do out-of-reach things, which can often be cheaper than renting a car anyway!
If you’re looking for bus, boat, or train tickets around Europe, you can easily book them online! Check Availability
Do I NEED to Rent a Car?
I think a car rental in the Algarve would be the smartest choice and the best way you’ll be able to get around if you want to see some of the best things in the Algarve. Without it, some of these spots might be a bit difficult or near impossible.
If you want to surf, it’s essentially impossible not to have your own vehicle. How will you get to the beaches with your board?
Some beaches have board rentals at them, but you’d then need to rent daily as opposed to renting for a few days/a week at a time which is a cheaper option.
Of course, if you’re learning, you’re likely going to book with a surf school that will take care of the transportation for you, so that’s no worries.
The BIGGEST benefit to having your own car though is making it a better journey overall.
There’s plenty of random beauty to stumble on, and a road trip is the easiest and most epic way to see South Portugal’s paradise. These are just some points to think about when thinking about how to get around the Algarve.
For some of the best car rental deals, I always check here.
How to Get to The Algarve: Faro or Lisbon to the Algarve?
The good thing about arriving in Faro is that you’re already in the Algarve! However, most would probably find the cheapest flights coming into Lisbon.
Lisbon to the Algarve is about 3 hours driving to where the Algarve starts, but if you’re going further south, it will take 4 hours or so.
It really depends on what airport you’re coming into and where you’re going.
You could start your Algarve itinerary at the top of the Algarve and then work your way down towards Faro or start in Faro and work your way toward Lisbon.
The only foreseeable issue is whether or not you want to pay the extra money to return your car to a different location. That would be something to look into.
Otherwise, it would be best to backtrack with your car to return it to the same spot. Lisbon to the Algarve would probably be what is most comfortable for people visiting as it’s where most flights go.
Tips for Renting a Car in the Algarve:
- Keep in mind there are two ways to get from Lisbon to the Algarve: the coastal road or the toll road. Obviously, the toll road will be quicker, but it also costs about 20€ one way.
- Avoid driving in Lisbon. It’s pretty hectic, and some of the intersections are INSANE. Otherwise, driving in the Algarve is pretty chill.
- Get the toll pass with your car rental so everything is charged electronically. It is easier and faster.
- Double check if you get car insurance with your travel insurance or your credit card! They are VERY good at guilt-tripping you into getting crazy different insurance plans. If you’re covered, there’s no need to purchase more (We are covered by our credit card, which is another reason why we get the car rentals in Portugal for cheaper). Check my article about the best travel credit cards – it could save you tons of money.
- Always, no matter where you are in the world, take pictures and videos of the rental vehicle before driving off. Point out every single tiny flaw.
For car rentals, we had luck here finding car rental deals!
Hiking, surfing, and beach bumming.
It’s a simple list of activities to provide visitors with, but man is it impressive! You won’t get tired of the phenomenal views that the Algarve offers, it’s impossible!
Which things to do in the Algarve are you most looking forward to? I hope this helped you plan your trip!
Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad since 2011 and blogging on Where in the World is Nina? for nearly as long. Nina helps people like you move around the world while making money. She loves talking about how to work abroad and online to travel longer!