A Guide to Portugal’s Best Kept Secret: The Algarve Coast (Lagos)

The algarve coast is hands down Portugal’s best kept secret. I never would have imagined the Gatorade blue water, grottos, and mountains that surround southern Portugal to be so beautiful (in fact, I didn’t even know they existed until a few months ago!).

Just about a 3 hour drive from Lisbon, Lagos is a must stop spot in Portugal if you’re going to be there more than a few days. Or if you’re crazy like me, you can manage to see Lisbon, Cascais and Lagos all in 4 days total. Yes it’s exhausting but my recent trip is proof that it’s doable.

Algarve is the southernmost part of Portugal home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe if I do say so myself. Really, a lot of it reminded me of my trip to Greece. The grottos, rock formations and ice blue water was more than anything I could’ve asked for when visiting Portugal. There is so much to see on the Algarve coast, but this post will focus on Lagos, which is the town I recommend basing yourself in when visiting this area.

Sights to See

  • Ponta de Piedade
  • Praia dos Estudantes
  • Marina de Lagos

Ponta de Piedade

This overlook is what drew me to visit Lagos in the first place:

Once you drive up to the top you will see what I mean, it seems no matter where you look you are getting a beautiful view of the ocean, and rock formations surrounding the cliffs. You’re also able to take some steps to get to the bottom, where some locals have set up grotto boat tours to take you through the rocks and into caves.

The tide differential is huge here (10+ ft) so at low tide you will be able to walk around the very same area the boat tours were taking people through just a few hours earlier.

 

Praia dos Estudantes

This sandy beach is hidden between cliffs, and has manmade tunnels connecting it to it’s neighboring beach, Praia da Batata beach. Make sure you pay attention to the tides though, as it gets harder to pass through when the water is high. There’s also an arch connecting two of the rock formations, which makes for a great photo op!

 

Marina de Lagos

The marina, built in 1994 is a hotspot for tourists and locals, filled with plenty of restaurants and cafes overlooking the boats, as well as the meeting spot for many of the excursions and boat tours you can take out of Lagos. Stop by and take some pictures, or grab something to eat or drink before you head out on a tour!

 

What to Eat & Where

  • Casinha Do Petisco “De Luis Rosa” (Known for having the best Cataplana)
  • Restaurante Ala do Castelo (This is where we got the amazing shrimp)
  • Goji Cafe (Lots of vegetarian and vegan options)

The beautiful street we took to get to Goji Cafe

The cutest little cafe! I got an açaí bowl and matcha latte, Colton got a pesto chicken sandwich and a coffee that came with a scoop of ice-cream on top! SO GOOD.

 

  • Cataplana (A special seafood stew served with rice filled with mussels, clams, octopus and so much more)
  • Pasteis de Nata (Vanilla cream puff pastry)
  • Shrimp Mozambique (The most flavorful, spicy, sweet & garlic shrimp you’ve ever had)

What to Do

  • Fishing
  • Kayaking
  • Grotto Boat Rides
  • Paddle boarding

All of these are excursions you can easily book through your hotel, or by visiting the local marina and going to one of the tourist desks in between the restaurants. The only one we opted for was fishing since we were short on time, and all we did was a short trip. The water was rough and it wasn’t the right time of year for a lot of the fish we were interested in catching, but we went anyways just for fun to see if we got a good one. We ended up catching only little ones but it was still fun!

 

Where to Stay

The Vila Graciosa- Tranquility Oasis Bed & Breakfast is where Colton and I stayed for our trip. We came across it on booking.com,  did a drive by to check it out, and ended up booking it right there on the spot. The location is PERFECT, it was within 10 minutes of everything we wanted to do, and the price was very reasonable. The rooms were clean and the pool area was super cute. They also had massages you could book in advance to get by the pool, and a buffet breakfast you could pay a little extra for every day.

I loved how colorful their buildings were!

This was one of the hotels I found with the beautiful views, and a modern, sleek look to the rooms. The prices were high when we looked at this hotel, but you can find these rooms for well under $100 a night if you book in advance.

Another hotel I looked at booking, but they were sold out on our dates. It has a super cute rooftop pool and cafe overlooking the beach, and was priced really well. This one also had great reviews.

Keep in mind Portugal is one of the cheapest countries in Europe to travel to, so even the more expensive hotels here are a lot less than some other not so nice hotels and resorts in other cities in Europe may cost you. My “$$$” price scale is based off average rates, and in comparison to other hotels in Portugal.

We absolutely loved our time in Portugal, and hope some of these photos have inspired you to visit this beautiful country!