When it comes to golden sands, striking cliffs and crystal-clear waters, the beaches of western Portugal offer an embarrassment of riches. The nation’s southern beaches in the Algarve often get the accolades, but there’s plenty to discover along the west coast too.

From secluded bays and ragged cliffs to impressive dune systems, this stretch of coast shaped by the Atlantic Ocean has something for everyone. A flight into Porto or Lisbon offers the easiest access to these beaches, with the majority reachable by car in around two hours or less.

Beaches close to Lisbon

Troia Peninsula
Troia Peninsula

Often dubbed the ‘new Algarve’ given its crystal blue waters and glistening white sands, the Troia Peninsula to the south of Setubal screams beauty. Located on the Sado River estuary, a ferry links the region with Setubal. While exploring this 18km sandy expanse, look out for an array of seabirds, as well as dolphins and other marine species.

Around an hour to the south of Lisbon, the Parque Natural de Arrabida includes a number of mountainside coves and beaches. Although you’ll need to hike to most of the beaches, a stand-out is Portinho da Arrabida with its waters that come in many shades of blue. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s a popular spot for relaxation and diving as a result. For somewhere slightly closer to the Portuguese capital, relax under the reed umbrellas on Praia de Mata as the sun goes down. Alongside swimming and surf for beginners, it’s a great location for enjoying photogenic sunsets.

Alternatively, head north of Lisbon for rugged cliffs and top-notch surf. Praia do Guincho is popular among kitesurfers, while the resort town of Cascais has several sandy beaches, alongside its busy marina.

Top beaches in central Portugal

If you love surfing, Nazaré is the place to go. The world’s tallest wave was surfed here and in the winter months testing conditions tempt daredevil surfers from across the planet, often drawing in huge crowds. During the summer though, when waters are significantly calmer, people flock to Praia do Norte for its golden sands and a taste of the region’s fishing culture.

Baleal, Peniche
Baleal, Peniche

To the south of Nazaré, the 6km expanse of Praia do Salgado is another great spot for surfing, while its sands also have wheelchair access. The nearby Mangues Mountain is popular with thrill seekers too, as it’s one of Portugal’s top spots for paragliding. Alternatively, the secluded sands of Praia da Gralha provide idyllic conditions for kitesurfing.

Also in the region is the natural lagoon and beach of Sao Martinho do Porto. The seashell-shaped bay offers calm waters, making it ideal for families, while there’s an abundance of shops and restaurants serving up freshly caught seafood. Or for stunning natural landscapes, head slightly south again to Salir do Porto for views of the nation’s highest dune, which climbs to a height of around 50 metres.

Found on a headland to the west of Obidos, the beaches around Peniche offer everything from top-quality surf to captivating geological landscapes, some of which are more than 20 million years old. Praia da Cova da Alfarroba offers good surf for beginners, while Praia Baleal is a popular spot with families.

Beaches of northern west coast Portugal

Troia Peninsula
Capela de Senhor da Pedra

Situated near the Barra Canal, Praia de São Jacinto is a wide expanse of white sands, set on the fringes of the São Jacinto Dune Nature Reserve. A ferry service provides access across the Ria de Aveiro estuary, where you’ll find largely untouched landscapes which are ideal for long walks and relaxation.

Or discover the charm of Praia da Miramar, just to the south of Porto. As well as a large expanse of white sands, the solitary chapel of Capela de Senhor da Pedra sits on the shoreline. It boasts exceptional views of the Atlantic and is especially striking when framed against the evening sunset.

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