When planning a beach holiday in Portugal, most visitors think of the Algarve. But the country provides numerous seaside escapes all along its long coastline. From Tavira in the south-east to Porto in the north-west, there are many sandy stretches, rocky cliffs, peaceful coves, crystal waters, big waves and spectacular views to suit every taste.
The challenge is deciding which Portuguese beach to pick for your family holiday. To help you plan your next trip, we’ve investigated - along with the help of Mumsnetters - scores of beaches, from Portugal's southern Algarve province to the less touristy coast of central and northern Portugal, to help you find the place that’s perfect for you and your family.
The ease of access, the power of the waves, the depth of the waters: all those variables need to be scrutinised when choosing the most suitable family beach, especially when you are holidaying with young children.
We also took into account the availability of beach amenities. All beaches on our list of the 10 best beaches in Portugal have lifeguards on duty during summer and outlets for renting loungers, umbrellas and water sports equipment. Many also have restaurants and cafes, as well as parking lots in the vicinity.
Keep reading to find our guide to the best beaches in Portugal for families.
Beaches in Portugal for families: a quick look
Best overall: Praia de Odeceixe
Best for beach activities: Praia do Tamariz
Best for young children: Praia da Luz
Best for older children: Costa da Caparica
Best for snorkelling: Praia da Ilha de Tavira
1. Best overall: Praia de Odeceixe
At the north-west corner of the Algarve province lies Praia de Odeceixe, a sandy beach backed by cliffs. Positioned at the mouth of a river, the beach has shallow, calm and warmer waters on one side, and dramatic ocean waves on the other. Families with children holidaying here will experience the best of both worlds.
So, take your pick! Families usually prefer the shallow safety of the river, but there are also several small lagoons and tide pools on the ocean side that are tailor-made for children. The more boisterous ocean waves are a favourite with surfers and body boarders.
Praia de Odeceixe is a part of the Costa Vicentina Natural Park, a landscape of rare beauty and tranquillity. It is within walking distance of Odeceixe village, about 2.5mi away. During the summer, you can take a “road-train”.
The Algarve beaches are ranked among the best in the world, and Praia de Odeceixe is one of the best beaches in the Algarve.
Distance from the airport: Faro Airport is 79mi away and can be reached by car, bus or train.
Related: The best beach tents for families
2. Best for young children: Praia da Luz
Located in the Algarve, about 3.7mi west of Lagos, Praia da Luz is a beautiful stretch of fine sand which gently slopes into the ocean. It is an ideal spot for families with young children and one of the best beaches in Portugal for swimming. The ocean here is usually calm, which means that it is also warmer.
A section of the beach has more rocks, so is ideal for snorkelling or rock pooling when the tide is out. All in all, Praia da Luz offers ideal conditions for a family holiday.
One of the best beaches in Lagos, in the Algarve province of Portugal, Praia da Lutz is next to a promenade with a lot of cafes, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Nearby are many whitewashed apartments and villas for tourist accommodation.
Distance from the airport: Faro Airport is 57mi away and is accessible by car, bus or train.
What Mumsnet users say
“Another vote for Praia da Luz, we have been several times; a fab place to holiday with kids. September is an excellent time to visit, still warm but it does get windy in the evening so you might need a light cardi. Great place to relax you don't need a car if going for a week, lots of great places to eat out, beach is fab (though the water a tad cool). I would go back again and again!” Sandgroper
3. Best scenic beach: Praia da Rocha
Praia da Rocha, or “rock beach”, is a long stretch of sand dotted with strange rock formations rising from the sea. Be prepared for a bit of exercise though. To reach this picturesque beach, you have to conquer thirty steep steps!
The ocean here is safe for swimming. The central part of the beach is fairly shallow, it is also a great place to snorkel, even for beginners. In windy weather, Praia da Rocha is renowned for the powerful waves that surfers love so much.
Praia da Rocha is located at the confluence of a river. It is here that mass tourism in the Algarve was born. As a result, the town with multi-story apartments, built on the cliffs behind the beach, is not the prettiest sight. The main street is lined with discos, casinos, bars and restaurants, if you are into night entertainment.
Distance from the airport: Faro Airport is 45mi away and can be reached by car, bus, or train.
What Mumsnet users say
“There's a lovely walk from Vau to Praia da Rocha when the tide is out. We like Praia da Rocha as there's loads to do there. We stay at an inland complex of villas and apartments called Oasis parque which has an indoor heated pool as well as outdoor pools, tennis courts etc. Then hire a car and bob about. It's a gorgeous coastline for beaches.” Campervan69
4. Best for chilling out: Praia de Porto de Mós
Golden sandstone cliffs, fine sand and clear blue sea: that is, in short, Praia de Porto de Mós. This beach is located in a small bay in south-west Algarve. It is largely backed by cliffs, but the main entrance provides level access.
Beautiful and tranquil, Porto de Mós is among the best beaches in Lagos, Portugal. The town is about 2.5mi away and there is a regular bus service. The entry into the water is gentle, with a long shallow strip. The bottom is sandy and pleasant to walk on. It is best to swim at high tide, because low tide exposes small rocks on the seabed, which can be a bit hard on the feet.
The sea here can get quite rough, especially in the afternoons, when the wind rises. That, however, is precisely how surfers and windsurfers like it!
Distance from the airport: Faro Airport is 57mi away and can be reached by train, bus, or car.
What Mumsnet users say
“Lagos is my absolute favourite. Great snorkelling, great restaurants, loads of history and places to explore, lots of cool little shops and just a general lovely atmosphere.” jb7445
5. Best for snorkelling: Praia da Ilha de Tavira
Sometimes called the Venice of the Algarve, Tavira is a charming town. Just opposite, on Tavira island, is Praia da Ilha de Tavira, a long sandy spit separated from the mainland by the inlets and lagoons of Ria Formosa Natural Park. The beach of the Tavira island can be reached only by ferry, which runs every half-hour in the summer.
This eastern Algarve pristine island-beach is great for families. The beach is gorgeous, with soft golden sand, calm clear waters and lovely natural setting. With no powerful waves or strong sea currents, it’s suitable for children. This spot is also perfect for snorkelling, and you can choose whether to snorkel in the sea or in the river Formosa.
Do note that you may need to queue for the ferry ride back, since everybody wants to return to the mainland at the same time.
Distance from the airport: Faro Airport is about 26mi away from the town of Travia, and it can be reached by bus, train, or car.
What Mumsnet users say
“Look at the East Algarve - Tavira and Fuzeta areas. This is where the Portuguese go on holiday. It's so lovely - little islands off the beaches. Great restaurants. Great value. Lots of apartments for rent privately.” Jassmells
6. Best for avoiding the crowds: Praia das Furnas Milfontes
Praia das Furnas stretches across a river and consists of two parts. On the river side, gentle waves lapp the beach, making it perfect for families with younger children. The water is clean and calm, but there can be strong tidal currents, so it is advisable to swim only in the designated areas.
On the Atlantic side, the wide expanse of sand soon changes into a series of small coves surrounded by cliffs. The strong waves of the ocean here are popular with surfers and bodyboarders.
Located in Portugal’s Alentejo region, Praia das Furnas Milfontes offers a respite from the summer crowds. There is very little development on the beach, but lifeguard service and equipment rental are available during the summer. The only restaurant on the beach is also seasonal, as is the ferry transport. You can also get to the beach by car or bicycle.
Distance from the airport: Faro Airport is 84mi away and is accessible by train, bus, or car.
7. Best for beach activities: Praia do Tamariz
Are you into snorkelling, diving, windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding? You can do all that, and more, at Praia do Tamariz. Besides offering a plethora of water activities, this beach often hosts numerous events, such as dance shows and parties. With animators at work during the day in the summer season, there is never a dull moment!
The main area of this beautiful beach, within walking distance of the resort town of Estoril, is all about soft golden sands and clean water. There are no currents or waves here, which is ideal for families with children. On the eastern side, a sea wall forms an oceanic pool that is a hit with kids, because the water is warmer than in the ocean. The western side has rocks submerged in water and is great for rock-pooling.
Tamariz is one of the best urban beaches of the Lisbon Riviera. It is located about 16mi from the capital, at the Cascais end of the Lisbon - Cascais railway line. In fact, the train station is right behind the beach; just walk through the underpass to reach it.
Distance from the airport: Lisbon Airport is 19mi away and is accessible by train, subway, bus, or car.
What Mumsnet users say
“We went to Cascais last year and it was absolutely lovely. 30 mins from Lisbon, gorgeous coastline, beautiful old town, and good bus/train links for going out exploring.” CurbsideProphet
8. Best for summer surfing: Praia Grande
If you are into surfing, you already know that the best months for riding the waves in Portugal are outside the summer season. Not so in Praia Grande, the biggest beach on the Sintra - Cascais coast. Here, the best surfing happens between July and September. The beach is suitable for experienced surfers. Surfing and bodyboarding competitions are often held here.
When the Atlantic ocean waves are too dangerous, you can head to one of Europe’s largest seawater swimming pools, perfect for children. Part of the hotel Arribas, the seasonal pool (open from April or May until October or November, depending on the weather) overlooks the ocean and welcomes the public, at a fee.
Praia Grande is the largest beach on the Sintra coast in western Portugal. Among its many wonders, not the least are the well-preserved dinosaur footprints on the tall cliffs at the southern end of the beach.
Distance from the airport: Lisbon Airport is about 25mi away and can be reached by train, bus, or car.
9. Best for big wave surfing: Nazaré Beach
Despite the development of tourism, the fishing town of Nazaré still retains some atmosphere of times gone by. Here you will see the traditional boats, the fish drying near the beach, and the elderly ladies wearing the 7-layers skirts. For more immersion into the past, visit the old town, perched on top of a headland.
This popular seaside resort has a bustling nightlife. In summertime, families with children and youthful crowds are drawn to its wide, sandy beach, and in winter surfers and bodyboarders come to take on the Atlantic Ocean's big waves. Every winter, waves up to 30 m tall hit Praia da Nazaré, making it a world-famous surfing spot.
Located north of Lisbon, about halfway to Porto, Praia da Nazaré is a wide, sandy beach. Due to the ocean swells, the bathing is usually confined to the patrolled section of the beach. In the summer, it gets very busy and it can be difficult to find a parking place close to the beachfront.
Distance from the airport: Lisbon Airport is 75mi away and can be reached by bus or car.
What Mumsnet users say
“The coast to the north of Lisbon is lovely - Obidos is touristy but very pretty, Sao Martino is a very Portuguese resort, Peniche is interesting to visit. The Atlantic beaches can be quite spectacular - Nazare is a big surfing spot.” ContinuityError
10. Best for older children: Costa da Caparica
Close to the modern town of the same name, the Costa da Caparica beach is one of the best beaches in Portugal near Lisbon. It is lively during the day, and stays lively well into the night. In the season, many bars on the beachfront remain open until late with music and dancing.
Costa da Caparica beach is a long stretch of sand pounded by the powerful Atlantic Ocean waves. That makes it ideal for surfing and kitesurfing.
On weekends during the summer, practically the whole of Lisbon heads for the Costa da Caparica region. Still, Costa da Caparica beach rarely feels crowded, because it is just one of the many connected beaches that stretch along the western side of the Setubal Peninsula. If you venture south by car, you will find some unspoilt and less crowded beaches.
Distance from the airport: Lisbon Airport is about 14mi away and can be reached by train, bus, or car.
When to visit beaches in Portugal
The busiest months to visit Portuguese beaches are July and August, when many locals take vacation and join the tourists. If you want clear skies with less crowds, opt to visit in June or September.
You can have pleasant beach days as early as April and as late as October, though there won’t be lifeguards on duty or sunbeds for rent, and you may get a few rainy days.
Let’s talk beach flags in Portugal
All of the beaches on our list of the 10 best beaches in Portugal for families are guarded during the summer months. The lifeguards typically place flags to indicate the level of safety to swimmers. Know what these warning flags mean and to adhere to them:
Green flag: Safe to swim.
Yellow flag: You may remain at the water’s edge or paddle, but you may not swim.
Red flag: Danger, you may not enter the water.
Chequered flag: There are temporarily no lifeguards on duty.
Blue flag: Denotes that the beach is environmentally friendly.
Blue and purple flag: Dangerous marine life has been spotted (jellyfish, stingrays, sea snakes, sharks).
Yellow and red beach flags: Placed in pairs, they can be moved around depending on the tide and other conditions to mark the area that is patrolled by lifeguards and is considered safest for swimming.
If you ignore the warning flags, you not only expose yourself to danger, but also risk getting a fine from the Maritime Police.
After September, the swimming season in Portugal is considered closed. There are no lifeguards on duty and safety flags are not displayed. If you still want to head for the water, take extra care and check with the locals when and where to swim or surf.
What is the warmest beach in Portugal?
The waters of the Atlantic Ocean are colder than those of the Mediterranean Sea. During the summer months, from June to September, the water temperature is about 20°C around Lisbon, and about 23°C in the Algarve. For some, this is freezing cold, for others it is refreshingly bracing. The British are at an advantage here, being used to not-so-warm sea temperatures at home.
In fact, the Algarve is the warmest part of Portugal and covers the whole southern side of the country.
Which is the most beautiful part of Portugal?
This is a very subjective question, as Portugal in its entirety is an incredible country. From the historic cities of Lisbon, named Europe’s best city break at last year’s World Travel Awards, and Porto, the only European city with 6 bridge
From the historic cities of Lisbon and Porto to the tiny cobbled villages of the north, the vast wine region to the wild Atlantic coast, there is certainly no shortage of beautiful places in Portugal to capture travellers’ imaginations.
Do you need to hire a car in Portugal?
Getting to Portugal from the UK is easy. There are daily nonstop flights from London to Faro or to Lisbon, and the flights take a little less than three hours. There are several budget airlines that fly to both cities in Portugal.
However, once you’re in Portugal, it makes sense to hire a car. The roads are excellent, well maintained and without traffic. While you may make one beach city in Portugal your base, you can explore neighbouring cities and beaches, and that’s the easiest with a hire car, particularly if you have small kids and need car seats.
How we chose our recommendations
When selecting the 10 best beaches in Portugal, we consulted our Mumsnet forums, relying on the views and opinions of real parents who have visited the coast of Portugal with their families.
To bring to you the very best beaches and best beach towns in Portugal, we also analysed the reviews of Hotels.com and TripAdvisor users, as well as recommendations of expert outlets such as My Portugal Holiday and Time Out, taking into account both the positive and negative aspects.
Why should you trust us?
We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.