Hidden Beach: Costa Vicentina in Algarve, Portugal
Costa Vicentina sits pretty in Portugal’s Algarve region, with several soothing beaches preferred by surfers and nature lovers.
Portugal has its share of high-profile beach destinations, but along the western coast of the Algarve region in southern Portugal, things are different. Pristine and quiet, Costa Vicentina is a beach destination ripe for exploration. There are several beaches, some broad and others small and tucked away, stretching the length of the natural park. The area is a favorite of botanists and zoologists, and is welcoming to hikers and cyclists.
Among Costa Vicentina’s distinctive species of wildlife are fishing eagles and otters. The park is one of the last European otter refuges, boasts Portugal’s official tourism office. The Cabo São Vicente lighthouse, which was used by monks as far back as 1515, is located at the southwest tip of the country and is another must-see attraction. Many secluded beaches that are less easily found are also not to be missed; approach Costa Vicentina with an adventurous spirit and willingness to trek off the well-traveled path to find these private strips of sand.
Surfers in the know head to the white sandy beaches of Carrapateira, only a 20-minute drive from backpacker-laden Lagos. The village of Carrapateira is cozy and informal, with clusters of rectangular houses painted white, reminiscent of a poor man’s Santorini.
Praia de Odeceixe is another favorite surfing hideaway. To get there, travel westward along the lush river valley leading from the town of Odeceixe, which tends to fill up with summer vacationers. It is possible to complete the approximately three-mile trip on foot to the striking bay framed by cliffs, where swimming is safest once the tide has gone out. Private room rentals, some looking out over the clear turquoise water, are available on the bay’s south bank.
Renting a car is the simplest way to get around the Algarve, particularly from Faro airport, which is about 75 miles from Costa Vicentina. Another option is to drive from Spain.