Lagos Portugal: Where to Stay and Beaches to See on the Algarve Coast
Lagos Portugal: Where to Stay and Beaches to See on the Algarve Coast
With endless choices to make, like which city to go to, what part of the city to stay in, which hotel to choose, what excursions to make, and how long to stay, it’s no wonder that we might feel like we need a vacation from planning our vacations. As much as I love finding the perfect hotel, there are MANY other parts of planning our trips that feel impossible to figure out on my own. Sometimes it takes days, weeks and even months to finalize where we’re going and what we will be doing, and planning our recent trip to Europe trip felt more challenging to figure out than any trip prior.
As we began to plan our trip to Portugal, I became aware of how little I knew about both the country and the Algarve region. I knew we wanted to hit Lisbon and the Algarve, and that with the Algarve there were around four towns and over 100+ beaches. What I didn’t know was how to figure out what beaches were MUST-SEES and where to stay in order to see them. So, prior to even booking a hotel, I researched each village and everything in between, read blog upon blog until my eyes went cross, and came to the conclusion that Lagos would be our place of choice in the Algarve region. Read why below.
WHERE TO STAY IN THE ALGARVE: LAGOS, PORTUGAL
For background, the Algarve is the beautiful, southernmost portion of Portugal. It boasts a golden, cliff-lined coastline, whose southern portion ranges ~96 miles.
Along the coastline are a handful of fishing villages turned holiday destinations. These villages, (from E to W) Faro, Albufeira, Portimao and Lagos, are all viable options when determining where to stay. You can also stay anywhere in between if you’re looking for something more remote. We ended up landing on Lagos due to it’s charming aesthetic and proximity to the beaches we were interested in seeing.
Tay’s Travel Tip #7 - Skip Albufeira. Yep - I said it. I’ve never felt such an instant desire to leave a place than I did when we took a pit stop in Albufeira. We had planned on stopping in a few towns along the way from Faro to Lagos, and Albufeira was our #1 stop. We would grab lunch, explore, and head on our way. You guys. It was SO SO SO crowded and SO SO SO touristy. I know, there are tourist traps in every place. But the entire village was overflowing with chintzy touristy stores and the narrow streets could not handle the number of beach bums roaming around. Maybe we just went at a bad time, and someone please convince me otherwise, but I would highly recommend skipping out on this one.
Lagos is a hop in your fiat, windows down kind of place. It’s quaint and charming and tiled and salty. It’s nestled by many of the most extraordinary beaches of the Algarve, and we’ll dive into those a bit further down.
By accident, we ended up at Mar d’Estórias, a collective space made up of a shop, art gallery, restaurant and rooftop bar. The restaurant portion is tiny with only a few tables, so a reservation is recommended. We ordered the ATUM | TUNA, which was a top five meal from our trip, hands down. Downstairs in the shop I found a hand-painted tile to add to my growing collection and mini hand-painted tile magnets as souvenirs. The entire space is worth wandering around, even if you skip out on dinner and go straight to the rooftop bar. HIGHLY recommend.
As you’re most likely in Lagos for the beaches, you’ll only be exploring inside the old-town in the evening. This is when the village is at its best. Sunset glows light up the tiled facades and whitewashed buildings, and a breeze blows through the narrow streets as you peacefully seek out your dinner. There aren’t any “must-sees,” to call out - but spend your evenings wandering around and you’ll be set.
Booking the hotel is my favorite part of trip planning. Finding the perfect hotel at the right price in the right location with a cool aesthetic becomes a bit like an addiction to me. I check TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Airbnb and Google search and open a million plus tabs. I scroll through 100s of photos and read through hundreds of reviews. I keep my top 10 up until the next day, and then usually do a full scrape again, just in case. I research boutique hotels in the region, read articles from top media outlets, and check out any relevant blogs. It takes me days to finalize and I have dreams about it until it’s booked, but it’s all worth it for finds like the below.
When researching Lagos, I found this STUNNING 5-star hotel that was around $200 more than we wanted to spend. Over my days of research, I kept coming back to this hotel and trying to convince myself to book it. My gut ended up telling me no, and we booked the below, second option instead.
Our House Guesthouse: the second-place winner. Listen to your gut people! I’m so glad I ended up trusting mine. It saved us money and provided such an enjoyable experience. Our House Guesthouse is a boutique hotel, walking distance from Meia Praia (the beach)! The hotel is owned by a young, Portuguese couple, quaintly houses 5 or 6 stunning rooms, and has a view of the sea. Our large room featured a full kitchen, a private balcony with ocean views and airy, earthy details like a full rock wall, all neutral linen bedding, a brightly lit stone bathroom and muted grey tiles.
BEACHES TO SEE IN THE ALGARVE
BEACHES IN LAGOS
Once we landed on a place to stay, it became a lot more manageable to figure out which beaches we would be able to see. Lagos is such a convenient place to be if you’re seeking the famous cliff-walled beaches of the Algarve.
Praia Dona Ana, Praia do Camilo, Ponta Da Piedade
Within a five minute drive of the old-town, you’ll arrive at Praia Dona Ana, Praia do Camilo, or Ponta da Piedade. We spent time at both Praia do Camilo and Ponta da Piedade, but wish we would have had more time for both. At all three of these beaches, you can set up shop for a beach day, or bring wine and food for a dinner. There are also paths above that can be spent exploring. Take our advice and give yourself ample time to explore all three of these beaches!
Last but not least is Meia Praia. It’s more similar to the coast lines of the US. So no cliff faces to be found, but long clean sandy beaches. This beach was particularly nice 1. Because it was the beach walking distance from our hotel, and 2. It was relatively empty (apart from the topless sunbathers).
BEACHES FURTHER AWAY
I highly, highly, highly recommend renting a car in Portugal/the Algarve. Not to fear - they drive on the same side of the road and the car as we do, and the roads are VERY similar (we had no issues reading signs, etc.). I honestly am not sure how you would get around without a car, so again, highly recommend!
Once you have your European car in tow, you’ll have the freedom to drive an hour or two to any of the beaches that stood out to you. Most of the beaches have public parking and are easy to access and are just a short, leisurely drive away. Two of the more famous beaches/landmarks are around a 40-minute drive east from Lagos towards Faro. Short enough to spend a half-day there, or a whole day!
Benagil Caves and Praia de Marinha
About a 40 minute driving distance from Lagos are both the famous Benagil Caves and Praia de Marinha beach. If you decide to do the caves, I’d recommend arriving as early as you can, as the kayaks sell out quickly and the caves get crowded as the day goes on. We got there around noon and would have had to wait four hours for a kayak, so we opted to do a 30 minute boat toar, where we saw additional caves, Praia de Marinha beach and even a collapsed cave (that used to be as famous as Benagil). After seeing Praia de Marinha by boat, we knew we wanted to spend the rest of the day there. It was a short 5-minute drive from the Bengail Caves beach and was busy but spacious enough to fit us in. Highly recommend beaching it up one day here! (FYI - the water is FREEZING).
There are 100+ beaches in the Algarve, and obviously the above does not cover them all. But if you end up in Lagos for a long weekend, you’ll be fit to see the ones outlined above!
Anddddddd that’s pretty much it when it comes to staying in the Algarve coast. Visit an old village, find a relaxing place to stay and explore the beaches and you’ll be set. The coast is truly incredible and unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. A bucket list must.
If Algarve falls into a larger Europe trip, you can easily drive to Lisbon from the Algarve (~2 hour drive) or head to Faro to fly out/bus to Spain. I’ll be writing about our experiences in both Spain and Lisbon soon, and be sure to check out Venice and/or Positano for more coastal Europe inspiration.
Tenha um bom dia!
I’m a 26 year young, everything enthusiast. with a deep love of Jesus, family and friendships. Things that make my life joyful are #1 my husband #2 my dog #3 plants #4 my camera #5 travel
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