The Best Beaches in Algarve, Portugal 

Come for the sea caves; stay for the jaw-dropping beaches.

It’s a sad truth that so many of us have started to plan our vacations around what we see on Instagram. From a sun-drenched swing over open ocean water to a dogsled adventure under the Northern Lights, these picture-perfect settings inspire us to visit far-off locales in search of a particular experience. It has its pluses and minuses for sure. In a way, it’s a very narrow focus, lusting after a particular spot on the globe just because you saw someone else’s version of it on social media. But also, it opens up new possibilities. Perhaps you never considered visiting Morocco before, but a gorgeous picture of a night spent under the stars at a desert camp in the Sahara inspires you to book a ticket.

That’s what happened with me and Portugal. When I studied abroad in Europe, there was a long list of places I wanted to see, and I actually visited almost all of them. Portugal was the only one I didn’t get to, and it was on my list because I wanted to go to Spain and it felt weird not to go to Portugal, too. A great reason to visit, right? As the years went by, a zillion more European destinations sprang to the top of my list, pushing Portugal further down. But as luck would have it, my social feeds started filling with pictures of Benagil Cave in the Algarve region and the unbelievable Miradouro da Boca do Inferno on São Miguel in the Azores. Now I had reasons to visit, albeit just a few. It was time to go. And I discovered one of my very favorite places on earth!

Benagil Cave

Admittedly, I had done a little more research and I knew the Algarve region was famous for its jaw-dropping beaches, complete with the limestone rocks jutting out of the sea. I booked an Airbnb next to a beach in the town of Lagos. I knew it was going to be beautiful, but nothing I’d seen online fully prepared me for what was in store as we walked down to the beach on our first night in town.

First glimpse of Praia Da Dona Ana.

We spent the next three glorious days hopping from beach to beach. Here are my picks for must-see beaches in the Algarve region.

Praia Da Dona Ana

This was my first glimpse at an Algarve beach, and that day as I was posting my pictures on Facebook, I said that I had found my new favorite beach on the planet. And nearly a year later, I haven’t discovered another that’s better. This beach is the stuff postcards are made of, dramatic coastlines and crystal-clear waters. It’s a relatively small beach located just outside of Lagos and is a favorite for a leisurely day spent snorkeling or sunbathing. I found it to be quite excellent for shelling as well! All the beaches in the Algarve region have a number of stairs to access them, and this one has nearly 100.

My handsome “husby” in the waves.

Praia do Camilo 

Hands down, this one wins the most drop-dead gorgeous beach award! Despite having to trek down about 200 stairs to access it, the secluded beach is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. Once you make it down the stairs, you’ll quickly discover that there are actually two beaches connected by a cave hole tunnel. The rock formations protect the beach from a lot of wind, so the sea is very calm. We visited two different days, and although we didn’t want to tackle the stairs on the second day, the view from the top is quite spectacular.

Praia do Camilo 

Ponta da Piedade

Not far from Lagos, this unbelievable spot juts out of the sea, ready and waiting to provide a spectacular Insta-backdrop for your beach selfie. The views are stunning from all angles, and you can reach this spot by foot from Lagos, by car, or by boat. We chose to walk the coastal path from our Airbnb, stopping at each beach along the way. You can enjoy this spot from the bottom once you’ve walked down 182 steps, or from the top especially at sunset. Make sure to walk around the nearby lighthouse.

Feeling Insta-glamorous at Ponta da Piedade.

Praia do Pinhao

This is a quiet beach, and relatively difficult to access. It wasn’t our favorite, but we felt accomplished hiking up a hill and down a long staircase to access this deserted stretch of sand. The stairs weren’t as well-maintained as the other beaches, and the sand wasn’t as well kept, but it had a certain gritty charm to it.

Praia do Pinhao

Praia do Carvoeiro

This is an incredibly popular beach in the heart of the town. In a way, it reminded me of a beach in the Cinque Terre, boats coming and going, tourists sunbathing, and colorful hotels and cafés dotting the shoreline. This is a popular spot for sea cave tours to Benagil—we booked through Carvoeiro Caves. After our tour, we had a great time strolling along the Carvoeiro Boardwalk, a wooden boardwalk about 570 m in length. It leads to a spot called Algar Seco, a unique rock that reminds me a bit of formations on the interior of a cave or perhaps melting candle wax—and it’s a popular spot for the daring adventurers who want to veer from the path and get their climb on. Kyle had a great time!

Carvoeiro, Portugal
Carvoeiro, Portugal

Praia da Marinha

This was an unexpected stop for us, as we were nearby to visit Benagil. We decided to drive a little further down the road to see what other beaches we could find. I later found out that this is recognized as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and has been highlighted in numerous media outlets. This beach is pure magic, surrounded by steep cliffs and panoramic views.

The Algarve region is something out of storybook fantasies, filled with scenery that seems too good to be true. We visited in April just before the crowds arrived for their summer holidays. Although it was too cold to swim, it was absolutely ideal for strolling the seaside walkways and exploring these picture-perfect beaches that dot Portugal’s southern coast.

Places

Ponta da Piedade

Ponta da Piedade, Lagos, Portugal

Praia do Camilo

Praia do Camilo, Lagos, Portugal

Praia Dona Ana

Praia Dona Ana, Dona Ana, Lagos, Portugal

Praia do Pinhão

Praia do Pinhão, Rua José Formosinho, Lagos, Portugal

Praia de Carvoeiro

Praia de Carvoeiro, Portugal

Praia da Marinha

Praia da Marinha, Portugal

Ponta da Piedade

Ponta da Piedade, Lagos, Portugal

Praia do Camilo

Praia do Camilo, Lagos, Portugal

Praia Dona Ana

Praia Dona Ana, Dona Ana, Lagos, Portugal

Praia do Pinhão

Praia do Pinhão, Rua José Formosinho, Lagos, Portugal

Praia de Carvoeiro

Praia de Carvoeiro, Portugal

Praia da Marinha

Praia da Marinha, Portugal

Lobster and Lighthouses: Coastal Maine Road Trip

Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor, Maine

Ogunquit to Bar Harbor

Recommended Time: 5-7 days

The coast of Maine is one of the most ruggedly beautiful spots in the United States. From craggy cliffs to miles of nature trails, there’s a lot that remains untouched—pristine, even. Quintessential New England harbor towns set the pace for vacationers. Life happens slowly here. You take time to smell the ocean air, walk hand in hand along the beach, and savor your lobster roll. From photographing lighthouses and browsing art galleries to whale watching and exploring Acadia National Park, a coastal Maine road trip is the perfect mix of relaxation and adventure.

Start your trip by spending a few days in Ogunquit, the most idyllic New England beach town you’ll ever come across. In the language of the Algonquin Indians, it means “Beautiful Place by the Sea,” and indeed, it is. Browse the galleries found in Perkin’s Cove, and stroll Marginal Way along the ocean. Even take a boating excursion to nearby Nubble Lighthouse. Summer is also the perfect time to catch a show at the Ogunquit Playhouse.

Meander up the coast to Kennebunkport, the summer home to President George Bush and family. With beautiful beaches and a thriving art scene, Kennebunkport attracts a cultured clientele. It is home to some of the most beautiful seaside hotels and upscale restaurants in the entire state. This is also a great place to catch a whale watching cruise or a lobster tour down the Kennebunk River.

3841549078_4ac36edd27_o

Whale watch in Maine, photo credit: Pat Hawks

En route to Bar Harbor, make a stop at Cape Elizabeth to visit Two Lights State Park. See the twin lighthouses—one the brightest on the New England coast, and the second, inactive since 1924—and take time to grab a bite to eat at the Lobster Shack. Perched high above the rocky coastline, this is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic lunch and watch the waves crash below. Stop at the Portland Head Lighthouse, just five miles north, to see the oldest—and most famous—lighthouse in all of Maine.

Portland Head Lighthouse, Photo credit: Anthony Quintano

Finally, make your way to Bar Harbor, a lively coastal town and host to Acadia National Park. Drive the 27-mile Park Loop Road, making stops at Sand Beach, Jordan Pond House, and Cadillac Mountain for stunning 360°-views of the harbor. You’ll want to spend some time exploring the crisscrossing carriage roads established by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who worked with architects and masons to ensure the infrastructure played in harmony with the landscape. Where sea and mountains meet, Acadia’s natural beauty makes it one of the most visited national parks.

View from Cadillac Mountain, photo credit: walknboston

 

What other coastal Maine towns would you include?

Places

Ogunquit

Ogunquit, ME, United States

Two Lights State Park

Two Lights State Park, Tower Drive, Cape Elizabeth, ME, United States

Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor, ME, United States

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park, ME, United States

Portland Head Lighthouse

Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, ME, United States

Ogunquit

Ogunquit, ME, United States
http://www.ogunquit.org/

Two Lights State Park

Two Lights State Park, Tower Drive, Cape Elizabeth, ME, United States
http://visitmaine.com/organization/two-lights-state-park/?uid=vtm80A5A66E87D5818FC

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park, ME, United States
http://www.nps.gov/acad/index.htm

Portland Head Lighthouse

Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, ME, United States
http://www.portlandheadlight.com/

Photo Bytes: Bonita Costa Rica

A moment in time
A moment in time

Kyle and I have always dreamed of spending Christmas at the beach, and this year we finally made it happen.

Playa Tamarindo is such a beautiful strip of sand and sea just about a 10-minute walk from the Beach Bungalows where we stayed. There’s plenty to do on the beach from going horseback riding to taking a surfing lesson. All of the sailing and scuba trips leave from the beach, so there’s always a lot of activity. Each time we set out for the beach, we headed directly for Langosta Beach Club where we could have a drink at the bar and store our bags. Lunch there is excellent, and we were lucky enough one day to watch a family of monkeys playing in trees above us. Unfortunately we didn’t have our camera with us!

We took a day trip to Arenal one day, despite the fact that it was a four-hour trek in one direction. Lake Arenal is beautiful and divides two regions of Costa Rica: Guanacaste where we stayed and the Northern Lowlands. We took a hike through El Silencio Mirador and Trails at the base of Arenal Volcano. It was so strange to be in this cooler wet climate after spending a week in Tamarindo, where it’s always 90 and sunny—at least for the next six months of year. But here, it rains 11 months a year, and is nearly 20 degrees cooler. We watched birds and leaf cutter ants on our hike. We were amazed to see downed trees without any rings in the center. Since the weather conditions are so similar here all year—lots of rain and no change of seasons—there’s never extreme differences to cause the trees to form a ring in their bark.

We finally saw a Howler Monkey—the creatures that acted as alarm clocks every morning at the Bungalows. This guy was in a tree near Lake Arenal, but his furry friends were back in Tamarindo greeting the morning with their unearthly grunts and howls. Seriously, imagine someone is being strangled, and that’s the sound of a howler monkey. It was an interesting way to wake up every morning!

The whole reason I wanted to go to Arenal was to see the beautiful hot springs! I had thought long and hard about staying at Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort since it’s so unbelievably beautiful, but in the end, decided to spend the entire time in Tamarindo. But the day trip to Tabacon was perfect, and we enjoyed several lovely hours swimming in the delicious volcanic water. Tabacon has quite the system of hot springs, linked by beautiful pathways. The farther up you trek, the warmer the pools become.

Back at Playa Tamarindo, things get fun in the evening. As you walk the beach, you can see the finished sand art that lots of locals have worked hard building all day. Then you can go to any given restaurant and enjoy the traveling fire show that somehow seems to appear at each eatery at some point during the course of your meal. And the Tamarindo sunsets are absolutely to die for!

Places

Playa Tamarindo

Playa Tamarindo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Lake Arenal

Lake Arenal

Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort

Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort, Nuevo Arenal, Alajuela, Costa Rica

Playa Tamarindo

Playa Tamarindo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Lake Arenal

Lake Arenal

Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort

Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort, Nuevo Arenal, Alajuela, Costa Rica
%d bloggers like this: