Imagine yourself walking through a tunnel, carved into the side of a cliff, and coming out the other side to a beach paradise. It may sound fantastical, but at Praia do Carvalho, the fantasy comes to life!
Small and hidden, Praia do Carvalho is less crowded than many of the beaches in Portugal but it is a truly incredible place that is more than worth a visit.
To help you make the most of your visit to Praia do Carvalho and the surrounding area, we’ve put together this guide to the Algarve’s best kept secret.
Whether you’re taking a day trip the area, or spending your entire vacation at one of the nearby resorts, Praia do Carvalho should be on your to-do list.
Completely surrounded by high cliffs, this small beach is known for its soft, golden sand and crystal clear water. Sheltered from the wind, Praia do Carvalho is perfect for unwinding, swimming, snorkeling, and cliff diving!
Because there is a risk of falling rocks from the cliffs, be sure to keep yourself safe by sitting a small distance away from the cliff face. It is also worth noting that there are no lifeguards on duty.
It is best to come prepared with everything you will need for the day as there are no amenities or facilities located on the beach. If there is something you need, you will have to head back out through the tunnel. But, as far as downsides go, this is pretty minor.
Getting to Praia do Carvalho
While the beach itself may be hidden away, the area is pretty easy to get to.
Located about a 3-hour drive from Lisbon and an hour west of Faro, Praia do Carvalho can be reached by traveling the major highways towards Carvoeiro. As you get close, you will see posted signs for the beach.
If you enter this address (Rua de Algarve Clube Atlântico H15, Lagoa, Portugal) or these coordinates (37° 5'12.41"N 8°25'55.10"W) into Google Maps or your GPS, you will have no troubles at all.
Parking at Praia do Carvalho is easy. You can park at Urbanização Clube Atlântico or park along the cliffs that overlook the beach. There is no fee to park.
From the car, follow the steps and you will see beach signs on your left. Once you are down that first set of steps, you will have to venture through a man-made cave or tunnel that takes you to the beach itself. The steps through the tunnel can be a little uneven and steep in places so access may be difficult for people with mobility issues. Take extra care if there is sand on the steps as this tends to make them slippery. While passing through the tunnel, take a moment to look around. Embedded in the walls you will find marine fossils!
Once you are through the tunnel, you have arrived!
When to Visit Praia do Carvalho
As with most other areas of the Algarve, there is no bad time to visit Praia do Carvalho. The warmest weather hits in the summer, from July to September, so if spending lots of time in the sand and surf is on your to-do list, book during these months. But, keep in mind, these months are the high season so along with the warmer air and water temperatures, you’re also going to find more people.
Because the beach is small, it is best to arrive early in the morning. Claim your piece of paradise and simply enjoy!
If you arrive later in the day, be prepared for larger crowds and fewer sunny spaces. The large cliffs that surround the beach also provide increasing amounts of shade as the day goes on. This, of course, isn’t always a bad thing! Sometimes you need a little break from the sun. If your goal is to take advantage of the sun, set yourself up in a spot on the left-hand side of the beach.
Things to Do at Praia do Carvalho
Despite the lack of amenities on the beach, there is still plenty to do in and around Praia do Carvalho!
With clear water and a protected, v-shaped cove, Praia do Carvalho is one of the best places to snorkel in the Algarve. The beach is shallow at entry but becomes very deep, very quickly. Bring your fins and masks and explore the plentiful marine life.
Word of warning, sea urchins can be found on some of the rocks so be very careful if you are getting up close. Also, the currents can be strong from time to time so it is safest to stay inside the cove if possible.
Cliff diving is one of the most popular activities at this beach. There is cliff diving for the brave, and cliff diving for the very brave.
On the right-hand side of the beach, there is an opening in the cliff from which you can jump. This ledge is about 5-7 meters high and is where most people choose to jump. Instead of just lounging in the sand or bathing in the surf, why not add a little adventure to your day?
If you are feeling particularly gutsy, you can try the higher jump. You will see this spot on the left side of the beach. To reach the “launch” point, you’ll have to walk to it along the top of the cliffs. This spot is very high and can cause some pain when an impact is made with the water, so be forewarned.
Jumping from either side is safe as the water is more than deep enough in these spots.
One of the best ways to enjoy Praia do Carvalho and the surrounding area is from above. You can walk west along the cliffs into Carvoeiro or stop at Praia de Vale Centeanes for a different beach experience.
Heading west, you will see the Alfanzina lighthouse. If you’d like to tour the lighthouse, plan your trip for a Wednesday. Public access is available every Wednesday from 2-5pm.
If you travel east, you walk all the way to Praia de Benagil and the famous nearby Benagil Sea Cave.
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and watch for any loose rocks. You shouldn’t really have any problems if you stick to the path but better safe than sorry.
Explore the Rocks
If you’d rather stay closer to the beach, take some time to explore the rock formations from above and below. Not only is there the entrance tunnel, but there are other carved out areas and natural features worth checking out.
The window is a hole, or “window” that has occurred after years of erosion. It is on the left side of the beach and gives you an interesting view of the goings-on down below.
There are lots of little trails and footpaths that lead to some pretty amazing places. If you’re lucky, you’ll find the path that leads to a secret beach within a cave.
Once you’ve had your fill of the beach, why not take in the sights from the water?
This area of the Algarve is known for its cliffs and rock formations and because of this, there are a number of boat tours and cruises nearby.
If you are interested in caves, the Carvoeiro Caves tours have some options that might be perfect for you. Each tour departs from Praia do Carvoeiro and depending on the option you choose, you may experience a number of caves and beaches like Benagil and Marinha.
Departing from Praia de Vale Centianes, Centianes Boat Trip is another great choice. These short tours will take you up and through the caves with the help of some knowledgable and skilled skippers.
Where to Eat Near Praia do Carvalho
Sometimes you will find an ice cream cart or a food truck near the parking lot but if you are looking to enjoy food on the beach, you’ll have to bring your own. There are lots of great restaurants in the area but they are a 5-10 minute drive away.
Our picks for the best places to eat near Praia do Carvalho include:
- Restaurante Jardim do Farol. Family-owned, this place specializes in Portuguese food with an emphasis on fresh fish and seafood. After a day of breathing the salt air, the friendly service, beautiful atmosphere, and delicious food are the perfect topper!
- Brisa Do Mar. Bright, fresh, and delicious. From the seafood risotto to the avocado mango prawn salad everything is great. This is also a great place to stop for a bite if you are making the cliff-top walk from Praia do Carvalho to Benagil.
- Earth Shop & Cafe. For people looking for a lovely breakfast or a nice light lunch, this is your spot. The service is incredible, the food is fresh and tasty, and the surroundings clean and relaxing. This is the perfect way to fuel up for a full day of fun!
Where to Stay Near Praia do Carvalho
The beach may be a hidden gem but you should not miss the area that surrounds it. There are plenty of great places to stay that can be found just a short drive from the beach.
- Rocha Brava Village Resort. Located in Carvoeiro, this 4-star resort has all the comforts you could ever want. With 3 pools, 4 tennis courts, a supermarket, a restaurant, a beauty centre, and a playground, you will never be bored. Try to book a room with a balcony and view of the Atlantic!
- Hotel Baia Cristal Beach & Spa Resort. Another 4-star resort, this location has both indoor and outdoor pools, a fitness centre, games room, a tennis court, a giant chessboard, a sauna, a Turkish bath, and a massage room. This is another spot with incredible views and a family-friendly atmosphere.
- Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve Resort. If you are after 5-star luxury, this is where you need to be! Recently remodeled and refurbished, this resort has everything you could possibly need. From spacious rooms to a first-class spa to incredible food, you’re sure to enjoy your stay.
- B&B Casa da Colina. If you are looking for something more low-key than a resort, try the Casa da Colina bed and breakfast. Situated in the heart of Carvoeiro, this B&B has 3 ensuite rooms with spectacular views. With a convenient location, outdoor pool, and included breakfast, this is a unique, quiet way to enjoy the area.
There are a lot of vacation rentals available in the Algarve. If you are interested in exploring one of these, reach out to us to explore your options and ensure you don’t fall for a fraudulent listing.
Day Trips from Praia do Carvalho
Vacations spent on the beach are incredible but vacations spent on the beach AND exploring a beautiful country are even better.
Here are some day trips and things to do around Praia do Carvalho. Grab your maps and start exploring!
One of the largest cities in the Algarve, Portimao has a little something for everyone. Not only is the area home to Praia da Rocha, one of the best beaches in Portugal, it also has some great food, shopping, and historic sites.
If you travel a little north of the city, you will find the Alcalar Megalithic site, a 5000-year-old necropolis!
Only a 25 minute drive away, it is easy to work this city in to your stay. If you don’t have a car, you can catch a bus from Carvoeiro to Portimao. Once in Portimao, there are buses that depart regularly for other locations on this list.
Benagil Sea Cave
One of the most popular and visited places in the Algarve is the Benagil Sea Cave. Once you arrive, you will understand why people flock to this place.
This incredible grotto has a hole in the ceiling known as “the eye” which highlights the azure blue sky against the golden stone and sand. It simply must be seen to be believed.
Luckily, this wonder is just a short drive from Carvoeiro and you can even walk to Praia de Benagil from Praia do Carvalho. Once at Benagil, you can take a boat tour to the cave or rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard to explore it at your own pace.
A 25 minutes drive north of Carvoeiro will land you in Silves, the original capital of the Algarve. Silves is full of history. From its Roman bridge (actually from the 14th century and not Roman) to its medieval castle walls and gothic cathedral, history is everywhere you look.
Set high upon a hill, the red bricks of The Castle of Silves stand out against the whitewashed buildings. Build during Moorish occupation, it is the best-preserved castle in the region.
With plenty of cafes, restaurants, museums, as well as the municipal market, Silves is worth your time.
Zoomarine or Slide & Splash
If you’re tired of playing tourist and just want something fun to do, pay a visit to one of the areas amazing theme or water parks.
Zoomarine Park is fun for the whole family. With a rollercoaster, water rides, and interactive marine shows and education sessions, this place is incredible.
For waterslides and wet and wild fun, take a trip Slide &
Splash! Again, this is another destination that is perfect for families.
With slides for all ages and reptile and birds of prey shows throughout
the day, there’s something for everyone.
Less than an hour from Praia do Carvalho, Lagos is one of the most popular places in the Algarve.
The Portuguese Age of Discovery was launched from Lagos and remnants of that important history remain in Ponta da Bandeira and the Slave Market Museum.
But Lagos is most known for is its nightlife, its beaches and its stunning natural features like Ponta da Piedade.
Ponta da Piedade has some truly unbelievable rock formations that make a series of arches, grottos, and caves. You can explore these formations from the hiking trails that run above or you can take a guided boat tour or rent a kayak or paddleboard to create your own adventure.
About an hour drive west is Sagres.
Sagres is home to some of the most significant landmarks in Portuguese
naval history: Fortaleza de Sagres and Cabo São Vicente. Constructed in
the 15th century, Fortaleza de Sagres offers some of the best views in
the country as well as some interesting historical features. Cabo São
Vicente is the most south-westerly point in mainland Europe and houses
one of the strongest lighthouses on the continent.
If you are into surfing, Sagres is a must. For people new to the sport, there are surf schools in the area that will be able to help. Surfing is great in Sagres all year round. But, the waves are largest in the winter so if you’re an experienced surfer, or want to stay shore side and watch some great surfing, plan your trip accordingly.
Praia do Carvalho is one of the best kept secrets in the Algarve. For help planning your trip to this gem of a beach, reach out to us today!