Eastern Algarve Beaches
The eastern Algarve beaches are really one long stretch of sand that runs uninterrupted from the edge of the River Guadiana at Vila Real de Santo António to Manta Rota and includes Praia de Monte Gordo, Praia da Lota and Praia da Manta Rota. At Cacelha Velha the eastern end of the Ria Formosa starts and Praia de Cacelha Velha is a beautiful untouched sandspit ilha reached only by boat. The water at the eastern end of the Algarve is normally a few degrees warmer as it is edging closer to the Mediterranean. The beaches are backed by gentle dunes rather than cliffs and are very gently shelving. There is a huge amount of room for everyone! At various points along the beaches there are beach bars, restaurants and sunloungers – Monte Gordo in particular has an abundance of all of them!
Cabanas and Tavira beaches are sandspit islands (ilhas) and reached by boat. The warmer water on the lagoon side of Ilha de Tavira is perfect for swimming, and the idyllic beach on the seaward side goes on for ever.
The beaches of the East Algarve make for a very different experience from those more centrally located. This is partly because most of them can only be accessed via boat, and also due to the predominance of Portuguese visitors. The water is usually noticeably warmer here than on the more westerly beaches.
The beaches in the East tend to be referred to as ‘Islands’ due to their positioning within the Ria Formosa Natural Park. The first ‘island’ to mention is Barril. To get onto the beach here one must either take a delightful walk of a kilometer or so along the railway line through the Ria Formosa scrubland, or jump on the small train that runs regularly. There is a zone featuring cafés serving food and ice creams, but after passing that area there is just fantastic stretches of sand dunes, wild grasses, the Atlantic and beyond.
The island of Tavira
The island of Tavira is quite a different matter. It is alive with families & young people enjoying the camping facilities & multiple restaurants. The beaches here are seemingly never ending & the calmness of the waters is ideal for those young families. The camp site is large & well stocked with supermarkets and pine trees. To get to Tavira island enjoy the short ferry ride from in the town or the ‘Quatro Aguas’ ferry dock just outside of Tavira. (Tickets cost around €1.40. Last ferry back at 8pm). This 11km long island also features a reserved area for naturists.
The Village of Manta Rota
A little further along is the village of Manta Rota. There is a broad ramped access and plenty of parking. The sea here is generally calm & the village provides play areas for kiddies. Neighbouring Monte Gordo – almost on the Spanish border – is a large developed town and Monte Gordo Beach is an amazingly long & deep beach that tends to get incredibly busy in July & August. It features the typical attractions one would hope for from a seaside – cafés, ice creams, and the usual shops selling blow-up whales & sun hats.
Within walking distance from Manta Rota is Altura. This beach has a super family-friendly restaurant with wonderful food & good prices. There are also activities in this area such as pedalos for hire, and a football pitch that doubles as a volleyball court to be made use of.
Vila Real de Santo António
Next stop – Vila Real de Santo António. This area features a wonderful stretch of nature reserve in which one can shelter from the heat of the day & the summer crowds. The beach area boasts no restaurants, cafés, or rentable water sports.
If you enjoy this sort of quasi-isolation then you should put Fabrica beach on your list of must-visits. It is a small, hard to spot beach that must be reached by boat from the village of the same name, close to the village of Cacela Velha.
Another quiet spot is the beach at Fuseta. There are no water sports here and it is more likely to be frequented by the local fishermen for much of the year. The beach is close to the village centre and features a smattering of cafés. Again, jump on a ferry or water taxi to access this beach.
Praia da Armona
Praia da Armona is one of the island beaches that one travels to by ferry, from the harbour of Olhão. There are several ferries running from here throughout the day, especially with great frequency during the summer months, journeying to a handful of islands, all with at least one restaurant/café.