Carrapateira, on the Costa Vicentina in the western Algarve, is one of the best surf destinations in Europe. Of course, there are plenty of other things to do as well, but its main claim to fame is the top-class surf scene. With not one, but two, relatively undeveloped beaches (Praia do Amado and Praia da Bordeira) featuring exceptional waves, you are sure to notice plenty of surfers and more than a few long-term campervans perched on the cliffs along Portugal’s west coast.
The narrow ribbon of Ribeira da Carrapateira runs through the village down to the ocean, where it adds to the already impressive scenery. Up and down the coast in both directions are awe-inspiring limestone cliffs and desolate sand dunes, part of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park. The same intense currents that make it such a good surfing destination have also historically made it a danger to ships, with its cliffs looking confusingly similar to those of Cabo Sao Vicente to the south.
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Praia do Amado
One of the best surfing beaches in Portugal, this broad stretch of soft sand also has low tide rock pools and fascinating coloured rocks, making it just as popular with families and nature lovers. Of course, it also has the obligatory dunes and cliffs, and in summer there are lifeguards on duty, a few snack stalls and you can even rent sun beds that offer a bit of protection from the wind. If you’re feeling energetic, the easy walk between Amado and Bordeira (3.5 km) is a great, scenic way to stretch your legs.
Praia da Bordeira
This huge beach is 3 kilometres from tip to tail, the longest beach in the entire municipality of Aljezur (trust me, there is plenty of competition) and is the closest Carrapateira beach. While this makes Praia da Bordeira an excellent place for long, lazy beach walks, it is also very exposed, meaning strong winds, dangerous currents and particularly cold water. Backed by a picturesque mix of wind-swept dunes and rugged cliffs, this unspoiled beach is also an (unofficial) nudist beach. For some, anyway. Despite this, or maybe because of it, Praia da Bordeira receives fewer visitors than many of the more popular beaches along this magnificent coastline, making it a surprising treat in high season.
Praia da Bordeira Surf
Praia da Bordeira is one of the most popular surfing beaches in the region and is also very highly regarded by kite surfers because of the strong, steady winds. Facing northwest, it receives impressive swell and you will need to plan your visit to match your skill level. Winter sees the biggest, roughest waves – perfect for experts but not suitable for beginners. Any time of year, the biggest waves are found on the right side and most of the time there are huts set up on the beach where you can rent equipment or book lessons. In Carrapateira, R Star Surf School has everything you might need, to both buy or rent.
Praia do Amado Surf
While not the household name that Bordeira is, Praia do Amado is actually more celebrated among hard-core surfers. With amazing swell and big, consistent waves, it sometimes hosts international surf competitions. Once again, not a place for beginners in the winter, especially considering some of the dangerous rocks hiding just below the surface. In the summer, the tamer sets are more appealing but you will find yourself sharing them with plenty of other newbies. Be sure to check the Praia do Amado surf report before you head out.
Wind and Kite Surfing
Considered one of the best wind surfing destinations anywhere in Europe, let alone Portugal, Carrapateira is also the perfect place for kite surfing. For all the same reasons that it is a tremendous surf spot – strong winds, consistent swell, big waves – the area draws wind and kite surfers from all over. Once again, winter is the time to come for wild conditions and maximum excitement. The lagoon offers a smoother ride than the ocean.
Other Beaches Near Carrapateira Portugal
Praia da Murração
This quiet beach is renowned for its natural beauty as it is packed with colourful vegetation in stark contrast to the many other wind-swept beaches in the area. Its appealing seclusion is the result of its remote location – the road to reach it is only recommended for off-road type vehicles. There are no facilities, no infrastructure, no lifeguards and definitely nowhere to get a beer.
Surrounded by cliffs, the plant life reaches right to the ocean, although the beach nearly disappears at high tide so you should plan your visit to take this into account. You are also advised to stay a safe distance from the cliffs themselves due to occasional rockslides and loose stones dropping from above.
Praia da Pedra Agulha
A hidden gem of the Costa Vicentina, Praia de Pedra da Agulha is named for the pretty little island just offshore. Made up more of pebbles than sand, it is nonetheless surrounded by dramatic cliffs offering outstanding views. It is usually reached on foot from tiny Praia do Canal, just off the south end.
Praia da Pena Furada
This little strip of sand is tucked in amongst its own impressive set of cliffs and a cluster of fascinating rock formations. At low tide it is a treasure trove for exploring all those nooks and crannies. We passed multiple groups of fishermen heading down to the beach.
Other Things to Do in Carrapateira
Once you have visited the beaches and/or surfed to your heart’s content there is still a long list of things to do in Carrapateira and the surrounding countryside.
Wave Watch at the Pontal da Carrapateira
This scenic point close to the village of Carrapateira provides a vast array of stunning viewpoints and is easily reached on foot, bike or by car. There is a well-developed set of observation decks directing you to the best spots for watching the massive waves crash and spray on the wild cliffs. At high tide the violence can be breathtaking, while at low tide a series of tiny, picturesque beaches briefly appear. There is one restaurant and not much else, but if you’re like us you won’t care, as you will quickly become obsessed with perfectly timing a photo of the next great crashing wave.
Go for a Hike
A popular stop on the world-class Rota Vicentina trek, there are excellent trails leading out in all directions. For us, Carrapateira fell a couple days from the end of our hike from Sines to Sagres but many people use it as either their starting or ending point to add a few days of surfing to their epic coastal trek.
The Carrapateira Loop Trail (10 km / 3-4 hrs / 150m elevation gain) is a good choice to reach the best of the nearby trails on a manageable day hike. Starting on the beach, it follows the amazing line of cliffs for a long way to the south before cutting inland through a pleasant valley back to Carrapateira. Or you can do it in reverse to save the more dramatic scenery for last.
Go Horseback Riding
You can take in some horseback riding with Carrapateira Extreme – both right on Bordeira Beach and out into the surrounding countryside. There is even a sunset option. The tours are good for adults and children and include all gear, insurance, instruction and guides.
Visit the Ponta do Castelo
Located on Pontal da Carrapateira close to the Sitio do Forno restaurant, these ruins of a small 12th century fishing village are fascinating relics of Muslim occupation. Not a lot remains today and there is just one interpretive sign but as with everywhere along this coast, the views are phenomenal.
Explore the Countryside by Bike
The quiet, flat dirt roads around Carrapateira are perfect for exploring by bike. You can book a tour with Nature Movement E-bike Tours and spend a memorable day on the unspoiled trails of the Algarve on full suspension mountain e-bikes. Or you can take a Carrapateira to Pedralva tour with Carrapateira Extreme that starts from either of the villages. This very versatile circuit can be adapted to fit all skill levels and riding experience. Alternatively, you can just rent a bike and make your own route.
Visit the Museu do Mar e da Terra da Carrapateira
Just a couple of blocks east of the town square at the top of a steep hill, this “Land and Sea” museum offers a wide variety of displays, artifacts and information. There are intriguing historic collages, an in-depth history of the fishing industry and plenty of background on the evolution of daily life among the locals. Plus, the views over the dunes from the viewing window are extraordinary.
Alternatives to Carrapateira
Vila Nova de Milfontes is the most popular town along this stretch of beautiful Portuguese coast and is the place to go for nightlife. If you are looking for something a bit quieter, good choices are the fishing village of Porto Covo or traditional Almograve. Odeceixe boasts one of the most unique beaches in all of Portugal, while Zambujeira do Mar has a wonderful cliff-top church and a colony of nesting storks. Aljezur has a fascinating old castle and is close to some of Portugal’s best surfing including Praia da Arrifana. Even if you do decide to stay in Carrapateira, these all make easy day trips.
How do you get to Carrapateira?
Carrapateira is 320 kilometres south of Lisbon – roughly a 3-hour drive via Portimão and Lagos. However, it is just 110 kilometres from the international airport in Faro, which also happens to be one of the nicest cities in Portugal.
You can take a Rede Expressos bus from Sete Rios station in Lisbon (4 hrs / €20). From Faro there are frequent buses or trains to Lagos (2 hrs / €10), then you can take an Eva or Rede Expressos bus to Zambujeira do Mar (1 hr / €10). There is great scenery along the way from either direction and the buses are clean and comfortable (and have wifi).
Public transportation between smaller towns in Portugal can be difficult so if you’re not planning to hike from village to village, we highly recommend renting a car so you don’t miss out on any of the best spots. Plus, it is nice to be able to set your own schedule. We find that Discover Cars usually has the best deals in the area.
Where to Eat in Carrapateira
O Sitio do Rio has a great location in the Bordeira beach dunes. Its menu offers a wide range of regional flavors, especially fresh grilled fish, locally caught shellfish and traditional Portuguese meat dishes.
The Micro Bar in the Carrapateira village is a cute little place with very friendly staff. Laynni had an amazing Greek salad and was sorely tempted by the other salads as well. They also have good burgers and the portions were huge.
Where to Stay in Carrapateira
We stayed at Casa Da Estela were warmly welcomed with sweets, snacks and a glass of port (naturally). There is a shared kitchen available and she provided supplies to make our own breakfast. All the restaurants and the only shop are very close by, as well.
Carrapateiramar Guest House has studio rooms with a kitchen and an outdoor pool and sun terrace.
Scenic, dramatic and boasting world-class surf, Carrapateira is a firm favourite with anyone into high-adrenalin water sports. But that doesn’t mean non-surfers can’t enjoy this beautiful slice of the Costa Vicentina, with outrageous cliffs, photogenic dunes and plenty of places to find a quiet corner away from the rest of the world.
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