The first stop along the coast for people hiking the Rota Vicentina from north to south, cute little Porto Covo Portugal is a delight and the perfect introduction to the string of great towns and villages leading down to the Algarve’s Costa Vicentina. Pretty much exactly how you might imagine a traditional Portuguese fishing village, Porto Covo (Port of Fishing Nets) is a wonderful cluster of whitewashed houses, quaint squares and cobblestoned streets. Of course, what really sets it apart is the fact that all this old school charm is perched dramatically on the edge of some spectacular cliffs.
While the popular resort town of Vila Nova de Milfontes garners most of the headlines from the Alentejo Coast, Porto Covo’s relaxed atmosphere, outstanding seafood and quiet beaches are a great choice for those not interested in the party scene. The nice main square, Praça Marquês de Pombal, is a laid-back place to have a drink and watch the day go by, and the scenic fishing harbour is also worth a look. While tourism has clearly taken over as the town’s main source of income, there are still many boats in the harbour, most of which run day trips out to Ilha do Pessegueiro (Peach Tree Island). Inland, the surrounding area is part of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park which protects migratory and endemic bird habitats.
Porto Covo Map
Porto Covo Beaches
As with most places along this stretch of Portuguese coast, Porto Covo offers a nice range of nearby beaches.
As the name suggests, this is a large beach and is the most expansive within easy walking distance of the village. Yet another renowned Blue Flag beach, it features clean water, environmentally friendly practices, full facilities and lifeguards (in summer).
Praia dos Buizinhos
Right near town, Praia dos Buizinhos is surrounded by dramatic cliffs and the jumble of rocks just offshore are favourites with visiting photographers. It is small and more sheltered than most beaches in the area. The name comes from the many small, powdered seashells found here.
Praia da Baía
This beach is to the south of town and the size greatly depends on the tides. It is also used as a harbour for small fishing boats. It can be quite rocky as well so is not the best of the nearby choices to lounge on but is atmospheric to wander.
Praia do Banho
Also close to town and sheltered by tall cliffs, Praia do Banho (Bath Beach) faces the opposite direction to Praia dos Buizinhos, so whatever the wind, one of them should be warm and calm. The name refers to the traditional ocean baths villagers take every August 29th, with legend suggesting they benefit from the ocean’s regenerative powers. At low tide it is possible to make your way through the rocks to Praia da Gaviota (the only access to this tiny beach).
Praia Do Salto
One of the few designated nudist beaches in Portugal, Praia do Salto is relatively remote and peaceful, just make sure you have enough sunscreen to cover all that extra exposed skin.
Beaches Near Porto Covo
If you are interested in going further afield there are plenty of other beaches a long walk or quick drive away.
Praia de Vale Figueiros
This wide beach (sometimes also referred to as Vieirinha or Pedra da Casca) boasts big-time waves popular with surfers and bodyboarders. You can rent boards, get lessons or even take a yoga class from Costa Azul Surf, or stop in for a snack or drink at the Magic Cactus restaurant.
Praia da Cerca Nova
Just north of Porto Covo, Praia da Cerca Nova can be reached along the water at low tide. Even though it only takes an extra 10 minutes to walk here most people never bother, making it a much quieter option than the beaches right in front of town. It is also backed by scenic cliffs and a picturesque set of rocks divide the beach in two at high tide.
Praia da Ilha do Pessegueiro
Trading steep cliffs for atmospheric, wind-swept sand dunes, Praia da Ilha do Pessegueiro is a few kilometres south of Porto Covo and directly across from its namesake, Ilha do Pessegueiro (Peach Tree Island), sitting just a couple hundred metres offshore. The large, abandoned 16th century fortress looming over the beach is popular with history buffs and amateur photographers. Out on the island itself you can still make out some of the ruins of Forte do Santo Alberto. Incidentally, some say the island’s name actually comes from “piscatorius”, the Roman term for the fish salting that used to take place.
Praia da Samoqueira
Praia da Samoqueira is a long, narrow beach that can almost disappear at high tide. However, at low tide it is filled with a fascinating array of rocks and tide pools.
The Fishermen’s Trail
Either starting or ending at Porto Covo, this spectacular coastal hiking route is usually done as a 4-day trek, spending nights in different villages along the way. The scenery is incredible and there is hardly any elevation gain to deal with, although hiking in the sand can be exhausting as well. The Fishermen’s Trail is often included as part of the much larger Rota Vicentina trail network that runs from Santiago do Cacem all the way to Lagos.
What Porto Covo lacks in size it more than makes up for in traditional fishing village charm and photogenic whitewashed buildings with colourful doors and trim. There are several bars and restaurants scattered throughout its handful of streets.
Even if you aren’t a beach person it is worth heading south to visit the impressive Pessegueiro Fort. Built in 1603, it was soon destroyed by a combination of pirates and Spanish armies during the Restoration War. It was rebuilt later that century and most of it still stands today, offering interesting historical sites and exceptional views over the island.
Ilha do Pessegueiro
Boat trips to this fascinating island go frequently in summer but you should be able to negotiate a reasonably priced journey any time of year. Along with the ruins of the Forte do Santo Alberto, Pessegueiro Island is an important bird habitat and migratory stop for a wide range or marine species such as gulls, cormorants and carrion crows.
There are some excellent dive spots around Ilha do Pessegueiro. While mostly shallow, they still offer enthralling rock formations, tunnels and plenty of marine life including eels, octopi and dozens of variations of fish.
When to Visit Porto Covo
Although nowhere near as crowded as Vila Nova de Milfontes, Porto Covo still gets quite busy in July and August. However, the majority of visitors are Portuguese families as it is still relatively unknown among foreign tourists. In spring and fall you still get great weather but without the crowds. Between November and April many hotels and restaurants shut down but it is still a good time to surf or hike and you will have the place mostly to yourself.
Porto Covo Weather
The entire Costa Vicentina area boasts a sunny, dry climate with warm summers and mild winters. The Atlantic breezes keep the coast from getting as unbearably hot as some inland towns in summer and even in January the daily high averages around 15C, making it one of the few places in Europe where it is possible to hike (or bike) year-round.
February features almond blossoms, May brings wildflowers and nesting storks and October is great for fall foliage among the trees slightly inland. December receives the most rain.
Alternatives to Porto Covo
If you are looking for a bit more action, Vila Nova de Milfontes is the most popular town along this stretch of beautiful Portuguese coast. On the other hand, an even quieter alternative is Almograve, with its traditional Portuguese feel. 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, while Carrapateira is known as one of the top windsurfing beaches in Europe. Even if you do decide to stay in Porto Covo, these all make easy day trips.
How to Get to Porto Covo
The nearest airport is in Faro, 125 kilometres and a 1.5-hour drive away, although it is also less than a 2-hour drive to Lisbon’s international airport where you’ll probably find more flight options.
If you don’t want to rent a car you can take a Rede Expressos bus from Sete Rios station in Lisbon (2.5 hrs / €16). From Faro there are Comboio trains to Funcheira, and there are frequent buses from there. Another option is to take a bus or train 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).
From either Lisbon or Faro you can get a private transfer for up to 8 people for around €150.
Train Station Transfers:
From Funcheira it costs roughly €35 for the same service.
Porto Covo Hotels
Porto Covo accommodation tends to fill up in the summer months so if you are planning to visit then you may want to book in advance. In the shoulder and off seasons there tends to be more room.
Parque Campismo Porto Côvo – we enjoyed the patio, air-conditioning/heat, full kitchen and decent wi-fi. It was walking distance to everything in Porto Covo, including the beaches.
If you are looking for a specifically eco-friendly hotel then Porto Covo Hotel Apartamento is a good choice. They also have a pool, games rooms, playground and a bar. The apartments have a kitchenette and some have a fireplace and/or balcony.
Camping in Porto Covo
There are three different places to camp in Porto Covo.
Porto Covo Camping Park – the campsite has a bar, restaurant, mini market, swimming pool, game fields and playground. It also has a service station for caravans. There is free wi-fi in certain areas of the park. It is the most centrally located campground.
Parque de Campismo da Ilha do Pessegueiro has spots for tents and caravans as well as apartments and bungalows. It is outside of Porto Covo so you either need to have a vehicle or be prepared to do some walking.
Camping Costa do Vizir has spots for tents and caravans as well as apartments and bungalows. It is on the outskirts of Porto Covo but is pretty close to the Praia Grande.
Porto Covo Restaurants
Pizzeria Restaurante La Bella Vita has great pasta and pizza and very friendly staff. We were entertained during the short wait for our food by the Sudoku placemat.
If you are looking for seafood then Restaurante Ze Inacio is a good choice. They serve excellent fresh fish, squid “choco frito” and octopus.
The Praia Grande Bar e Restaurante has an amazing location right on the beach with a relaxed atmosphere. It is the perfect spot for a drink or meal and watch the sunset.
Small, manageable and with an authentic traditional feel, Porto Covo is the perfect choice for a relaxed beach getaway. In our case, it made the perfect introduction to Portuguese village life as our first stop on our 11-day Rota Vicentina trek to Sagres.
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