You haven’t experienced European beach culture until you visit the Algarve. From partygoers in Lagos, to birdwatchers in Ria Formosa park, to mini surfing villages in the Western Algarve there’s a scene for everyone. This long weekend guide is sure to please those looking for a little tasting of all parts of the Algarve, including seeing one of the most famous caves in the Mediterranean!
When to go
We really don’t like crowds so July and August were out of the question for this trip. We opted for mid-September and felt like we might have hit the sweet spot for the Algarve. There were still people around, but you could feel that the locals were starting to calm down with the lower number of tourists. Plus, the weather was PERFECT. Around 75° F every day with a gentle breeze. I think May, June, and September are probably the best times to visit both for the pocket and general sanity.
How to get here
We drove from Lisbon, but if you are just visiting the Algarve on your trip to Portugal flying in and out of Faro is the easiest. We flew out of Faro for about €60 back to Dublin.
Where to stay
This is very dependent on the scene you want to experience. If you’re looking for a party-scene with expansive beaches in walking distance Lagos is the place to be. Want to be one with nature? Try out glamping at Eco Lodge Brejeira. Or if you are looking for authentic Portuguese close to everything, stay in beautiful Ferragudo at this perfect AirBnB. Click here for $35 off your very first AirBnB booking!
There’s public transit in the Algarve, but the best way to get around is by car. We rented from Drive on Holidays and had a good experience. We did get the full insurance since the last thing we needed was to worry about the credit card insurance not covering us if something happened.
Tip: The Algarve is connected by a toll road. When you are renting the car ask them about this and leave your credit card info with them so that it can automatically be paid when you turn in the car instead of having to worry about a toll bill hitting you later or having to have coins for pay stations (we didn’t see any pay stations, so not sure if this is even an option).
I should probably write a whole post about this, but we are tough with food. I don’t eat any meat except birds and fish (dietary restrictions) and the hubby is allergic to pretty much all seafood (awful, right?). So when planning our Portugal trip we wrote down a bunch of restaurants we knew we could find something for the two of us. We were fortunately pleasantly surprised with the variety (and taste!) of food, particularly in the Algarve. We ate everything from chicken kebabs to octopus rice to a ton of pastéis de nata (seriously the best thing ever). Budget wise, the food is really affordable. An entire pot of octopus rice cost around €9 and a bottle of wine at the restaurant was around €11.
Good to know: Everywhere we went we had bread, cheese, and olives brought to the table. This is NOT free. If you don’t want this, simply tell the waitstaff and they’ll kindly take it back. We never did because the cheese was melt-in-your-mouth good, but good tidbit to know!
How to spend 4 days in the Algarve
Phew, now that the nitty gritty is out of the way let’s get to the fun part of laying out different activities in the Algarve. With long stretches of sand, cliff hiking, and time on the water you really can’t go wrong with this itinerary.
It’s our first morning in the Algarve! We enjoyed our morning lounging around a local coffee shop and walking around our new surroundings in Ferragudo. To get a better understanding of the geography of the Algarve we headed out on a boat tour of the sea caves, including the famous Benagil cave, in the central Algarve. We went out with Wild Watch Algarve based out of Ferragudo on their cave trip and had an absolutely amazing time. Joined by a marine biologist as a tour guide we learned all kinds of interesting facts about the sea life in this unique ecosystem. For only €25 this is a can’t-miss tour.
After a relaxing boat trip on the calm waters of the central Algarve, we headed out to the Western Algarve for an epic road trip. The Western Algarve is the surfer’s dream. The diverse beaches combined with the massive Atlantic waves makes for the perfect day.
After two relaxing days we were ready for some adventure. Kayaking around the caves and grottoes of Lagos courtesy of Kayak Adventures sounded like the perfect way to spend our day. If we did it all over again, we would have done this in the morning as it’s cooler and would have given us the afternoon to beach lounge.
Afternoon beach lounging
There are so many beaches that you’ve probably discovered at this point on your holiday. We ended up at the “Three Brothers Beach” in Alvor and immediately fell in love. We could have spent an entire day here with the cliffs towering over us and the huge expanse of sand. Plus, there is an amazing restaurant called Cinco Quinas on the western end of the beach that had to-die-for grilled sardines.
On our last day we had a late flight back to Dublin. We spent the morning lounging in a coffee shop again in Ferragudo and then headed west on the hunt for a stroll along the cliffs. We were lucky enough to find our favorite place in all of Portugal – Algar Seco and spent the entire afternoon leading up to our flight climbing around this playground for adults.
The Algarve is the perfect sunny getaway that meets our three favorite C’s: Cheap, Comfortable, and Clean. We were so sad to leave, but we know we’ll be back!
Have you ever been to the Algarve? What would you add to this itinerary?