Ilha Deserta

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Nothing but golden sands here / Image: Alamy

One of the barrier islands that make up the Ria Formosa Natural Park and just a 30-minute boat ride (€5) from downtown Faro, this huge sweep of empty, gold-sand beach is known, for good reason, as the Deserted Island. There’s really nothing here except some of the most remote Atlantic walks anywhere in Algarve – or possibly Europe – and a single, solar-powered restaurant, Estaminé, which does fresh-off-the-boat seafood and also rents sunloungers for the ultimate after-lunch unwind.

Ilha da Barretta

Praia de Garrão

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This beach is a classic choice for nearby resort dwellers / Image: Alamy

The Algarve’s so-called 'Golden Triangle' is chock-full of splashy resorts and, a half-hour drive from downtown Faro, this is one of the area's go-to beaches. Even so, like many of Portugal’s Atlantic sands, it’s big enough to rarely feel overcrowded (especially outside peak season), but still wins for accessibility (buggy-friendly boardwalks included) and decent-enough facilities that you can make a whole day of it. Beach bar-restaurant Julia’s is where to lunch on seabass and Super Bock.

Urbanização Vale do Lobo 70

Praia Da Cordoama

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This golden-hued beach is worth the longer drive / Image: Getty Images

Sure, it’s a bit of a schlep from Faro (an hour-and-a-half drive) but, wow, is it worth it: at 1km, this is one of the longest beaches in the Algarve and it’s an absolute stunner. Backed by the steep green cliffs of Costa Vicentina Natural Park, this usually pretty lonely length of sea-misty sand seems to go on to infinity and makes for one of the best sunset walks in Portugal (beware the tides). Reliable swell makes this a popular surf beach but, be warned, it’s fairly choppy and cold – experience required.

Vila do Bispo

Praia De Odeceixe

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This praia's waters are calm enough for kids / Image: Getty Images

For some of the wild, rugged beauty of Praia Da Cordoama without the high-tide downer, this happily more peopled alternative in Costa Vicentina Natural Park isn’t far off, but has the added bonus of lifeguard patrols (summer only) and calmer waters that are good for kids and chilled bathing. There are also a few decent restaurants and bars up on the cliffs to retreat to in the midday heat – nothing-fancy Bar da Praia Odeceixe does fantastic, daily-changing tapas. 

Praia de Odeceixe

Praia Do Barril

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These half-buried anchors pay tribute to the beach's bygone fishing industry / Image: Alamy

A 40-minute drive east towards the Spanish border, this long, oh-so-lovely length of quiet, beautiful coast on Ilha de Tavira is known for its warmer, more Med-like waters. Keep an eye out for the distinctive Cemitério das Ancoras, a set of buried anchors that pays tribute to the Algarve’s bygone fishing days. It's considered a family beach: the sand is white and fluffy and the calm, clear-blue waters are perfectly paddle-able, plus there are loungers for hire, toilets and three restaurants. Lifeguards patrol in summer.

8800-531 Santa Luzia

Praia Do Carvalho

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This praio is Portugal's pin-up beach / Image: Adobe Stock

If you’ve ever seen a travel-porn pic of the Algarve, likely it was of this rugged, cliff-topped bay a well-worthwhile hour’s drive from downtown Faro, and close to the equally buzzed-about Benagil sea caves. Still, despite its evident Insta-allure, this secluded cove can sometimes go oddly unloved even in peak summer. Perhaps it’s the hassle of tunnel-only access through the sandstone cliffs but, either way, with soft, gold sands and foamy, blue-white waters, this is one of Portugal’s most blissed-out beaches.

Rua de Algarve Clube Atlântico H15

Ilha Da Fuseta

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Alamy

You don’t need a car to get to this seriously beautiful, back-to-nature barrier island just outside Faro (take the bus or train). However you get here, it’s highly unlikely to disappoint – arrive at the old-timey fishing village of Fuseta before taking a 10-minute boat-trip to Praia da Ilha da Fuseta, a swirling stretch of lagooned shoreline that feels far removed from the commerce and clamour of the Algarve’s holiday beaches. You’re free to explore the endless tidal marshes – keep your eyes peeled for pink flamingos.

Fuseta