The southernmost region of Algarve, Portugal, is known as the cradle of tourism in the country – one of them, at least. The town of Portimão and its famous city beach have long upheld their reputation as being perfect summer getaways for the rich Portuguese folk.
Praia da Rocha is more than just a city beach though, it is a long stretch of sand that has quite recently evolved into a bustling beach resort town with many restaurants, bars, and a large shopping area to boast. Disclosed in this ultimate guide is all the information necessary for you to have an amazing vacation in one of Algarve’s most preciously guarded gems.
Getting to Portimão
While the town of Portimão does have one small airport, it doesn’t serve any international flights. In fact, it’s used only by general aviation, so you could go for a bit of parachuting at best.
Instead, the airport closest to Portimão is the one in Faro, 44 miles (71 kilometers) away. Now, you’ll probably want to rent a car as there is no better way to explore any place really, in which case you’ll be taking the A22 motorway.
Even if you’re not renting, you’ll be able to reach the beach town pretty easily, thanks to amazing connectivity. Whether you opt for a shuttle ride, a bus, or a train is entirely up to you, just keep in mind that the train is likely going to be the most expensive option unless you actually take a taxi.
The bus ride is going to cost about €5.50 and last at least an hour and a half, sometimes even taking a whole hour.
When you’re finally in Portimão, there’s just the matter of covering that last mile to Praia da Rocha in the south. Trust us, you can’t miss it!
If you’re arriving by car, the address of the street from which you descend to the beach is Avenida Tomás Cabreira, Portimão. There’s a parking lot here but there’s usually not enough space during summer months. Unless you’re really lucky, you’ll have to park elsewhere.
Praia da Rocha Nightlife
The aforementioned street is the most touristy place you’ll find in the town and around Praia da Rocha. It is a hub of all things tourist, like shops, restaurants, bars, a single casino – and nightclubs.
There are few places in the entire Algarve that party as much as Praia da Rocha does. With the clubs and bars having direct access to the beach, which happens to be enormous (we’ll get to that later), parties often spill over the comfy golden sand and can last night and day.
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Of course, this also comes as a warning to families with children to be careful where they stay, especially during high season. It would probably be best to avoid the resort town that’s sprung up adjacent to the beach itself and pick something in Portimão instead.
The youth favors this destination, so expect to hear the tunes carrying on, way past bedtime. Some of the fan favorites are NoSoloAgua restaurant and club, Blanco Beach club, Irelands Eye, and On the Rocks club (guess where it is). Also, there’s Katedral club, Dalys Irish bar, and many others, too many to list here. Just walk along the beach or down Avenida Tomás Cabreira and see for yourself.
Things to Do in Praia da Rocha
Besides hanging out at the beach, and let’s face it, you’ll be doing exactly that after you see how breathtakingly beautiful it is, there are numerous options for families, couples, and explorers in general.
As you may or may not already know, Praia da Rocha means “Rocky Beach” in English, and is there a reason for it! Lining the entirety of the coastline this side of Algarve, towering limestone cliffs give the beach a pretty rugged look. They’re fascinating really, giving the whole beach a secluded vibe, separated from the hustle and bustle of the town beyond them.
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By now, you’ve probably realized where we’re going with this. It’s quite amazing and adventurous, following these cliffs as they swerve along the coast. If you head towards the west, you’ll see a natural tunnel carved through a steep cliff that separates Praia da Rocha and Praia dos Três Castelos. The latter, also known as Three Castles beach, has gotten its name thanks to limestone cliffs that slightly resemble castles, carved by years of erosion. A word of caution: be careful as you’re passing through the tunnel and into this area as boulders come crashing down from time to time.
You could continue adventuring westwards and observe the most unusual rock formations, or you could check out something else, such as Santa Catarina Fortress dating back to the 17th century. Sardine Museum in Portimão is also a cool spot for families to stop by.
For a more adrenaline-fuelled activity, take to the skies from Portimão Aeroporto and go skydiving, explore the underwater world of the Atlantic Ocean, or just take it easy and go boating or golfing – Praia da Rocha has got it all.
Speaking of easy, there’s a charming marina that you could visit east of the beach, by the romantic Arade River.
Praia da Rocha Beach
Finally, we get to the topic that’s probably on everyone’s mind and the top priority when it comes to Praia da Rocha – its gorgeous beach.
Absolutely everything about this beach is divine – from soft, yellow sand covering the entirety of this long beach, to clean water and great amenities, everything simply begs a visit. The only negative thing to say about this amazing beach (besides problems with parking that we’ve already mentioned) is the crowds.
From a luxurious getaway for the rich who’d come here and stay at their villas, Praia da Rocha has grown into a popular summer destination for many. This has led to a sharp increase in the number of visitors and it’s quite noticeable. Besides young party-goers who converge around portions of the beach adjacent to bars, there are still plenty of Portuguese who come here, as well as families from abroad.
Luckily, the beach is huge and thanks to this, you’ll always be able to make some distance between you and clusters of people. It is about 4,100 feet (1,250 meters) long, and about 650 feet (200 meters) wide on average. At the widest point, that is, near the breakwall, the beach is 900 feet (280 meters) wide! That is quite a lot of golden sand to dig your parasol into, and with most of the beach being public, you’ll surely find a spot to call your own.
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Water entry is also sandy, despite all the rock formations around you. However, if you get too close to the cliffs in the west, you’re bound to come upon less savory seafloor. The ocean is a bit cooler, but not so much that you can’t adjust in a matter of minutes. During summer months, sea temperature usually ranges from 68 to 73°F (20 to 23°C), so combine that with great powdery beach and crystal-clear water and you’ll get a truly amazing experience for the family and friends alike.
The waves can get a bit feisty sometimes, but they usually don’t get too serious. Regardless, there are lifeguards at the beach, so rest assured that you’re being looked after. You’ll be able to freely enjoy the turquoise waters of the Atlantic, so beautiful to the eye.
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Besides lifeguards, this Blue Flag beach has got every amenity you could want from a beach: places to eat and drink, a charming wooden walkway along the entire beach, toilets, showers, and sunbeds if you prefer renting.
Best Resorts in Praia da Rocha
Being such a prominent tourist destination quite often translates into an amazing selection of bedding to choose from and Praia da Rocha is no different.
While it’s very difficult to choose the best resorts out there as there are many different facets to the process, we’ll provide you with three fan-favorites to choose from.
Bela Vista Hotel & Spa
With all the luxury imaginable and a private portion of the beach for yourself, this 5-star hotel is for the guests looking to be pampered as much as possible. All of them are on the same street so you can’t them.
Website: Bela Vista Hotel & Spa
Phone number: +351 282 460 280
Address: Av. Tomas Cabreira Praia da Rocha, 8500-802 Portimão
Jupiter Algarve Hotel
One of the most charming hotels by the beach, Jupiter Algarve Hotel has a spa to die for and a lot of interesting events to spice up your stay there.
Website: Jupiter Algarve Hotel
Phone number: +351 282 470 470
Address: Av. Tomás Cabreira 92, 8500-802 Praia da Rocha, Portimão
Algarve Casino Hotel
Besides all the amenities such as spa, swimming pools, hot tubs, and other luxuries, Algarve Casino Hotel will also try and tempt you with some games of chance.
Website: Algarve Casino Hotel
Phone number: +351 282 402 000
Address: Av. Tomás Cabreira, 8500-802 Portimão
Praia da Rocha is such a dreamy beach with an even more charming town in its backdrop. While many tourists have already realized its potential and the crowds are now a reality, the gorgeous sandy beach, and pristine water quite make up for it. It’s perhaps one of the most beautiful places in all of Algarve, and that’s really saying something.