After presenting you the vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants of the southernmost region of Portugal in the first Algarve article, now you’ll learn what else you can do here besides eating. In addition to sunbathing at the dream beaches on the beautiful coastline, there is also plenty of action waiting for you – mostly at or even in the water!
Let’s start with a big hit: surfing. You can do that especially well at the Algarve. At Portugal’s southwest coast, the year-round Atlantic waves provide some of the most popular surfing spots in Europe and even worldwide. At the top of the list are the Praia da Arrifana and Praia da Amoreira beaches near Aljezur.
Right there, in the middle of the nature reserve Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, is located also the Atlantic Lodge by Surflife Atlantic Riders. This hostel (with mixed dorms and double rooms with private bathroom and balcony) is a surf camp, which offers plenty of space for self-determination and individuality. So there are no fixed arrival and departure days, course groups or course duration. Getting started is possible at any time.
Also we were surf greenhorns, who have never stood on a surfboard (except for the ironing board). With much patience, an extensive immersion in the world of surfing was made possible for us. Even though after only three days of practise the results were rather moderate, we got a clear picture of the popular water sport. At Praia da Arrifana we could even watch a local surfing contest and admire real professionals.
In the Atlantic Lodge, yoga is occasionally offered on the rooftop around 8:30 in the morning. After that starts the breakfast, to our delight with soy milk, cereals, homemade bread, various kinds of jam, peanut butter and sliced fresh fruit and vegetables. Between 9 and 10 you will be taken to one of the surf beaches with the Atlantic Riders van. There you can take part in two surf lessons of 90 minutes a day. Kitesurfing is also possible if the wind allows.
In Aljezur, yoga is offered not only on the rooftop of the Atlantic Lodge, but also in the cultural center Moagem, which we have already mentioned in our Vegan Food Guide Algarve. Of course, you can also spread your yoga mat simply in the middle of nature. It’s certain that the mixture of meditation, breathing techniques and physical exercises is healthy and relaxes the body and mind.
Enjoy Beautiful Beaches
There are thousands of dream beaches at the Algarve, after all, the coast is its biggest attraction. Therefore you can hardly do anything wrong with the beach choice. Nevertheless, we would like to introduce you to a few of our top favorites:
On the one hand there are the two aforementioned surfer beaches Praia da Arrifana and Praia da Amoreira near Aljezur. Both have been awarded the Blue Flag, the former is even considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Through his year-round high wave quality, he gained national and international fame.
Our other two favorites are the also awarded the Blue Flag beaches Praia dos Três Irmãos and Praia de Benagil. The former impresses with remarkable rock formations. To get there, you just have to move from the very touristy beach section to the east (if you look to the sea to the left) and climb over small rocks and go so far through rock archways until you gradually come to more isolated beach sections. There is also a small staircase leading up to where you can look at the beautiful cliffs from a different perspective. Here, with a bit of luck you will not only get a bay all to yourself, but also a whole action trail – and all that for free!
The Praia de Benagil, on the other hand, is the epitome of ‘overcrowded’ – pictures like the one below we previously knew only from guidebooks. However, the beach has something very special to offer, but more about that at the end of the article. 😉
SUP (Stand Up Paddle Boarding)
Stand up paddle boarding or stand up paddle surfing- SUP for short – is a relatively new trend sport, at least in Europe, the USA, Australia and Japan. In Hawaii, however, where surfing was invented, this mode of locomotion has been known for some time. Here, stand up paddle boarding was the sport of the king, only the chosen ones were allowed to move around standing besides him. Only years later, stand up paddle surfing became popular in addition to windsurfing and surfing, as you can do it without wind or waves. Today, stand up paddle boarding is widespread as a recreational sport and has developed into an independent water sport.
Neither we were spared the fascination and so we tried SUP even twice in the Algarve. The first time with Blue Xperiences from Praia de Benagil along the coast to Cabo Carvoeiro, into caves and finally even into the Benagil cave itself. Our guide Bruno explained to our small group, consisting of only three other participants and us, some facts about the caves and their rocks. We quickly realized that even as an absolute beginner you can get into the activity very well, even if at first only kneeling. When you stand up, the whole thing gets a bit shaky and you run the risk of falling into the water. Therefore, all things you have with you, should be stowed waterproof – or don’t take anything with you at all.
Our second time stand up paddle boarding was with Coastline Algarve from the beach Praia do Barranco between Sagres and Lagos to the east, along a beautiful stretch of coastline. Again, we paddled and even swam into caves. This time, our group was a bit bigger. In exchange we also had two guides available who provided a lot of action and fun as well as some small challenges. So for example, there was the possibility to jump from a ledge or to try a headstand on the SUP board. Overall, it was a very nice and fun tour!
If that’s not enough adrenaline for you, maybe you’ll find the next trend interesting: coasteering. Originally from Wales, coasteering is a warter sport that encompasses jumping into the water from ever higher rocks, swimming, climbing up, hicking or climbing along the coast, jumping into the water again, and so on. So it’s about an intensive experiencing and getting to know the coast and the sea.
We also did this tour with Coastline Algarve following the SUP tour. To limit the risk of injury, we got the complete equipment from wetsuit over shoes and life jacket to a helmet, in which we felt a bit clunky, but very safe. After a brief introduction, we slowly started to get used to the water, the waves, and climbing up the rocks with small (about one meter high) jumps. Gradually we gained in height and also swam to other shorelines.
Doing so, we also reached our limits, for example concerning the effort, perseverance and also the topic of fear of heights. It felt all the better then to overcome these limits, whereby we always felt well looked after by our guides. For those who are physically not that fit, you might don’t want to do the two activities stand up paddle boarding and coasteering on the same day as we did, because otherwise the next day, you’ll have sore muscles.
To see the Algarve once from above – sounds like a dream, right? AlgarExperience makes this possible: namely during the parasailing in front of the port of Albufeira. For this, a specially designed canopy wing that reminds of a parachute is streched to a fast boat. In it, flap-like openings are incorporated, which provide the necessary uplift. And that’s where you dangle and enjoy the world from a bird’s eye view. A truly unforgettable experience!
Visit the Highest Point of the Algarve
If that’s still not high enough for you, how about a trip to the 902 meter high Fóia mountain near Monchique, the highest point in the Algarve? At its summit there is a transmitting station, a restaurant, a small tourist shop and – of course, how could it be otherwise – several viewpoints. Along the way there is already an “attraction” particularly popular among locals. You will learn about it in the next point.
Drink Monchique Spring Water
Exactly, it is the already mentioned in the first Algarve article Monchique spring water, which springs from the mountains of the same name. With a pH value of 9.5, it is said to be the most alkaline and therefore healthiest water in Europe. However, this is controversial, generally the continuous consumption of undiluted alkaline water with high pH level is not recommended.
Nevertheless, next to the rather inconspicuous springs on the way to the summit of the highest mountain in the Algarve, there are a few parked cars, mostly of locals, who fill up countless canisters of water there. Due to lack of expertise, we can’t say whether the Mochique spring water in large quantities is healthy or unhealthy, but it is definitely one thing: more environmentally friendly than bottled water from the supermarket!
Downhill Mountain Biking
One way to get back down quickly is downhill mountain biking. Unfortunately, we could not test this, because the season was just over when we were there in early October. But maybe you have more luck! 😉
Refresh Yourself in a Water Park
What could be better on a really hot day, than going to a theme park with roller coasters? Right, going to a water park with water roller coasters! 😀 The Aquashow Park in Quarteira, between Albufeira and Faro, is open from May to September, and with its plenty of slides, attractions and water rides, keeps you cool and provides for a lot of fun! Here, you’ll find something for every age.
Insider tip: Contrary to the spontaneous assumption, at the weekend, the Aquashow Park is not the most, but least visited! Other water parks in the Algarve include Aqualand Algarve and Slide & Splash.