São Rafael Beach (Praia de São Rafael) is close enough to Albufeira for a daytrip yet far enough away that it escapes the bustle of the city. São Rafael Beach is famous for its dramatic limestone cliffs, some of which have been eroded over centuries into curious shapes. The beach sits in a sheltered bay and boasts safe, crystal-clear water and powdery sand that runs gently between your toes.
Like much of the Algarve, swimming is possible year-round. The sea is calm, shallow and a dazzling shade of azure. Lifeguards patrol the beach during the summer months.
Sign up for activities at the water sports center. Cruise along the coastline via rented kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Join a coasteering tour, which includes climbing onto rocks, cliff jumping and floating through caves. Swim alongside brightly colored sea life with the use of rented snorkeling equipment.
The craggy backdrop is spectacular the full length of the beach. Some of the rocks have been given affectionate names, such as Ninho das Andorinhas (Swallow’s Nest) and Ponte Pequeña (Little Bridge). Stand beneath the bridge for a souvenir photo. When the tide is out, you can walk around the cliffs at the western edge of the bay to a quieter cove.
Find the beach 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) west of Albufeira Marina. There’s a parking lot a short walk from the entrance. A public bus service operates daily from Albufeira bus terminal in summer. It runs with a limited service in winter.
São Rafael Beach has Blue Flag status. You’ll find public toilets and showers, which are free to use. The beachfront restaurant serves up tasty fish and seafood dishes. Accommodations in the village range from all-inclusive resorts to boutique hotels and self-catering apartments.