The Algarve’s Five Best Kept Secrets

We may earn commission from companies mentioned on this blog, however our praise cannot be bought!

Anyone visiting the Algarve for their holidays won’t find it hard to locate wonderful beaches, beautiful scenery and fabulous, cheap restaurants. All you need is a guide book or a quick Google search of your chosen area and you are set to enjoy a great holiday.

FIESA - easy to find and enjoy
FIESA – easy to find and enjoy

But those who are staying longer, or moving permanently to the Algarve, have the option to discover some of its hidden treasures – places that don’t make the guide books or that have to be sought out based on local knowledge.

Here we go off the beaten track and share five of the Algarve’s best kept secrets, which we have discovered during our years of living here.


As the Algarve’s highest mountain, Foia isn’t exactly ‘hidden’ but surprisingly few people make the journey to the top. Those that do are rewarded (on clear days at least) with incredible views of a huge stretch of the coastline, with tiny towns and villages dotted around in picture postcard perfection.

Foia - pick a sunny day for a better view
Foia – pick a sunny day for a better view

You can scale Foia on foot with the hand of a local walking guide, though in the height of summer the intense heat means driving may be a more practical approach. Partway down the mountain is a tiny spring of clear water, where you are likely to find locals filling their empty bottles to take the pure, cold water away with them.

No Solo Água (Praia da Rocha)

At the far end of Praia da Rocha in Portimão, near the fortress, is the No Solo Água beach club, as recently reviewed on our sister blog, Food and Wine Portugal. While the Algarve has a few beach clubs, most are expensive, with cover charges in place before you can even sit down. No Solo Água at Praia da Rocha, however, is something of a locals’ secret. You can turn up, grab a day bed or giant sofa, and access the private beach – all for free. All you have to do is buy drinks while you’re there. There is the option to buy food as well and everything we’ve tried from the menu so far has been very tasty.

No Solo Agua - delightful
No Solo Agua – delightful

As an aside, we have visited other No Solo Água establishments, such as the one at Vilamoura, but none even come close to living up to the one at Praia da Rocha.


Tucked away in the middle of nowhere near the Spanish border, Alcoutim is a small town with a tiny yet beautiful river beach. The water is clean and delightfully warm and offers the chance for visitors to float around for endless hours, disturbed only by the occasional sparkling fish jumping out of the water.

Alcoutim - a blissful hideaway
Alcoutim – a blissful hideaway

Even in the peak of summer, Alcoutim remains relatively quiet, in stark contrast to the Algarve’s coastal beaches. The little bar on site serves drinks and hot snacks, or you can take a picnic and each it on the sandy riverbank. Lifeguards are on duty and the shallow, still waters make this a lovely spot to visit if you have young children.

Tavira’s Secret Beach

Ilha da Tavira beach is a popular tourist destination all summer long and deservedly so. It is beautiful. However, Tavira also has another beach, accessed by following the signs to Forte de Rato through the Ria Formosa nature reserve. If this beach has a name, I’ve yet to discover it.

The secret beach at Forte de Rato
The secret beach at Forte de Rato

This delightful spot offers a way to escape the tourist hordes. There will be people there, but far fewer than on any of the other beaches in the area. Protected from the open sea by the curving coastland, this tidal inlet offers shallow, crystal clear water in which to frolic or simply float on a giant rubber ring. The ruined Forte de Rato, which you have to drive past to get to the beach, makes for a lovely diversion on the way.

Pego do Inferno

Accessed via the backroads leading out of Tavira and tricky to find, Pego do Inferno is one of our favourite spots. Anyone who has been kind enough to purchase our book, Moving to Portugal, will recognise the waterfall on the front cover when they visit Pego do Inferno.

Ravaged by the extensive wildfires that burned across the Algarve in 2012, Pego do Inferno has now reopened and begun to return to its former beauty, as vegetation and wildlife have returned. The waterfall and the pool at its base range in colour from perfectly clear to muddy brown/orange, depending on the time of year.

Pego do Inferno - worth trying to find
Pego do Inferno – worth trying to find

In mid-summer, the water is clear enough to see fish swimming around the pool in shoals, which scatter when locals plunge into the depths from the tattered rope swing or the top of the cliff from which the waterfall pours. I should add that both activities are extremely dangerous!

Later in the year, after the autumn rains have begun, the water becomes silted with mud from the surrounding hills, making swimming a rather unpleasant idea. It’s still a wonderfully quiet spot for a picnic, but is definitely far better when visited during the summer months.

So these are our favourite ‘secret’ Algarve destinations. I’m sure we will discover more as our explorations continue over the years ahead and I look forward to adding to the list.

What’s your favourite tucked away Algarve place? Let us know by leaving a comment in the box.

Share This Post

7 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Thank you for sharing some of your ‘secret’ places. We’re over again on Thursday for a week and will take in Pego Do Inferno, now that you’ve mentioned it’s open again. Thank you.

  2. I’ve been Reading your blog, and a while ago when you posted about how brittish people feel in Portugal. I asked you to do the reverse.
    Although I enjoied this post, i’m just commenting to ask you again. Please? hehehe…I’m sorry, I’m just too curious about your oppion about the subject…

    PS: I’m sorry for my misspellings and grammar…

  3. Best of luck finding it Marion – it’s definitely worth the drive though. Such a beautiful spot 🙂

  4. Hi Bessa,

    Do you mean you would like us to post about how Portuguese people who have settled in England feel? Or about how the Portuguese in Portugal feel about having us expats here?

    Best wishes,

    Lou 🙂

  5. We went to Alcoutim a few years ago while we were on holiday, and had coffee at the fishermen’s cafe bar. A delightful elderly man insisted on paying for our coffees and pasteis de nata and refused to let us buy him a drink before we left! Not sure whether the fact that I spoke Portuguese had anything to do with it.

  6. Our friends in Tavira call the ‘Rat Fort’ beach you mention, Arrial Beach. I dont think that is the correct spelling though 🙂 We will try and visit Alcoutim whilst over in two weeks. Will keep you informed as to whether we got any freebies.

  7. That sounds wonderful jpduck – and a great example of how generous and welcoming the Portuguese can be 🙂

    Saz, I hope you make it as far as Alcoutim, it’s such a lovely place. Good luck with the freebies! 🙂

Post Comment