Costa Vicentina: Portugal’s most spectacular road trip in 2023

After having visited the Portuguese Algarve on multiple occasions, we know Lagos, Faro and just about all the beautiful Portuguese beaches, intriguing Algarve sea caves and charming fishing villages (looking at you Carvoeiro) in between. But have you ever wondered what lies beyond this popular stretch of Algarve coastline? Located along the region’s west coast is the Costa Vicentina. It’s just as much part of the Algarve yet worlds apart from the tourist-magnets that dot the southern coastline. We had our heart set on exploring this wild Atlantic coastline and set off on road a trip from Odeceixe to Bordeira, Aljezur and Odeceixe. The unspoiled landscapes and laid-back towns we encountered, took our breath away. Are you ready to discover the spectacular Costa Vicentina beaches, authentic whitewashed-villages and most unique Portuguese Airbnbs?

Costa Vicentina views
Odeceixe beach in Aljezur Portugal

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Where is the Costa Vicentina

The Costa Vicentina stretches out from Burgau to Odeceixe in Algarve, following the contours of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park up to the border between the Algarve and Alentejo coast. The Vicentine coast extends over the territory of two municipalities:

  • Villa do Bispo, which includes Burgau, Sagres and Cape St Vincent.
  • Aljezur, which includes Bordeira, Carrapateira, Aljezur-town and Odeceixe.

The Costa Vicentina is Portugal’s largest protected coastal area, dotted with wide beaches, sand dunes, wildflowers, authentic villages as well as grey and copper-colored cliffs. We created a custom map of the area, indicating the Costa Vicentina beaches, towns and highlights we’ll cover in further detail as well as the Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina Natural Park.

Vicentina Portugal coast map
Costa Vicentina Portugal map

The only way to explore the Atlantic Coast of Portugal is by car. Rental cars do come pretty cheap in Portugal, just do in take into account that you’ll be paying tolls when driving in Portugal.

Discover Cars is our go-to European car rental comparison site. The prices are highly competitive, the booking process is effortless and you can even select a pay later option that comes with free cancelation. Click here to get the best car rental deal.

The Costa Vicentina roads can be bumpy, sandy, and remote but that’s all part of the region’s charm.

Short on time? Costa Vicentina road trip itinerary in short

North to South (6 days)

  • Day 1: Visit Odeicexe town and Odeicexe beach
  • Sleep in Odeceixe or Aljezur (2 nights): Monte do Cardal or this stunning villa
  • Day 2: Surfing at Arrifana beach, late afternoon in Aljezur town
  • Day 3: Short Rota Vicentina hike at Amoreira beach, afternoon at Monte Clérigo beach
  • Sleep in Carrapateira (2 nights): Monte Da Vilarinha or this stylish cabana
  • Day 4: Surfing at Amado beach, late afternoon visit to Carrapateira town
  • Day 5: Short Rota Vicentina hike of the Carrapateira Cliffs, afternoon picnic at Bordeira beach
  • Sleep in Sagres (1 night): Memmo Baleeira for couples or Martinhal Sagres for families
  • Day 6: Visit Cape Saint Vincent and Sagres town (Fortaleza de Sagres)

South to North (6 days)

  • Day 1: Visit Cape Saint Vincent and Sagres town (Fortaleza de Sagres)
  • Sleep in Sagres (1 night): Memmo Baleeira for couples or Martinhal Sagres for families
  • Day 2: Short Rota Vicentina hike of the Carrapateira Cliffs, afternoon picnic at Bordeira beach
  • Sleep in Carrapateira (2 nights): Monte Da Vilarinha or this stylish cabana
  • Day 3: Surfing at Amado beach, late afternoon visit to Carrapateira town
  • Day 4: Short Rota Vicentina hike at Amoreira beach, afternoon at Monte Clérigo beach
  • Sleep in Odeceixe or Aljezur (2 nights): Monte do Cardal or this stunning villa
  • Day 5: Surfing at Arrifana beach, late afternoon in Aljezur town
  • Day 6: Visit Odeicexe town and Odeicexe beach

Things to do along the Costa Vicentina

Not only does is a Costa Vicentina road trip incredibly scenic, it’s also packed with idyllic villages, delicious little restaurants, interesting local museums and a wide range of things to do.

Here’s our selection of the best sights and activities along the Costa Vicentina in Portugal.

Discover the amazing Costa Vicentina beaches

Road trip Costa Vicentina to surf at Praia do Amado

While the Costa Vicentina might be off the radar for most tourists, the sweeping winds and crashing waves have been attracting surfers for quite some time. You’ll find plenty of surf-schools here. Do note that summer season is the best time to learn how to surf. In autumn and winter, the swell is too strong and only suited for experienced surfers. The following Costa Vicentina beaches are most popular for surfing:

  • Amado beach or Praia do Amado: This beach lies hidden behind towering ochre-colored cliffs that protect it from northern winds. The consistently big waves attract many surfers, so much so that surfing events and tournaments are occasionally held at this beach.
  • Arrifana beach of Praia da Arrifana: This Costa Vicentina beach is less wide than others in this list, especially at high tide. The rocks that line the beach are peculiarly shaped. There’s a small port at the north side of the beach and a rock formation nicknamed Needle Rock or Angular Rock at the south side. Directly overlooking the bay, you’ll find the Restaurante da Praia, a handful of beach bars and a the remains of the 17th century Arrifana Fortress. It’s a lively beach that offers excellent surf conditions for both beginners and pros.
  • Praia de Monte Clérigo or Monte Clérigo beach: The drive to this beach is incredibly scenic. The cliff-perched village overlooking the golden stretch of sand is picture-perfect. Rock pools and a small lagoon appear at low tide, making this beach just as popular with families as it is with surfers. The strong swells and shifting sandbanks make this beach less suited for beginning surfers.
Praia da Bordeira in the Aljezur municipality located along the Costa Vicentina Portugal

Several meandering rivers cross some of the Costa Vicentina towns before mouthing in the Atlantic. Surfers can find excellent waves where the warm river water meets the colder ocean water. At the beach, shallow lagoons are formed. The calm waters and lack of swell make these lagoons a wonderful alternative to the wild Atlantic waters.

You’ll find three Costa Vicentina beaches where the beach doubles as a river bank flanking the lagoon, creating the perfect environment for families with kids, kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders:

  • Bordeira beach or Praia da Bordeira: The Bordeira river or Ribeira da Bordeira makes its way from the village of Carrapateira to this beautiful beach. Before mouthing in the Atlantic, it winds between the sand dunes that line spectacular Bordeira beach.
  • Odeceixe beach or Praia de Odeceixe: This is might just as well be the most picturesque beach. The Seixe river or Ribeira de Seixe hugs and shapes this Costa Vicentina beach, creating a golden stretch of sand that is flanked by both the ocean and the river. The cliffs are covered in vegetation and come together in the verdant river valley, seperating the Algarve and Alentejo regions.
  • Amoreira beach or Praia da Amoreira: The Aljezur river or Ribeira de Aljezur wraps around this wide beach that is sheltered by sheer cliffs on either side. There’s a rock formation to the north that resembles a sleeping giant. The sand dunes that back Praia da Amoreira and flank the Aljezur river continue a bit inland, until they transition into rolling hills covered in vegetation.

Hike the Rota Vicentina

Some of the most scenic Portugal hikes can be found along both the Costa Alentejana and the Costa Vicentina. The Rota Vicentina network (GR11-E9) makes this region an attractive destination for outdoor enthousiasts. It consists of two long-distance hikes and several day hikes that traverse a landscape of river estuaries, wetlands and towering cliffs.

These are the multi-day hikes of the Rota Vicentina:

  • The Historical Way is a 229-km (142-mile) hike that takes 11 days to complete. It starts in Santiago de Cacém (Alentejo Coast) and ends in Cabo de São Vicente (Vicentina Coast).
  • The Fishermen’s trail is a 76-km (47-mile) hike that takes about 4 days to complete. It starts in Porto Covo (Alentejo Coast) and ends in Odeceixe (Vicentina Coast). From there, hikers can extend their hike by following the final part of the Historical Way all the way to Cabo de São Vicente (Vicentina Coast). This final stretch, from Odeceixe to Cabo de São Vicente, is very popular.
Porto Covo is the starting point for the Fishermen's trail of the Rota Vicentina

These two Rota Vicentina one-day hikes are loop trails that offer a wonderful introduction to the spectacular landscapes of the Costa Vicentina:

  • The Amoreira trail, a 7-km (4.5-mile) circular route from and to the parking lot north of Amoreira beach.

There’s another Great Pedestrian Route that’s partly located on Costa Vicentina territory and that’s the GR13 or Via Algarviana. It connects Alcoutim in the east of the Algarve to Cabo de São Vicente in the west. The trail totals a distance of 300 kilometres (186 miles) and is divided into 14 sections.

Explore picturesque Aljezur

Aljezur is the name of the municipality that runs over the entire length of the coastline from Amado beach to Odeceixe beach. It’s also the name of the an enchanting town located at the foot of the Monchique mountains, founded in the 10th century by the Moors.

The wider region is still dotted with archeological remnants, one of which is the Aljezur Castle that enjoys a strategical location overseeing the town, the rivier as well as Amoreira beach. Many travel guides about Portugal fail to mention this landmark but it’s definitely worth a visit. The Moors built this hilltop fortress on a foundation that can be traced back to the Iron Age in the 8th century BC.
The Municipal Museum provides plenty of information about the archeological finds in the Aljezur area.

The old town of Aljezur was badly damaged in the 1755 earthquake and many structures had to be rebuilt. One of first new-builds was the Igreja Matriz Nossa Senhora da Alva which is still referred to as the New Church. It’s located right next to a lively square with a water feature.

The region is famed for its sweet potatoes and you’ll find them on the menu of most Aljezur restaurants. In Rogil, there’s even an entire restaurant dedicated to this local crop: the Museu da Batata Doce. It has its own little shop that sells several products made of sweet potatoes.

Aljezur’s natural setting is breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly diverse. You’ll find pine forest, cork oak forests, eucalyptus forests, verdant river valleys, idyllic lakes, farmland and of course, the untouched Aljezur beaches. In order to explore its wide variety of landscapes, it’s recommended to book one of the mountain bike or horse riding tours that leave from Aljezur town.

Find wildflowers and spot birds

Even if you’re not into hiking, you’ll still be blown away by the region’s magnetic beauty. Even more so in the months of April and May, when a variety of wildflowers color the landscape. You’ll find them on the verdant valley slopes near the rivers, the sand dunes and the towering beach cliffs. Just follow the butterflies.

Migrating birds know their way to this fertile region, with its winding rivers teeming with fish, estuaries rich in nutrients and fruit trees dotting the landscape, very well. Its amazing natural abundance makes the Costa Vicentina a paradise for bird-watchers so make sure to add a pair of binoculars to your packing list.

Indulge in a Portuguese-style grilled fish at a local tasca

Grilled fish is one of the most popular food items on the Portuguese menu

After a day of exploration, it’s time to taste the Costa Vicentina. Local specialties such as grilled fish, octopus and sweet potatoes can be found in just about every local eatery, from the Aljezur restaurants to the small-town tascas (Portuguese taverns). We can personally recommend Cato in Carrapateira (the wood-oven baked bread was delicious) and Altinho in Odeceixe. An evening stroll in one of these white-washed villages is the perfect way to end the day.

See the end of the world in Sagres

At the southwestern tip of Portugal, reigned by sweeping wind, you’ll find the town of Sagres. It was believed to be the edge of the world before the Age of Discoveries proved otherwise. The strategic location even convinced Henry the Navigator to settle down in Sagres.

At the Ponta de Sagres (the Sagres point) is the Sagres fortress (Fortaleza de Sagres), from where you can enjoy the dramatic coastline views of the lighthouse of Cape St. Vincent (Cabo São Vicente).

Where to stay along the Costa Vicentina

In order to get a feel of what the Costa Vicentina is all about, we’d recommend staying at 2 or 3 different places. Costa Vicentina hotels may be scarce but there are some gorgeous boutique style retreats dotting the hills and coastlines. Another option is to stay at one of the tastefully converted traditional houses or quaint beach cabanas.

Here’s is our personal selection of the best places to stay at the Costa Vicentina:

Modern home with private pool along the Vicentina Coast Portugal
Image courtesy of Biscuttela Vicentina (Arrifana)
Modern white villa near Aljezur not far from the Costa Vicentina route
Image courtesy of Beachside paradise (Arrifana)
Holiday home with a pool in Arrifana along the Costa Vicentina
Image courtesy of Duas Palmeiras (Arrifana)

How to combine your Costa Vicentina road trip

In order to reach the Costa Vicentina from either Lisbon airport or Faro airport (we recommend Expedia for the best flight deals), you’ll be passing by either the Costa Azúl (between Lisbon and Tróia), the Costa Alentejana (between Tróia and Odeceixe) or the southernmost Algarve Coastline (between Faro and Lagos). We’ve visited all three and are happy to offer some inspiration to extend your Costa Vicentina road trip.

From Lisbon airport: Vicentina Coast + Alentejo Coast and/or Blue Coast

The Alentejo Coast or Costa Alentejana stretches out from the Tróia Peninsula to Zambujeira do Mar. Many Portuguese spend their vacation along this coastline so that kind of says a lot. With a traditional Portuguese village such as Porto Cova, a laid-back town such as Vila Nova de Milfontes and glamorous hotspots such as Comporta and Carvalhal, there’s something for everyone.

The Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina covers the southern part of this coastline and ends in Sines. You would expect beaches that look similar to the ones along the Costa Vicentina but in fact, the further north you go, the more tropical the beaches start to look. We spent part of our family holiday in Comporta and Tróia and were amazed by the quality of the beaches.

Here’s where to stay at the Alentjeo Coast:

The Blue Coast or Costa Azúl is located between Lisbon and the Costa Alentejana. It’s where the Arrábida Natural Park meets the Atlantic. Expect jade-green mountains, white sandy beaches and aquamarine waters. Where the wild waters of the Costa Vicentina are perfect for surfing, the quieter waters of the Costa Azúl are perfect for kayaking.

Here’s where to stay at the Blue Coast:

From Faro airport: Vicentina Coast + wider Lagos area

Lagos is located right next to the Costa Vicentina and the starting point of Portugal’s popular and well-frequented southern coastline. You’ll find plenty of history in the enchanting city centre of Lagos. The wider area is home to some quaint fishing villages (Carvoeiro and Ferragudo to name a few), beautiful beaches and the most intriguing rock formations. The best way to explore this interesting stretch of Algarve coast is by taking a boat trip to the Ponta da Piedade and the Benagil Cave.

Here’s where to stay near Lagos:

That’s it for this Portugal road trip guide. We can’t wait to find if you’re ready to explore this lesser-known part of the country. And when you decide to visit the Costa Vicentina or have been there in the past, we’d love to hear all about your experience in the comments.

Costa Vicentina beaches and wildflowers
Costa Vicentina boardwalk and beach
Boardwalk at Bordeira beach

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