Unlike Lagos, Albufeira, and other cities in Algarve, Faro doesn’t have any beaches within walking distance of the center, but there are a few just a short bus or ferry ride away. They’re all on barrier islands or peninsulas of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, and are mostly frequented by the people of the region and less by tourists.
The most accessible is Ilha de Faro, which is connected to the center by a regular bus service. It’s also the only one with accommodation. For the others, you need to stay at hotels in Faro and take a ferry.
If you go to just one beach in Faro, make it that of Ilha Deserta, the desert island. It’s an unspoiled natural paradise, where you find the most peace and quiet.
The beaches of Ilha do Farol and Ilha da Culatra are by picturesque fishing communities and are also excellent for a long and refreshing day in the sun and by the sea.
The official bathing season is from June to September, but you’ll find people sunbathing as early as April and as late as late October.
This deserted island has just one restaurant, a lighthouse and a few sheds by the pier for the ferries that connect it to the center of Faro. It’s a pristine and protected wonder at Portugal’s southernmost tip, with a beautiful scenery which you may admire if you follow a 2km-long boardwalk over the dunes. The western end is officially a nude beach, but you may always keep your bathing suit on by staying to the east, and protect yourself from the sun by renting one of the parasols available in the summer.
See the Ilha Deserta visitor’s guide.
Ilha do Farol
A tall, 19th-century lighthouse stands on the western side of an island, behind a beach frequented by local families. To reach it, you have to walk through a tiny fishing village with colorful fishermen houses and a few restaurants serving grilled fish. The sea is usually calm enough for swimming, and the nearly-deserted eastern end offers the calmest atmosphere.
See the Ilha do Farol visitor’s guide.
Ilha da Culatra
Although it’s a popular destination for the people of Faro and part of a fishing community with about 1000 residents, the beach of Culatra Island is never crowded. In fact, keep walking east and it’s nearly deserted. Some find this seclusion perfect for nude sunbathing, but it’s not officially recognized as a nude beach. Sometimes you can see dolphins in the distance and the sea tends to be calm in the summer.
See the Ilha da Culatra visitor’s guide.
Ilha de Faro
It has “ilha” (“island”) in the name, but it’s really a peninsula. It’s the most popular and crowded beach in Faro, but mostly frequented by locals. The crowds stay on the western side, so those who follow a boardwalk to the east will find quiet and seclusion. To the north you have a view of Faro and the calmer waters of the lagoon of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. The waves of the ocean don’t make this a great beach for swimming, but it’s good for surfing.
See the Ilha de Faro visitor’s guide.
For Surfing and Water Sports: Ilha de Faro
For Nude Sunbathing: Ilha Deserta, Ilha de Faro, Ilha da Culatra
For Families: Ilha do Farol
For Couples: Ilha Deserta, Ilha da Culatra
Other Beaches Close to Faro
From Faro you can also easily reach the beaches of Olhão (the city is 10 minutes away by train, 15 minutes by car or 20 minutes by bus). These beaches are also on islands of the Ria Formosa Natural Park and you need to take a ferry. There are also ferries to the beaches of Culatra and Farol from Olhão, but the main destination is Ilha da Armona. This island is very similar to Ilha da Culatra – a long stretch of sand that is deserted on the eastern side, inviting those who like to sunbathe nude. The eastern end of the island is called Ilha da Fuseta, and is reached by taking a long walk from the beach of Armona or a boat from the small village of Fuseta, to the east of Olhão. To the west of Faro is the more exclusive beach of Quinta do Lago.