Where to stay in Algarve
I still remember my first time in the South of Portugal, a long, too long, time ago. There was no mobile data back then and the internet was only in cafes, if any around.
I was on a motorbike trip and I just knocked on the B&B doors to find a place to sleep. Totally unplanned.
This post is not about the story of my life though 🙂 It’s instead about where to stay in Algarve because this is indeed a big region (about 200km long).
There are towns and villages that work well for couples, others for families, or for nightlife and I could keep going on.
So, without further ado, let’s get into the best areas to stay in Algarve based on your type of holiday.
Where to stay in Algarve – in a nutshell
Here below a few points that will help you to quickly understand the Algarve Region.
My suggestion is, however, to keep reading for more tips and insights on the best places to stay in Algarve based on your type of holiday.
- Where to stay in Algarve for couples: Carvoeiro is the ideal place if you are looking for a romantic place with a lovely beach to relax and enjoy the beautiful sea. Go for a walk along the amazing high cliffs and you will find some secluded coves to spend the day. Another option is Olhao, a picturesque old fishing village still retaining a charming Portuguese feels. Access to the beach is by a 5-10 minutes ferry. You will have here more of a local experience (mass tourism has still not arrived). Read below about travelling with your partner.
- Best area to stay in Algarve for the beach: did you know that one beach in Algarve was voted in the top 10 in the world? Its name is Dona Ana Beach, located off the town of Lagos, probably the best location to be based if you are after mostly a beach time. Lagos is a beautiful old town close to so many beaches and hidden coves. A must. Read more about Lagos.
- Best place to stay in Algarve for nightlife: Albufeira is one of the most famous destinations in Algarve. It was originally a fishing village (you can still visit the old town). It’s today the main destination for nightlife, but not only. It has a beautiful long beach and a wide choice of restaurants and bars. Stay in the New Town for the nightlife, plenty of clubs and bars open till late on The Strip. Alternatively, go the Old Town for a much quieter time (perfect place for families). The alternative, for a more upper-class nightlife, is Vilamoura, with a resident casino, a gorgeous marina and a few nightclubs. Read more below about nightlife in Algarve.
- Best area to stay in Algarve with family: Quarteira is the perfect town for families with kids. The beach is long, wide and with many shallow areas. You can experience some waves on a few days, but small ones, to have fun with the grownup children. The esplanade is the perfect walking area after dinner for an ice-cream. There are plenty of accommodations catering for families, some of them with all included packages that can be a real bargain. The alternative is Albufeira, however, book in (or close to) the old town, far from the main nightlife enclave of the New Town. Read more below about travelling with kids.
- Cool places to stay in Algarve: if you are after a different experience, something unique and cool, then the town of Tavira may be your place. You will find here a big influence of Arabian architecture with mostly white houses that follow the Gilao River. For some beach time, grab a ferry (1 Euro) to the Island of Tavira. Magical. Read more about Tavira.
- Where to stay in Algarve without a car: Albufeira has literally all you need and you can definitely forget your car once in town. If you decide to rent an apartment be sure that you will find small and medium-size supermarkets all around the town. Another alternative is Faros. In this case, you will be less than 10km from the Airport and you will still have access to a few beaches. The drawback is that Faros has still that bit of city feels that you may want to avoid on a holiday. Check out the Lemon Tree Stay and the Old House Faro for the most charming accommodations.
- Cheap place to stay in Algarve with the beach: Portimao is probably the town with better value accommodations around. The beaches (within 2-3km from the centre) are actually quite nice. The only drawback is the city feels you get once out from the old town centre (a lovely one by the way). Another option is Faros. It has a nice historical centre and easy access to the long beach, Praia de Faro, by ferry. You will be also close to the main airport (10 minutes by taxi). In Portimao check out the Ribeirinha’s Rooms and Hostel S. José, both amazing value. In Faros have a look at Casa da Madalena and Hostel A Casa da Árvore, as cheap as good.
- Best area to stay in Algarve with a baby: Quarteira is the ideal place if you have a baby or a toddler. The beach is nice and wide, and you will find lots of resorts catering to families with young kids. Take the pram with you on the esplanade, the perfect spot for an evening walk.
- Where to stay in Algarve for singles: Albufeira is a great option if you are looking for a mix of beach time and nightlife. Olhao is the other possible destination if you are looking for a relaxing stay in a picturesque village.
- Great places to stay in Algarve for surfing: Sagrés in the westernmost point of Algarve offers some of the best waves in the whole region. On top of it, you can also enjoy the superb hiking options. Praia do Tonel has probably the biggest and most challenging waves of all. Praia do Beliche is another hot spot for surfing and for a drink at sunset time, spectacular. Book at the Sagres Sun Stay – Surf Camp & Hostel for the best surfing vibe.
- Where to stay in Algarve in March: the weather in March may be sunny but the temperature will not be quite there for beach time. There is almost no tourism around so the best place to stay is in the biggest towns. Portimao is a good location, for example, also very well connected by train to Lagos and Albufeira. You will find mostly locals around, for a truly Portuguese experience.
- Where to stay in Algarve in April – May: the weather may be still cold in April but in May, especially towards the end of the month, the temperatures will be warm enough for the pool and the beach (although the sea is still a bit cold). Albufeira is a great place to stay, this is the start of the season and you will find the best service at the best price.
- Where to stay in Algarve in October: it’s down to luck with the weather in October. The seawater is still warm and if you are lucky you may still experience between 20 and 30C, especially at the beginning of the month. If unlucky, you will find yourself below 20C. Try to plan the trip in the first or second week of the month. Albufeira is again a great spot to book your accommodation which will be at a fraction of the price you would pay in July and August.
- Where to stay in Algarve in Winter: this is obviously the coldest time to be in the region. As for March, I would try to book in a big town as Portimao or Faros. Most of the other towns that live on tourism are deserted.
- Best Tours and activities: Once in Algarve you should explore more of the region with this Half-Day Jeep Safari, which will allow you to discover amazing landscapes and taste the local products too. This Dolphin Watching Boat Trip is a boutique expedition (up to 12 people) to see these lovely and cute animals, it leaves from Lagos. And finally, if you are looking for some adrenaline then book this Coasteering experience (Cliff Jumps, Swim & Climb) in Sagres
- Do you want to go straight to your hotel? Pre-order an airport transfer from Faro Airport that will wait for you directly at the airport. So easy.
The great thing about these tours is that they have a free cancellation policy (up to 24 hours before the activity starts). You can plan in advance without worries in case you change your mind 🙂
Where to stay in Algarve for couples
Both towns listed in this section work great if you are after a romantic getaway.
Carvoeiro (romantic and relaxing)
Carvoeiro is a beautiful location if you want the beach to be the central focus of your couple’s getaway.
Make sure to plan for a romantic stroll on the Carvoeiro Boardwalk for beautiful views of the water when you don’t feel like bumming on the beach.
In addition to the beautiful coastline and the dramatic views, Carvoeiro is a great town for couples who want to do some walking.
The historic settlement has it all from beautiful old architecture to attractions like Carvoeiro Barranco for you to learn a little about its rich history.
When you are done with your exploring for the day, treat yourselves to a fancy dinner out at Taste Restaurante.
This beautiful high-end restaurant serves amazing food with the perfect ambience for a truly romantic date night.
They also have a wide array of cocktails for you guys to try for a little bit more fun to the evening.
When it comes to figuring out where to stay as a couple in Carvoeiro then Castelo Guest House is the best option you have.
One thing that you will definitely enjoy as a couple staying there is the majestic views (see photos here) of Carvoeiro’s eclectic outdoors from cliffs and water to the charming little town itself.
Olhao (picturesque old fishing village)
Another great alternative in Algarve for couples is Olhao with major highlights including a charming town, beautiful views and great beaches.
The lovely fishing village has a lot to offer in terms of activities most of which are centred on the many beautiful beaches.
You could have a casual day out with a romantic beach picnic.
Or you could have an action-packed day on the water with activities including boat tours and jet ski rentals.
You could also have a great time exploring the town itself.
Make a point, in this case, to stop by the Olhao Market. This busy outdoor shopping haven is the perfect place to get to rub shoulders with the locals while picking up charming souvenirs and stocking up on groceries for your holiday home.
For date night, 7 Imeio Wine Bar is without a doubt the best spot in Olhao.
The dark tones in the décor theme create the perfect romantic ambience.
The food is outstanding and they also have, of course, an extensive wines and cocktails list for the perfect evening.
The GuestMar guest house is the ideal place to stay while in Olhao as a couple, so close to everything.
You will have beautiful décor all around you (see photos here) designed to create a home away from home vibe while still offering luxury and value for your money.
It is also conveniently close to restaurants and shops.
Thinking what to visit next in Portugal?
- Check out my guide to Porto, the second largest city in Portugal. One world: stunning
Best area to stay in Algarve for the beach
The region of Algarve offers more than 200km of coastline. You will be spoiled by the choice.
For surfing, for example, I would suggest a stay in Sagrés, however, I would not recommend it for swimming or for families. Too many challenging waves.
The town with the highest concentration of beautiful beaches is probably Lagos.
You can spend a week there and visit a new one every single day
Lagos (great choice of beaches)
Algarve without a doubt has an abundance of amazing resort towns and seaside paradise locations.
However, none of these can hold a candle to Lagos as far as options go.
From breathtaking private beaches to award-winning public ones, you will definitely have a lot of fun exploring all that Lagos has to offer.
Speaking of beaches, here are 5 of the best in Lagos that you should definitely consider visiting while you are in the area
- Dona Ana Beach which was voted as one of the best beaches in the world.
- Beach Estudantes which is a beautiful secluded beach with caves and rock tunnels for adventurous visitors.
- Ponta da Piedade for amazing views of unique rock formations and for fun boat rides.
- Praia do Cais da Solária which is a long beach with beautiful water and clean sand, perfect for families.
- Pinhao Beach, a tranquil uncrowded beach with beautiful cliff views.
However, amazing beaches are not all that Lagos has to offer.
It has a pretty lively social scene both at night and during the day. The activities are mostly centred in bars and restaurants.
The Casa Do Prego restaurant is one of the most popular in the area among both tourists and locals.
How not to love their fresh seafood, hummus and vegan options. Definitely worth visiting if you are a foodie in search of your new favourite dish.
Linda the Beach Bar is another awesome spot for hanging out.
It is right on the beach and offers you amazing views of the water while you take in the breeze and your awesome cocktail.
It is a great spot for hanging out whether it is afternoon drinks with your bae or night time fun.
In terms of accommodations in Lagos, locations with great beach access are always big hits.
The Lagos Atlantic Hotel is ideal if you want a hotel with modern facilities and charming interior design.
The ocean-front rooms offer great views of the water (see photos here).
The spacious holiday apartments are walking distance to a beach and are perfect if you want a little more privacy and independence.
You also get two pools among other amenities like Wi-Fi and air conditioning to enjoy.
Best place to stay in Algarve for nightlife
Algarve has some nightlife but not the crazy one you can find in the Balearic Islands.
One destination, however, stands out and this is Albufeira, surely the liveliest town in the region
Albufeira (New Town and The Strip)
Albufeira is a pretty eclectic town and has a lot to offer to different travelling groups whether it is a family vacation or a stag/hen party trip with your closest friends.
By day, Albufeira is a charming little historic town with narrow streets and beautiful historic buildings.
However, it is at night that it truly comes alive with all the bars, clubs and late-night eateries there for you and your friends to explore.
So how can Albufeira work well for both families and nightlife?
Because Albufeira has an Old Town and a New Town, that are around 2km from each other.
For a night of fun and excitement, the New Town is without a doubt the place to be in Algarve.
It is home to a street known as The Strip with several bars, late restaurants and clubs.
One of the most popular bars in this part is Wild & Co. It is popular for its unique cocktails, affordable beers and general great ambience.
It is the perfect spot to start your night with some casual drinks before you go on to wilder spots for the real party.
Club Heaven is one such wild spot that is definitely ideal if you really want to have a memorable night.
Everything from the great music to the crowd’s energy will definitely rub off on you for a truly fun night out.
Despite being one of the most affordable spots in the area, you get to enjoy value amenities like Wi-Fi, a pool, free parking and even an on-site bar.
Vilamoura (classy nightlife)
If you want a little less sass and a little more class to your nightly escapades in Algarve then Vilamoura is the ideal location for your trip.
This resort town was built as a golfing getaway and still has a reputation for having some of the most beautiful and scenic courses in the region.
The night scene is vibrant there with a lot to offer from casinos and clubs to bars and restaurants for you to choose from as you plan your night of fun.
If you want a casual and classy night out, then book at Restaurante Willie’s for a fine dining experience you will not forget.
In addition to the amazing atmosphere and unique menu, you will have a wide selection of drinks to choose from including beers and cocktails.
If you want something livelier for your night then pay a visit to Disco Dice Club.
This club is right in the heart of town and is popular for the awesome music and infectious club vibes. It is definitely a great place to stop by with your friends.
Tivoli Marina Vilamoura is the best place to stay in the area if you want to take advantage of the party scene.
The beautiful beachfront property (see photos here) in addition to offering access to some of the town’s party places is a hotspot on its own with its very own on-site bar.
Still, the rooms are very well insulated for a night of peaceful sleep.
Best area to stay in Algarve with family
Algarve is a great region to spend your holiday with kids, doesn’t matter the age.
Here below two locations that work best for young and grow up children.
Quarteira (with small children)
Quarteira was one of the original resort towns in Algarve and has maintained the same tropical getaway vibe to this day.
It is particularly popular with families due to the beautiful beaches with clear shallow water for safe fun whether it is a toddler or a preteen.
The town itself also has a lot to offer as an attraction.
You could take a nice stroll through the streets taking in the culture and vibes from the locals.
The best part is that most of the pavements are modern and smooth and therefore easy for walking with a pram.
When it comes to activities off the beach and the town streets, your kids will definitely enjoy a trip to Espaço de Jogo e Recreio Marginal.
This is a large playground with plenty of running room and playsets for them to enjoy while you get to soak up the beautiful panoramic views.
You will also have a lot of fun exploring the different restaurants including Chico’s Restaurante.
The cosy spot is popular with families for the food and ambience and is therefore perfect for those days you want to eat out together.
The Zacarias Apartment is the ideal place to stay if you have a family of 2 or 3 young children.
The beautiful apartments (see photos here) come with a kitchen, family living space and free Wi-Fi.
You also have walking-distance access to the beach for those fun days out.
For a big family holiday or just more space, you may check the ALL MAR beach house.
The view from the terrace is straight to the beach (see photos here).
The location is perfect and the apartment is one of the biggest in the areas, with 3 spacious bedrooms (up to 10 people, over 100sqm)
Albufeira (with grownup kids)
I already talked about Albufeira and you may read more about it in the Nightlife chapter
Now, let me tell you again why should I suggest the same town to families and night owls too?
Because Albufeira is actually divided into two tows:
- the New Town, where The Strip is and where you will find plenty of nightlife. This area is located around 2km east of the Old Town
- the Old Town, where you will still find the buildings of the original fishing village. This part of Albufeira is instead very quiet, perfect for a relaxed stay with kids
The main beach is wide and with shallow water, especially if you stay close to the small pier, perfect for kids of any age.
Around town, you will find so many activities that work especially well with older kids.
For active children, go to the Parque Aventura, a big kids playground among branches and ropes (there is an adult section too).
The Ten Pin Bowling Center next to the Marina will be a hit for a fun evening
The Crazyworld is another great attraction where kids can feed small animals, climb trees and see the dangerous crocs and snakes.
Finally, the Zoomarine is another awesome spot that your children will enjoy, with dolphins diving in a big pool and so much more.
For dinner try to make it to Casa do Chefe, for the family-friendly atmosphere and the original Portuguese food.
This is a 2 bedrooms apartment facing the beach. You have also access to an elevated terrace, a great spot for an evening dinner.
It’s one of the best value in town, but it gets booked out quite frequently.
Alternatively, you can check the Apartamentos Baltum, right in the centre of town.
The unit is very spacious (see photos here) with 3 bedrooms and up to 6 people.
Cool places to stay in Algarve
It’s always hard to identify just one cool place to stay, especially in the beautiful Algarve.
Having to make a choice then I go for the charming Tavira
Tavira (charming town with a Moorish influence)
Tavira is a truly boutique destination with everything from the colourful aesthetics and tropical vibes to the rich culture.
The Moorish vibes in the street settings and the old architecture definitely make it stand out in the region.
You should plan a day trip here even if you decide to book your accommodation in another town.
One of the best ways to experience the town and its culture is by hanging out where the locals go.
For lunch walk down to Scoopit Tavira, a great family-run restaurant with lovely local food and a good selection of wine from Algarve and Portugal.
For dinner go to Nikita, close to the Gilao River. This is a small and cosy place offering Mediterranean dishes with a Moroccan twist. Definitely a great finding.
The Santa Lucia Sports Bar is another popular spot. This place truly comes to life during soccer season but is just as fun any other time of the year.
When it comes to accommodations, you should check out the Authentic Tavira Hotel.
The boutique hotel truly keeps in theme with Tavira’s charming vibes, design and décor (see photos here).
This creates a nice and cool vibe that will make you feel welcome and relaxed the entire time you are there.
Go back using the below menu
- 1 Where to stay in Algarve – in a nutshell
- 2 Where to stay in Algarve for couples
- 3 Best area to stay in Algarve for the beach
- 4 Best place to stay in Algarve for nightlife
- 5 Best area to stay in Algarve with family
- 6 Cool places to stay in Algarve