The surf’s up in this wild and unspoilt corner of Portugal’s western Algarve – and so are the cliff-edge hotels and casas.
The end of the world, some called it, and it still feels much that way in Sagres, as the fierce Atlantic Ocean pounds against the rocks beneath you. This is an Algarve far removed from the crowds that gather on the region’s central beaches. It’s unspoilt, with a natural park that’s a haven for birds and walkers. Stand on the cliff’s edge today, and it’s all too easy to imagine Portugal’s 15th-century Age of Discovery embarking from here. And you’ll want to explore, too – especially when you spy the area’s hotels.
At Mareta Beach Boutique, eight turquoise- and blue-hued rooms are housed in a lovingly restored 1960s villa, which overlooks the Atlantic and the golden sands of Mareta. It’s a tranquil bolthole in an area popular with surfers. Accordingly, the pool scene is strong: there’s an ocean-spying bar, big beanbags and rattan egg chairs to hang out in. Make time to explore Sagres, with its pretty harbour and the remains of the fortress, built by Prince Henry the Navigator, on a nearby windswept promontory.
This cool blue-toned casa right in the heart of little Sagres has a range of rooms: from doubles with cheerful pop-yellow decor to an apartment that sleeps five. Dolphin-watching boat trips depart from the small harbour of Baleeira here, while popular surf spots await on surrounding beaches. Look up to spy many of the area’s migratory birds.
Originally a ’60s surfer’s hotel, before being abandoned, this laid-back lodge has stayed true to its far-out roots. Following a makeover in 2007, it reopened as a sleek, design-centric hotel, which still preserves the cool surf vibe with its own surf school and waterborne activities – from windsurfing and boat trips to diving. There’s also a spa, a pool (inside and out), a beach-inspired shop with tempting kaftans, bikinis and jewellery. The restaurant offers Mediterranean flavours and excellent pizzas prepared in the wood oven.
For those who are serious about catching a break, this surf camp and hostel provides individual or group courses, lasting from one day to a week, some mixing in windsurfing, too. There are double rooms and dorms for up to 12, an outdoor saltwater pool and a communal kitchen with a fun bar. For adrenaline junkies who like to stick to terra firma, there are fitness machines.
These one- and two-bedroom apartments come with kitchenettes, daily cleaning and the use of the outdoor pool, gym and sauna. Clean-lined contemporary decor runs from pale wooden furnishings to tiled floors bright, simple textiles, making a fuss-free base for those keen to learn to surf or explore Portugal’s unspoilt western coast. The 800m (2,624ft) sandy stretch of Mareta Beach, framed by limestone cliffs and rocks with caves, is a five-minute walk away.
Located in Vila de Bispo, this 21-room hotel offers a clean and comfortable place to stay. The spa includes a heated indoor pool, Turkish hammam, steam room and sauna and a fully equipped gym. For less virtuous diversions, there’s also a bar which serves light meals. Don’t miss the goose barnacles (yes, really) – a speciality of the area.
Martinhal is known for its child-centric approach, which skews everything towards happy families. It sits on the cliff edge overlooking a large beach where sports are played in and out of the water, from football to paddleboarding. Kids’ clubs (plural) run across all age ranges from babies to teenagers. There are several good restaurants, but don’t miss the catch of the day with a sea view at As Dunas.
This white-washed pousada (traditional Portuguese inn) stands overlooking the promontory of Sagres with views of the old fortress of Sagres and the landmark lighthouse on Cape St Vincent. Inside the refurbished rooms are contemporary and light-filled. The restaurant draws on the region’s ingredients from seafood and fresh fish to almonds, figs and carobs.