This laid back resort offers an ideal choice for those wanting a relaxing beach holiday, as it boasts a beautiful sandy beach complemented by beachside bar and restaurant. Secluded and protected, the waters are generally calm at Sao Rafael beach, making it a great destination for families. For a wider range of amenities and lively nightlife, the popular resort of Albufeira is just a short drive away.
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With such a large coastline it’s no surprise the Algarve is a great place for all kinds of fish and seafood, with restaurants commonly serving fresh sardines, bream, cod, monkfish and tuna. Another famous dish of the Algarve is chicken piri-piri great for a relaxed atmosphere! Most dishes will be served with served with boiled potatoes and vegetables or salad.
Sao Rafael offers a small selection of restaurants perfect for a relaxed atmosphere. Lots of travellers looking for a more lively evening will take the short taxi ride to the near by bustling resort centre of Albufeira.
Boat trips and dolphin watching
Don’t miss a chance to explore the Algarve’s stunning coastline from the water at least once during your stay. Spotting a pod of dolphins is a magical experience and the 2 hr 30 min dolphin searching boat trips operating from Albufeira Marina can also include a visit to the area’s dramatic caves, inaccessible by land, with a refreshing swim stop en route. For more energetic explorers, there are also guided kayaking trips to the caves.
Cleverly combining education with heaps of fun, Zoomarine is both an animal conservation centre and family theme park located at nearby Guia. The park introduces visitors to exotic habitats and an array of sea and land animals from tropical birds and birds of prey to dolphins, seals and sharks, with shows and presentations throughout the day. Book in advance for a chance to interact with dolphins in person in the unique Dolphin Emotions experience. Besides its wonderful animal encounters, the park provides hours of entertainment with its own waterslides, wave pool and river rafting as well as fun fair rides and a 4D cinema. Open daily from March to October with its own transport service from most of the Algarve resorts.
One of several great waterparks along the Algarve, Aquashow is part of a larger theme park complex about half an hour’s drive from Albufeira. A memorable day out for all the family, the park boasts the largest wave pool in Portugal, water slides of all shapes and sizes and several exhilarating rides to delight even the most demanding of thrill-seekers. There’s a huge shallow pool providing lots of fun for little ones and you can round off your day with a gentle float down the Lazy River on inflatable tubes. Aquashow is open daily during the summer months.
An hour or so’s drive inland through rolling hills, citrus and olive groves and flowering meadows brings you to the Serra de Monchique, a mountain range that separates the Algarve from its neighbouring region, Alentejo, It’s a world away from the Algarve’s beach culture, with quaint hillside hamlets, lush farmland and spectacular panoramic views. Monchique is a pretty market town nestling between the peaks of Foia and Picota with two beautiful churches and a convent as well as a bustling monthly market. Nearby, just 6 kms to the south, lies the peaceful Caldas de Monchique, home to natural springs of 32ºC that are recommended for their therapeutic properties even today. Both are well worth a visit.
The cheerful, laidback town of Sagres can be reached by car or bus or you can join one of the many day trips on offer from the resorts. With a far wilder, more windswept feel compared to the sheltered coves along the south coast, the Atlantic coastline is breath-taking and dramatic. Scarily steep cliffs are frequented by hardy fishermen eager for a special catch while the magnificent waves on the west coast attract surfers from all around the world. From the town you can visit the barren headland of Cabo de São Vicente, the most south-western tip of Europe, with its red lighthouse and a small but fascinating museum showcasing Sagres’s role in Portugal’s maritime and navigation history.
Albufeira castle ruins
Still represented on the shield of the Portuguese national flag, the Albufeira region’s Paderne Castle was once a Moorish stronghold conquered in 1248. Despite falling into ruins over the years, it remains a site of military architectural interest and maintenance works are ongoing to preserve it. The castle is located around 82 kms inland from Albufeira town close to the village of Paderne in lovely countryside that’s popular with walkers.
Albufeira clock tower
A much treasured local landmark located at the top of the hill in Albufeira’s picturesque old town, the 19th century clock tower was once part of a Moorish castle. The distinctive bell tower, with its filigree iron bell support, is beautifully illuminated on festival days and you’ll hear the chimes at regular intervals through the day. Climb to the top of the tower for magnificent panoramic views of Albufeira.
Olhos d’Agua springs
The lovely beach at Olhos d’Agua, or ‘Eyes of Water’ is fringed with gorgeous sandstone cliffs and at low tide it’s fun to potter around the little pools between the exposed rocks. This is also where you may spot the bubbling freshwater springs that give the resort its name.
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