Portimão is a historic but little-known marina and ocean-front city on Portugal´s sunny south coast – popular with Portuguese tourists it is sometimes a cruise ship stop-off but is still a secret destination for Spring for most visitors coming from abroad.
It's one of the Algarve´s best-kept secrets – a charming city flanked by the ocean on one side and the wide, tranquil Arade River on the other, overlooking the historic fishing village of Ferragudo and offering unique hotels with Moroccan design influences, tiny tapas bars and fish restaurants in back streets, a popular museum about the town´s history as a sardine exporting town, a smart marina with riverside walks, and spectacular beaches – not forgetting the impressive medieval fort, Fortaleza de Santa Catarina.
The city´s marina has become a magnet for mega-yachts of up to 50m, now the official training base of professional nautical sports teams from all over the world. With so much to do locally at any time of year, from beaches, river trips and museums there is also plenty of scope for just relaxing, people watching whilst getting your fill of the Portuguese custard tarts, pastei de nata, and a fabulous Portuguese coffee (of which the options far outweigh a latte or espresso – uma bica, meia de leite, abatanado and galão to name a few). Portimão is the perfect weekend or Spring break destination.
Praia da Rocha beaches
Portimão is one of Europe´s warmest early Spring destinations, with winter temperatures averaging 20 to 22c. The long, sweeping Praia da Rocha beach can be reached by an easy 1.5km walk from the historic centre of the city, as well as smaller, hidden cove beaches near Vau or in Ferragudo. The beaches offer soft, golden sands and plenty of scope for running, walking, snoozing or Instagramming!
Ferragudo for a fine time
Sitting opposite Portimão marina is the historic, charming fishing village of Ferragudo. The water taxi runs between 10am to 5pm January to March and 10am to 9pm April to March. Eat in the square, walk up through narrow, white-washed streets to the church for fantastic views, or stroll along the harbourside where the fishing boats come in. For information and bookings, visit ww.facebook.com/TaxiFerryFerragudo/ or www.instagram.com/taxiferriferragudo and enjoy the harbour’s slow pace of life and the friendly welcome you’ll get from the locals.
Portimão lies 70km to the west of Faro. Take a hotel shuttle bus, hire a car or take an Uber or taxi – and a train, running from Faro to Portimão every three hours costs between
€4 – 7,00 taking 1hr 30 mins. Book an airport taxi for four passengers (€55,00) or up to eight passengers for €65,00). Carina and Miguel offer a reliable, Covid-safe transfer – book through
Where to eat
FAINA tapas restaurant – A charming, cool tapas restaurant and bar in the marina, serving traditional Portuguese tapas and lunch or dinner, seafood and meat, and craft beers as well as fine wine. Plenty of flare from the chefs, too. Seating is indoors and outdoors and ranges from oysters and octopus to steak or sausage! www.facebook.com/fainaportimao
Fim do Mundo – Ferragudo – Tucked away in a back street near the main square, this is a very cosy, very friendly traditional restaurant with an outstanding local reputation for typical Portuguese food, and especially for steak. You´ll feel truly at home with Jo and her team. Children welcome and limited seating outside. www.facebook.com/restfimdomundo
Where to stay
Portimão offers a range of options for travellers on different budgets, from cute downtown hostels to modern apartments and boutique hotels with spas.
Bela Vista Hotel & Spa
Re-opening March 2022, set on the breath-taking Praia da Rocha cliff, with direct access to the Praia da Rocha beach, this stylish and elegant boutique hotel was built in the early 20th century as a private home. Enjoy stunning ocean views, dining in a Michelin-starred restaurant, relax by the pool or on the hotel´s private beach, and step back in time. The hotel has a truly exotic feel with Portuguese character and a hint of Moroccan influences – during World War II, when Portugal was politically neutral, the Bela Vista was a popular haunt for spies and messengers.
Whilst the Atlantic Ocean isn´t everyone´s first choice for a dip in the early Spring, it´s not unusual to see guests take a bracing swim in the ocean, with direct access from the hotel. The hotel´s SPA by L´Occitane, with couples´ treatment rooms, sauna, Hammam, relaxation area and a fitness lounge, will wow you, and the free airport shuttle to and from Faro Airport, just a 50-minute hop away, makes it the recipe for a relaxing stay. A continental breakfast is included. This is more of a couples´ getaway hotel, part of the luxury Relais et Chateaux group. Visit www.hotel-belavista.com or book direct through www.ap-hotelresorts.com.
Jupiter Marina Hotel
If you're looking for a comfortable hotel with an indoor spa and pool experience, Jupiter Marina Hotel offers a perfect option. Set in a transformed former sardine can factory, Facho, this 4-star hotel is a symbol of the city´s rebirth as a tourist destination. It's located in the most scenic part of town with views over the Arade River from most bedrooms and from the rooftop Arade Bar, the perfect place for cocktails and light snacks. Interior design takes inspiration from Boho-chic, combining pastel shades with the local national park Monchique's patterns and textures. The restaurant offers national cuisine with an international twist and the Soul Spa offers a modern water circuit with a heated indoor pool with vertical jacuzzi, waterfalls and water jets, sensorial showers, Turkish bath, sauna, couples’ hydromassage bathtub and a wide range of aesthetic treatments and massages. Visit www.jupitermarinahotel.com
Oceano Atlântico Apartments
If you´re travelling with family and are looking for something on more of a budget, these modern, well-equipped apartments in Praia da Rocha are an ideal option. Take advantage of an indoor, heated swimming pool, gym, restaurant with ocean views and local cuisine, and enjoy personal attention. From studio apartments to four-bedroom options that will sleep up to 10 people, visit www.oceanoatlantico.com.pt or book through firstname.lastname@example.org.