The southern coast of Portugal, known as the Algarve, is a beautiful coastline full of beach strips, resorts and golf courses. It’s the place to be in Portugal if you want relaxation and plenty to do. No matter what resort you’re staying in, there are plenty of nearby attractions and tours to keep you entertained every day for two weeks if you wanted to, although most would opt for a holiday of relaxation with a few days out in between.
We’ve put together a selection of the best things to do in the Algarve and further out excursions if you have more time and want to see a different area of the country. Browse our list and plan your own action packed Algarve holiday!
1. Zoomarine theme park
Whether you’re with family, friends or a partner, Zoomarine is one of the best things to do in the Algarve and makes a great day out. As well as a variety of smile inducing sea life shows, the marine theme park has its own conservation project for endangered animals and rehabilitation. It also has an on-site water park and swimming pools to enjoy after a busy morning of shows. Animals to spot include exotic birds, dolphins, sea lions, sharks and more. It is located a 30 minute drive north-west from Albufeira and is fairly central to get to from most Algarve resorts.
Book tour tickets on the Zoomarine website at a discounted price to the ‘pay on the day’ rate. They regularly have promotions and offers depending on which season you vist so check their website and social media to see what’s on when you’re visiting. Visit the Zoomarine website for more information and tickets.
2. Take a day trip to Lisbon
Lisbon is a 2 – 2hr30 minute drive from most Algarve resorts and the Portuguese capital is a must see for those on a longer holiday in the country. Take a break from the beaches of the south and enjoy a cultural walk in this historic city. For a one day trip, we’d recommend visiting Belem Tower and a museum in the morning, catching lunch at a local bakery in the town square and then taking a long walk around the Alfama district for the best views of the city.
Lisbon offers a good sense of Portuguese architecture, food and culture different to the Algarve and we’d recommend staying the night if you can. If you don’t have a car rental or would just like to sit back and relax for the drive, there are multiple day tours to the city departing from the Algarve every day. We’d recommend using Viator and looking at the tour ratings.
3. Horseback tour
Exploring the Algarve on horseback is a unique way to see the sites and most resorts offer guided group or private tours. Trek across beaches, cliffs and orange groves as you explore a different side of the Algarve. It’s a great excursion for both families and couples/friends when you want something active to do after a chilled morning by the pool.
If you’re new to horse riding, make sure you join a shorter trek or beginner tour. We recommend Albufeira Riding Centre if you’re staying in the area or have a car rental. It has excellent customer reviews on Tripadvisor.
WATCH OUR TRAVEL GUIDE ON THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN THE ALGARVE
4. Take a boat trip & visit Ponte da Piedade
The Algarve is famous for its beaches, hidden coves and bright blue sea and that’s probably one of the reasons you’re visiting. What better way to see these awesome beaches than a boat trip around the coastline? It’s also the easiest way of seeing all of the coastline in a morning or afternoon. Make sure you pick a tour which includes a visit to Ponte de Piedade, the famous rock formation and cove.
5. Sports in the sun – tennis and golf
If you’re keen to keep fit on holiday or want to spend your afternoon winding down on a golf course rather than the pool, the Algarve is arguably the best destination in Europe for luscious golf courses for varying levels of experience. Oceanico Golf, Amendoeira Golf Resort and Pine Cliffs Golf Resort are currently the best rated courses in the area based on Google user reviews, however you’ll find that there are countless courses to enjoy no matter which resort you’re staying in.
An alternative to golf is tennis. There’s something therapeutic about post breakfast tennis in the sun and a lot of 4-5 star hotels have on-site tennis courts. If a sporting holiday is high up on your agenda, we’d recommend staying in Vilamoura or Quarteira. These resorts are full of luxury hotels which have their own golf courses and tennis courts to use whenever you wish.
6. Cross the border and visit Seville
Located a 2 – 2hr 30 mins drive from the Algarve is the historic Spanish city of Seville. Capital of Spain’s southern Andalucia region, the city is famous for its Flamenca dancing, Roman history and impressive architecture. It makes a nice change from relaxing on the beach and there’s plenty to do and see. Join a local bike tour to make the most out of your visit.
Although Algarve to Seville day trips are available on Viator for those who don’t have a car, due to the relatively long drive and short time exploring the city, we’d recommend catching a bus or renting a car, then staying the night and watching a traditional Flamenca dance.
7. Limit Zero Spanish border crossing zipline
If you’re staying to the east of the Algarve coastline, you’ll be within a short, 1 hour drive to Ayamonte, the town which is located directly on the Spanish border. This popular holiday resort is a culture clash of both Spain and Portugal and you’ll find locals from both countries holidaying here. The town has a beautiful marina, shops, restaurants and stunning views of the border divide cliff, but we were most impressed by the border zipline attraction, Limit Zero. Tell your friends all about your epic zipline from Spain to Portugal.
8. Wine tasting with a view
If you’re travelling without kids or have left them to enjoy the pool with their grandparents for a few hours, head to a vineyard for an afternoon of taste bud pleasure. The Algarve is home to many local wineries and has the perfect climate for year-round production. We recommend Quinta do Frances Winery to the north of Portimao. It can take up to an hour’s drive to get there from most resorts but the views, wine selection and friendliness of staff are well worth the visit.
9. Slide and Splash water park
Being one of the most frequented family holiday destinations in Europe for Brits, there’s no shortage of kid friendly things to do in the Algarve. The area has two large water parks but Slide and Splash has to be our favourite. It’s one of the biggest water parks in Europe, has slides and rides to keep the kids entertained all day and has plenty of relaxation areas to enjoy the sun. We’d suggest seeing the animal shows in the morning whilst it’s quiet and then going on the popular water rides when everyone is having lunch.
10. Check out another resort
From the most popular and lively resort of Albufeira and charming elegance of Vilamoura marina to the impressive beaches of Lagos, each resort on the Algarve has something different to offer. If you’re looking for an alternative style of nightlife, want to check out a famous beach or even scout out ideas for next year’s holiday, visit another area for the day. Most resorts are within a 30 minute drive of each other and can be accessed by local bus if you don’t have a car. See below for some Algarve resort highlights:
Faro – The historic architecture of Faro old town – palaces, cathedrals and local culture
Albufeira – Excellent nightlife ranging from chilled out live music to trendy nightclubs
Vilamoura – Luxurious golf courses and a beautiful marina
Praia Da Rocha – A variety of activities ranging from coastline boat trips and water sports to the renowned Alvor Boardwalk
Quarteira – A plethora of top rated golf resorts and a local market
Lagos – hidden coves, impressive rock formations and long golden sand beaches