A city of medieval lanes, hilltop neighborhoods and wine lodges along the Douro, Porto isn’t widely known for its beaches. And yet, if you venture away from the historic center, you will discover rugged shores lapped by waves, spectacular coastal walks and vast stretches of inviting golden sand.
The Atlantic-facing suburb of Foz do Douro attracts visitors and locals alike for a quick seaside getaway. Further afield, you’ll find headlands backed by nature reserves, a pristine beachfront near the Spanish border, and secluded white-sand beaches reminiscent of Caribbean getaways. In general, the waters are cool here even in the summer – which makes ocean dips all the more refreshing when August temperatures can exceed 35°C (95°F).
Praia dos Ingleses
Best beach for sunset drinks
One of the closest beaches to the city center, Praia dos Ingleses is ideal for a quick beachside getaway. The golden sands that lay among the rocky outcrops provide a scenic vantage point to watch the waves crash against the shore.
Although it is often too difficult for swimming, it is a great place to stroll along the seafront promenade, which stretches over 2.5 km (1.5 miles) to in Matosinhos. Praia dos Ingleses is also a famous destination for watching the sunset. There are several well-placed terrace cafes just above the sand where you can enjoy drinks and snacks at sunset and pretty much any other time (most keep hours from 10am to past midnight). Getting here is a rewarding part of the experience, especially if you’re traveling on the No. 1 tram from Ribeira. The vintage tram rides along the river, offering stunning views of the Douro and the Arrábida Bridge. After disembarking at the last stop, stroll through the leafy gardens of Passeio Alegre, pass the 16th-century Fortress of São João, and follow the rocky promontory to the beach. It is about 1 km (0.6 miles) walk from the tram stop at Praia dos Ingleses.
Best beach for families
The largest beach close to town, Matosinhos has a wide stretch of fine golden sand and attracts a wide cross section of Porto society. Here you’ll find surfers, paddlers, teenagers playing ball, couples walking hand in hand and younger families having fun in the water. Lifeguards monitor the beach in the summer, making it a great choice for kids of all ages. Several surf schools offer lessons and rent surfboards and stand-up paddleboards, including Onda Pura.
You will find restaurants and cafes facing the beach, but you can also visit the bustling municipal market of Matosinhos nearby for a picnic. The only drawback of Matosinhos is the industrial presence of the container port on the horizon, which somewhat marks the coastal views. The beach is 45 minutes away by metro (take line A to Matosinhos Sul station).
Best beach for DIY island adventures
Get off the beaten track by heading to Praia de Moledo, located just south of the Spanish border. The lovely beachfront stretches for over 2.5 km (1.6 miles) with the more pristine northern section backed by the Camarido National Forest and distant views of the conical Monte de Santa Trega (in Spain).
A stone’s throw from the mainland is a small island topped by the fortress of Ínsua and surrounded by a beautiful beach – you can hire a boat to take you there; just let them know what time to pick you up. Praia de Moledo is about an hour’s drive from Porto, but you can also get there by direct IR train, which takes just over 90 minutes.
Cabedelo do Douro Beach
Best beach for bird watching
On the south side of the Douro River, the Praia do Cabedelo do Douro occupies a peninsula at the mouth of the Douro River. The sandy beach on its western side faces the Atlantic and stretches for about 1 km (0.6 miles). Despite its proximity to Porto, the crescent-shaped shore feels delightfully secluded and attracts far fewer bathers than on the other side of the river (largely because it’s difficult to access by public transport ). It is ideal for a bit of peace in nature with a view of the city’s rooftops in the distance.
On the eastern side of the Cabedelo is the Reserva Natural Local do Estuário do Douro, a protected area with boardwalks that meander past salt marshes, dune vegetation, and mudflats. This is one of the best places for birdwatching near Porto, especially during spring and fall migrations. Hairy crabeaters, kingfishers and black-tailed godwits are among the 100 species you can spot here.
Sao Jacinto Beach
Beast Beach for a remote getaway
Beautiful white sands backed by dunes await travelers who travel the 60 km (37 miles) south of Porto to this pristine stretch of coast. Located at the southern end of a peninsula, the Praia de São Jacinto offers endless walks on the beach. The peninsula, which stretches for 25 km (15.5 miles), has a long, wide beach along its western side. You can also get a dose of nature here by hiking the trails through woods and past dunes in the Reserva Natural das Dunas de São Jacinto.
Getting here is a bit of an adventure if you come by public transport, but it’s definitely doable (train to Aveiro, bus to Forte da Barra, ferry to São Jacinto). If you’re coming by car, it’s an hour (approx) from Porto, with lovely views along the N327 over the Aveiro lagoon.