For all its wild beauty and breathtaking beaches, the Costa Vicentina has remained a reasonably undiscovered area in Portugal. Located between the Algarve and Alentejo regions of Portugal in the far southwest of the country, Costa Vicentina has some of Europe’s most spectacular beaches – without the annoying tourist crowds!
The region is home to Europe’s largest coastal park, which stretches more than 100 kilometers. In addition to the fabulous beaches, the area is known for its gently rolling hills, dramatic cliffs, green valleys, and excellent birding opportunities.
If you’re in search of a more off-the-beaten-path destination with some jaw-dropping scenery, Costa Vicentina is the place to go. To help you out with your travel planning, we’ve put together this article on the inside scoop for the top things to do in Costa Vicentina.
What is the Best Time to Visit Costa Vicentina?
The Alentejo region of Portugal has good weather year-round, so there’s nothing stopping you from visiting Costa Vicentina at any time of year
June, July, and August are usually the driest months of the year, but also the hottest. Even though the region doesn’t get tons of tourist traffic, most tourists will visit in the summer.
For ideal weather conditions, fall is the favorable season. It’s not quite as hot, but still sunny and warm enough to enjoy days on the beach.
If you need to be mindful of budget, it’s good to note that prices will usually drop slightly during the winter since this is the low season for tourism in general across the country.
Regardless of what time of year you travel to Costa Vicentina, it’s helpful to have your own car or rental vehicle. Public transportation is more unreliable in this region, and having your own transportation will ensure you can check out all the cool spots and explore all the off-the-beaten-path gems you’ll find here!
The Top 5 Things to do in Costa Vicentina
Now that you know a little bit about this hidden treasure in Portugal, read on to discover all the best things to do in Costa Vicentina. We’ve got a great variety of activities, so everyone can find something to fit their travel interests.
1. Take a Hike
There’s no doubt that Costa Vicentina offers some of the best hiking in Portugal. The gentle coastal paths are like walking along a postcard photo, so make sure you have plenty of storage space on your camera or phone to get some pictures!
The best and most famous hiking path is the Rota Vicentina, which stretches a full 350 kilometers. If you’re a serious hiker, you should definitely consider doing the entire hike. There are good accommodation options and camping sites along the way, not to mention the gorgeous scenery.
The Rota Vicentina has two main sections – the Historical Way and the Fisherman’s Way. Each of these parts can also be broken into smaller segments if you’re looking for shorter day-hike options.
The Fisherman’s Way is the coastal path that hugs the shoreline. This path is known for the stunning cliffs and the storks that make their homes among the craggy rocks.
The Historical Way is an inland path that goes through the hills and villages of the region. On this path, you’ll also pass through numerous cork tree groves and some of the best birdwatching areas on the coast.
2. Head to the Beach
You can guess that with more than 100 kilometers of coastline, the beaches are one of Costa Vicentina’s biggest attractions. From peaceful sandy shores to dramatic rocky outcroppings, there’s also a lot of variety.
The rugged shoreline makes the Costa Vicentina one of the best places for surfing in Portugal. Be warned, the strong waves can make this a difficult place for a beginner to learn to surf, but if you already have some experience, you’ll probably have the time of your life riding the waves.
Praia do Amado and Arrifana are particularly popular spots among surfers where you’ll find surf schools as well as places to rent equipment if you don’t have your own.
If surfing isn’t your thing, don’t worry; there are many other great beaches in Costa Vicentina. Praia do Carvalhal and Praia do Pego both stand out for their long expanses of beautiful golden sand, where the water can often be calmer and more suitable for swimming.
For fantastic scenery and cool rock formations, head to Praia da Samoqueiera, known for its coves, turquoise waters, and towering rocks. The water can be a bit chilly here, but perfect for hot summer days.
If you want something closer to more amenities, Praia do Malhão is an excellent option. This beach is in the more popular Milfontes area, which has a greater variety of local shops and restaurants. However, the beach is so big that it never feels crowded, so you can have the best of both worlds.
No matter where you go on the Costa Vicentina, the entire area is famous for its spectacular sunsets. Grab a beach towel and your camera and watch the sun light the sky and ocean waves with spectacular colors every evening!
3. Head Inland to Discover Wineries and Cork Plantations
Coastal scenery and beaches aren’t all the Costa Vicentina region has to offer. The inland region is known for its lush green landscape, quaint villages, and excellent wineries.
Alentejo has won numerous awards for its excellent Portuguese wines, including the title of the world’s best wine region by USA Today
Since it’s not such a crazy tourist destination, accommodation in Costa Vicentina tends to be less expensive than in other places in Portugal. There are also many hotels in the area that have partnered with wineries, so be sure to check ahead as your accommodation may very well include a wine tour too!
Alentejo also produces much of the cork from Portugal. Exploring these plantations is a cool way to see the backstory behind how the popular cork bags, backpacks, and other souvenir products are made.
The summer is a particularly beautiful time to see the region. The trees are full of leaves and provide nice shade during the hot days. Cork trees are unique in that they can renew their own bark, and many of the trees in the Alentejo region are very old. Their age and significance make the cork trees a national treasure of Portugal.
4. Check out the Charming Towns and Villages
Unlike Lisbon and Porto, which are teeming with tourists, the small towns of Costa Vicentina haven’t lost their old-world charm. From quaint seaside villages to small towns nestled in the rolling hills, there are plenty of local places to explore.
Odeceixe is on the border of the Algarve and Alentejo regions of Portugal and is known for its superb local cuisine and excellent swimming beach. The town itself is located a bit inland, and it’s about 3km to reach the shoreline of glorious golden sand backed by steep cliffs.
A little farther south, Porto Covo is a beautiful little fishing village known for its white buildings with colorfully painted window shutters and doors. Great beaches and coastal views complement the picture-perfect village scenery.
Vila Nova de Milfontes is one of the more visited towns in Costa Vicentina. It has the most amenities and accommodation options, and while there is an uptick in tourist traffic during the summer, it’s nothing compared to other spots in Portugal.
Vila Nova de Milfontes also makes a great home-base for exploring Costa Vicentina: there are good accommodation options, and it’s easy to make day trips to Porto Covo, inland Alentejo farms, Sines, Zambujeira do Mar, and other coastal towns.
5. Try Kayaking, Windsurfing, and other Adventure Sports
Outdoor adventurers will find a paradise in Costa Vicentina. Not only are the conditions perfect for surfing, but there are plenty of other outdoor sports to try out.
During the summer, it’s easier to find tours and guides to try out kayaking and windsurfing. If you’re already experienced with either of these or traveling in a group, it’s possible to rent equipment at other times of the year.
For a more laid-back adventure, you can go on a donkey ride through farmland and villages. Okay, you don’t actually ride the donkey, but it carries your luggage (or tired infant or child), so it’s an excellent activity for families visiting Costa Vicentina. The scenic routes are also a beautiful way to see Alentejo with a traditional twist.
Costa Vicentina is considered one of the best places for bird watching in the world. It’s the only spot where you can see white stork nests on the sea cliffs, and there are numerous other species of rare birds to spot, like various egrets and the Bonelli eagle.
For avid bird watchers, October is the best time to visit Costa Vicentina since it coincides with the migration. During this time, guided tours and walks are available where an expert can point out certain species. However, during any time of year, you’re guaranteed to see lots of birds. Grab a guidebook and see how many you can identify for yourself!
Guest Author: Born and raised in South Africa, Marco Santos from Travel-Boo, together with his partner moved to sunny Lisbon over 3 years ago. With an absolute love for Europe, he is on a mission to rediscover his own Portuguese heritage along the way. Marco has set out to blog and share his passion for traveling through and exploring both Portugal, Spain. and throughout Europe, through his blog Travel-Boo.