Active Holidays in the Algarve

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Why Is The Algarve THE Active Holiday Destination?

Posted by Dennis Snapper on June 2, 2021

If you made it here, there’s a good chance you’re passionate about travel and if you’re like me, you’re also not the type to spend your holidays laying on a beach all day.

I’d like to introduce you to one of my happy places! A place I’ve lived for many years of my life, and one I still consider home. The Algarve, the most southern region of Portugal.

In the world of active travel, Portugal is probably best known for golfing holidays. But trust me, Portugal has a lot more to offer than just pretty fairways.

I’ll share some amazing Algarve active holiday tips and my sports hotel recommendations in the area, for an ultimate active holiday experience. There is something active and fun to do for everyone. By the time you’re done reading, I hope you’ll have added the Algarve to your active holiday bucket list and you’ll know exactly where to stay.


Algarve Active Holiday

With people becoming more health-conscious and understanding the benefits of being active, the travel sector has seen a boom in active travel over the past decade. This trend is expected to continue to grow, especially in the post-COVID era, with people desperate for outdoor activities.

Tourism boards and hotels have picked up on this trend and are tapping into this exciting market, and the Algarve is no different. It has all the ingredients for a memorable active and sportive holiday destination.

So, what makes the Algarve an ideal active holiday destination? The climate, the food, the hospitality, the infrastructure, the food, flight connections, amazing nature, the beaches, have I mentioned the food? The list goes on, oh and it is pretty affordable too.

So, what’s there to do?

Surfing in Portugal

Besides golf, Portugal is probably best known for its amazing surfing conditions and crowned as one of the most popular places in Europe to catch some waves. Unfortunately, I never really learnt how to surf properly, something I still regret to this very day. I just always seemed to be spending my time spearfishing, mountain biking and running. You can’t do it all, I guess.

You can find amazing surfing spots in the Algarve all year round, but only on the West coast! So if surfing is your thing, then pick where to stay carefully! Some people make the mistake of assuming that the whole Algarve coastline has great surf. The south coast generally has calmer waters. So, you’ll want to be near the Costa Vincentina (west coast) to make the most of your surfing holiday.

Otherwise, you’ll just end up frustrated by the long drives to access the best surf sports. You want to be in the water, not the care. The whole west coast of Portugal truly is an oasis for all surfers from beginners to seasoned veterans: with pristine beaches, clean waters and a handful of big wave spots, you really can pick an area to match your level.

I highly recommend you book your rental car in the Algarve on the Award-winning booking site Discovery Cars and get out and explore the Algarve beaches and surf spots.

Or book a surfing lesson at one of my favourite beaches on the West Coast by clicking here.

Surfing holiday Portugal
Surfing in the Algarve

The best sports hotel close to the west coast is the Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort. Here you can enjoy being away from the crowds and hand a great selection of surf sports within a 20-minute drive from the resort. The resort is very family-friendly and has lots of activities for children, so need to feel guilty if you leave them behind and enjoy the surf. It’s also a cycling-friendly resort and a great area to explore by bike, although you may be challenged by the wind during certain months of the year.

Right by the happening town of Lagos, you have the Cascade Wellness Resort Algarve. It’s located right on the cliff tops by the famous Ponte de Piedade, a great place to walk, run and mountain bike. From here you can access great surf sports all along the west coast within 30-45 minutes by car.

Water Sports

Like I mentioned, the south coast generally has calmer waters. This makes it a great place for kayaking and paddle surfing and has grown in popularity over the past years. These are one of the few activities that allow you to explore the region’s stunning caves, inlets, and breath-taking rock formations. The beauty of it is that it allows you to visit beaches which aren’t accessible by car or foot. There are experienced guides and tours available in most town in the Algarve.

Book your kayak tour along the coast by clicking here.

Besides that, there are great windsurfing and kite-surfing conditions all along the Algarve. The Meia Praia beach and the bay of Alvor are probably the best places to practise these sports especially for those who like to pick up some serious speed!

Active holidays Portugal - kayaking
Kayak tours in Lagos, Portugal

Road Cycling Holidays in the Algarve

I expect the Algarve to be the next emerging road cycling holiday destination in Europe. Cyclists are always seeking new adventures and destinations and the Algarve provides a great alternative to the already popular cycling destinations of Mallorca, The Canary Islands, Girona and the Dolomites.

The Algarve has all the ingredients to become a top cycling destination! The great infrastructure, low-density traffic, unlimited routes, plus some challenging climbs in the Serra de Monchique. The year-round mild climate makes it ideal for winter training camps plus it’s safe, affordable, and easily accessible from all major airports across Europe.

Make sure to check out Your Quick Guide to Cycling Holidays in Portugal or download the best road cycling routes in the Algarve by clicking here.

cycling holiday Portugal
Fóia, the highest point of the Algarve at just over 900m above sea-level

Check out the Monchique Resort &  Spa, a cycling-friendly hotel located in the mountain range by the special place of Caldas de Monchique. Here you’ll be away from the crowds and have access to some great routes and challenging climbs.

Mountain biking in the Algarve

The Algarve is also a paradise for mountain bikers. It offers so much variation including scenic paths along the cliff-tops, fast single-trails down from Foia, canal and lake routes, and so much more. Want to know more? Go check out my friends at The Mountain Bike Adventure, they’re based near Lagos and will sort you out with all your mountain biking needs, including guided trips, shuttle services, bike rentals (gravel and e-bikes too), bike servicing, and more.

You can opt for a single day out or book a weekly package. All of their routes can be customised on the day, they have spent years researching and building tracks to make our trail rides customisable for all levels. You choose to riide the stunning South Coast, Wild West Coast, Monchique mountains and our inland routes to get a real flavour of Portugal. Their trail rides have a great mix of single tracks and dirt roads, they average 40km with an average of 500m climbing. They’ll take you for coffee and lunch. You decide the pace, it is a holiday and not a race. 

Tip: Go have a look at their “Summit to Sea” tour! You’ll be driven to the highest point of the Algarve and descend to the coast on a mix of old dirt roads and single trails.

Mountain biking Portugal
Summit to sea tour with the The Mountain Bike Adventure

Walking holidays in the Algarve

With year-round sunny weather, the Algarve is a wonderful place to walk or hike. It is also filled with beautiful, contrasting, and varied landscapes: from breath-taking coastal routes along clifftops, stunning beaches, lagoons, and fishing villages on the coast, to quiet inland roads, protected nature reserves, scrub forest and rural villages in the uplands.

Nearly 40 per cent of the Algarve’s total area has conservation status, enabling excellent hiking across its diverse areas including the Vicentine Coast, the South Coast, the Monchique Mountain range, and the Guadiana. The Algarve is also very rich in animal life, particularly birds.

As mentioned, the Algarve tourism board have helped prepare and promote dozens of different walking and cycling routes stretching from one side of the Algarve to the other, both in-land and along the coast. Check out their website Portuguese Trails.

If you’re based on the Eastern part of the Algarve, I can highly recommend this Guided Walking Trip.

Walking holidays Portugal

Still want to be more active?

If you still want more of an Algarve active holiday experience, then book yourself into a Sports hotel and stay active at your hotel and whilst you’re out exploring!

What is a sports hotel and who are they for? Have a look at my 7 reason why to stay in a Sports Hotel.

Hotels in the Algarve have seen the potential of active holidays, fitness and sports travel and have picked up on this demand. They converted to sports hotels by investing in their sporting facilities and many include cycling centres, premium gyms, and offer fitness programmes. Many have even gone one step further and offer yoga/Pilates retreats, special meal plans, detox programmes, and much more.

Need help?

I’m passionate about active travel and I’m dedicated to help you find not only the best sports resort in the Algarve, but the best deal, too!

Leave me your details and requirements below, and I’ll get to work with a personalised offer!


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