Portugal is well known for its stunning beaches. With almost 1,800 kilometres of Atlantic coastline, there’s no shortage of sun-kissed golden sands in this Iberian nation. While many foreign tourists flock to the Algarve region in the country’s far south, the beaches in Sintra are equally beautiful. They’re also typically much quieter, and visited mainly by locals.
An hour’s drive west of Lisbon, the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is packed full of beauty, both natural and man-made. It’s a place of misty mountains, ancient towns, elaborate palaces, vast sand dunes, towering cliffs, and even the westernmost point of continental Europe.
And the beaches…
The beaches in Sintra are world class.
Some are super accessible and served by a range of amenities. Others are totally secluded and hard to reach. Most are fantastic in their own way.
The only problem is, there are so many of them it can be hard to know which to visit. But fear not, now you’ve found this post.
Read on for my guide to the 5 best beaches in Sintra, Portugal.
Note: Slightly confusingly, Sintra is both a town and a wider region (which contains the town). In this article, I’m mostly referring to the region, though have stated where this is otherwise.
** Portugal is in the Schengen Area. Many nationalities can visit visa-free for up to 90 days. If you require a visa, I recommend using iVisa.com. Their online visa processing service is quick, secure, and easy to use. **
Best Beaches In Sintra - My Top 5
Praia Grande (Big Beach)
By far the largest beach in the area, Praia Grande is also one of the most popular beaches in Sintra.
This long stretch of golden sand, flanked by tall cliffs, is a solid favourite of many locals. People flock here from as far away as Lisbon and beyond.
The slate cliffs which rise steeply at the southern end of Praia Grande contain many fossils. If you climb up the stepped walkway which rises from the cliff base, you’ll see over 60 fossilised dinosaur (!) footprints. These are believed to have been left by Megalosaurs and Iguanodons roughly 170 million years ago.
At low tide Praia Grande joins up with the neighbouring beach, Praia Pequena (Little Beach). Between the two beaches is a huge outdoor saltwater swimming pool belonging to the Hotel das Arribas. At 100 metres in length, it is one of the biggest in Europe.
The powerful Atlantic swell and relatively sheltered, sloping beach make Praia Grande an ideal surfing hotspot. National and international surfing and bodyboarding competitions are regularly held here, including the World Bodyboarding Championships.
Praia Grande is also one of the most accessible beaches in the Sintra region. As well as having a large car park, the beach is easily reachable using the tram which runs between Sintra (the town) and Praia das Maçãs.
There are several cafes, restaurants and bars here, as well as other facilities including toilets and showers. Lifeguards patrol during the summer months.
Praia das Maçãs (Apple Beach)
Another super accessible, and popular, beach – Praia das Maçãs is the final stop on the tram which runs from Sintra (the town) to the coast.
If you prefer beaches with a range of restaurants, bars, cafes and shops within easy walking distance (and/or if you don’t have a car), this is a solid choice.
There’s a small town (also called Praia das Maçãs) next to the beach. Here you’ll find various accommodation options, from budget hotels, guesthouses and Airbnbs to luxurious villas.
Praia das Maçãs is popular with families, and has a range of facilities for children. On the edge of the beach, there’s a large outdoor swimming pool with diving boards and slides, as well as a children’s playground.
For water sports fans, this is another beach that’s popular with surfers and bodyboarders – although the swell isn’t quite as consistent as Praia Grande.
The name Praia das Maçãs means “beach of apples“. In the autumn, apples from the orchards in Colares fall into the Colares river (which empties into the sea at the southern end of the beach), and wash up onto the sand.
Praia da Adraga (Adraga Beach)
Praia da Adraga is one of my absolute favourite beaches in the world.
Tucked away in a cove at the end of a narrow road, this stunning stretch of pristine, golden sand is sheltered by cliffs and rocky headlands. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful beaches in Sintra.
Praia da Adraga is a perfect spot to spend the day, sunbathing and listening to the crashing waves. If the swell isn’t too rough, it can also be a good place to swim. Though beware the jagged rock formations on either side of the beach, and the currents, which are sometimes strong. During the summer season, there are lifeguards patrolling the beach.
While Praia da Adraga is usually much less busy than both of the above two beaches, it can still get a little crowded during weekends and public holidays. Come midweek if you can!
In spite of the wild, natural beauty of the place, there are a few facilities and amenities, including toilets, showers, and a decent little restaurant. There’s also a wheelchair ramp leading down onto the sand, making this one of the most mobility-accessible beauty spots in the area.
To get to Praia da Adraga, you do really need your own car (unless you fancy a long walk, or taking a pricey taxi). Head to the small village of Almoçageme and follow the signs down to the beach. There’s a car park at the end of the road with enough parking for all but the busiest of weekend summer days.
Praia da Ursa (Bear Beach)
The most inaccessible beach on this list, Praia da Ursa is also the most magical.
Located a short distance from Cabo da Roca (the westernmost point of continental Europe), this tiny, unspoilt beach is in a cove accessible only via a steep, rocky path down from the clifftops.
It’s a totally wild beach, unsupervised and with no facilities. If you prefer to be at one with raw nature, surrounded by very few other people, you should definitely check this place out. Personally, I think this is the best beach in Sintra.
To get to Praia da Ursa, take the road that leads to Cabo da Roca. Before you reach the lighthouse, keep an eye out to your right for a car park. This marks the beginning of the trail which winds its way down to the beach. The walk down takes 30-60 minutes and should only be attempted with decent footwear. It’s definitely worth it though – the coastal views are fantastic and the beach is beyond stunning.
The colours here are magical at sunset. Though be careful not to get stuck down in the cove once it gets dark.
Some people choose to camp sheltered by the trees and bushes between the car park and the start of the trail. Query whether this is strictly permitted, but I doubt you’d have any issues… 🙂
Check out this article for my review of the best tents for wild camping.
In short… One of the best tents that money can buy is the MSR Hubba Hubba 2-person tent.
Praia do Magoito (Magoito Beach)
Praia do Magoito is another large sandy beach with turquoise waters and an impressive backdrop.
Steep, rocky cliffs rise sharply from the beach, giving the place an air of rugged beauty. It’s another popular place for surfers, due to the powerful Atlantic waves which pound the sands here year-round.
Praia do Magoito reportedly has the highest concentration of iodine of any beach in Europe. (Apparently that gives the sea here healing properties.)
Located near the town of Magoito, this beach is accessible via public transport (bus) or your own car. Despite its relative accessibility, Praia do Magoito beach is usually fairly quiet. Even on busier days, its size means that this place never feels too crowded.
There’s a decent selection of facilities here, including toilets, showers, and a couple of restaurants.
A car park is located above the north side of the beach. From there, you can access the beach via a sloping path that runs down alongside a stretch of (fairly geologically significant) fossilised sand dunes.
Best Beaches In Sintra - Practical Information & Tips
Where to stay
I’d recommend staying in either Azenhas do Mar or Praia das Maçãs.
These two towns are only 2 kilometres apart, but have quite a different feel. Either place would make a perfect spot to base yourself while exploring the best beaches in Sintra.
Which one to pick depends on a few factors.
Azenhas do Mar
The picturesque little town of Azenhas do Mar is certainly not the cheapest place to stay. But its stunning location, picture-postcard looks and friendly, laid-back vibe make it one of my favourites in Europe. It would also be a perfect honeymoon destination…
I spent a week living and working remotely here in 2020 and wished I could’ve been there longer.
During that time, I stayed at this place (Airbnb) and it was fantastic.
Praia das Maçãs
If you’re looking for somewhere with a few more amenities, check out the town of Praia das Maçãs, which spreads out from the beach of the same name.
It’s not as pretty as Azenhas do Mar, though you’ll find a larger selection of places to eat, drink and shop. There’s also a greater range of accommodation in Praia das Maçãs, making it an ideal option for those on a budget.
Also, there’s a beautiful clifftop path which links Praia das Maçãs and Azenhas do Mar (it’s about 2 kilometres), so you could easily spend time in both places.
Best time to visit
The beaches in Sintra can be enjoyed year-round, though the weather is best between April and September.
July and August are usually the hottest months, although this is peak summer season, when the beaches are at their busiest. If you like warm weather, but want to avoid the crowds, try coming in either May or September.
If you’re coming for the surf (and don’t care about colder weather), the swell is most powerful between October and March. The waves can be very strong during these months though, so only really suitable if you’re an experienced surfer.
One final thing to note is that the Sintra beaches can experience extremely localised mist and fog year-round, even in the height of the summer. This is caused by damp Atlantic air currents hitting the Sintra hills. It usually doesn’t last too long, but check the local weather forecast in the morning, even if the sun is shining where you’re staying.
How to get to the Sintra beaches
Some of the best beaches in Sintra are accessible by public transport – namely, Praia Grande, Praia das Maçãs, and Praia do Magoito.
You can either take the tram (to the first two) or local buses which depart from the town of Sintra. The tram usually only runs during the summer months – check their website for further details – but offers fantastic views out over the mountainous Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais.
With your own car, you have many more options. All of the beaches in this post have parking – though, as noted above, to get to Praia da Ursa you’ll need to walk down a steep trail to get to the beach.
For people with impaired mobility, Praia da Adraga and Praia das Maçãs are two of the most accessible beaches in the region.
** Love road trips? Me too. Check out some of my road trip-related posts, including:
There are many other fantastic beaches near Sintra. These are just my favourites. Have I missed any of yours? Let me know in the comments below.
** Check out some of my other posts on my favourite beaches, including:
- Gjipe Beach, Albania (remote and off-the-beaten-path Ionian Sea beach)
- Vama Veche, Romania (alternative beach party/festival town on the Black Sea)
- Boca del Cielo, Chiapas (hidden gem on Mexico’s southern Pacific coast)
- Praia da Almada, Brazil (gorgeous untouched paradise – one of the most incredible beaches in the world!) **