As you may already know, I’ve recently come back from my 2-week adventure in Portugal. While it may have been my third time (my obsession is coming to light), it was Joe’s first. Not only did this trip solidify my existing love for this country, it also provided a different experience with my partner-in-crime and as a couple. This time around, we did more research, planned smart, booked early, and included places that I haven’t been to. The Arrábida Natural Park was definitely one of those places.
The Arrábida Natural Park, also known as the Portuguese Caribbean, is located between Setúbal and Sesimbra. It is a beautiful, protected area rich with Mediterranean plants, 70 types of seaweed, countless insect varieties, and both marine and land animals. The park’s protection comes from it’s geography and landscape, sheltering the breeding of many different species and the development of young marine animals from waves and winds.
While the park itself is perfect for hiking, we opted for its Southern coastal scenery, stunning beaches, and turquoise waters. Visiting just before the peak season (July and August), which I highly recommend, will reward you with high 20s, humid conditions, and cooler waters. The best part? This paradise is only 30 minutes from the busy and crowded capital, Lisbon. Yeah, I still can’t believe it.
So, grab yourself a red sangria and sit your travel-bug-bitten butt for a short read on our adventures to the Arrábida Natural Park.
For the purpose of convenience, scheduling freedom, and efficiency, we opted for a car rental as our mode of transportation. For once, smaller is actually better, but more on that in a future post…
Since we planned our trip around a one-week stay in Almancil (Algarve), a one-way trip to the Arrábida Natural Park took 2.5 hours. That’s including traffic-free toll roads, as well as indulging in espressos and pastéis de nata at gas stations along the way. A big shoutout to our 90’s playlist for keeping us awake.
Free parking is for the early roosters and is limited, while paid parking is available further down the coastal road, both near Praia da Figueirinha. Keep in mind that that same road, connecting the main beaches, is closed off during the summer months. Bummer? Quite the opposite! You are free to safely beach-hop on foot or treat yourself to the free and frequent shuttle bus. Whatever your route, ‘stunning’ and ‘breath-taking’ will become your go-to adjectives.
Lastly, in hindsight and under different circumstances, it would have been smarter to visit the park either as part of the Northern Portugal itinerary or shortly after arriving in Lisbon. Similarly, and if driving or renting a car isn’t an option, there are many day trips offered straight from the capital. Basically, no excuses.
Yes, hiking through the never-ending greenery and different elevation levels is somebody’s thing, but it isn’t ours (unless stunning viewpoints are the endgame). Instead Joe and I came here for the beautiful, Carribean-like beaches. And let me tell you, we were not the least bit disappointed.
Starting with the best served first, we were absolutely spoiled by the first beach, Praia da Figueirinha. It is definitely the busiest and largest beach, but during the low tide (until around 15:00) it reaches over to the adjacent beach, Praia de Galapos. That connector, as well as the walkable sandbanks, are the gold mine. No exaggeration. Think cool, turquoise water and soft sands on a scorching day, with little to no passersby to get in your way. Pure serenity and bliss, I tell you.
Next up, is the Praia de Galapos and Praia de Galapinhos duo. These beaches are much smaller in length and find themselves on the inside of the curve, wrapping you in nothing but green mountains, white sand, and peaceful ocean waters. We highly recommend exploring the coastal road on foot, as the views, and feelings, from up top are just as surreal.
The last beaches, Praia do Creiro and Praia do Portinho da Arrábida, had less of the WOW-factor and more rocks closer to the water. I am talking small rocks that jab into your arches. Not fun. Similarly, and potentially due to their proximity to multiple restaurants, they got quite busy. Thus, I would only recommend these as a stroll-through on your way to lunch or ice cream.
At the end of our beach-hopping itinerary was a charming and inviting, over-the-water restaurant: Restaurante O Galeão. If you, too, are lucky, you might score a rustic corner table overlooking the beaches, glistening water, and never-ending greenery. I mean, who can resist that view?!
For lunch, we recommend sharing a grilled Sea Bass. It was fresh, juicy, and perfect in size. Lastly, a simple salad, baked potatoes, and one… okay, okay, TWO pitchers of sangria will only complement the main dish.
In all honesty, the service was quite slow and €90 was a bit high for what we ordered. On the other hand, I found the combination of the fresh seafood, relaxed vacation mood, exceptional company, and that damn good sangria to outshine the drawbacks. Thus, I would definitely recommend this as your lunch spot, or even as a drink spot if on a budget or time limit, when beach-hopping the Arrábida Natural Park.
Miradouro Portinho da Arrábida
Let this itinerary mark the introduction into my obsession with Miradouros, aka viewpoints. There’s just that something about looking at our world from a high vantage point and realizing how boundless, enticing, and perfectly imperfect it actually is. The feeling is overwhelming, yet magical, and is usually complemented by stunning scenery, with Miradouro Portinho da Arrábida being no exception.
Here you will catch some incredible and peaceful views of the coastal line, with all of its 50 shades of turqouise and dense greenery. Unfortunately, a car rental or an organized tour is the only safe and sure way of reaching and enjoying the viewpoint. Furthermore, parking is limited and the road is quite winding (aren’t they all in Portugal?).
- Reef-friendly sunscreen: To avoid polluting, killing, or bleaching the naturally beautiful coral reefs, reach for sunscreen that does not contain Oxybenzone or Octinoxate, to name a few (click here for more info). During our 2-week stay, we often reached for this dry-touch sunscreen or this certified organic and biodegradable one.
- Comfortable shoes: Somewhere between sneakers and cushioned sandals will do, as you are only walking the paved coastal road and beach-hopping in between. Make use of what you already own.
- Waterproof bag: If you are looking to walk the sandbanks in the Arrábida Natural Park, a dry sack, like this one, is a must. This bag kept our phones, cameras, documents, and light clothing items dry, even when I submerged it, and myself, in water. Definitely a better option than leaving your personal belongings in a rental.
- Reusable water bottle: For purposes of preservation and conservation, please leave as little behind as possible, plastic especially. I was gifted a stainless steel bottle a few years back and have been making use of it equally while travelling and at home. Sales or Homesense are your friends.
- Other basics: Towels, hats, sunglasses, and camera.
And there you have it: My personal experiences in and itinerary for theArrábida Natural Park.
This day trip is definitely not one to miss. I think it’s because it offers such a different experience from what Portugal is mostly known for AND is only a half hour away from the hustle and bustle of its capital. I still can’t get over that last fact.
So, I hope that you found my tips and details helpful and will use them towards planning your next trip to Portugal or will save them in your “travel bucket list” folder. Everybody’s got one…
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for future Portugal-related posts and check out the Photo Diary: Portugal post for some photographic travel inspo.