The Algarve really has it all when it comes to activities, from scenic walking trails, cycling trips, skydiving adventures and picturesque boat trips, to playful water sports. Zoomarine Algarve is the perfect spot for the family, with seal and dolphin shows and exciting slides. For adults, head over to Club Vida on the strip, or horse ride near Salgados.
The Alvor Boardwalk is a flat, wooden footpath, twisting its way from the harbour beside the fishermen’s huts, through to the dunes and the wetlands of the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve. This beautiful boardwalk also runs alongside the beach, as well as nearby lagoons and estuaries.
Travellers can stroll along admiring the river, mudflats and wading birds on one side, and the beach on the other. In late January, many plants such as the purple Limoniastrum, the Small Cordgrass or the Yellow Broomrape start to flower and you will also see greater flamingos and marine birds inhabiting the marshes.
There are many paths to choose from, so you can explore different areas and be sure to see something new each time. The boardwalk is kept beautifully clean and is a lovely place for an early morning nature walk during the summer months before the sun gets too hot. You can park here for free and there are some lovely cafes nearby.
One of the best ways of exploring the diverse coastline and beaches of the Algarve is by boat, and the most relaxing and comfortable way to do this is on a luxury coastal cruise. You can visit quiet, isolated and secluded coves away from the crowded beaches, with the opportunity to view the unique caves, grottos and rock formations while enjoying the sight of the local wildlife and birds.
Dolphin-watching boat trips are extremely popular here, and there are many departing from Albufeira marina all year round. Alternatively, you could try a speedboat ride through the Ria Formosa into the Atlantic Ocean, to find and observe dolphins in their natural habitat.
If you’re an avid fisher, there are boat trips that will take you to the best spots for catching Sea and Black Bream, Garfish, Sea Bass, Grouper and Snapper, along with Octopus and Squid. If you like to observe the fish swimming along rather than catch them, then a trip in a glass bottom boat from Olhao is a fantastic way to do this.
The Algarve, with its 300 days of sunshine a year, long open coastal roads and the hilly terrain of its interior, make it an ideal all-year-round cycling destination. Cycling is a great way to explore the Algarve, whether you prefer to join a bike tour or do your own thing.
For serious road cyclists, there are the Algarve Cycling Camps held from January to May, where you can escape the colder and wetter weather back home and explore the different regions of the Algarve. Why not cycle away from the tourist areas and travel through picturesque villages, stop to have a meal en-route and take time to chat with the locals?
For a long-distance biking trail, there is the Ecovia, which runs as close as possible to the coast. These bike trails feature on small roads and dirt tracks, stretching for a total of 228 kilometres.
Mountain bikers will love to explore the Monchique mountain range, and perhaps tackle the path up to Fóia – the highest peak.
There are many companies offering Jeep Safaris in the Algarve, some are self-driven, others have a driver and guide. There are full, or half day safaris to choose from depending on how far you want to travel.
If you opt for the self-drive option, there will always be an instruction session before you set off and a guide will lead you to parts of the Algarve that you would never have discovered on your own. Travelling in a convoy, you will go down winding dirt tracks past tiny white-washed villages, eucalyptus groves and fruit orchards. Some safaris stop at a small family-run farm, where you can sample the local honey and have a taste of Medronho – a very potent local drink.
If you prefer not to drive yourself, you can join others aboard an open-air jeep and set out on a scenic drive along the Algarve coast, making stops at popular sites as well as lesser-known points of interest.
Lagos Zoo is located in the town of Barao de Sao Joao, eight-kilometres to the east of Lagos. It is a relatively small zoo, with approximately 120 different species, including dwarf crocodiles, tortoises, snakes and pygmy hippos. There is also a small island where primates such as gibbons, lemurs and many monkeys roam free.
With over 200 species of exotic plants and vegetation from around the world laid out around lakes and lawns, Lagos Zoo really is a beautiful, relaxing place to visit. View a diverse range of birds, too, from toucans, pelicans and flamingos to parrots.
The zoo also has a children’s petting farm, where you can feed tame animals such as goats and pigs for a small fee. Lagos Zoo also homes a playground, a snack bar and a souvenir shop, and plenty of seats around the zoo if you want to just sit and relax while watching the animals. You can also view the incubation room where baby birds are hatched and the “create room”, in which baby animals are reared by hand. All in all, this zoo provides a fascinating day out for the whole family.
Skydiving has become a very popular sport for those seeking thrills and excitement. What could be more exhilarating than jumping from an aeroplane, than freefalling through the air at 120mph for between 30 to 90 seconds?
The skydiving schools in the Algarve make the most of the sunshine and high altitudes, offering fantastic skydiving experiences to those seeking an adrenaline rush. If it’s your first time why not try a tandem skydive jump? After a 20-minute instruction, you will be ready to do a parachute jump harnessed to a professional tandem instructor, from 15,000 feet.
For those that don’t want to actually participate, you can always watch from the ground and marvel at the professionals doing their solo air gymnastics, or teams working together to make shapes in formation skydiving.
Whether participating or just watching, skydiving is a brilliant way to spend time in the warm Algarve sunshine, allowing you to experience something memorable and completely unique.
There are several walking trails throughout the Algarve. You can choose to explore on your own, or hire a local walking guide to show you the best routes to follow. The local tourist board can give you a list of guides or details of the walking trails in the region.
One of the most popular walks starts in the centre of Lagos and follows the coastal paths to Ponta da Piedade. Along the way, you will see beautiful small beaches surrounded by caves and unusual rock formations.
In the Tavira area, alongside the Gilão River, there is also a good trail for walking. Starting in the fishing village of Santa Luzia, you can walk along the main street facing the Ria Formosa, past the octopus auction house and then west for a further few kilometres until you come to a long beach called Praia da Barreta. You can either spend some time on the beach relaxing or continue your walk along the sands for an extra few kilometres.
There are so many trails to choose from that it is impossible to list them all, but always remember to wear proper walking shoes, a hat and take plenty of water.
With excellent marinas, harbours and award-winning beaches, the Algarve is a great place to enjoy water sports, from flyboarding, surfing, snorkelling, jet skiing, water skiing, scuba diving and kayaking, to stand up paddle surfing (SUP).
You can hire equipment on most beaches if you don’t have your own, or if you are a novice, why not choose a sport and then join one of the many classes available for some instruction and practice?
Ria de Alvor, with its shallow waters and strong winds is ideal for kitesurfing and windsurfing, and Albufeira is great for jet skiing along the coast. You can learn to surf, paddleboard, sea kayak or paraglide at almost all of the Algarve’s beaches, or you could hire a canoe or a SUP to explore the remote caves, grottos and beautiful rock formations along the coast of Lagos. The Algarve has so many water sports on offer that you will be truly spoilt for choice.
With its sunny climate, the Algarve has a long history of winemaking, being a thriving industry across the whole of Portugal.
There are many excellent wineries in the Algarve; many offer tours to visitors, where they can learn all about the winemaking process – from the vineyard to the bottle. A knowledgeable guide will accompany you through the vineyards and cellars, where you will see the vats and wine barrels.
The details and intricacies of winemaking will be explained to you, then you will visit the tasting rooms to learn the techniques involved in wine tasting and go on to sample some wines for yourself.
Quite often, the tour will also include a meal such as grilled fish or clay pots of seafood stew, both ideal when paired with one of the delicious wines produced at the winery. If a particular wine appeals to you, why not take a bottle or two home with you?
Zoomarine is a popular marine theme park located in Guia, which is only a 20-minute drive from Albufeira. Take the opportunity to interact with the dolphins in the specially created pool and dolphin centre, hidden away from the main park. Learn all about the dolphins and their amazing agility and intelligence before taking to the water with them and their trainers.
Zoomarine prides itself on the fact that all their animal shows and exhibitions are educational and promote awareness of ecological and conservation issues. They also have a Rehabilitation Centre that rescues and rehabilitates marine species that have washed up along the coastline.
There are also pools and water slides at Zoomarine, as well as a wave pool and a beach set in tropical gardens. Not forgetting the Aquatic Playground, where younger children can explore the pirate’s treasure chests and water barrels. The mini-theme park, with its carousels and Ferris wheel, is also popular as is the show at Pirate Bay where you can watch the acrobatic antics of the pirates fighting over the treasure.
The park is open from March to November and is a fantastic place to keep the whole family entertained.