Praia da Rocha
Praia da Rocha is perhaps one of the most famous places in Algarve, if not
in Portugal (I'd heard of it long before I set foot in the
region). It's certainly a tourist hot-spot...
... but that does not necessarily mean you should avoid
it if you don't like crowds.
That picture at the top of the page explains the name,
which means 'beach of the rock'. Self-evident, really, isn't
Although nowadays it's pretty much 'joined at the hip'
Praia da Rocha is nevertheless a separate entity in the
minds of many who visit.
I was fortunate, during my Portimao vacation with
husband Nev in 2005, to be only a bracing* walk away from
the Rocha's lovely views (I could even see it from the
balcony of our somewhat disappointing aparthotel (see my
Portimao page for the gory details). There was a
complimentary transfer minibus if you queued, but I reckoned I
could be enjoying Praia da Rocha sooner if I walked.
*[The term 'bracing' is relative, since Nev isn't fond of
trekking anywhere in 35ºC heat. He preferred to
refer to it as 'are we there yet?'].
I often hear 'rugged' used in reference to Praia da Rocha.
And that always reminds me of the poem that starts:
'Around and round the rugged rocks the ragged rascal ran'.
in turn reminds me that husband Nev usually needs to do some
clothes shopping. His attitude can be defined as: 'if the
holes aren't that noticeable, then the garment's good
for another few years'.
Back to the subject of the beach: I suppose that rugged
is a good word in this context. I used to worry that safety
precautions in Portugal didn't match those back in the UK,
since it was possible to access some fairly scary clifftop
positions. Happily, there seem to be more barriers lately
to deter the more foolhardy visitor.
One of my favourite aspects is the way Praia da Rocha is
split by the long, projecting rock. When the tide is in, the
only communication between the two expanses of sand is this
tunnel running right through the solid stone. It's not quite
high enough for Nev to go through without his having to
stoop a little, which is why he appears to be talking on his
imaginary cellphone in this picture (perhaps calling the
The shops at Praia da Rocha are pretty much a tourist-oriented selection of boutiques, shacks and stalls offering all sorts of things without which your vacation would be the poorer(!)
To be fair, there are also handy supermarkets (take a bow, Alisuper) and of course the casino.
But why go there for shopping when there's the new Retail
Park north of Portimao?
No, Praia da Rocha was built around the beach and that's
primarily its lure - a great beach experience.
We tried only two of the many restaurants along the
praia's main avenida. The first, La Dolce Vita, offered pasta/pizza with the option of sitting at outside tables. Even a simple Margharita pizza was delicious to savour while watching the tourist bustle pass by. (And
its name had the bonus of making me feel upbeat about our upcoming Algarve property purchase). The other was an Indian restaurant that came nowhere near to upsetting the pride of place enjoyed by my current top curry emporium, the Minar Tandoori in Albufeira,
(as featured in my Favourite Restaurants
told, I've never met anyone who enthused unduly about a superb restaurant experience in Praia da
Rocha but, with Portimao so close, that's not really a
problem. And there's always the option of 'see the show and
eat a meal' as offered by the Casino Hotel Algarve along the
marina (that's it in the background of this photo) is reached by walking east along Avenida
Tómas Cabreira. When you reach the fortress, you need to descend
the steps to reach the level of the marina.
There is a fair selection of shops, boutiques and cafe/restaurants
there and you can sign up for various of the tourist
activities on offer, like coastline cruises or visits to the
It's a very pleasant area to stroll around,
with cooling breezes on very hot days. And it's good to
relax in the shade with a refreshing cup of tea or coffee
while enjoying the fine marina views along with other customers.
(I should mention that climbing the steps back up to the fort was as close as I came to a workout for
our entire two-week stay...)
The fort itself is easy on the eye, and formed part of a
twin-pronged safeguard for the port and areas inland on the
river Arade during times when pirates and other nations'
navies were fond of creating mayhem on the southern coast of
Portugal. (The other part is the fortress on the far side of
the Arade at Ferragudo - seen behind me in the picture
quick call at the Portimao Turismo office will tell you what's up for grabs during your stay.
And of course, don't forget to check my regularly-updated
What's On page for
local events during the next few weeks.
If you're a confirmed beach animal, then you might well
opt for the
seafront accommodation that Praia da Rocha offers.
It can be a lottery (as we learned to our cost in 2005)
whether your choice of hotel or aparthotel is good, bad or
indifferent. Do check for availability of air-conditioning
if you're going in peak season. Mosquitoes love open
windows, and the alternative is that you discover how
difficult is is to sleep when
your room's 20 degrees Celcius hotter than you're used to!
Of course, Portimao is close by, offers yet more choice
of accommodation and it's a short car/bus journey from there
to enjoying the Praia da Rocha beach experience.
If you are considering camping in the vicinity of Portimao, there's the 'private' facility at Ferragudo (International Camping Club members only), just across the Rio Arade, or the less exclusive Alvor camping found just to the west, of which I've written in more detail on my
Algarve Camping page.
The distances are negligible either by car or public
transport, and you could spend as much time as you liked at
Praia da Rocha, returning to the Camping only at night,
should you wish.
Praia da Rocha is just west of centre on the region's southern coastline,
should you ever tire of the beach and fancy a foray into Algarve'
beautiful inland areas.
Faro airport is about an hour's drive (70 km or 46 miles)
along the motorway (it'll take a little longer if you're in a transfer coach, as
be dropping off other visitors along the way).
If you're looking to combine some memorable beach
experiences with a little scenic golfing, then you're in for
Undoubtedly the most popular Algarve sport, golf is well-served
locally, with courses including Boavista, near Lagos. (See
my Algarve golf
Watersports and Cruises
You're not short of choices of aquatic fun in Praia da
Rocha. Just glance around you when you visit to see what's
on offer when you fancy a change from the beach!
In summary, it's impossible to conclude that Praia da
Rocha could have remained so popular if it weren't giving
visitors what they expect.
If you've enjoyed a Praia da Rocha vacation, why not share
the details with other readers of Algarve Beach
Meanwhile, you can stay up-to-date with 'everything Algarve' by subscribing to my free monthly newsletter, Algarve Beach Life News. Just click on the link below ("For
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