Is Praia da Rocha worth visiting? If you’re asking that then we can only guess that you’re thinking of making a trip to the sunny lands of southern Portugal. First thing’s first: Great choice. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed here since there are so many daffodil-tinged sands, buzzy party resorts, and tempting family hotels.
But back to is Praia da Rocha. There are plenty of folks who will tell you that this is unquestionably one of the top beaches in the region. We’d probably count ourselves among them, because Rocha offers a unique mix of development and wildness. It’s peppered with resorts but also has startling rock stacks. There are bars aplenty but also historic castles.
Overall, Praia da Rocha has a rep for being one of the leading family destinations in the southern Algarve. It gets there by touting clean sands and clear waters, along with sunbeds and stacks of restaurants. On top of that, it’s within easy reach of enthralling historic spots and provides some pretty lively after-dark action to boot. Let’s take a closer look…
The beach itself
Is Praia da Rocha worth visiting because it’s a gorgeous beach? You bet it is! In fact, the main reason to head to this cleft in the coast of the Algarve is, simply, because this happens to be one of the most celebrated stretches of sand in the whole region. Nay, the whole of Portugal. Nay, the whole of Europe! Now that might sound like hyperbole, but just wait and see what you get…
A triangular dash of perfectly golden powder that’s backed by an oscillation of scrubby dunes and manicured hotel resorts, Praia da Rocha runs the whole way from the mouth of the Arade River to the Tres Castelos headland in the west. As it goes, it offers a 180-meter wide sliver of pristine sand to laze on and some uber-clear waters that seem to glow teal blue and shades of emerald no matter the time of the day.
Summer is understandably the top time to visit lovely Praia da Rocha. But the water and the weather begin to warm this far south in Portugal sometime around mid-April, cranking thermometers past that all-important post-60 mark and rising the sea temperature enough for wild swims by early spring. Come June, you’re usually in the heat of the high summer, with cloudless days in the 70s F running to the very end of the forecast. Nice.
And that’s not it. Praia da Rocha isn’t the sole beach on offer here. You can hop around the big headland at the end of the sand and be immersed in the amazing run of Praia dos Tres Castelos. That’s way ruggeder, way less-developed, and offers a series of those uber-famous whittled cliffs that the Algarve’s south coast is so known for – be sure to take the camera along!
Because it’s top for families
We’ve already waxed lyrical at just how gorgeous Praia da Rocha looks. Now for the facilities. Rammed with sunbeds for rent and served by lifeguards for much of the peak season, this part of the Portimão shoreline is downright fantastic for all sorts of visitors. Mainly, though, we’d put it down as one of the best family beaches in the region.
There are just so many amenities on offer. You’ll never be too far from somewhere to grab food or a drink – there are eateries galore on the promenade just steps to the back of the beach. There are top-rated hotels with pools and playgrounds right next door, too (we’ll take a closer look at them a little below). And you get all the conveniences of Portimão city on the doorstep – notably in the form of good bus and road links all around the rest of the Algarve.
The water on Praia da Rocha is usually a lot calmer than the water out on the more exposed beaches of the western Algarve. At least throughout the summer, it rarely has big waves and rips, especially if you stick to the highly protected areas below the rock stacks at the western end. The upshot? Family travelers bringing the kids could find that this is the perfect place to indulge those budding snorkelers and wild swimmers.
The history and culture
A jaunt to sun-kissed Praia da Rocha doesn’t all have to be about cranking up the tan and playing volleyball in the bath-warm Atlantic, you know. There is some culture and history to be had in these parts. In fact, you can see much of it from the beach itself. Just look up – the mighty castle you can spot crowning the eastern end of the beach is the Fortaleza de Santa Catarina. It dates back to the 1600s and was once a bastion against marauding pirate attacks. You can duck in via the entrance on the far side of the building to explore.
Next up: Zona Ribeirinha de Portimão. Newly redeveloped for the 21st century, this long scythe of bustling promenade some 20 minutes’ walking to the north of the beach proper is now one of the vena cava of Portimão town. It begins with the enthralling Museu de Portimão, which chronicles the rich seafaring history of the onetime quaint village come resort, before moving onto a port area that hosts some replica ships from the Age of Discovery.
Praia da Rocha also happens to be a downright fantastic base for adventuring through the heart of the southern Algarve. There are some enlightening day trips to put on the menu. First, check out the incredible castle at Silves, which was once the Arabic capital of the whole region way back when. Second, be sure to tick off the Old Town of Lagos, which has winding cobbled lanes and lovely Baroque churches – it’s only 40 minutes’ driving to the west.
The coastal hotels
One of the things that you’ll notice right away about Praia da Rocha is the string of tempting hotels that lie in wait on the coastal hills behind the sand. Just as you might expect, they have some of the most striking shoreline views of any stays in the south Algarve, at least of the hotels within major resort towns. Most also know how to make the most of their coveted location, by offering suites that open onto salt-washed balconies with 180-degree views of the glowing Atlantic in front.
Here’s a look at some of the best hotels within easy striking distance of Praia da Rocha:
- Bela Vista Hotel & Spa – Relais & Chateaux ($$$) – Calling all honeymooners, the pampering on Praia da Rocha doesn’t get any better than this. Nope, this iteration of the much-loved Relais & Chateaux comes with an incredible pool that’s perfectly angled for sunset viewing and stylish lounges done out with traditional Portuguese design.
- Hotel da Rocha ($$) – A four-star hotel that’s uber-modern, this one has an interior courtyard pool and a fitness center, along with rooms that have glass-ringed balconies overlooking the coast.
- Jupiter Algarve Hotel ($$) – A great midrange option that’s a favorite among family visitors, the Jupiter offers rooms in a high-rise block (say hello to the views). There’s also an on-site bar with nightly entertainments to enjoy.
That’s just scratching the surface of the accommodation choices that are in the area. There are many more options peppering the inner-town blocks of Portimão itself, and more out on the beaches that string west along the edge of the Algarve towards the open Atlantic Ocean.
One tip: Hotels in these parts tend to get booked up very fast for the peak summer season. What’s more, prices will skyrocket for the months between June and August because of the uptick in demand. We’d recommend nailing down your hotel stay nice and early if you are traveling then, or simply opting to go to Praia da Rocha in shoulder seasons like spring or fall.
Is Praia da Rocha worth visiting for its nightlife? Well…that depends on what you’re after. Let’s get one thing straight: This isn’t an out-and-out party resort like Albufeira. But, on the flip side, it’s no sleepy hill town away from the action, either. Truth is that Praia da Rocha has a good showing of nightlife; enough to entertain those who want to party but not enough to be overwhelming or gaudy.
The main places to hit run up and down the length of the Avenue Tomás Cabreira. That’s the boulevard that links together the beach to its back, connecting most of the top hotels listed above but also the lively bars and venues. The most energetic quarter here, and the closest thing that the town has to its own strip, is the intersection between that and R. Dom Martinho Castelo Branco. Go to those parts and you’ll find umpteen bars and live-music venues to take care of your evening hours.
Particularly famous are the down-to-earth drinkery of Bar Bacchus Pub, which is known for its ice-cold mojitos, and the Red Lion Pub, a more traditional sports bar come watering hole that takes a nod from the establishments of old England. For sunset imbibing, nothing can beat the places that face south and west over the beach itself. They include Outro Bar and Moonlight Bar – aperitivo hotspots one and all.
Is Praia da Rocha worth visiting? Our conclusion
Is Praia da Rocha worth visiting? We really think so, although it’s important to be honest about what this place is. Praia da Rocha is one of the main beach towns that hover around Portimão, one of the main urban hubs of the south Algarve. Once a sleepy fishing hamlet, it’s now an out-and-out resort with hotels on its shoreline and bars just behind. The beach itself is wonderful but remains very developed, and there are loads of planned activities to do in the area. Overall, that adds up to make this a great location for families with the kids in tow and couples who want pure R&R and lots of lazing around.