Portugal City Travel Guide: Praia da Rocha
Praia da Rocha
Praia da Rocha was one of the Algarve's first resorts which has been welcoming tourists since the later years of the 19th century and early years of the 20th century.
Praia da Rocha is one of the Algarve's most beautiful beaches backed by red cliffs with the small, 16th century, now ruined, Fortaleza da Santa Catarina on top.
The beach has rock formations in the water and though the sea here is colder than the beaches further to the east on the Algarve, it is safe for swimming and patrolled by life-guards.
The main drag is Avenida Tomás Cabreira with concrete steps descending to the beach below. Interestingly the sand on the beach was brought from Portimão when the harbour was dredged.
Praia da Rocha has been heavily developed and is packed with hotels, restaurants, clubs, cafes and a casino in the five-star Hotel Algarve on the Avenida Tomás Cabreira. The long-standing Katedral disco is on Rua Antonio Feu.
The first hotel built in Praia da Rocha, the elegant and vaguely oriental Bela Vista, converted from an early 20th century mansion, still stands among the modern towers and is definitely recommended for a luxurious stay with wonderful sea views and a noted restaurant.
At the eastern end of the vast beach is the Fortaleza da Santa Catarina which along with the Castelo de São João de Arade in Ferragudo was built to prevent pirate attacks on Portimão upstream. Here is also the ritzy marina where expensive yachts bob lazily on the waves and a water taxi takes people across the river for lunch at the fish restaurants in Ferragudo.
August and the school holidays is particularly crowded at Praia da Rocha, while September through until the end of October attracts an older crowd for relaxing walks and al fresco dining on Avenida Tomás Cabreira.
The Tourist Office (Turismo) in Praia da Rocha is on Avenida Tomás Cabreira, 8500-802 Portimão. Tel: 282 419 132
Getting to Praia da Rocha
There are regular Vai e Vem number #33 shuttle buses that make the 15-20 minute journey from Alameda/Praça da República to Praia da Rocha or the evening #3N bus (1st July - 31st August) from Largo do Dique to Praia da Rocha. Both buses stop at the Museu de Portimão, Hotel Jupiter, Hotel Oriental and the Fortaleza. The number #11 also runs from Fortaleza through Portimão and north to Penina.
The tourist toy train (comboio turístico) runs in season from 10am to 11.30pm every half an hour along the sea front on Avenida Tomás Cabreira, via the Fortaleza, Portimão Marina and Praia do Vau.
Accommodation in Praia da Rocha
Accommodation in Praia da Rocha is plentiful and consists of luxury historic hotels, some in converted mansions going back to the late 19th century, more modern budget hotels as well as apartments, villas and guest houses.
Some recommended places to stay include the Bela Vista, a former mansion renovated in a modern Portuguese style, the excellent four-star Tivoli Marina Portimão with modern facilities including two seawater pools, the Hotel Oriental, also four-star, has a pool and rooms with superb sea views. The five-star Hotel Algarve Casino has lovely gardens and two outdoor pools.
Getting to Portimão
Portimão is 62km west of Faro and 18km east of Lagos. There are abundant scheduled, charter, budget and no-frills flights to Faro Airport from all over Europe. Portugalia and TAP Fly from both Porto (via Lisbon) and Lisbon.
There are local trains from Faro Station (tel. 289 801 726) to Albufeira (30 mins), Ferragudo (78 mins), Portimão (81mins), Lagos (105 mins), Loule (20 mins), Tavira and Vila Real de Santo Antonio. From Portimão change at Tunes (via Silves) for trains to Lisbon.
From Faro and the west, take Route N125. From Spain, get onto N125 going west.
There are local buses from Faro to Albufeira, Lagos, Olhao, Portimão and Vila Real de Santo Antonio (via Tavira). EVA bus company runs a service to Sevilla in Spain via Huelva. The bus leaves Lagos at 6.30am and arrives in Portimão at 7am. There are regular buses from Portimão railway station on the outskirts of town to the town center. Regular Vai e Vem buses also make the short journey to Praia da Rocha.
Buses to Lisbon take around 3 hours, 45 minutes from Portimão, which is also connected by bus to Albufeira, Lagos, Salema, Silves and Cabo São Vicente.
The average high June temperatures for Portugal is between 22 degrees Centigrade and 26 degrees Centigrade.
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