The best independent guide to Cascais
The best independent guide to Cascais
Cascais is a fantastic holiday destination that offers traditional Portuguese character, outstanding tourist facilities and, of course, beautiful beaches!
Surrounding Cascais are two very different coastlines: the calm and sheltered Portuguese Riviera and the wild Atlantic Ocean-facing Serra de Sintra coast.
The Portuguese Riviera coastline extends eastwards from Cascais towards Lisbon, and is characterised by golden sand beaches, calm sea waters and excellent tourist facilities (shops, restaurants and bars). These beaches are ideal for families or a relaxing day’s sunbathing, however they do tend to get very busy during the summer months.
The beautiful Praia da Duquesa is the best beach in Cascais
In complete contrast, the Serra de Sintra coastal region faces the might of the Atlantic Ocean, with powerful waves, strong breezes and dramatic natural scenery.
The majority of this coastline lies within the Serra de Sintra nature park, and there is very little tourist development here - just wild, picturesque beaches. This coast makes the perfect choice if you enjoy adventurous activities such as surfing, kitesurfing or hiking, or if you’d simply like to appreciate the raw, natural beauty of the area.
Cascais benefits from being close to these two very different coastlines, while having many beautiful sandy beaches within walking distance of the town. This article will provide an introduction to the beaches of the Cascais region.
Related articles: Introduction to Cascais - Day trip to Cascais
The Praia de Carcavelos is the largest beach on the Portuguese Riviera and can be easily reached by train
The Praia do Guincho is wild, rugged and great for kitesurfing, but is often too blustery for a relaxing beach day
Insight: If you've come to this guide during your holiday planning stage, know that Cascais has some of the best beaches of the Lisbon region, which are just as good as the beaches in the Algarve. Cascais is one of the best resort towns in Portugal and is a fantastic destination for your holiday.
The five best beaches within walking distance (2km) of Cascais town centre are:
1) Praia da Conceição & Praia da Duquesa 2) Praia da Rainha 3) Praia da Ribeira 4) Praia do Tamariz 5) Praia das Moitas
The five best beaches of the Portuguese Riviera (east of Cascais):
1) Praia de Carcavelos 2) Praia de Santo Amaro (Oeiras Beach) 3) Praia de São Pedro do Estoril 4) Praia da Torre 5) Praia de Paço de Arcos
Note: These can be easily reached by the Cascais-Lisbon railway.
The five best beaches of the Serra de Sintra (north of Cascais):
1) Praia do Guincho 2) Praia da Ursa 3) Praia da Adraga 4) Praia das Maçãs 5) Praia Grande
The interactive map below shows the location of these beaches. The beaches close to Cascais are displayed in green, the beaches of the Portuguese Riviera are in yellow, and the Serra de Sintra coastline beaches are in blue. Note: Zoom out to see all of the markers.
Key: 1) Praia da Conceição & Praia da Duquesa 2) Praia da Rainha 3) Praia da Ribeira 4) Praia do Tamariz 5) Praia das Moitas 6) Praia de Carcavelos 7) Praia de Santo Amaro (Oeiras Beach) 8) Praia de São Pedro do Estoril 9) Praia da Torre 10) Praia de Paço de Arcos 11) Praia do Guincho 12) Praia da Ursa 13) Praia da Adraga 14) Praia das Maçãs 15) Praia Grande
Advice: The weather in Cascais is warm enough for spending time on the beaches from May until the end of September. The beaches are at their busiest during the peak season of July and August.
The remainder of this article will detail the best beaches of Cascais and the surrounding region.
All of the beaches detailed in the following section are within walking distance of Cascais town centre and are connected by the Paredão de Cascais beachfront promenade. If you are on holiday in Cascais, these will likely be the beaches that you spend the majority of your time on. As they are so close to Cascais and Estoril, they tend to get very busy during the peak season.
The largest stretch of sand in Cascais is divided into two beaches - the Praia da Conceição and Praia da Duquesa. These beautiful beaches offer golden sands, calm sea waters and an abundance of beach activities (including sea inflatables, beach bars and boat rides).
The Praia da Duquesa is the slightly larger beach that is closer to Cascais, while to the east is the Praia da Conceição. The beaches are a hive of activity during the summer, with cocktail-drinking tourists, excitable children and powerboats towing banana inflatables. The Conceição and Duquesa beaches are suitable for children, as there are no waves or currents, and the beach is supervised by lifeguards.
Our opinion: The Praia da Conceição and Praia da Duquesa are the perfect beaches for the beginning of your holiday to Cascais.
The Praia da Duquesa (near) and the Praia da Conceição (on the far side) are separated by a small headland and the 19th-century Casa Faial villa
The Praia da Conceição on a hot summer’s day
Praia da Rainha is regarded as the most beautiful of Cascais's beaches and was the private beach of Queen Amélia during the 1880s.
On a quiet day outside of the tourist season, it is easy to understand why she choose this idyllic setting. The beach nestles between rocky outcrops, the sands are golden, and it overlooks the calm blue waters of Cascais harbour.
During the summer, this small beach will be extremely crowded, and much of its allure is lost.
Our opinion: The Praia da Rainha is pretty to see for a day trip, but the Praia da Conceição, Praia do Tamariz or Praia de Carcavelos are much better suited for a day on the beach.
The pretty Praia da Rainha, as chosen by a queen...
The Praia da Ribeira is the central beach of Cascais, overlooking the fishing harbour and the fort. Historically, fishing boats were pulled onto the beach, and it is still frequently referred to as Praia dos Pescadores (fishermen's beach).
As this beach is in the centre of town, beachgoers may feel that they are being constantly gazed over, due to the constant stream of day-trippers wandering past the beach.
The Praia da Ribeira lies at the heart of Cascais
The Praia do Tamariz is the main beach of Estoril, which is just a 17-minute walk from central Cascais.
The beach has many similarities to Praia da Conceição and Praia da Duquesa, but is less hectic and without all of the sea activities.
On the eastern side of the beach, beyond the sea wall, is a seawater-filled swimming pool known as the Piscina Oceânica do Tamariz. This is great for young children and will have much warmer water than the sea.
Our opinion: The Praia do Tamariz provides a pleasant alternative to the beaches of Cascais.
The Praia do Tamariz is a fantastic beach
The Piscina Oceânica do Tamariz
The Praia das Moitas is a little sandy beach located between Estoril and Cascais. This is a calm beach, ideal for a relaxing afternoon basking in the glorious sunshine of the Cascais region. Moitas lies on the Paredão de Cascais, the coastal promenade connecting Cascais to the Praia do Tamariz.
Insight: This beach is sometimes referred to by its old name Praia da Rata (rat beach). Thankfully the rats are long gone, and to attract more tourists the beach was renamed Moitas beach.
The Piscina Oceânica Alberto Romano is a seawater swimming pool where children and families can swim safely - and the water is warmer than the sea!
There is no admission fee and it is a favourite with children - especially if fish are trapped in the pool after the tide recedes.
The Piscina Oceânica Alberto Romano looks dated and has a lot of concrete, but it is great free fun!
The Portuguese Riviera extends from Lisbon to Cascais and is one of the most affluent regions of Portugal.
The beaches of the Portuguese Riviera are very easy to travel to, as they are served by the regular and inexpensive railway service that connects Cascais to the city. This also means that they are extremely busy in the summer as the whole of Lisbon flocks to the coast.
The Praia de Carcavelos is the largest beach of the Portuguese Riviera and the most popular beach in the Lisbon region.
It boasts a vast expense of golden sands, medium-sized waves that are suitable for surfing, and a shoreline filled with beach bars, restaurants and cafes. Praia de Carcavelos has a lively atmosphere and offers a host of activities (surfing, beach sports and boat rides), making it a favourite with Portuguese families. Carcavelos is just a 20-minute train ride from Cascais.
Our Opinion: Carcavelos is the beach we recommend to all visitors who are on holiday in Lisbon, and it makes a fantastic choice if you're in Cascais.
Related articles: Praia de Carcavelos
The Praia de Carcavelos is a huge beach where most of Lisbon heads to on a sunny day
The Praia de Santo Amaro is the main beach of Oeiras and is often just referred to as Oeiras Beach. This is another glorious beach with a wide expanse of sand, calm sea waters and amazing facilities. Santo Amaro beach is the most sheltered beach of the region and is a popular choice for families and young children. During the summer, Oeiras beach attracts a younger crowd and has a lively jovial atmosphere.
Insight: Praia de Santo Amaro is the beach closest to Lisbon that has guaranteed clean waters. Beaches further to the east of Oeiras (and closer to Lisbon) are within the tidal mixing zone of the Tejo Estuary, where the water quality may not be as good.
The Praia de São Pedro do Estoril is one of the most underrated beaches of the Portuguese Riviera, and is an excellent choice for a relaxing beach day.
São Pedro tends to be quieter than the other beaches detailed in this guide so far; there will be fewer screaming kids or overly excited teenagers, with no boat rides departing from the beach. If you want a peaceful beach day (or the quietest possible for the Portuguese Riviera), head to the Praia de São Pedro do Estoril.
The Praia de São Pedro is a pretty sheltered beach
The Praia da Torre is a beautiful sandy beach that lies on the leeward side of the Forte de São Julião da Barra, a colossal 16th-century fort. This beach is a short walk from Praia de Carcavelos and is a good alternative if Carcavelos is too crowded or blustery.
Insight: Beginning at the Praia da Torre is the Passeio Marítimo de Oeiras, a scenic coastal footpath that leads to Paço de Arcos. This is the best short walk of the Portuguese Riviera.
The huge walls of the Julião da Barra fort tower over the beach
The beaches of the Serra de Sintra are famed for their dramatic natural scenery and powerful surfing waves, but are exposed to the strong sea breezes that blow in from the Atlantic. There is very poor public transport within the region, so a car is recommended to explore these.
Praia do Guincho is a wild and rugged beach that lies within the Serra de Sintra nature park. This vast beach faces the might of the Atlantic Ocean and is pounded by huge waves, making it one of the best surfing beaches of the Lisbon region.
Guincho beach boasts dramatic and raw natural scenery, but it is not a tranquil or relaxing beach; there are constant strong winds, while hidden beneath the waters are powerful currents. Guincho beach is served by the 405 and 415 bus routes, which depart from Cascais bus station. There is a purpose-built cycle path connecting Cascais to the Praia do Guincho, and it is an enjoyable 14km round-trip by bike.
Our opinion: Guincho is great for surfing, kite surfing or admiring the natural scenery, but is often too blustery for a relaxing beach day.
The moisture-laden Atlantic winds often form clouds over the Serra de Sintra hills
The Praia do Guincho beach and Serra de Sintra coastline as seen from Peninha viewpoint
The Praia da Ursa is the most stunning of the beaches of the Serra de Sintra coastline, and the best location if you want to escape the tourist masses.
This remote beach sits at the base of a steep cliff and is reached via dirt tracks and a footpath that scrambles down the side of the collapsed rock face. The Praia da Ursa is distinctive for its two huge rocky outcrops; sections of harder cliffs that have withstood the power of the Atlantic Ocean.
These rocky islands give the beach its name, as the ‘Rocha da Ursa’ supposedly looks like a bear (ursa in Portuguese).
Insight: There is a very scenic 1.7km coastal path from the Cabo da Roca to the Praia da Ursa, which is worth a walk if you want to extend your visit to the Cabo da Roca.
The Praia da Ursa as seen from the coastal footpath to the Cabo da Roca
There are better locations to park in than this…
The Praia da Adraga is a beautiful beach close to Praia da Ursa, but it is much more accessible and has a restaurant, shop and a decent car park.
Adraga is a wonderful beach with dramatic natural scenery, golden sands and huge waves. This beach is a favourite with the Portuguese but is barely known by foreign visitors.
The Praia da Adraga
The Praia das Maçãs is a wide, sandy beach that fills the valley carved out by a small river. On the northern side of the beach is a charming town, also known as Praia das Maçãs. This is a calm and relaxed beach, and its large size means there is always plenty of space during the summer.
Our opinion: If the crowds of Cascais and the Portuguese Riviera's beaches get too much, then take a trip to Praia das Maçãs.
Related articles: Praia das Maçãs
Praia das Maçãs
The Praia Grande is a popular surfing beach that has a lively beachfront full of restaurants, cafes and bars.
At the northern end is the Arribas Sintra Hotel, which has one of the largest swimming pools in Portugal - a 100m-long saltwater pool. The Praia Grande is a popular surfing beach, as there are fewer rocky outcrops and guaranteed great waves.
The Praia Grande is popular for surfing
The beaches of the Costa da Caparica coastline are on the southern side of Lisbon (on the Setubal Peninsula), and it is possible to travel to them via public transport. The Costa da Caparica beaches offer the same great surfing of Guincho but are set within a modern resort town.
For visitors based in Lisbon, the Costa da Caparica beaches provides an alternative to the Cascais coastline, but if you are on holiday in Cascais, the Caparica beaches are not worth the complex and long journey.
Related articles: Costa da Caparica