The term Costa Verde, meaning "Green Coast", is the name of a tourist area covering the North-West coast of Portugal. Extending all the way down from the Spanish frontier in the North to 20km South of Porto. The coastline is largely unspoiled by mass tourism with long stretches of golden sands. Atlantic waves in certain places make ideal conditions for water sports, drawing surfers, kite-surfers and windsurfers alike.
The areas beauty extends far inland from the coast to more mountainous terrains, encompassing old ancient villages and historic cities. This area was the birthplace of Portugal and contains many historical and interesting monuments. Cities such as Braga, Guimarães and Porto maintain their original medieval infrastructure. Coastal towns such as Caminha, Viana do Castelo, Esposende and Vila do Conde are famed for their fishing heritage and historic seafaring traditions.
The frontier town of Caminha sits on a headland right on the North West tip of Portugal and the Costa Verde, with the sea to the west, the mighty Minho river to the North and the Coura river to the east Caminha is strategically placed to defend Portugal from Spain. The areas magnificent scenery, the beaches, river, Arga mountains, along with the sights, ancient narrow streets, especially the Rua Direita and the cuisine of the town make a great attraction to the visitor. A ferry boat links Caminha to A Guarda on the Spanish side of the river, offering access to picturesque coastal paths found there. [ More About ► ]
The Atlantic coastline lies a mile and a half west of Caminha. The most northern beach is the Praia de Moledo close to the small town of Moledo do Minho. A long pleasant stretch of sand that looks out at the Forte Da Ínsua, a 17th-century island fortress in the mouth of the Minho River, the natural border between Spain and Portugal. On the Spanish side of the river, the Santa Tecla hill creates an impressive backdrop. The beach backs onto a pine forest which offers respite from the midday sun.
Those who need even more peace and quiet can ask at the Restaurante Barracuda about the boat that will ferry you to the island where a secluded beach awaits. Praia do Pirata lies off the southern end linked by wooden walkways and forest paths that line the edge of the dunes. N 41º 50' 58.7" | W 08º 51' 59.6"
Âncora & Vila Praia de Âncora
Located at the mouth of the River Âncora the lovely sandy beaches here are sheltered from the winds by the Serra d'Arga hills. A popular spot for surfers on the Northern side whilst bathers and sun-seekers tend to occupy the southern end where the swell is calmer. It's here on the southern beaches where you'll find protected sand dunes, which are accessible to walkers only over wooden walkways and are almost always deserted. The town of Âncora dates back to the Palaeolithic era, found dotted around these parts are mounds known as "Ancorense", ancient dumping grounds of discarded seafood shells consumed by the stone age inhabitant of the area.
Although much of the traditional fishing way of life has given way to tourism, Âncora remains unspoiled and retains much of its cultural heritage and is a centre for handicrafts, aquatic sports, and specific sea-based gastronomy. In 1924 the village was elevated to city status and received its current name of Vila Praia de Âncora which means into "Beach Town of the Anchor". N 41º 48' 48.09" | W 08º 51' 55.44"
Praia de Afife This remote strip of the seemingly endless stretch of sand, seven miles north of Viana do Castelo, encompasses other adjoining beaches, Praia Insua to the north and Praia da Arda to the south. Its great expanse offers peace and tranquillity. The beach itself lacks amenities but the village of Afife lies close on the other side of the A28 highway. Exposed to Atlantic breezes at times and the sun, sunscreen is a must! Popular for water sports, there's a resident surf school for people of all abilities.
N 41º 48' 48.1" | W 08º 51' 55.4"
Praia de Paço
Praia de Paço beach, also known as Praia do Forte Beach is an extensive stretch of sand between granite outcrops, its central area becomes quite broad. The Fortim de Montedor also known as Forte de Pao is located here. Built during the war of restoration (1640 – 1668 AD) as part of a series of coastal defences. Since 1967 it's undergone restoration and has been granted a national monument status. The beach has held an EU Blue Flag certificate since 1987. There's ample parking here and as a matter of interest in from of the car park, there are a set of ancient granite dwellings. N 41º 45' 31.4" | W 08º 52' 37.9"
Praia de Fornelos & Promontório de Montedor
Close to the village of Montedor this small rocky cove has only small patches of sand. The Gravuras Rupestres de Montedor iron age petroglyphs found here are the main attraction. N 41º 44' 48.6" | W 08º 52' 38.6"
Praia de Carreço Praia de Carreço Beach
Also known as Praia do Porto Beach, it has a decent stretch of sand with a rocky cove on its northern edge. Popular with families and sea birds alike the beach is well served by its designated car park.
N 41º 44' 36.6" | W 08º 52' 36.6"
Praia do Camarido
Praia do Camarido Beach is a long expanse of sand with a rocky waterline. Backed by dunes over which wooden walkways allow access. Has own car park. N 41º 44' 22.3" | W 08º 52' 30.8""
Praia do Lumiar Located in a wind cove Praia do Lumiar beach with a short jetty for wave control. With ample car parking space along the length of the beach via access through the dunes.
N 41º 44' 08.3" | W 08º 52' 24.2"
Praia de Canto Marinho
Interspersed with rocky outcrops both above and below the high tide line. This long stretch of beach is undeveloped except for the wooden walkway that traverses the dunes, offering walkers peace and tranquillity. If the water looks inviting, you will be happy to know it has Quercus designated gold standard.
N 41º 43' 55.9" | W 08º 52' 19.7"
Praia do Porto de Vinha
Rocky beach with little sand but has a sheltered bay with calmer waves, ideal for bathers. Close to the town of Areosa. Nearby are the Fortim da Areosa or Castelo Velho and two old windmills.
N 41º 42' 41.8" | W 08º 51' 41.9"
The district capital of the region of the same name, Viana do Castelo sits close to the mouth of the Rio Lima forty miles north of Porto. Its strategic location and connection to the sea have been taken advantage of since its foundation in the 13th century by Dom Afonso III. Viana do Castelo is now in the process of being discovered by tourists. Visitors are lured here by the fine beaches, marketed as the Costa Verde, the Santa Luzia church which overlooks the town, its quaint narrow medieval streets, the folklore, traditional festivals and also the cuisine. Albeit some prestigious contemporary architecture such as the Praça da Liberdade riverside complex the town retains its medieval charm and boasts many attractive Manueline and Renaissance buildings. [ More About ► ]
Praia do Cabedelo
Accessible by boat that departs from Viana's riverfront close to the Gill Eannes ship or a short drive over the Ponte Eiffel to the suburb of Darque. The sweeping sands of Cabedelo Beach stretch on for miles up to Praia Norte and are relatively untouched. This beach is popular with surfers, kite surfers and windsurfers as the Atlantic often batters this coastline with a vengeance. The sands are backed by pine forests and several wooden walkways are useful when crossing the dunes.
On the southern edge, the beach is called Praia de Luzia Mar and the private beach belonging to the Viana do Castelo campsite. Amenities: WC, First Aid Station, Showers, Restaurant, Car Park and a campsite. Amenities: WC, First Aid Station, Showers, Restaurant, Car Park and a campsite. N 41º 40' 44.1" | W 08º 49' 57.6"
Praia do Rodanho
Around the district of Vila Nova de Anha the long stretch of sands continue with the two mile long Praia do Rodanho, also known as the Praia da Virgem. Undeveloped and remote, popular with surfers and those who seek solitude". N 41º 40' 02.6" | W 08º 49' 29.3"
Praia da Amorosa
Located in the parish of Chafé, Praia da Amorosa is a long curving expanse of beach with wooden walkways traversing the dunes. Amorosa feels somewhat remote and access is gained over dirt tracks with the better access available on the southern tip. A great diversity of marine life is found in this cove.
N 41º 38' 47.5" | W 08º 49' 30.8"
Praia de Castelo do Neiva Local fishermen use this beach to lunch their brightly painted boats who supply restaurants of the charming parish town of Castelo do Neiva with probably the freshest seafood possible. The Rio Neiva terminates at this extensive stretch of beach lending it to its alternative name of Praia da Foz do Neiva. Two jetties divide the beach into three-zone, the widest and most northern zone attracts most visitors. The castle which lends its name to the town and beach no longer exists.
N 41º 37' 41.0" | W 08º 49' 10.5"
Once a thriving fishing village the lovely seaside resort of Esposende lies at the mouth of the river Cávado. Its golden sands and excellent bathing conditions attract visitors from Porto and the north during the season months. Although essentially a laid back resort Esposende does offer a range of activities and places to go out in the evenings without spoiling its charm. Within the old town can be found many traditional buildings, quaint squares and sights to be seen, including the ruins of the 18th-century fortress, the 16th century Igreja de Misericordia and the chapel of Our Lord of the Navigators. [ More About ► ]
Ofir and Fão
On the south bank of the Cávado river and part of the Parque Natural do Literal Norte lies Ofir, an expanse of golden, sandy beaches which are often compared to the Algarve, ideal for bathing, surfing and windsurfing. The sleepy village of Fão, close to the old Roman camp of Belinho and the Banho Monastery ruins as well as great views over the river. Look out for the village market every Saturday.
N 41º 31' 02.3" | W 08º 47' 15.1"
The beaches around Estela extend from the beach at the Orbitur Rio Alto campsite, past the Estela Golf club, down through the hamlets of Barranha, Aguadoura, and Santo André. Long extensive stretches of undeveloped beaches backed by dunes dotted with the occasional disused windmill. Windbreaks are advisable as Atlantic winds can get gusty here. N 41º 27' 14.9" | W 08º 46' 40.1"
The closer you come from the northern outskirts of Povoa de Varzim to the centre of town, the more the beaches widen and are served by more amenities. They can offer sanctuary from the maddening crowds that sometimes decent on Povoa de Varzim. Beaches such as Praia de Coim, Praia do Esteiro, Praia da Fragosa, Praia de Pontes and Praia da Lagoa-I could offer a happy compromise. N 41º 24' 03.4" | W 08º 46' 41.9"
Póvoa de Varzim is the most northern station on Porto's Metro. The Portuense flock here weekends and holidays to have a good time. The great beach here goes on for seven and a half miles with a fisherman's marina at its southern extremity. Most beaches in the city are family-oriented such as Redonda, Salgueira or Lagoa Beach. Póvoa is a fully developed resort with bundles of hotels, many along the seafront. Other tourist attractions include value restaurants and bars along with the town's casino. Water sports are also enjoyed here, especially surfing.
The town's origin can be experienced at the southern end with the picturesque fishermen's quarter and harbour where brightly painted fishing boats are moored and nets are repaired on the quayside. A small 18th-century fort stands geared over the old quarter, which maintains its age-old charm.
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A smaller a quieter resort than Póvoa de Varzim but still has much to offer and within easy reach of Porto, the Metro service stops here. Even though visitor numbers have been increasing here year on year, Vila do Conde maintains much of its old-worldly charm. The modern holiday apartments and villas along the seafront are situated well away from the medieval centre half a mile inland. Originally the town gained importance through shipbuilding, using to great advantage its location on the mouth of the river Ave. Vila do Conde is famed for its handicrafts, most notably Bobbin Lacework (Rendas de Bilros), a tradition dating from the 16th century, the history of which can be viewed at the Bobbin Lacework Museum.
The two-mile-long beach stretches from the marina at Póvoa de Varzim at the northern end to the mouth of the Rio Ave, where the Forte de São João Baptista castle stands guard. Constructed in the 17th century, the castle now houses a hotel and restaurant. The central areas being most favourable for families and bathers whiles surfers prefer to use the extremities where the swell is higher. [ More About ► ]
South of Vila do Conde and the river Ave there's a continuous stretch of sand running through Azurara, Ávore (and its campsite), past the Literal de Vila do Conde coastal nature reserve to the beaches around Vila Chã. These beautiful white sands and wonderfully undeveloped and never crowded. Access is gained over the protected dunes via wooden pathways.
The Matosinhos series of beaches stretches seven miles north of the Matosinhos marina, the further from Porto, the less developed the beaches are and the cleaner the water. South of the marina is urbanised the beach is flanked by apartments, an esplanade, bars, restaurants and cafés. Here you'll always find some kind of activity on the beach and it's a popular surfing spot. Evening times the area is a draw for those who wish to stroll and watch the sunset over the horizon and enjoying a great meal at one of the many great seafood restaurants found here.
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Praia Castelo do Queijo
The oddly named Praia Castelo do Queijo (or beach of the cheese castle) is so named because the bedrock on which the fort was built resembles a wheel of cheese. The beach itself is a short stretch of sand and rocks that backs onto a promenade. Although not quite as popular as Matasinhos the beach still attracts lots of visitors, especially during school holidays. The beach is interspersed with rocky outcrops giving shelter to coastal breezes.
N 41º 10' 02.3" | W 08º 41' 22.9"
Foz do Douro
Running north to south from the palm-lined promenade Avenida do Brasil where great restaurants can be found, then along the Rua Coronel Raúl Peres to the mouth of the mighty river Douro up the Avenida Dom Carlos I the beaches along the strip that is Foz do Douro are the seafront to the ancient city of Porto. The Praia dos Ingleses ( 41° 09' 07.83" N | 08° 40' 41.89" W) in the northern region offers the widest stretch of sand and choice of establishments catering for tourists. The cafés here stay open late into the night. Here too is where many of Porto's well-to-do have their apartments.
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On the opposite bank of Porto across the impressive Don Luis I bridge lies the city of Vila Nova de Gaia. Found within the narrow streets that hug the steeps sides of Gaia are the Port lodges which it's famous for. Until recently only wine produced in the Douro and aged within these lodges could be called Port wine or Vinho do Porto. Along the riverfront are several bars & restaurants offering revellers great views over the river to Porto's waterfront. [ More About ► ]
The eleven-mile (18km) expanse of beaches south and west of Gaia have the greatest number of blue-flagged beaches within Portugal. Running from the mouth of the Douro to São Félix da Marinha the Blue Line wooden broad walk traverses the dunes that line the beaches.
One mile-long narrow stretch of sandy beach which halves in width during high tide. Wooden esplanades join the northern and southern areas of the beaches interspersed with cafés and restaurants. Well serviced with toilets, sunshades for rent, well maintained green areas and a children's park. Access to the beach is achieved through the Avenida Beira Mar or by Rua do Thom.
N 41° 07' 44.8" | W 08° 40' 05.6"
One of the prettiest beaches in the Vila Nova de Gaia area characterised by its large expanse of sand and dune vegetation. Surrounded by various restaurants, cafés and a few shops. At one end, there is a small outcrop of rocks, which create a natural sea break and a calmer sea, perfect for swimming. The Parque de Campismo de Salgueiros campsite is close by and visited mostly by campers. The Salgueiros beach is very popular in summer and its small car park feels the strain. Cycling the cycle path is the best way to arrive.
N 41° 07' 13.1" | W 08° 39' 54.3"
The beach at Madalena is interspersed by several rocky outcrops and the dunes are protected by wooden fences and walkways ideal for a leisurely stroll. Popular with the guests at the Camping Orbitur Madalena campsite. Access is gained through Rua dos Combatentes.
N 41° 06' 00.8" | W 08° 39' 38.1"
Only six miles (10km) south of Porto, Miramar is a small seaside resort famous for its 17th century Capela do Senhora Pedra chapel perched precariously on a wave-beaten headland jutting out from the beach. The town is home to a famous nine-hole golf course and several holiday homes and mansions. The Praia de Miramar beach is exposed to Atlantic winds but is pleasantly un-crowded, frequented mostly by locals. In summer the water is tame and good for bathing, whilst in winter months the surfers take advantage of the large swell that is washed up.
Miramar has useful facilities such as several cafés on the beach, bars, car parking, a private sports club with tennis courts and the Clube de Golf de Miramar golf course. As with all beaches in this area access to the beach and over the dunes is via wooden walkways, with wheelchair accessibility. This beach is a true gem but shhh… keep it secret. N 41° 03' 59.9" | W 08° 39' 24.5"
Granja (or Praia da Meia Laranja) is a thin beach pocketed with rocky crops joined to Espinho's great beaches by the Blue Line wooden broad walk traversing protected dunes. Here too you will find the Piscinas Municipais da Granja swimming pools. Easily accessed from Porto by train the town is popular with weekend visitors and holiday apartments alike. N 41° 02' 25.1" | W 08° 39' 0.8" W
Just nine miles (15km) south of Porto sits the seaside resort of Espinho, popular with foreign tourists and locals alike. Many trains stop at Espinho making getting here easy and the newly re-built station is close to the long promenade and the beaches. The four fine sandy beaches, Praia Baía, Praia Azula, Praia Pop & Praia do Costa Verde, are the centre of activity for sun worshipers, beach volleyballers, posers and joggers alike. There is a moderate surf here, enough to have fun with but no challenge for the veteran surfer. Originally a fishing village the town plan now is a grid system in which streets have numbers instead of names. [ More About ► ]
Praia da Baía beach is particularly favourite for surfing and is probably the best beach in the North of Portugal for surf. The beach is framed North and South by two piers forming a manmade bay. As with Praia da Frente Azul, there's plenty of amenities here and a good choice of seaside bars and eateries. Here too you'll find amazing sunsets, an ideal way to end a day's beachcombing along with a cold beer.
Praia das Sereias means Mermaid's beach but in reality, it's frequented mostly by families who take advantage of the shelter from Atlantic winds at the base of a massive boulder. Popular also with surfers who enjoy the year-round constant swell here.
Beyond Praia das Sereias's Southern pier is the stretch of sand known as the Praia do Bairro Piscatório Beach. Its name refers to the fisherman who apply their trade here. Known as Arte Xávega this form of fishing dates back to the 18th century which involves attaching one end of a net to shore whilst taking the other end out to sea and pulled into an arch to trap catch sardines, mackerel amongst other fish. The district here is known as the Bairro Piscatório and lining the shore here are traditional fisherman's cottages and their brightly colour boats moored up on the beach. Favourable bathing conditions continue on the beach to the south beyond Praia do Bairro Piscatório's Southern pier.