The little port of the Arrábida Natural Park
From the city of Setúbal to the mystical Cape Espichel in Sesimbra, there are over a dozen beaches. Most are part of the natural paradise that is the Arrábida Nature Park (which is made up of Mediterranean vegetation), and were once a well-kept secret. This bay with calm, crystal-clear waters and the beauty of the park as a backdrop, is now a favorite destination of those from the Lisbon region, so parking space has been restricted to limit the crowds (see transport information below).
Praia do Creiro by Portinho da Arrábida
The most famous beach on this coast is by the little port known as Portinho da Arrábida, which has a couple of laid-back restaurants serving fresh fish and seafood. In the 1500s (and until 1834), it was home to Franciscan monks, who lived in seclusion in the white convent built amidst the steep hills of the park. By the shore, there’s a magnificent scenery, but continue walking east to Praia do Creiro, which is a sandier beach, with turquoise waters.
Wicker parasols are available in the summer
Further east is Praia dos Coelhos, which literally means Rabbits Beach and is much wilder. You won’t see any bunnies, but it’s an idyllic place that can only be reached down a path descending from the road above. There are no restaurants, just golden sand and pristine nature all around you.
Continuing east is Praia dos Galapinhos, which was once given a “Europe’s Best Beach” distinction, but you must walk through vegetation to get there. It’s followed by Praia dos Galapos, which is easier to find, as it’s just a short walk down steps from the road. It’s a more crowded beach, with a few wicker umbrellas providing shade.
A 16th-century convent is the only building in the park above the beaches
Finally, there’s Praia da Figueirinha, the biggest beach on this coast, and the one closest to Setúbal. The water here is quite shallow and the temperature tends to be one or two degrees higher, so it’s perfect for swimming and families (avoid it on weekends, when it can get crowded). There’s lifeguard supervision during the bathing season.
-Start in Portinho da Arrábida for photos, take a few selfies in Praia do Creiro, Praia dos Coelhos and Praia dos Galapinhos, and end at Praia da Figueirinha for your swimming and sunbathing.
-If you enjoy nature and hiking, venture into the Arrábida Nature Park. It’s a curious landscape of diverse Mediterranean flora on the Atlantic, which originated under water around 180 million years ago, giving it a vegetation distribution that’s unique in the world. It’s also known as one of the best places for geologists to learn about three key phases of the evolution of planet Earth and its tectonic plates.
How to Get to the Beaches in Arrábida
The beaches on the Arrábida coast can't be reached by direct public transportation from Lisbon. You’ll have to take bus 562 of the TST company from Oriente Station or bus 561 from Sete Rios to the city of Setúbal, and then connect to a seasonal bus service that goes to Praia da Figueirinha (between late June and early September). It’s therefore better to rent a car. Portinho da Arrábida is less than one hour from the center of Lisbon, heading in the direction of Setúbal. Cars aren’t allowed by the beaches between the months of May and October, to avoid traffic congestion and to limit the number of people in this protected area. You have to park before you reach the beach of Figueirinha, by the Secil factory, and then take the minibus that operates in the summer, between the hours of 9am and 7:30pm (every 20 minutes).
Attractions by Arrábida
More beaches (and good fish and seafood restaurants) are found in the town of Sesimbra, about a 30-minute drive to the west.
Hotels by the Beaches in Arrábida
Hotel Casa Palmela
Arrábida is a protected area, so no hotels can be built by the beaches, but there’s this one up on the hills. You need a car to reach it, but if you want to spend more than one day at the beaches of the region, and prefer to stay surrounded by nature (instead of in the neighboring city of Setúbal), this is your only option. And it’s quite a good one, offering an exceptional service. There’s an outdoor swimming pool, a restaurant, and different types of rooms and suites, some of them with balconies.
Casa da Adoa
It’s not a hotel, it’s a family home that was turned into a bed and breakfast, and it’s the only place to stay in Portinho da Arrábida. The hosts are very accommodating, and the sea is right outside. It’s the perfect budget-friendly place to stay for a few days by the beaches of Arrábida, with classically-styled rooms, suites and apartments.