The Algarve in southern Portugal is known for its beaches, sunny skies and mouth-watering seafood. It is however, not the first location that springs to mind when considering an adventure holiday. While some holidays are meant to be relaxing (where the big decision of the day is whether to spend your hours lounging by the infinity pool or stretched out on a towel by the sea) there are times where you want your getaway to be a little more action-packed.
Surfing in the Algarve
Given the Algarve’s position right on the coast, claiming the south and south-west portion of Portugal’s shoreline, water sports are a good place to start when hunting out action and adventure.
The best surf is found on the more secluded section of the Algarve’s coastline of the regions west coast – in particular Ponta Ruiva which wannasurf.com have dubbed ‘a regional classic’. The added benefits of boarding up here is that aside from seasoned surfers, this part of the world is still relatively unknown as a surf destination. This is great for surfers who want to get out and ride waves without the crowds and super useful for those less nimble on a board and want somewhere relatively quiet to practice (wish I’d thought of that before I took the lessons in LA’s busy Huntingdon Beach!). This secrecy has also allowed the preservation of the rugged allure and tranquil feel of the natural surroundings – making it not only chilled out but also an attractive place to come and conquer the surf (and let’s face it you’ll want a good view for when you crack open that picnic later…). Ponta Ruiva boasts a rocky reef and surfing spots on both the right and left hand sides – extending up to 500 metres on good days. Praia da Arrifana (near the village of Palmeirinha) is a top spot for more advanced surfers where you’ll get to ride some pretty impressive surf (but not recommended for beginners…).
Surfing in the Algarve is pretty good all year round – summer months will be busier as the holiday crowds come to town while during the autumn and winter months it will be significantly quieter – but you’ll need to pack that wetsuit!
There are many companies offering surf lessons and trips and some also offer other high octane activities also on their books (Extreme Algarve is worth checking out). Kite surfing offers up an alternative to the traditional surfing challenge and thrill seekers should give wakeboarding, mountain biking, kayaking or scuba diving a go (though not necessarily all in the same day…).
Fun jeep safaris
A good way to combine exploring the gorgeous countryside and getting the blood pumping through your veins is taking a jeep safari. I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I signed up but part of the appeal definitely includes your local guide (who in my case was hilarious). In-between bouncing along dirt paths and taking in your surroundings our guide entertained with stories and local tit-bits (and inventive use of props to illustrate his anecdotes into local plant life). While you won’t be fearing for your life on this off-the-beaten-track adventure you will get to see a side of the Algarve away from the tourist trail – and have a laugh in the process.
Another good way to get active in the Algarve is golf. Known as a top destination for those keen to practise their swing, the Algarve has a number of quality courses – some with some great views of the sea to boot.
Travelling through the Algarve is straightforward and hiring a car is probably the best way to explore the hidden gems away from the coastal tourist trail. Algarve accommodation is varied and you can find high end boutique hotels in urban hubs like Faro while rural retreats like Alvor offer up independent hotels oozing Portuguese charm and character. You can even stay in the renovated village of Pedralva – a lovingly restored Portuguese community where tourists can stay in traditional stone houses, beautifully decked out, save telephone and internet, thus providing a complete escape from modern distractions.
Back to action and adventure and to brush off the cobwebs and inject some adrenaline back into your body there’s always skydiving to consider – well what better way to appreciate the regions picturesque countryside than with an aerial view with a difference.