Most people spend their days in Sagres on one of the excellent beaches, five of which are within walking distance of the town. Three are on the more sheltered coast east of the fortress, with the best, Praia da Mareta, just five minutes’ walk southeast of the main square. Further on is the slightly scrubby harbour beach, Praia da Baleeira, but you’re better off walking another five to ten minutes over the cliffs above the harbour to the longest beach, Praia do Martinhal, which is particularly good for families and backed by a purpose-built resort. West of the fortress, Praia do Tonel is a wilder location, popular with surfers. It’s a longer walk to the beautiful Praia de Belixe, 2km down the road from Sagres to Cabo de São Vicente, which is overlooked by a small fortress (closed to the public). Wherever you swim, take care – there are some very strong undertows, especially on the west side of the fortress.
The west coast of the Algarve has gained a reputation as one of Europe’s best surfing destinations, with Sagres as its surfing capital. Its position at the bottom corner of Portugal means that there are nearly always excellent surfing conditions, whatever the weather. The swell “wraps” round Cabo de São Vicente, producing relatively gentle waves in the bays between Sagres and Lagos, ideal for the less experienced. With swell sizes of up to 5m, the beaches north of Cabo de São Vicente face the full brunt of the Atlantic so are best for experienced surfers – legs of the World Surfing Championships are held at nearby Praia do Amado. Indeed, it can be decidedly dangerous and inexperienced surfers are best off going with a surf school – which can give one-off lessons or courses from around €55 a day – or a surf camp, which throws in accommodation and transport to the best beaches. Top surf camps in the region include wfreeridesurfcamp.com, walgarvesurfschool.com, winternationalsurfschool.com and wsurf-experience.com.