The best guide to Setubal
Setubal maybe a busy commercial fishing centre and industrial port, but it is surrounded by two of the finest coastlines in Portugal. To the west of Setubal is the beautiful Serra da Arrabida coastline; a series of idyllic beaches found at the base of steep forested limestone hills. South across the Sado estuary are the paradise beaches of the Troia Peninsula, a region favoured by the super-rich for secluded and refined holidays.
For those visitors willing to travel further, is the popular resort town of Sesimbra and the pristine beaches on the southern side of Costa da Caparica. Setubal also offers a selection of good beaches that are within walking distance of the city centre, and include the Praia da Albarquel and Praia da Saúde.
Setubal is not a conventional beach holiday destination, but the neighbouring region boasts some the most magnificent beaches of Portugal. This article will provide a guide to the beaches of Setubal.
This is why peaople head to Troia for a beach day.....
• The beach closest to central Setubal - Praia da Saúde (1km from central Setubal)
• The best beach close to Setubal – Praia da Albarquel (2km from central Setubal)
• The most scenic beach of the region – Praia do Creiro
• Hidden gem of a beach - Praia dos Coelhos
• Where to go in the summer – Praia de Troia (by ferry)
• Best beach for families - Figueirinha beach
• Where to escape the summer crowds - Southern Costa da Caparica
• Where to go for a beach day trip - Sesimbra
The weather is suitable for spending time on the beaches from May until September, and the peak season is July and August. The sea waters of the Setubal region are always chilly, as they are fed by the Atlantic Ocean, and only reach 20C in the height of the summer.
The waters of the Sado Estuary should not be bathed in, as it is a major port and there is always the chance of pollution. At the mouth of the estuary (Praia da Figueirinha) the water is crystal clear and fine for swimming in.
The southern side of the Setubal Peninsula is sheltered from the powerful waves and currents of the Atlantic Ocean and is safe for children and families. In the summer (Jun-Aug) the most popular beaches are supervised by lifeguards.
The main issue with the Serra da Arrabida coastline is that there is very limited public transport (except for the Praia da Figueirinha) and it is almost impossible to find a car-parking space. During the height of the summer we always recommend heading to the Troia Peninsula, as the ferry service is inexpensive, and the beaches are much larger.
The Praia Atlantica beach
Setubal may have wonderful beaches, but it is not a destination for a beach holiday. Setubal lacks the holiday infrastructure, ambience and resort buzz of many other Portuguese beach towns, and this is due to the hardworking and industrial nature of the city.
There is a lot to recommend about Setubal (making it great for a day trip or a city break), but it is not somewhere where most tourists would want to spend their beach focused summer holiday. Popular beach resorts within the Lisbon region include; Sesimbra, Cascais, Troia, Ericeira or Costa da Caparica.
The following section details the beaches of the Setubal region. The guide will divide them into three sections; beaches close to Setubal, the beaches of Troia and the Serra da Arrabida.
The Praia da Saúde
The Praia da Saúde is the closest beach to Setubal and is incorporated into the Albarquel urban park (Parque Urbano de Albarquel). There is a larger section of sand in the middle part of the park, but the beach extends along the entire length of the park. As it is within the Sado estuary the waters should not be bathed in. The Praia da Saúde may not be the best of Setubal’s beaches, but makes for a great place to relax at the end of a long days sightseeing.
The Albarquel Urban Park incorporates the Praia da Saúde
The Praia de Albarquel (GPS: 38.51087, -8.91587)
The Praia de Albarquel is best large beach close to the Setubal, and is at the very western edge of the city. The Albarquel beach has a very pleasant setting, looking out across the Sado Estuary, the Tróia Peninsula and surrounded by the cliffs and forests of the Serra da Arrabida. The beach is formed of coarse sands and small pebbles and the seawaters are very still. The beach is within the Sado estuary so only bath in the water if indicated it is safe.
Being the closest beach to the city it does get very busy at the weekends, and is often loud with the commotion and tomfoolery of teenagers. The beach is 2.6km from central Setubal (Praça de Bocage) and is a bit to far to walk (and follows the N10 main road). There is almost no carparking at the beach, so either catch a taxi or take the seasonal coastal bus service (operated by TST). The Praia de Albarquel is a good beach but keep heading west for some of Portugal’s finest beaches…..
The Serra da Arrabida coastline is absolutely stunning, offering beautiful natural scenery, waters of turquoise and deep blues, and soft golden sands. The problem with this region is travelling to them, there is limited car parking and the summer time bus service only heads to the Praia da Figueirinha.
The Serra da Arrabida coastline
Praia da Figueirinha - Family Friendly (GPS: 38.51072, -8.91541)
The Praia da Figueirinha is considered as the best beach for a day trip in the Serra da Arrabida, and is very popular with Portuguese families. Figueirinha is one of the region’s larger beaches and there are good facilities (cafes and restaurants).
The actual beach is beautiful (as with the whole region), soft light-coloured sands and backed by the craggy cliffs of the Serra da Arrabida. The waters are clean and calm, and as the waters are fed by the ocean, are clean enough to swim in. The Praia da Figueirinha is a great location for a day on the beach and is highly recommended. During the summer there is a bus service from Setubal.
Praia dos Coelhos – Difficult to reach Paradise (GPS: 38.48174, -8.96944)
It is difficult to identify just a single beach which is the most beautiful, in a region with so many outstanding beaches but the Praia dos Coelhos would be our choice. This tiny and secluded cove is completely untouched by tourism, and displays nature’s beauty in its truest form. If you seek an untouched paradise beach, this is where to head to.
Be warned, it’s a rough 400m path down to the beach and there are no facilities on the beach at all, but that’s the price for an empty, pristine paradise. The only car parking is on the main road and is shared with Praia dos Galapinhos. For most tourists the Praia do Creiro, next along the coast, is the better choice for a beach for a day trip.
Praia do Creiro – Most beautiful which is easily accessible
Praia do Creiro is the larger and more popular neighbour to the Praia dos Coelhos, and is as equally beautiful. Creiro beach has been blessed with the same natural allure, of turquoise waters and soft white sands, but has the tourist facilities of popular beach…. and there is car parking!
We often describe the Praia do Creiro as one of the finest beaches in Portugal, and it is that amazing. The setting is wonderous; behind the beach the steep forested hills descend down to white sands, and the sheltered bay leads round to the tiny village of Portinho da Arrábida. The inviting sea waters are calm and tranquil, being a blend of deep blues and greens, and beneath the waters is an abundance of sea life. The Praia do Creiro is a magical destination, just expect to share it with many others during the height of the summer. On the beach are a couple of restaurants (Restaurante Anicha-Bar and O Golfinho).
The Praia do Creiro beach
Praia dos Galapos (GPS: 38.48444, -8.96379) and Praia dos Galapinhos (GPS: 38.48352, -8.96897)
The Praia dos Galapos and Praia dos Galapinhos beaches are two connected stretches of sands just to the east of Praia dos Coelhos. They are just as beautiful as the previous two beaches, again with paradise sands and crystal-clear waters. Within the sea are a few rock outcrops which make them great for snorkelling.
Galapos and Galapinhos beaches are slightly smaller than Praia do Creiro and there is less car parking. On Galapos there are two restaurants (O João and Ondagalapos), and Galapinhos has less tourist development and is more natural. If the tides are right (and it is safe to do so!) it is possible to walk from Praia dos Galapinhos around the headland to the Praia dos Coelhos.
The Praia dos Galapinhos
Beyond the village of Portinho da Arrábida, the hills of the Serra da Arrabida become more pronounced and form sheer cliffs with no accessible beaches. This stretch of coastline has some of mainland Portugal’s steepest cliffs, and is known as the Serra do Risco (the Risky Sierra!). The highest point (Pincaro) has a colossal drop of 360m, and for those who hike up to the vantage point are rewarded with amazing views over the region.
Another unique sight of the region is the Lapa de Santa Margarida (GPS: 38.46993, -8.98673), a chapel which is found within a natural sea cave. Further west from the Serra da Arrabida is in the charming resort town of Sesimbra, and for a guide to Sesimbra, please click here.
The Praia do Ouro in Sesimbra
Can we apologise.........
Can we apologise for the poor/lack pictures of the Serra da Arrabida. Our laptop which had all of the commissioned images was damaged (the problem with remote working), and we were left with out-of-season holiday snaps – The beaches look much better than this in real life!
The long sandbar peninsula of Troia is situated on the opposite side of the Sado Estuary to Setubal. These beaches are very different to the Serra da Arrabida, being spacious, wide and backed by low-rise sand dunes. Whereas the Serra da Arrabida can feel claustrophobic and crowded in the summer, there is always space to be found in Troia (if you’re prepared to walk a little).
The beach of Troia is almost one continuous stretch of sand, which extends around the northern tip and down the western side for almost 13km. These beaches are golden (as opposed to the Serra da Arrabida’s finer white sands) and the sea waters are calm and clean. The northern tip of Troia has been developed into an exclusive complex with marina, casino and designer hotels while the south section leads to quieter and less developed beaches that are fringed by pine forests.
The idyllic Praia Bico dos Lulas on the Troia Peninsula
The three northern beaches close to the ferry landing are; Praia de Tria Mar, Praia Bico dos Lulas and Praia do Troia Gale, while the tourist development and village of Sol Troia is close to the Praia Atlantica. The eastern side of the Peninsula de Troia faces the Sado estuary and the waters are not suitable for swimming in. Troia is connected to Setubal by a regular and inexpensive ferry (€6.85 return) and for more information about e Troia Peninsula please click here.
The Serra da Arrabida could be considered as more visually stunning, but for most tourists Troia makes for a better destination for a day on the beach. Troia is much easier to travel to, the beaches are more spacious and there are better tourist facilities.