The best independent guide to Setubal
The best independent guide to Setubal
Setúbal may be a busy commercial fishing centre and industrial port, but it is surrounded by two of the finest coastlines in Portugal.
To the west of Setúbal lies the beautiful Portinho da Arrábida coastline, a series of idyllic beaches situated at the base of the Serra da Arrábida hills. To the south of Setubal and across the Sado Estuary are the paradise beaches of the Tróia Peninsula, a region favoured by the super-rich for its secluded beach villas.
Slightly further from Setubal is the traditional resort town of Sesimbra, the surfing beaches of the Costa da Caparica or the pristine lagoon setting of the Lagoa de Albufeira.
Setúbal also boasts a number of good beaches within walking distance of the city centre, including the Praia da Albarquel and Praia da Saúde.
Setúbal is not a conventional beach holiday destination, but the neighbouring region boasts some of the most magnificent beaches in Portugal.
Related articles: Setubal introduction – Things to do in Setubal
The Tróia Peninsula, located on the opposite side of the Sado Estuary from Setúbal, is a popular destination for beach day trips.
The stunning Serra da Arrábida coastline lies to the east of Setúbal.
• The best beach close to Setubal – Praia da Albarquel (2km from central Setubal)
• The most scenic beach – Praia do Creiro and the Portinho da Arrábida beaches
• Where to go in the summer – Praia Tróia Mar
• Best beach for families - Figueirinha beach
• Where to escape the summer crowds - Lagoa de Albufeira or Praia Atlântica (Troia)
• Best resort town - Sesimbra
The interactive map below shows the location of the best beaches within the Setubal region; the yellow line marks the Costa da Caparica coastline (note: zoom in or out to see all of the points)
Legend 1) Fonte da Telha 2) Lagoa de Albufeira 3) Praia do Meco 4) Praia das Bicas 5) Praia do Ouro 6) Praia da Califórnia 7) Praia do Creiro 8) Praia de Galápos 9) Praia da Figueirinha 10) Praia de Albarquel 11) Praia Tróia Mar 12) Praia da Questa 13) Praia Atlântica
The weather is suitable for spending time on the beaches from May to September, with July and August being the peak season. The sea waters of the Setúbal region are always chilly, being fed by the Atlantic Ocean, and only reach 20°C (68F) at the height of 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 (and the Praia da Figueirinha beach), the estuary waters mix with the sea, and the water is safe and clean for swimming in.
The southern side of the Setúbal Peninsula is sheltered from the powerful waves and currents of the Atlantic Ocean, making it safe for children and families to swim in. During the summer months (June to August), the most popular beaches are supervised by lifeguards.
The main issue with exploring the beaches of the Serra da Arrábida coastline is that you will need a car, as there is almost no public transport. The only exception is the Praia da Figueirinha which has a bus service to Setúbal.
Finding car parking spaces at the beaches during the summer can be nearly impossible. Additionally, the coastal road near Praia de Galápos is closed to non-residents from 8 am to 6 pm, from May through October. The detour via N379 is considerably longer, winding through the Serra da Arrábida hills.
During the height of the summer, we always recommend heading to the Troia Peninsula via the ferry. The beaches here are larger and you won’t have the difficulty of driving and parking.
The deserted sands of Praia Atlântica, located halfway along the Troia Peninsula
Setúbal, while boasting wonderful beaches, should not be considered a primary destination for a beach holiday. Setúbal lacks the holiday infrastructure, and resort atmosphere found in many other Portuguese beach towns, a trait attributable to the city's hardworking and industrial nature.
There is a lot to recommend about Setúbal, making it ideal for a day trip or as a city break; however, it is not typically the choice for tourists seeking a beach-focused summer holiday.
The Praia da Saúde and the waterfront of Setubal
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 the Tróia Peninsula and the Serra da Arrábida.
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 day’s sightseeing.
The Albarquel Urban Park incorporates the Praia da Saúde
The Praia de Albarquel
The Praia de Albarquel is the best large beach close to Setubal, and is situated at the city's far western edge. The Albarquel beach has a very pleasant setting, looking out across the Sado Estuary and is surrounded by the forests of the Serra da Arrábida. 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 too far to walk (and follows the N10 main road).
There is almost no car parking 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 if you keep heading west (into the Serra da Arrábida) you will discover some of Portugal’s finest beaches…
The far eastern side of Praia de Albarquel is the Praia da Comenda beach
The long sandbar peninsula of Troia is situated on the opposite side of the Sado Estuary to Setubal. These beaches are pristine, vast 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 small and excusive resort town of Troia is surrounded by beautiful beaches
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 (€7.20 return) and for more information about the 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.
The idyllic Praia Bico dos Lulas on the Troia Peninsula
The Serra da Arrabida coastline is absolutely stunning, offering soft golden sand beaches, turquoise calm sea waters and is surrounded by pine forested mountains. The problem with the beaches of the Arrabida region is travelling to them. There is very limited car parking, and the main coastal road near the Praia de Galápos is closed to non-residents during the summer.
Related articles: Serra da Arrabida guide
The Serra da Arrabida coastline
Praia dos Galapos and Praia dos Galapinhos
The Praia dos Galapos and Praia dos Galapinhos are often considered as the most beautiful beaches in Portugal. There are crystal-clear waters for snorkelling, soft sands and wonderous scenery. The two beaches are separated by a headland which can be walked around at low tide.
Galápos is the larger beach and has two restaurants (O João and Ondagalapos) along with parasols and sun loungers. Galapinhos to the east is smaller and where you will want to take your paradise photos.
The Praia dos Galapinhos
Praia do Creiro
The Praia do Creiro is as equally beautiful as the Galapinhos but has more car parking and is easier to reach when the road is closed.
Creiro is a wonderous beach; 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 it to be busy at the height of the summer. On the beach are three restaurants, O Golfinho, Anicha-Bar and O Zeca.
Between the car park and the beach are the Roman ruins of Creiro, which was the site of a fish salting factory.
The Praia do Creiro beach
Praia dos Coelhos – Difficult to reach Paradise
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 da Figueirinha - Family Friendly
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.
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 , 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
The Costa da Caparica is the 17km long beach that stretches the western side of the Setubal Peninsula. This coastline is very different from the other two as it is exposed to the powerful Atlantic Ocean and is the place to head to for surfing or kite surfing. The southern edge of the Costa da Caparica is significantly quieter than the northern side, and the area has a wild and rugged atmosphere.
The Praia do Meco
The Praia do Meco is a gorgeous sandy beach at the southern end of the Costa da Caparica coastline. The beach is infamous throughout Portugal as it was the first nudist beach in the country, but today, there is a clear designation between the family-friendly sections and the nudist beach (which is further to the south of the coastline). Meco is a huge beach, and there is ample car parking, which makes it a good choice for a beach when the Serra da Arrábida is too crowded in the summer.
Related articles: Praia do Meco
The Praia do Meco
The Lagoa de Albufeira
The Lagoa de Albufeira is a pristine lagoon which opens out on the Costa da Caparica coastline. This setting provides two very different beaches; the side facing the might of the Atlantic Ocean and the sheltered side overlooking the lagoon. The Atlantic side is great for surfing and kite surfing, while the sheltered lagoon waters are popular with Portuguese families. Inland, the pristine forests that surround the lagoon offer deserted footpaths and tranquil countryside.
Related articles: Lagoa de Albufeira
The calm waters of the Lagoa de Albufeira are a popular location to learn to wind surf
Our most popular guides to the Setubal region