Holidays to Praia da Rocha put you right at the heart of a great beach scene. The town marries up miles of golden sands with a good haul of watersports and oceanfront bars and restaurants.
Established in the Thirties as a quiet and elegant resort, Praia da Rocha somersaulted in to the mainstream in the Seventies. Since then, it’s barely paused for breath. The vast beach here has long been the calling card. But the rock-solid portfolio now includes a sweep of restaurants, bars and clubs, a paved promenade, a marina, and a casino. There’s still some belle époque architecture casting a backward glance to the past but, in the main, modern hotels and apartments line up along the seafront.
Praia da Rocha Beach is by far the longest and the broadest of the beaches along this stretch of the coastline. Even in the height of summer there’s plenty of golden sand to go around. For a more intimate scene, though, point your feet westwards and you’ll get to a succession of smaller coves, cradled like sleeping infants in the arms of the region’s dramatic rock cliffs. With their sands less trodden, they have a more faraway vibe about them.
Fort with a view
The Medieval Fortress of Santa Catarina looms large at the eastern end of the main beach and can be reached via stairs hewn in to the cliffs. Once part of the area’s defences against pirates, it’s now better served as a viewpoint. From here, you get a real measure of how the land lies. To one side there’s the beach, which is backed by sandstone cliffs until it reaches the Arade River. To the other, Portimão Marina shines bright with yachts and cosmopolitan bars and restaurants.
Portimão next door
Praia da Rocha is practically joined at the hip with Portimão – it’s a 20-minute stroll or a few minutes away by bus. The latter has a 19th-century quarter and a newer area of high-rise apartment blocks. They wrap around a busy town centre, which has a wealth of shops. It’s more relaxed by the riverfront where the Manuel Bivar gardens offer shade for chit chat over ice-creams and coffee.
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