The Beaches of Estremadura -- Take your pick from the ribbonlike string of beaches that stretches almost continuously along the coast of Estremadura. Some 240km (149 miles) of sand extend all the way to its northern edge, just south of the beach resort of Figueira da Foz.
Many of Estremadura's beaches are uncrowded and filled with powdery sand bordering crystal-clear waters. Others, especially those near industrial wastelands, are much less desirable and might be polluted. Look for beaches flying a blue banner, which indicates that the European Union has granted its seal of approval to the beach's hygiene and safety.
One of our favorites is the seaside village of São Martinho do Porto, 116km (72 miles) north of Lisbon and a short run south of overcrowded Nazaré. This resort nestles between pine-covered foothills and the ocean, and its waters are calm and clear. Another good beach, north of Nazaré, is at São Pedro de Moel, 135km (84 miles) north of Lisbon. It has a 63-room resort hotel, Hotel Mar e Sol, Av. da Liberdade 1 (tel. 24/459-00-00; www.hotelmaresol.com), where you can take a room or a meal. Rooms range from 70€ to 95€ for a double, including breakfast. The chefs here serve an excellent regional cuisine for lunch and dinner, focused mainly on locally caught fish. Main courses cost 8€ to 20€.
Another place worth seeking out is the town of Peniche, 92km (57 miles) north of Lisbon. This fishing port stands high on a peninsula, with wide, sandy beaches at the foot of rocky cliffs. It doesn't always have the cleanest water (compared to other uncrowded, remote places), but it is nevertheless a family favorite. When you tire of the beach, you can explore Cabo Carvoeiro on the peninsula, about 4.8km (3 miles) east of Peniche. It offers panoramic views of the surf smashing against the rock formations hundreds of feet below the road. Or, you can go to the large water-park complex, Sportágua, Avenida Monsenhor Bastos (tel. 26/278-91-25; www.sportagua.com), which has water slides and swimming pools for adults and separate ones for children, plus snack bars and dining places. Admission is 11€ for adults, 9€ for children 6 to 10, and free for children under 5. Hours are daily 10am to 7pm from mid-July to mid-September.
Many of the area's most popular beaches, those with the most facilities, are frequented for their sands, not for swimming. (They might not have blue flags, depending on conditions, when you visit.) These include Milfontes, Foz do Arelho, and Nazaré. Other less frequented but good beaches are at Pedrógão, Baleal, Consolação, Porto Covo, Porto Dinheiro, and Santa Cruz. All are signposted from the highway.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.