Ilha da Armona is another of the Ria Formosa’s fantastic islands. Just a short trip through the waters of the lagoon and you’ll soon find a desert island paradise. Well, not quite deserted, despite nearly everyone calling these islands deserted you’ll still find everything you need to experience the island fully.
How to get to Ilha da Armona?
Access to the island is by boat only. The main connection is from Olhão. Small ferries operate the route every couple of hours on most days. Alternatively, you can hire a water taxi from either Olhão or Faro too. You can buy the tickets for the ferries at small offices at the dock in Olhão. Tickets on the ferry cost €1.85 each way. It’s a short ferry ride of around 20 minutes. If you’re arriving by one of the ferries, you need to make sure to check for the last sailing of the day. As it can be an expensive mistake to miss it. The water taxis are available but charge around €25-30 for the trip back to the mainland. Compared to the €1.85 ferry ticket it’s a little pricey.
Arriving on Armona Island
The ferry dock leads directly into the small streets of Ilha da Armona where you’ll find several, bars, cafés and small shops. Here you can find refreshments and your typical beach gear before heading to the beach. Technically, there are two official beaches on Ilha da Armona, Praia da Armona Ria and Praia da Armona Mar. Praia da Armona Ria faces the Ria Formosa and is right next to the ferry dock.
What to see and do on Ilha da Armona?
There really is only one thing to do on Armona and that is to relax! The island, and the other barrier islands in the Ria Formosa offer a pace of life that’s available nowhere else in the Algarve. You see, there are no cars and only a very few motorised vehicles. Most of the noise you’ll hear comes from the hum of ferries and other small boats. It also means everything arrives by ferry, deliveries, food, drinks, supplies, even building materials for the people attempting to refurbish their homes!
The best beach on Armona Island
With an incredible 9km of sand, you might be wondering the best place to set down your towel and enjoy a day on the beach! Ilha da Armona really has the choice of two beaches, we think Praia da Armona Mar is the most stunning beach as it faces the ocean. It’s a long stretch of white sand that stretches along the entire island. In fact, this stretch of beach becomes Praia da Fuseta at the other end of the island.
Praia da Armona Mar – How to get to Armona Island Beach
Access to this beach is directly through the small village, it’s roughly a straight line all the way to the beach front. You’ll walk past the idyllic beach houses before finding a boardwalk that takes you over the dunes and on to the beach. It’s about 1.5km in total and around a 20 minute walk. When you arrive you’ll see the clear blue waters, and a fantastic beach that stretches as far as the eye can see!
During the summer months, the beach is life guarded and you’ll find sun bed and parasol rental available too. You’ll also find public toilets and changing rooms. On this part of the island there is one small beach bar offering your typical lighter meals and a few fish dishes – Camaleão. For a bigger selection, you’ll have to head back into the village.
An important note. If you’re arriving during the daytime, we strongly recommend applying sun cream before you head to the beach. The walk is only 1.5km but in the harsh sun it’s more than enough time to get burned and there’s very little shade during the walk.
Praia da Armona Ria
Praia da Armona Ria faces the Ria Formosa and is right next to the ferry dock. It’s the smallest of the beaches and mingles with the ferry dock and lots of moored boats. It’s our least favourite of the two, and surprisingly it can be very busy. Due to it being lagoon side, the waters are much calmer and sometimes warmer, there are rarely waves so it is good for children and young families. It also has direct access to several bars, a restaurant, and a mini market. For us though, the reason to go to Armona is to experience the desert island and head to the Praia da Armona Mar!
The island stretches for around 9km and if you’re feeling adventurous you can head east along the beach as far as the eye can see. The eastern end of the Island is commonly referred to as Ilha da Fuseta, but it is not a separate island. At the Fuseta end of the island, you’ll find another ferry dock and ferries that travel between Fuseta and the island.
Refreshments and Restaurants in Armona
A3 Wine Bar. Just a short walk around the corner from the dock is A3 wine bar, our favourite restaurant on Armona. It’s a lovely place to try some local seafood and yhey even have dining tables on the beach!
Restaurante Santo António. Located towards the boardwalk as you head to the beach this is a great place to grab lunch on dinner! You’ll find an array of fresh grilled seafood
Restaurante Tolinhas. Restaurant Tolinhas is probably the very first restaurant you’ll see when you arrive. Directly on the beach it’s great for a drink or snack while you wait for your ferry!
Know before you go!
Something that’s come up a few times is the actions of tour operators and touts that run from both Portas do Mar in Faro and the dock in Olhão. There are multiple services, tours, and boat trips that offer to make the journey to Armona. It’s not an uncommon complaint to have people accidentally booking the wrong boat, or booking a tour instead of the simple ferry. The ferry to Ilha da Armona costs €1.85 each way. Several complaints on Tripadvisor also mention people being told the ferries aren’t running, or they’ve just missed it. So, they can wait 2 hours or take a water taxi or tour boat for €25. Simply check the published schedules, and check with the actual ferry office yourself first before booking a separate water taxi.
Somewhere to Stay on Ilha da Armona?
As a small island community, Armona has very little in the way of accommodation. There are no hotels, or large establishments, there is a small campsite that offers camping or bungalows for the adventurous though! It’s a much better idea to stay in in either Olhão or Faro. Both towns have a much wider array of options to suit all budgets.
Should you visit Ilha da Armona?
Yes! Ilha da Armona is a great day trip to experience a little slice of island life in the Algarve. In fact, any of the barrier islands like Culatra are worth a visit! Should you stay on them is another question though? To the average holiday maker, they might be a little remote, but they do offer a very unique experience. Even the simple ferry ride through Ria Formosa on the way to the island is a bit of an adventure and a chance to experience some of the unique aspects of the lagoon! Once you’re on the island you’ll find out it’s a hidden paradise and unlike anything else in the Algarve!
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