Snuggled on the coastline between Faro and the upmarket Vilamoura is the small town of Quarteira. Originally a fishing village, it rose to prominence as a holiday resort in the 1970s and 1980s. Unfortunately, today its reputation has dwindled. Behind its scenic beaches and lively promenade are the remains of its 1970s mass development in the shape of large apartment blocks and high-rise hotels. It’s certainly not the prettiest or the most glamorous of resorts. However, if you can look past this, Quarteira has some exceptional beaches, privileged access to the rest of the Algarve, and usually lower prices compared to some more upmarket resorts. You’ll find some delightful restaurants, and a working town with a lively market too. If you need your dose of pristine tourism, then nearby Vilamoura is within easy reach. Its yacht filled harbor, manicured golf courses and high-end bars and restaurants all within easy reach.
How to get to Quarteira?
Quarteira is very conveniently located, just 20km from Faro and the Algarve’s international airport. It’s a short drive that should take around 20 minutes and there’s no need to take the toll road either. If you’re not planning on hiring your own vehicle an array of taxis and private hire vehicles are available. A taxi will cost around €30, but a prebooked transfer service from the airport will be cheaper and around €25 if booked in advance. Alternatively, a ride sharing app like Uber will cost around €20.
There is also a regular bus service to and from Quarteira from Faro city centre, you’ll need to transfer to the city centre from the airport first. Buses depart regularly between 06.30 and 17.30 and cost €4.30 for each way. On weekends and public holidays the buses are much more infrequent so you should check the EVA website before arrival! There is no train station in Quarteira and the nearest is actually Loulé, which is actually about halfway between Loulé and Quarteira.
What to see and do in Quarteira?
During the peak season Quarteira is a bustling town, filled with all the facilities of a lively holiday resort. This includes a wide selection of restaurants, numerous bars and a varied range of holiday activities. According to some, it was originally a fishing village, but the remains of this fishing village are long gone. It’s for this reason, Quarteira has a questionable reputation among the locals and more recent visitors. It lacks the traditional culture and history of many nearby towns and isn’t as pristine as some of the nearby resorts. That said, there’s still plenty to see and do!
Quarteira’s Promenade (Avenida Infante de Sagres)
Avenida Infante de Sagres is the idyllic palm tree lined promenade that stretches almost the length of Quarteira and its beach. Just walking along its length will get you firmly into a holiday mood! It’s a popular spot for walkers, cyclists and the more active, it even has a variety of outdoor gyms along the way. For the more leisurely people, there is a huge range of cafés, pastelarias, and bars. During the evenings, a busy pedestrianised section at the eastern end hums with activity and a variety of restaurants and bars have outside seating. You’ll find all the typical shops for a day at the beach too.
Quarteira Market (Mercado do Peixa and Mercado da Fruta)
At the western end of the promenade, you’ll find the first evidence of the actual working town within the resort. In front of Quarteira’s harbour are the twin fish (Peixa) and fruits and vegetables (Fruta) markets. They’re lively buildings where you can get a variety of fresh products and of course the freshest fish possible. The twin blue buildings are decorated with a selection of painted tiles. If you’re not interested in fresh goods, then its still a good opportunity to witness some busy local activity. At this end of the town you’ll find less touristy cafés and more Portuguese style restaurants and bars.
Quarteira Harbour and Farol de Quarteira Molhe Este
Behind the market building is the first of Quarteira’s many stone breakwaters. This one marks one side of the busy harbour entrance. Although it’s definitely not for everyone, we enjoy the short walk and looking into the harbour at the boats! On the opposite side you have Farolim de Quarteira Molhe Oeste, which marks the other side of the harbour. If you do walk around to this side you’ll be rewarded with the Alminhas da Nossa Senhora da Conceição. It’s a small shrine dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Mary. She’s the patron saint of Portugal and wears the traditional white and blue tunic you’ll see in lots of places in Portugal. Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is also the patron saint of fisherman, which is why you’ll see representations and dedications to her in many of Portugal’s fishing towns and villages. It’s a unique window into the traditional Portuguese fishing industry.
Quarteira’s Beaches – The Best Beaches in Quarteira
Praia de Quarteira
Praia de Quarteira is the main beach of Quateira and stretches for almost 2km alongside the town. At the western end, the beach meets Quarteira’s harbour. In the east, it gets much less hectic and blends into Praia do Almargem. Quarteira’s lively promenade (Av. Infante de Sagres) stretches along the entirety of the beach so you are never far from any facilities you might need. There are more bars, cafés and restaurants than you can count. Confusingly, the beach is broken up into smaller sections by rock groynes or breakwaters. With each section of ‘beach’ having a different name, this can be confusing if talking to locals, as you’ll hear multiple names for the same stretch of sand. From West to East, the different sections are named: Praia da Rosa Branca, Praia do Vidal, Praia do Guilherme, and Praia da Gaivota, but they’re all essentially the same beach.
The golden sand on Praia de Quarteira is soft, clean and unspoiled. The sea water is cool, clear and transparent. The beach is routinely awarded Blue Flag status which means it has a great reputation for cleanliness, access and safety. The beach is gently sloping, and the regular breakwaters provide protection from waves, so it’s usually a calm place to swim and safe for children and young swimmers. During the summer, multiple sections of the beach are lifeguarded too. However, due to all of its positives, Praia de Quarteira is a very popular beach for both locals and tourists. In some parts it can get exceptionally busy. Luckily, due to its large size you should be able to walk and find space in either direction. For a more ‘exclusive’ beach have a look at Praia de Vilamoura, or for a more rustic experience have a look at Praia do Almergem.
Praia de Quarteira Facilities
As with any popular resort beach you’ll find everything you could need. There are multiple places for sun lounger and parasol rental. You’ll even find multiple shops along the promenade selling everything you might need, parasols, toys and games, and sun cream if you forgot your own! There is ample parking within Quarteira, and there are multiple points for disabled and wheel chair access to the beach. One thing to remember is that some areas of the beach are reserved for rented sunbeds and loungers so you will be moved on if you’re not renting one. There are plenty of spaces on the rest of the beach where you are free to put your towel down though.
Praia de Vilamoura
Praia de Vilamoura sometimes also called Praia da Marina is a stretch of sand between Quateira’s harbour in the east and Vilamoura’s marina in the west. Access is only through Vilamoura which gives it an exclusive and upmarket feel. It’s the main beach for Vilamoura and is very popular with a very lively atmosphere. The beach is another in the area that is routinely awarded Blue Flag status. It is well maintained, with lifeguards and all the beach facilities you could want. It’s also backed by multiple beach bars, restaurants and upmarket hotels. However, if you’re looking for something a little more relaxed, then Praia de Quarteira or Praia de Almargem is probably a better fit for you.
Praia do Almargem
Located at the far eastern end of Quarteira is our favourite beach of the three beaches within walking distance of Quarteira. Praia do Almargem is an almost unspoiled beach backed with the typical red cliffs and rocks of the Algarve. It’s a haven of tranquillity compared to the more lively Praia de Quateira and Praia de Vilamoura. It’s only a short walk, around 1.5km from the centre of Quarteira but for many people its too far, and this means its often very quiet. You also won’t find any facilities, beach rentals or lifeguards here. It results in a popular beach for couples and picnickers who want a break from the family focussed and commercial beaches nearby. Access is by walking or taking the small dirt road from the eastern end of Quarteira. A single track road leads to a small space for an unorganised car park.
Excursions and Daytrips from Quarteira
With its privileged location, Quarteira has some great access to other locations in the Algarve that are great for day trips and adventures.
On the outskirts of Quartieira is one of the Algarve’s largest water parks Aquashow. It’s a fully featured waterpark with water roller coasters, multiple slides and flumes, wave pools and some family friendly animal shows. Unfortunately, because of the 2020 Corona outbreak, the waterpark is closed for the remainder of 2020. The hotel is open for stays though.
Coastal Excursions in the Algarve
In nearby Vilamoura marina you’ll find multiple tour operators offering boat trips along the coast. Some of the most popular are dolphin watching, or cave exploration trips to nearby Benagil. You’ll also find deep sea fishing trips, wildlife watching trips to the Ria Formosa, and luxury catamaran tours. These can be a great way to really experience more of the Algarve!
Loulé and Faro
Within easy reach of Quarteira, you have the historic town of Loulé. It’s about a 20-minute bus ride from Quarteira. Loulé is a much more historic town with a different pace of life and makes a nice cultural change from Quarteira. With it’s lively market at its centre its a more traditional town with a distinctly Portuguese feel. Nearby you also have Faro, the regions capital which is a bigger city with a wide selection of cultural activities. Within its walled old town, you’ll find a cathedral and museums, and nearby the famous Igreja de Carmo and its chapel of bones. There’s also lots of shopping and a lively local bar and restaurant scene. Find out more in our guide to Faro.
Should you visit Quarteira, Portugal?
Quarteira is a popular destination and a great place to visit. It’s beaches and waters are exceptional. Paired with a short transfer from the Algarve’s main airport in Faro it’s a good destination with access to the rest of the Algarve! Although it might not have the history, or the prestige of nearby towns and resorts, it’s still a good place to base yourself in the Algarve!