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Looking for a place to stay in the Algarve? Check out Carvoeiro, our favorite small town.
When you are looking for a place to stay in the Algarve, Portugal’s sunny southern coast, you have many options, from Faro and Albufeira in the east, to Lagos and Portimão in the west, and all points in between. We suggest the town of Carvoeiro. It’s about a 50-minute drive from Faro Airport via the fast and modern A22 freeway. Here’s why we love Carvoeiro and have chosen it as our base in the western Algarve.
It’s Small and Quiet
If you’re looking for high energy and vibrant nightlife, this is not the place. Carvoeiro is a small fishing village located in the municipality of Lagoa. There are only 3,000 residents, but the population swells with expats and visitors staying in condos and villas. There are some hotels as well, but no high-rises like in Albufeira. It’s quiet and slow. In fact, the other day we saw something we had never seen here. We heard it first, while we were walking down the hill toward town – a tinny metal cacophony in the distance… then suddenly, dozens of goats and their goatherd emerged, coming up the main road from their day of grazing.
Carvoeiro is Beautiful
The rugged, rocky coastline with its caves, beaches and jutting rock formations is simply spectacular. Myriad picturesque whitewashed houses and villas rise above the town, offering stunning views from every angle. We love just walking around the hills, enjoying the gentle sea breeze, bougainvillea, orange trees and Moorish chimneys.
Carvoeiro is in the Western Algarve
It’s simply a matter of personal preference, but we always found ourselves gravitating to the western part of the Algarve. Carvoeiro is close to the larger city of Lagos, its gorgeous beaches, and its bespoke viewpoint of Ponta da Piedade. Carvoeiro has easy access to other towns like ancient Silves, the market town of Loulé, Monchique in the mountains, and Sagres at the westernmost point, as well as Portimão, the largest city in the western Algarve.
Carvoeiro Has Nice Supermarkets
Apolónia invested €9 million in their “biggest and most modern” supermarket in Lagoa in 2015, adjacent to Carvoeiro, and it’s super nice. We always stop there upon arrival, even before checking into our condo. In addition to a wide selection of groceries both local and tailored to an international shopper base, there is also beer, wine and prepared foods.
The ALDI supermarket opened in 2013. It is located right next to the Apolónia in Lagoa, making it easy to hit both at once if you can’t find everything at one. ALDI is a German discount grocery store so the prices here will be better than at Apolónia, but the selection is much smaller.
Of course there are other grocery stores scattered around town, like LIDL, Pingo Doce, SPAR and Auchan, plus smaller family-owned stores.
Carvoeiro Has Plenty of Good Restaurants
We love to eat, so we really needed to base in a place with lots of good culinary choices. Carvoeiro has many nice restaurants offering a wide selection of styles, from seafood to traditional Portuguese, to Japanese and Italian to Indian. Here are some of our favorites:
Opened in June 2023, Etxea is our new favorite restaurant in Carvoeiro. The name means both ‘house’ and ‘home’ in Basque and their dishes are a fusion of cuisines from the Iberian Peninsula. It was sublime. From tiger milk tuna ceviche and Iberian ham croquettes, to entrees like sauteed filet of ray with roasted red peppers, wagyu brisket, sole in a beurre blanc and Iberian pulled pork, to the creamy Basque cheesecake for dessert, everything was artistically plated and absolutely delicious.
★ Chef’s Kitchen
We’ve dined here a few times, and the array of world cuisines is creative and delicious. It’s a big restaurant with three levels, including a beautiful rooftop perfect for balmy evenings. I always start with their signature cocktail, which contains Aperol, orange and vodka with a sprig of mint.
★ Gaspacho & Migas
This restaurant is just sensational. Elevated and creative Portuguese cuisine from the Algarve and Alentejo regions created with local ingredients of the highest quality. Friendly service.
★ Le Crô
We had a great evening here, sitting outside on the patio on a nice evening. The owners are a married couple and they were very attentive. He has years of experience working in the wine industry, and her specialty was the desserts.
★ Villa Medici
Elegant and spacious restaurant with both indoor dining and dining al fresco on the terrace. They serve some of the best Italian food in Carvoeiro, with delicious pastas and pizzas. We also loved the burrata.
★ Black Salt
Upscale Portuguese cuisine located on a lively main square that often features live music. The owner Jonas is very friendly and welcoming, and the food is exceptional.
★ Jota Lita
A local family-run restaurant with great Portuguese food. They are extremely friendly, welcoming, and attentive, and provide personal service to their customers.
★ The Square By Raquel Marques
The Square offers elevated Portuguese cuisine – a great place for foodies. There is outside dining on the patio, plus air conditioning indoors when it’s too hot outside.
★ Baushi – Sushi & Bar
Fresh sushi and other Japanese specialties, plus free wi-fi in the heart of downtown. Their all-you-can-eat sushi is limited to salmon, tuna and white fish, but it is excellent quality.
★ Luisa’s Place
This popular place up in the hills offers really delicious salads, pizza and pasta with indoor and terrace seating and friendly service.
This place recently pivoted from Dutch to Thai food. However, one of the owners is Thai, and she knows what she’s doing. Everything we tried, including spring rolls, tom kha, yellow curry and pad thai, was super good.
Breakfast, Brunch and Lunch Restaurants
★ Organic by Tânia
Located on the main street in downtown Carvoeiro, this is a great place for delicious and healthy breakfast and brunch.
★ Earth Shop and Café
Also located in downtown Carvoeiro, this popular place offers really nice brunch and lunch options, fresh-squeezed orange juice plus excellent Illy coffees.
★ The Square By Raquel Marques
The Square just began offering breakfast and brunch in summer 2023 (in addition to dinner), with outside dining on the patio with a view of the square.
Fun Activities in Carvoeiro:
When in Carvoeiro – or anywhere in the Algarve for that matter – you will want to explore the caves along the coastline, some cavernous, some cathedral-like, all carved by the wind and sea around 20 million years ago. The most famous and spectacular is Benagil Cave, a cavernous formation with a hole in the roof, as well as a sandy beach. Exploration by kayak or paddleboard is no longer permitted, but not to worry. We highly recommend Carvoeiro Caves boat tour, which you can take right from the beach at Carvoeiro. They will show you Benagil, plus many other caves along this spectacular coastline, as well as secret beaches.
The Algar Seco is a beautiful segment of dramatic coastline with cliffs, caves, blowholes and rock formations you can explore. There is stairway access to the cliffs from the raised boardwalk that runs along the coast. The boardwalk is about a third of a mile long, and gives you stunning views of the Algar Seco. There is even a few small sections of bleacher seating where you can relax and watch the sunset on the Atlantic Ocean.
The Praia do Carvoeiro (pictured at top of page) is a beautiful white sand beach, surrounded on both sides by golden cliffs. It is very easily accessible from the downtown area, with facilities and restaurants right on the beach. Boat tours and kayak rental are also available here.
The Praia do Paraíso is close to Carvoeiro Beach but relatively hidden and unknown. It is smaller, more secluded and less crowded. You can access it via a steep staircase from Rua do Paraíso, just behind the restaurant Mar d’Fora, which also has nice panoramic views from their terrace. Be aware that during high tide the beach disappears, so be sure to go during low tide.
Carvoeiro Tennis and Padel Club
We love having access to this place. Whether you are a resident, or are just on vacation, they offer a fully-equipped gym and swimming pool. In addition, there are two studios with a variety of aerobics, dance, yoga and pilates classes. The real draw is tennis and padel (Portugal’s version of pickle ball); in addition to courts and clinics, they also host tournaments for both.
The weather in the Algarve is sunny and beautiful almost all year round – ideal for golf. There are three courses in the Carvoeiro area. Vale de Milho is a beautiful 9-hole course overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and designed by Dave Thomas. Pestana Golf & Resorts offers 6 courses in the Algarve, including Nick Price-designed Gramacho and Ronald Fream-designed Vale da Pinta in Carvoeiro.
Cycling is popular in Carvoeiro, where there are 135 cycle routes to explore. The routes you most commonly find here are of the hilly type, but the views are second to none.
Our Condo is in Carvoeiro
It just so happened that the condo we bought in the Algarve is in Carvoeiro. It’s located in the hills above town; you can stroll down into town in about 25 minutes. It’s a lovely walk past villas and restaurants, and it ensures that we get our steps every day.
Quinta do Algarvio Village is a gated community with a pool and 32 luxury townhouses. We use it when we want, and rent it when we’re not there. Our place is just inside the gate. While it’s not a massive villa with an expansive ocean view, it’s a two-story two bedroom flat with a patio. We have an olive tree in our “back yard” and are steps from the pool. From our upstairs bedroom, we can see a sliver of blue ocean. It’s well-appointed – in fact, we just discovered that it has a control for heated floors upstairs and down!
Three Favorite Excursions from Carvoeiro
Do we ever leave Carvoeiro? Sure – there is a lot to explore in the Algarve. Here are three things we do every time we come to Carvoeiro, and especially when we host friends or family:
Lagos has its own stunning coastline which can best be viewed from Ponta da Piedade. Magnificent golden limestone cliffs and rock formations jutting out of the sea are among Portugal’s most popular attractions. There are footpaths along the top of the cliffs, as well as a stairway that leads down to a picturesque cove. You can also explore these formations by boat or kayak.
Monchique and Fóia
Monchique is a small town in the foothills to the north, about a 45-minute drive from Carvoeiro. It’s a fun place to shop, explore and have lunch. You can also sample the local firewater, medronho, a Portuguese brandy made from the berries of the strawberry tree. Afterwards, take a drive up to Fóia, the summit of Portugal’s second highest mountain. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Algarve’s stunning coastline.
Silves is one of the oldest towns in Portugal and during Moorish times it was the capital of the Algarve. The fortifications of Silves Castle were built in 716; the citadel, later, in the 11th century. The castle is one of Portugal’s most important and beautiful examples of Islamic military architecture.
The cathedral was built in the 15th century, probably on the site of a former mosque. It is one of the most important Gothic buildings in the Algarve, but it also has Baroque elements. The medieval Bridge of Silves was also built in the 15th century, probably on the former site of a Roman bridge.
Silves is a lovely little town with narrow cobblestone streets and little shops, but the real attraction for us is piri-piri chicken at Churrasqueira Valdemar. It’s always the first place we head after picking up our rental car in Faro. This popular place has a simple menu of roasted piri-piri chicken with salad, bread and butter, cheese, olives, rice, and fries. All for 10 Euro including a drink (which can be beer and wine). Great value!
Carvoeiro: The Ideal Base in the Western Algarve
A small town atmosphere with plenty of great food, modern conveniences as well as easy access to lots of activities, Carvoeiro is the perfect place to base in the western Algarve. There are many accommodations to choose from, all close to stores, restaurants and activities. Although Carvoeiro has traditionally been very seasonal, this is changing as more northern Europeans are coming here in the winter for golf and other warm-weather activities.