Praia do Carvalho & Boat Trip: This was the first beach we visited on the second day of our Portugal trip. Although it wasn’t the one we were intending on visiting that day. We had tried initially to go to Carvoeiro beach, as it had recently won the accolade of being one of Europe’s best beaches. Not realising just how busy the beaches got in high season and the significant lack of parking. It became apparent that with two young kids in tow and whole ton of stuff that it wasn’t a feasible option. The bay is beautiful though and a place we would like to visit if we ever return to the area.
Instead we decided to try Praia do Carvalho which is a short drive away. Again parking was an issue. There is a small carpark which takes around 15 cars. The rest are abandoned on the road. We had arrived around midday so were far too late to find parking close to the beach in the traditional sense. Inciedently we also caught a boat trip of the same beach and there was loads of parking at 9am in the morning. Refusing to be defeated we drop up into the residential area and ended up parking on the top of the hill near to an apartment block. This worked as there was a path that lead down the side of the apartments to the beach. With the kids it was probably a ten minute walk. As the descent is steep and stepped we left the buggy in the car. Kipper did manage to walk back up himself though so its doable with little ones.
The bay is beautiful and I was taken a back when we saw it for the first time. I had no idea that the coastline was so rugged and formed of sandstone cliffs. The sand on the beach is golden yellow and sticky! The grains are large so they do tend to stick to skin. Its also a beach you sink on if you know what I mean! Its worth checking the tides when you visit as we found that the tide comes in a reasonable way and eats up half the beach. Since its reasonably narrow anyway that did lead to many a holiday maker building sand barriers between their towels and the raging sea. It proved a good source of amusement if nothing else. For this reason it got quite crowed.
There is an area on the beach which is reserved for those willing to pay for loungers and sunshades. But the rest if free rein. As Portugal is predominately on the Atlantic coast the sea is cold and can be rough. Many of the older kids were body boarding which did look like great fun.
The sea got a little bit close for comfort, not before catching the family in front of us unawares. So we decided to head up to the bar which over looked the beach. They sold a variety of snacks type food – hamburgers, pizza, toasted sandwiches etc. Although service is slow the view more than made up for it. Just past the bar their is also some public toilets which is a huge bonus with kids!
We booked a boat trip off the beach from the company thats right on the (theres only now) to go around the caves. As well as the boat trips you can also book Kayak excursions, although we felt Kipper was a little young for this. When booking the lady suggested an early morning trip as the sea would be less choppy. So we booked the earliest 9am, I was a little nervous of taking him on a boat trip but she assured me that it would be fine that time of day. We all had life jackets.
You board the boat from the shore, but the back opens and the engine is raised so you don’t get very wet getting on. Its only a small speed boat taking a maximum of twelve. We were really lucky an the only people on the boat for our trip. Which meant we got to sit right at the front with perfect views of all the caves. The trip visits ten caves in total.
You get to see beaches which you wouldn’t be able to get to by foot. Some of which are totally immersed by the tide. Some of the caves were pretty tight, but our skipper was very skilled and manuovered us perfectly. I particularly liked the caves with holes in the roofs.
One which was a heart shape and called the heart cave was particular pretty. Although the most well know was Benagil Cave. You can actually reach this at low tide by swimming or paddle boarding around to it. The colours of the stone are beautiful and brought to life by the light from the hole in the top of the cave. The boat trip is finished by sailing along the coastline, before racing back to the beach we boarded from. Monkey particularly liked the trip back especially when another boat went past and we had to follow in its wake. Kipper was a little dubious of some of the darker caves, but seemed to like the concept of the boat ride and actually fell asleep on the way back to shore.
If you fancy taking a similar tour then you will need to book in advance especially in high season. Trips go on the hour every hour from 9am.
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