The Algarve has always been somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for its stunning beach locations, but I was unaware that island beaches existed there until I stayed in Tavira in June 2022. Once I found out I just had to visit one! Ihla de Tavira, or Tavira Island, was my local one and it was an experience I’d recommend everyone do. Beach days are great, but getting to have one on a tiny island off the coast of Portugal? Even better!
The Boat Trip
As Tavira Island is, well, an island, a boat trip is required to get there. These run hourly from the town of Tavira and don’t take much time at all. You can also catch a ferry from Quatro Águas, around 2km south of Tavira. It’s a lovely way to see more of the beautiful scenery in the area, some of which is difficult to get to otherwise. It’s also a nice way to cool down in the intense Portuguese heat!
The trip didn’t take that long at all (around 20 minutes) but offered stunning views of various coastal scenes and islets. It was also a nice way to meet other visitors – we got chatting to a lovely Canadian couple opposite us who were just as passionate about travel as us. Despite the extra effort of taking a boat, the process felt simple and I quite liked experiencing such a different way of visiting a beach.
The Beach Experience
There are actually four beach sections on Tavira Island – the whole stretch is 11km long! We decided to visit the closest beach, Praia de Ihla de Tavira, which is just a short walk from the ferry dock. The soft, white sand contrasted beautiful with the blue sky in the summer heat and, because it is less accessible than your standard beach, was not crowded at all. As you reach the beach you will spot loads of sunbeds and parasols, and these can be rented. Instead we chose to sit on the sand further up, and this was lovely.
We spent most of our time sunbathing – we’d been super busy in Tavira so it was much needed! We both just had to swim in the crystal clear waters as well, which were so warm and calm. The beach has blue flag status and we spotted a good amount of lifeguards about so felt safe. It was a much more placid experience than other beaches I have visited In Europe… Perhaps overly so, as I was very close to falling asleep!
Things To See & Do
Tavira Island is quite rural so there’s not loads to do, however it does make for a nice place to explore. Once you’ve left the dock area you’ll walk through a lovely woodland area. There are a few small features to look out for, such as a peaceful park with picnic tables and a place to buy locally made jewellery. There were info boards dotted around that focused on the wildlife and sustainability of the island. I also came across this wire fish used to collect plastics, which I liked.
If you’re into water-based activities then you can hire equipment from these at the main kiosk. Kayaks, paddle boards, and other things are available, so plenty to keep you entertained if you’re not so into sunbathing!
Food & Drink
There are a range of different restaurants and cafés available on the walk up to the first beach. We didn’t try any of these as I suspected there would not be any vegan options (and I was right). Instead took our own food after having a filling breakfast in Tavira. This worked perfectly – it wasn’t particularly arduous to get to the beach so snacks and water did the job. If you plan to stay longer on the beach then it would be worth checking the food places out, which offered tasty looking Portuguese cuisine such as freshly caught fish. There were also places to get smaller bites to eat such as ice cream and pastries. The picnic tables are a great location for food so worth looking for one if you can!
What You Need To Know
As you need to catch a ferry to get to Tavira Island, it’s important to be aware of the timings. These are located at each boarding dock and can also be found here. The ferry from Tavira costed us €2 each, which isn’t pricey at all. One thing to be aware of is that the Tavira ferry only runs in the summer – if you want to go out of season then it’s better to use the Quatro Águas ferry, which runs all year round. This one is also better if you have a hire car due to plentiful parking spaces.
As with many European places, Portugal are fairly lax around swim wear and the topless sunbathing is allowed here. If you’re looking for a full nudist beach then you’ll want to walk down to Praia do Homem Nu, which is more remote.
It’s also important to note that there is a real lack of shade on the island. Parasols are a good option, which you can rent from a nearby kiosk. If you don’t want to do this then I strongly recommend taking sun hats and glasses along with something to cover your skin with. And, of course, plenty of water! It’s not so noticeable on the island but the Portuguese sun is a beast and sunburn is never that far away if you’re not being careful.
I’m glad that we decided to visit Tavira Island as a snap decision – it was such a different beach experience and well worth the effort. Tavira is lovely but there aren’t really many beach locations accessible by foot. If you’re in the area then I’d urge you to give the ferry and the island a go. It’s the perfect trip for the relaxation part of your itinerary, and submerging yourself in those azure waters is such blissful respite from the humidity in the town.
Have you been to an island beach like Tavira Island before? Share your experiences in the comments, and don’t forget to like and pin! You can read about some of my other favourite beach experiences here: