- Getting from Lisbon to Portimao is pretty easy. Head over to the main bus terminal (going early is always good in case there's a lineup) and purchase tickets directly to Portimao. The fastest way to get from Lisbon to Portimao is the bus which takes 3h 15m and costs 13€ - 22€. Alternatively, you can train, which costs 20€ - 29€ and takes 4h 33m. You can also buy bus tickets in advance at the station or online (same price).
- There are plenty of accomodations in Portimao ranging from shared dorm hostel all the way to cheap but very nice hotels. There aren't a ton of "luxury" hotels here, and either doing Airbnb or staying in a midrange hotel is great. They're both cheap, and either way, you'll be getting a great deal. I would recommend The Jupiter Hotel if you're looking for something really nice, on the beach, and in the main area. Bonus that it's a very reasonable price!
- Just like for accomodation, food and shopping is pretty cheap in Portimao. Even car rentals are very reasonably priced if you're going that route.
- Public transit is ok. It will get you to some main areas for very cheap, and you could walk to certian places, but it's very worth it to rent a car if you can. All you need is a valid driver's license and insurance and you're good to go.
- If you're looking to get a sim card or portable internet, it's extremely cheap at Continente de Portimão, one of the malls in Portimao.
Mercado Municipal Market (Shopping)
This huge open market is well located and easy to get to, either by driving or by transit. Since there aren't a ton of tourists in Portimao anyway, you'll find even less here, and many more locals. Stop here to pick up some amazing Portuguese food - from fresh caught fish, to glossy tarts, to huge bundles of produce, artisan goods, cheeses, and so much more.
Fortaleza de Santa Catarina (Free)
Right above Praia da Rocha is this amazing fort, which was built around the 15th century. Its origins are stil debated, but it's very cool to walk around and check it out. The view of the marina from the top is just gorgeous during the day. The staircase to ascend is built right into the side of the cliffs overlooking the beach and the ocean - cool!
Praia da Rocha (Free)
One of Portugal's most famous beaches! Head back down from the Fort directly onto the beach. It's so beautiful here, and there's actually a lot to do. I would recommend taking some time here, and even extend it into the evening. Find a sunny spot on the main beach and don't forget your beach umbrella! Everyone has one here. You can swim, hang out in the sand, do some watersports, or even tackle the hilarious giant floating obstacle course.
Surfing at the Beach ($)
For a very minimal fee, you can rent a surfboard near the entrance to the beach. It's rented either hourly or daily, so you can choose how long to stick around for. No experience necessary, but if you're new or a beginner, they will give you a lightweight foam board to practice on. It's much safer and will pop back up if the swells get uncontrolable. If you're more well-versed in surfing, there's a range of more advanced boards to choose from.
Dinner and Drinks at NoSoloÁgua ($$)
This beach club is not only right on the beach, but it also serves up some good eats and a huge variety of drinks. There are a number of beach clubs along this area, but I do recommend this one by far. It's definitely the most fun, and also has the best food and the overall vibe is just more clean and safe. It is a bit more pricey than some of the others in the area, but it's worth it. There's also a pool if you want to lounge and have drinks served up to you.
You can easily spend the night here as well. Dancing on the sandy dancefloor under the stars and string lights, then walking only a couple feet over to the ocean. The backdrop here is the perfect way to end the night.
Igreja do Colégio (Free)
Dating to the 17th century, this is the most complete church in Portimão as it came through the 1755 earthquake mostly unscathed. It has an interesting origin story because it was funded by the merchant Diogo Gonçalves, who had made his fortune in the Far East.
His reward was to be buried in the church and you can still see his tomb today. After the Jesuits who founded the church were expelled in 1759 this church was lined up to become a cathedral for Portimão, but the plan was never carried out.
Miradouro dos Três Castelos( Free)
In English, it translated to Viewpoint of the Three Castles. This area is completely free and fairly easy to get to. It's on the other side of Praia da Rocha and has a gorgeous view of the ocean and the very classic "Algarve" style rocks and cliffs.
Avenida Tomás Cabreira (Shopping)
Head back over to the Praia da Rocha area to the Avenida Tomas Cabreira. The strip has a ton of interesting shops and places to stop. There are lots of places to pick up souvineers here, but you have to check out all the cork crafts. There's so much cork in this area! From bags, to shoes, to handy-crafts, furniture, and more, check out all the weird but cool cork things.
Dinner at La Bruschetta ($)
Seriously delicious food lives at this adorable beach cafe. This joint has a solid 5.0 star review - and for good reason! This is the perfect way to end your beach day off. Grab a bit (I recommend pizza and a salad) and a beer and sit on the sunny cobblestoned patio just outside. This area of town has some great charm to it.
Drinks in the Area ($-$$)
There are SO many little bars in this area. It's easy to spend the evening bar hopping from place to place, and then end up at the beach when you're on the way home. Depending on your vibe, you can find pub-style bars here, more "clubbing" type of places, chill places to sit and talk and watch the ocean at night, lots of open patios, and even an adorable tiki bar. It's also easy to get a taxi from this area - bonus for a night out.
Pasteis de Nata ($)
While in Portugal, you of course HAVE to try the local pasteis de nata. There are many cafes dotting the area where you can pick up some of these delicious delicacies. I would recommend popping into Pastelaria Arade for a few of these bad boys, as well as a delicious coffee. It's an unassuming little shop, so watch out for the blue letters so you don't miss it. Stock up on a few more sweets here if that's your thing - there are so many choices here, it's hard to go wrong!
Praia de Alvor (Free)
Another superb beach in the Algarve. This beach is generally only frequented by locals and tourists from around the general area, so it's rarely busy at all. It's also a huge beach, so there's a ton of space to spread out and still not even be close to the nearest person. There are a few little cafes around the area, but I would recommend bringing some drinks and snacks - and your beach umbrella of course.
Ponta da Piedade ($$)
Hire a boat or even a seado to take you over to this amazing little area. This well-known coastal rock formations with caves and grottos are often visited by boat tours. Either bring or rent some snorkeling equipment and you might be surprised at what you'll find! I saw many fish, sea anenomes, and even a very small octopus hiding in the water.
Dinner at Cinco Quinas ($$)
Back in the Praia de Alvor area, there's an adorable beachside restaurant that you can't leave Portimao without going to. The view, the FOOD, the drinks - everything here is great. What makes it really special is the staff! It's easy to have a long night here, eating and drinking, and then walking along the beach. It's easy to drive and park in this area, but if you need, the staff can call you a taxi as well.
Getting to Monchique
I think you can take the bus from the main bus terminal in Portimao here, but the best and easiest way to get to Monchique is to rent a car and drive. This was you can have all the flexibility you need t o stop along the way and relax. This could easily be either a day trip, or an overnight stay. I would recommend either, but if you do make the day trip, make sure you leave bright and early. The drive is about 30-40 min and you'll want to spend some time there.
Hike Up Mount Foia (Free)
This beautiful hike takes about an hour and offers stunning views of the countryside. This relaxing hike to the top through Eucaylptus and cork woods, stopping to drink from cold, clear, natural mountain springs is so nice. The water is (generally) safe to drink - just check with locals if you can beforehand. The views from the top are exceptional!
Villa Termal das Caldas de Monchique ($$$)
This is both a day spa, and a great place to stay overnight if you're doing the overnight route. Definitely get yourself a day pass and book a massage at the spa. The water in the spa comes right from the mountain at Monchique, and it's said to have minerals in it that make your skin skily smooth. I have to agree! There's also a pool here you can access with views of the mountain, and it makes for an amazing experience and a great photo opportunity.
Roadside Pottery (Shopping)
There's no website or real name to this adorable roadside pottery studio. On the way to or from Monchique, about halfway to the town is a little pottery shop on the side of the road. You'll see it as soon as you drive by - it's covered in pots and all kinds of bright crafts. If you pass it by accident, you can easily turn around, or make a note to swing by on the way back. There's a ton of parking. Prepare to be amazed with the wide variety of pottery and tiles here! The craftwork here is something else entirely.