The Algarve for Families: 20+ Great Family-Friendly Things to Do

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Written by: | Last updated on August 22, 2023 | Est. Reading Time: 17 minutes
This article is available in: en_US

The Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, is a sun-soaked haven that’s been capturing the hearts of families for decades. With its golden beaches, charming towns, and a plethora of activities for all ages, it’s no wonder families from all over Europea and beyond flock here year after year. Whether you’re travelling with toddlers or teenagers, the Algarve promises a memorable getaway for everyone.

One of the joys of the Algarve is its ability to blend the traditional with the modern. Wander through historic towns with cobbled streets, indulge in authentic Portuguese cuisine, and then head to one of the many contemporary resorts or water parks that dot the coastline.

Cost-conscious parents will be pleased to know that the Algarve offers a range of options to suit all budgets. Whether you’re looking for luxury resorts or budget-friendly campsites, there’s something for every family. So, pack your bags, gather the kids, and get ready for an unforgettable Algarvian adventure!

Where to Stay

There are a lot of accommodation options on Booking.com and other accommodation sites, but it can help if you can narrow it down a little.

The central Algarve is undoubtedly the most popular spot for families. Its accessibility and abundance of attractions make it a favourite. However, the West and East Algarve, while slightly more remote, still hold their charm and are frequented by families seeking a quieter experience.

There are several family-friendly attractions, such as waterparks, on the Algarve, and you may want to stay somewhere that’s close to them. With the exception of Aquashow Park, all of these are situated in the Central Algarve.

You can even stay in a waterpark hotel.

The Best Towns for Families

Albufeira: As the largest town in the Algarve, Albufeira is a magnet for families. With its beautiful beaches and a plethora of dining and entertainment options, it’s a top choice. However, families might want to steer clear of “the strip“, known for its vibrant nightlife, to ensure a more family-oriented experience.

Carvoeiro: This picturesque town offers a laid-back atmosphere perfect for families. The beach at Carvoeiro is a gem, with golden sands and calm waters, making it ideal for young swimmers and sandcastle builders.

Lagos: While it’s renowned as a surfer’s paradise, Lagos is also a hit with families. The town provides easy access to the beach, and its charming streets are lined with cafes and shops that cater to both surfers and families alike.

Praia da Rocha: Bearing similarities to Albufeira in style, Praia da Rocha is a lively spot. While it does boast a number of active bars, the town remains family-friendly with its expansive beach and seafront promenade.

Alvor: For those seeking a quieter retreat, Alvor is the place to be. This tranquil town offers easy beach access, making it perfect for families who want to escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy the natural beauty of the Algarve.

Armação de Pêra: A seaside town that’s been a favourite among the Portuguese, Armação de Pêra is now gaining popularity with international visitors. Its expansive beach is a major draw, and the town’s local charm adds to its appeal.

Vilamoura: A touch more upmarket, Vilamoura offers a blend of luxury and family-friendly activities. With the Aquashow Park nearby and a marina filled with yachts and lined with restaurants, it’s a town that offers both relaxation and entertainment for families.

Praia da Luz: Nestled away from the bustling tourist spots, Praia da Luz is a tranquil haven for families. With its pristine beach and a selection of delightful restaurants, this town offers a low-key option for those looking to relax and soak in the Algarvian atmosphere.

The beauty of the Algarve is its versatility. Essentially, anywhere can serve as your base, especially if you have the convenience of a rented car. In the central Algarve, the majority of the beaches and family-centric attractions are a mere 20-minute drive away. For some families, it might be more strategic to opt for accommodation inland. Not only can this be more cost-effective, but it also offers a quieter, more authentic Portuguese experience. Then, with the freedom of a car, you can embark on daily excursions to the coast or popular attractions.

However, it’s worth noting that while towns like Tavira and Faro are rich in culture and history, they might not be the first choice for families prioritising beach access. These towns don’t have beaches directly within them. Instead, one would need to take a ferry to reach the sandy shores. While this can be an adventure in itself, for families with younger children, the convenience of a beach on the doorstep might be preferable.

In essence, the Algarve offers a mosaic of experiences, and with a bit of planning, families can tailor their holiday to perfectly fit their desires.

Should You Rent A Car?

It depends.

If you’re just coming to the Algarve to go to the beach, you probably won’t need a car. You can arrange a transfer from the airport to your accommodation with a company like Welcome Pickups and that’ll save you the hassle and cost of getting a car.

However, if you’re planning on exploring some of the Algarve, a car is definitely a good idea. Public transport varies, but generally isn’t amazing. You can use taxis and Ubers to get around, but there can sometimes be long waits to get a taxi, especially if you’re on a remote beach somewhere. Discovercars.com and RentalCars.com are two useful sites for comparing the cost of car rental.

Alternatively, read about getting around the Algarve without a car.

Family-Friendly Things to Do

Beaches

marinha beach

The Algarve is synonymous with its stunning beaches, offering golden sands and azure waters. For families, choosing a beach near a town can be a strategic decision. This ensures easy access to essential amenities like drinks, toilets, and that all-important extra sunscreen. The convenience of nearby cafes and shops means parents can relax while the kids play, making for a stress-free day by the sea.

Cave Tours

The Algarve’s coastline is dotted with mesmerising caves, waiting to be explored. These natural wonders are entertaining for all ages, with boat tours offering a unique perspective of the region’s geological beauty. The echoing chambers and dramatic rock formations make for an unforgettable experience, blending adventure with education.

Check out this cave tour (and dolphin watching experience!) on Get Your Guide.

Pirate Ship Tours

For a swashbuckling adventure, hop aboard one of the Algarve’s famous pirate ships. The Santa Bernarda is perhaps the most renowned, offering both half-day and full-day journeys from Portimao. Alternatively, families can set sail on the Leaozinho, departing from Albufeira, for a day filled with tales of pirates and treasure.

Check out this pirate ship tour!

Water Parks

Slide and Splash

The Algarve boasts several water parks, each offering a splash-tastic day out. From the thrilling slides of Aquashow Park and Slide & Splash to the diverse attractions of Aqualand Algarve, there’s something for everyone. While each park has its unique features, Aquashow Park and Slide & Splash are often cited as favourites due to their range of rides catering to all age groups.

Slide & Splash

  • Location: Lagoa, near Portimão, Praia da Rocha, Ferragudo, and Carvoeiro.
  • Features: The biggest water park in Portugal and one of the largest in Europe.
  • Rides: State-of-the-art slides, water chutes, and pools. Notable rides include the Tornado, Kamikaze, Big Wave, and the Black Hole.
  • Additional Attractions: Animal shows featuring falcons, reptiles, and tropical birds.
  • Facilities: Multiple restaurants, sun lounger and parasol rentals, free parking.
  • Season: Open from early April to early November.
  • Tickets: Get Your Guide

Aquashow

  • Location: Between Quarteira and Loulé, west of Faro.
  • Features: A blend of theme park and zoo, managed by the Aquashow Park Hotel.
  • Rides: Numerous slides, chutes, a water roller coaster, paddling and swimming pools. Notable additions include the Twin Space Shuttle and the White Fall.
  • Additional Attractions: Animal shows featuring sea lions, parrots, reptiles, and birds of prey. Also offers amusement park rides and a mini train.
  • Facilities: Several restaurants.
  • Season: Open from May to the end of September.
  • Tickets: Get Your Guide

Aqualand Algarve

  • Location: 15 km from Albufeira in Alcantarilha.
  • Features: Part of the Aspro Parks organization with attractions across Europe.
  • Rides: A variety of large water slides and pools. Highlights include the 36m Kamikaze, the highest slide in Portugal.
  • Facilities: Free car parking, free bus services from various towns in the Algarve.
  • Season: Open from May to September.
  • Tickets: Get Your Guide

Zoomarine

Located in Guia, just a short drive northwest from the bustling resort of Albufeira, Zoomarine stands out as one of the Algarve’s premier family attractions. This multifaceted venue is part theme park, part aquarium, and part zoo.

Its star attraction is the awe-inspiring dolphin show, which captivates audiences of all ages. However, Zoomarine offers much more than just marine life. Visitors can also enjoy sea lion performances, explore the habitats of sharks, and be entertained by bird shows.

For those looking for a splash, the park boasts swimming pools, water slides, a beach, and a wave pool. Additionally, there’s a 4D cinema and an aquarium, ensuring a diverse range of activities for the whole family.

Get your tickets on GetYourGuide

Dolphin and Whale Tours

Witnessing the majestic dance of dolphins and whales is a highlight for many visiting the Algarve. Albufeira is a popular starting point for these tours, but several other locations along the coast also offer this magical experience. These tours not only provide an opportunity to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat but also educate visitors about marine conservation.

Check out this whale and dolphin watching tour on Viator

Lagos Zoo

A visit to Lagos Zoo promises a day filled with wonder and learning. Home to over 140 animal species, the zoo showcases a diverse range of wildlife, from exotic birds to curious primates. Younger children will particularly enjoy the petting zoo, where they can get up close with friendly goats, donkeys, rabbits, and guinea pigs. With a strong emphasis on conservation, Lagos Zoo offers numerous opportunities for children to learn about the animals and the vital conservation efforts in place. The zoo is designed with accessibility in mind, making it easy for families with pushchairs and wheelchairs to explore. Regular keeper talks and feeding times add an educational touch to the visit, ensuring both fun and learning are on the agenda.

Get your tickets on Get Your Guide

Krazyworld

If you’re looking for a day packed with diverse activities, Krazyworld is the place to be. Located just 20 minutes from Albufeira, this attraction is a delightful blend of a zoo, petting farm, and an amusement park. Families can interact with a myriad of animals, from stroking dwarf goats, llamas, and deer in the petting zoo to taking memorable photos with the lemurs. For the brave-hearted, there’s an opportunity to feed the resident crocodile (safely, of course) and even meet one of Europe’s largest snakes.

Once you’ve had your fill of animal encounters, it’s time to dive into the pool, whizz down the waterslides, or bounce on the inflatables. Or if you’re in the mood for some friendly competition, challenge your family to a game of minigolf or paintball.

Get tickets on Get Your Guide

Sand City Lagoa

Fiesa Sand Sculptures

This unique attraction showcases the incredible talent of sand sculptors. With intricate designs and towering sculptures, Sand City Lagoa is a testament to the artistry that can be achieved with just sand and water. It’s a visual treat for families, offering both awe-inspiring art and a chance to learn about various themes and stories through the medium of sand.

Historic Castles

Silves Castle

The Algarve is home to several historic castles, with Silves Castle being one of the most prominent. These ancient fortresses provide a glimpse into the region’s rich history, and their towering walls and panoramic views make them a hit with both kids and adults.

Mini Golf Courses

ProPuttingGarden

Mini golf is a favourite family activity in the Algarve. Whether you’re in Albufeira, Lagos, Alvor, Vilamoura, or Quinta do Lago Mini Golf, there’s a course waiting to challenge your putting skills. Each offers its unique layout and theme, ensuring a fresh experience every time.

Here are the main mini golf courses on the Algarve:

Horse Riding in the Algarve

Exploring the Algarve on horseback is a magical experience. With several stables offering guided rides, families can trot along the coastline, venture into the countryside, or even take lessons to improve their riding skills.

Horse riding schools in the Algarve include:

Local Markets

Silves Market

Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of the Algarve by visiting the local markets. These bustling hubs are perfect for picking up fresh produce, handmade crafts, and unique souvenirs. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to interact with locals and get a taste of the region’s authentic flavours.

Read more about markets on the Algarve

Off-road Jeep Tour

For families with older children seeking an adrenaline-packed adventure, off-road jeep tours are a must-try. These tours take you on a thrilling journey through the Algarve’s rugged terrains, exploring hidden valleys, traditional villages, and panoramic viewpoints. It’s not just about the ride; it’s also an opportunity to learn about the region’s history, flora, and fauna from knowledgeable guides. A combination of excitement and education, these tours promise a day filled with unforgettable memories.

Check out this off road jeep tour on Get Your Guide

Go-karting

Older children with a need for speed will undoubtedly enjoy go-karting in the Algarve. Several tracks in the region offer the thrill of racing, with karts designed for various skill levels. It’s a chance for families to engage in some friendly competition, racing against each other or trying to beat their personal best. Safe, exhilarating, and immensely fun, go-karting is a hit with teenagers and adults alike.

There are several go-karting tracks in the Algarve including:

There’s also Kartódromo Internacional do Algarve, however, this is more suited to adults.

Bowling

When the Algarve’s sunny weather takes a rare turn to rain, bowling is an excellent indoor activity for families. Bowling alleys in the region are equipped with modern lanes, ensuring a smooth gaming experience. Whether you’re a seasoned bowler aiming for a strike or a beginner just looking to have fun, bowling provides hours of entertainment. Plus, it’s a great way for families to bond and challenge each other in a friendly game.

There are two main bowling alleys in the Algarve: Hot Shot Bowling & Leisure Centre in Albufeira and the retro-themed Bowling Alvor in Alvor.

Parque Aventura

Adventure awaits at Parque Aventura, where families can tackle treetop obstacle courses, zip lines, and climbing challenges. Set amidst the Algarve’s forests just outside of Albufeira, this park offers varying difficulty levels, ensuring that both kids and adults can find a course that suits their abilities. Safety is paramount, with trained instructors and top-notch equipment ensuring everyone’s well-being. It’s an outdoor activity that combines physical challenge with the beauty of nature.

Learn to Surf

The Algarve’s coastline is perfect for older children keen to ride the waves. While some beaches boast larger swells for experienced surfers, places like Praia da Luz and Praia da Arrifana offer smaller waves, ideal for beginners. Several surf schools in the region provide lessons, ensuring that newcomers learn the basics in a safe environment. With the sun, sea, and surfboard, it’s an experience that encapsulates the essence of the Algarve.

Camera Obscura in Tavira

Located in Tavira’s historic water tower, the Camera Obscura offers a unique perspective of the town. Using a periscope, visitors can enjoy a 360-degree view of Tavira, watching the town’s daily life unfold in real-time. It’s an educational experience, blending science, history, and art. For families, it’s a chance to see Tavira from a vantage point like no other, making it a must-visit when in the area.

Get your tickets on Viator

Cinemas

For those occasional rainy days or when families just fancy a break from the sun, cinemas in the Algarve offer a perfect respite. Modern multiplexes can be found in popular shopping centres like Algarve Shopping and Mar Shopping. These cinemas often screen a mix of Portuguese films and international blockbusters, with many English-language films available in their original version with Portuguese subtitles. Comfortable seating, top-notch sound systems, and a selection of snacks make it a familiar and enjoyable experience for families.

The main cinemas in the Algarve are:

Centro Ciência Viva de Lagos

A world of discovery awaits at the Centro Ciência Viva de Lagos. This interactive science centre is designed to pique the curiosity of visitors of all ages. With a range of exhibits covering topics from marine biology to physics, children can engage in hands-on experiments, watch captivating demonstrations, and participate in workshops. The centre’s focus on the Algarve’s marine environment makes it particularly relevant and educational for those visiting the region. Whether it’s understanding the tides, exploring the underwater world, or learning about renewable energy, the Centro Ciência Viva offers a blend of fun and education, making science accessible and exciting for all.

SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding)

Stand Up Paddleboarding, commonly known as SUP, is a fantastic water activity that older children and adults alike can enjoy in the Algarve. Balancing on a board and paddling through the calm waters offers a unique perspective of the coastline, allowing participants to explore hidden coves, caves, and secluded beaches. It’s not only a fun activity but also a full-body workout, engaging core muscles and improving balance. With several rental shops and schools offering lessons, beginners can easily pick up the basics and venture out confidently on the Algarvian waters.

Kayaking

Kayaking is another exhilarating way to explore the Algarve’s stunning coastline. Older children will love paddling through the region’s sea caves, grottoes, and under natural arches, discovering spots that are often inaccessible by larger boats. Guided tours are available, providing insights into the area’s geology and marine life. Whether you’re kayaking in the open sea, exploring the Ria Formosa lagoon, or navigating the region’s rivers, it’s an adventure that combines nature, exercise, and exploration in one unforgettable package.

Food & Drink

Portuguese food may not be as famous as Spanish or Italian food, but it’s well-liked by those that come to visit. The food is simple, with a focus on grilled fish and meats. The Algarve, in particular, is famous for dishes like piri-piri chicken (frango assado) and cataplanas (stews, typically fish-based), among other local dishes.

If your children are adventurous eaters, there are lots of interesting options to choose from. If they’re less adventurous, grilled meats, which are typically served with chips (fries) are a popular choice. Piri-piri chicken (frango assado) as mentioned, is usually a safe bet and you can ask for it without the piri-piri if your children don’t like spicy food.

Cafes typically offer cakes, all of which are delicious (including the famous pastéis de nata or custard tarts) as well as ham or cheese sandwiches. Those that serve food will often serve snacks like hamburgers, bifanas (pork sandwiches) or pregos (steak sandwiches), and soup.

Of course, there are lots of international options on the Algarve too. Most towns on the coast will have at least one Italian restaurant, and you’ll find plenty of places serving burgers, Chinese food, and Indian food as well.

Written by

Born and raised in Leiria, Caterina has spent several years living in other parts of the world, including the UK and US. She now spends her time writing about living in Portugal, helping others start a new life overseas.