15 Spectacular beaches

The beaches of Cascais North/Sintra (listed below, in order from south to north) are all beautiful. Rather than run out of superlatives, I'll discuss why each beach is popular in its own special way.

Despite their different characteristics, these beaches all enjoy one common feature: they face the cold Atlantic Ocean, with its strong rip tides and, more often than not, big surf.

Check the tide before going, as high tide may mean that there will be no beach to walk along.

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Praia da Cresmina - For easy access, parking and on the cycle path/bus route from Cascais; closest to Cascais; family-orientated with facilities, restaurants and lifeguards.

Tips: There's a cycle path from Cascais where bikes can be rented. Also, there is an impressive 2km boardwalk over the dunes that starts at Cresmina.

Praia do Guincho - for surfing, cycling; hanging out with the cool kids and Erasmus students; beach bar overlooking the beach plus hotels and restuarants with one of the country's iconic swimming pools; many good coastal walks heading toward Malveira.

Tips: Parking at Abano beach has more spaces and is often easier.

Praia do Abano - For surf schools; looking cool at the beach bar on the Guincho side; restaurants; crystal clear water.

Tip: Probably the best beach for collecting driftwood.

Praia da Grota - For peace and quiet: few people know about it; great walking with many trails.

Tip: There is a raised fossilized beach on the trails heading towards the hills.

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Praia da Ursa - For naturism; within walking distance from Cabo da Roca; good parking and on bus routes; a challenging steep walk; stunning sea stacks and cliffs.

Tip: Access to the beach usually depends on the tides. Go when tide is on the drop.

Praia da Adraga - For seafood; cliffs and plenty of beach; caves; lifeguards in high season and easy access to beach.

Tips: Both cliffs hold secrets. A steep walk up the southern cliff takes you to an impressive blowhole. Following the steep sand trail to north takes you to a peaceful shaded pine forest.

Praia Grande - For big surf; stunning cliffs; bars and restaurants, hotels and good access.

Tip: The steps at the south end of the beach have been rebuilt and there's now a platform to view dinosaur footsteps.

Praia Pequena - For a chilled-out vibe; no lifeguards or facilities; dog walking and body boarding.

Tips: At the northern tip there is an excellent example of a fossilized coral reef. Also, a short cliff walk to the north takes you to Praia das Macas - avoiding the crowds.

Praia das Macas - For a proper seaside town; swimming pool and sporting facilities; lots of cafes and restaurants to choose.

Tip: At the south side of the beach is the Colares river, which offers a nice alternative for children to paddle in as the sea is often rough.

Praia das Azenhas do Mar - For stunning views; a high-quality seafood restaurant and a natural swimming pool.

Tips: There is a pleasant garden for picnics near the watermill below the carpark. The swimming pool exists at low tide.

Praia da Aguda - For miles and miles of beach; dog walking; extreme fishing. Only for the brave: access is via a precarious wooden platform!

Tip: There's a fantastic viewing platform above the beach popular for seeing the sunset.

Praia do Mogoito - For beautiful and unusual cliffs; fossilized dunes and golden sands; long walks; bird watching.

Tip: To the north of the miltary observation point there's a narrow passage down to a rock platform.

Praia da Samarra - To avoid most winds; for seclusion, fishing, archaeolgy, cliff walks, bird watching, dog walking.

Tips: A Roman road and bridge is nearby in a village called Catribana. On top of the northern cliffs there are remains of a prehistoric village. The southern side of cliff is a geologists dream - with a stunning basalt formation at casal de pianos.

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