The best independent guide to Lisbon
The best independent guide to Lisbon
The Praia Grande is a glorious sandy beach on the Serra de Sintra coastline.
The beach faces the might of the Atlantic Ocean, with its huge waves and powerful swells, and this makes the Praia Grande one of the finest surfing beaches of the region.
As the name Praia Grande (Big Beach) suggests, this is the largest beach of the Sintra coastline, and has a sandy shoreline of over 850m.
The Praia Grand is a popular surfing destination and equipment can be hired from the beach
The beach is popular with the Portuguese during the summer months, but the size of it means that there is always plenty of space. The main limiting factor is the number of car parking spaces close to the beachfront.
At the northern end of the Praia Grande is Europe's largest saltwater swimming pool (part of the Hotel Arribas complex), and this is ideal for children if the waves are too intense. The southern end of the beach is dominated by towering cliffs, and in one of the exposed rockfaces are a set of dinosaur footprints. There is also a pleasant coastal footpath northwards, which leads to the pretty seaside town of Praia das Maçãs.
The Praia Grande is a wonderful destination for your beach day, and should be one of your first choices for a beach if you are based in the Sintra region.
Related articles: Praia das Maçãs – Sintra guide
The Praia Grande is a large sandy beach, which is suitable for children and popular with Portuguese families. During the summer, the beach is supervised by lifeguards, but there are strong currents, and the waves can be very powerful.
These large waves make Praia Grande an amazing location for surfing. The surf is always constantly good, with full exposure to huge Atlantic rollers that break on the shallow inclined sandy beach. Boards and wetsuits can be rented at the beach for €40/60 (half day/full day) from Soulspot or Sure At.
For a more relaxing option there is the huge saltwater swimming pool at the Hotel Arribas. A day pass costs €11.00/€5.00 (weekday adult/child) or €14.00/€6.50 (weekend adult/child).
There is a lot of car parking close to the beach, either along the beachfront or the two car parks at the top of the cliffs, but during the summer this fills up very quickly. If you arrive later in the day it's best to just try the clifftop car parks than get stuck in the permeant traffic jam along the beachfront. If there are no car parking spaces, consider visiting the Praia das Maçãs, an equally beautiful beach.
On the northern side of the Arribas hotel is the Praia Pequena (the small beach), this beach has a much more wild and natural appearance and is always quieter than Praia Grande.
Insight: The two beaches lie within the village of Rodízio, and were historically known as the Praia Grande do Rodízio and Praia Pequena do Rodízio (the big beach of Rodízio and the small beach of Rodízio), but as the popularity of the Praia Grande do Rodízio grew, it just became Praia Grande.
The beachfront of Praia Grande has many good bars and restaurants. At the end of your beach day, do stay for a meal and watch the spectacular sunset over the ocean.
Bar do Fundo is a highly recommended restaurant at the southern end of the beach, while the Bar Varanda has stunning clifftop views for an evening drink. For a lunchtime meal, Crôa near the cliff top car parks offers good food at reasonable prices.
The western Sintra coastline can have very localised and changeable weather, due to the Sintra hills and moister laden winds which blow in from the Atlantic Ocean. There can be very localised sea mist or cloud cover over the Praia Grande region, even when there is full sun in Lisbon or Cascais.
Before heading to the Praia Grande for a beach day trip, always check the beach webcam (hosted by Meo mobile phone company) to check that the weather is good: Praia Grande webcam
The Praia Grande is also exposed to the strong sea breezes that blow in from the sea. If it is a blustery day, head to the more sheltered beaches around Cascais and Estoril.
Praia Grande is 12km to the west of Sintra, 20km north of Cascais and 46km from Lisbon. Generally, most visitors on holiday in the Sintra region have a rental car, but there are regular bus services between Sintra and Praia Grande.
There are two bus service which departs from Sintra train station and head to Praia Grande, the 439 and 441 routes. The bus journey takes 25 minutes, and a single ticket costs €3.25. During the summer there are frequent departures, the latest timetable can be seen on the Scotturb bus website: scotturb.com
The alternative to the bus is to catch the Sintra tram, which connects Sintra to Praia das Macas (the next beach north from Praia Grande). The tram dates from the 1930s, and slowly trundles down from the hills of Sintra to the beaches.
The tram from Sintra to Praia das Maçãs
If you drive to the beach, it is advisable to get there as early in the day as possible, as the car parks do fill up during the summer season. This is especially true at the weekends when Portuguese families head to the beach.
In the sheer cliffs at the southern end of the beach are a set of Dinosaur footprints. The footprints date from the Cretaceous period, and there are 66 separate different tracks of varying sizes. The majority of the footprints (51 prints) follow the same pathways, which, due to geological movements, appear to be heading vertical up the cliff face. The footprints come from just two sets of dinosaurs, Megalosaurus and Iguanodons.
Although the dinosaur footprints in the cliffs have been exposed for many centuries, they were only identified as 110 million-year-old footprints by a pair of local students in 1981.
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