The best independent guide to Lisbon
The best independent guide to Lisbon
Praia das Maçãs is a charming town situated on one of the most beautiful beaches of the Sintra coastline.
The town sits on the mouth of the Colares river, and into this valley, a wide beach has formed, protected on both sides by rocky headlands. The pretty town perches on the cliffs to the north of the beach, and although small, has a distinctly Portuguese atmosphere, packed with cafes, restaurants and bars.
Praia das Maçãs has been long famed for its beach, and there is even a 100-year-old tram line that meanders up to the picturesque hill town of Sintra.
The beautiful beach of Praia das Maçãs
Not only does Praia das Maçãs have an outstanding beach, but there is a lot to discover within the western side of the Parque Natural de Sintra. There is the trendy surfing beach of Praia Grande, the pristine beach of Praia da Ursa, the pretty village of Azenhas do Mar and stunning hiking trails along the Cabo da Roca coastline.
The region has always been a favourite with the Portuguese but is barely known by foreign tourists. This is surprising considering the beauty of the beaches, the stunning scenery and the closeness to major tourist areas such as Lisbon, Cascais and Sintra.
For a holiday, Praia das Maçãs is a great destination if you enjoy low-key and authentic Portuguese, but want the convenience of being close to Lisbon.
This article will provide an introduction to Praia das Maçãs, either as a beach destination or for a day trip.
Insight: If you on holiday in Sintra, the Praia das Maçãs is your best option for a beach and can be reached via public transport.
The tram from Sintra to Praia das Maçãs
Praia das Maçãs is a great beach, with soft golden sands and clean seawaters. The beach fills the river valley and extends for almost 200m to the rear, providing plenty of space even in the summer. Flowing along the southern side of the beach is the Ribeira de Colares river (more stream), and the shallow waters (15cm) are a favourite with children to splash around in.
The Praia das Maçãs faces the powerful Atlantic Ocean, and the waves and currents can be strong. The waves are good enough for surfing, but most surfers head to the much larger Praia Grande. The beach is protected by lifeguards during the summer season and there are modern, clean facilities such as toilets and external showers
Praia das Maçãs is a good destination for a beach day trip
Advice: Praia das Maçãs has unique and very localised weather due to the Sintra hills and Atlantic winds. There can be very localised sea mist or cloud cover, even when there is full sun in Lisbon or Cascais. Before heading to the Praia das Maçãs for a beach day trip always check the Meo (Portuguese phone company) webcam to check that the weather is good:
Praia das Macas
To the north of Praia das Maçãs is a rugged coastline of cliffs and rocky headlands
The Praia das Maçãs rarely gets overly crowded but the Praia Pequena do Rodízio on the other side of the southern headland provides an even quieter beach. The Praia Pequena do Rodízio sits at the base of the cliff and can be reached by crossing the Colares river and following the coastal path.
The Praia Grande is the other main beach of the region, and is a 900m stretch of sands, that is popular for surfing. Found on the beach and surf rental shops and surf schools – If you want to go surfing this is the beach to head to.
Overlooking Praia Grande is one of the largest saltwater pools in Europe, with a length of 100m and containing two diving boards. The pool is part of the Arribas hotel, and entrance to the pool complex is €11.00/€5.00 (weekday adult/child) or €14.00/€6.50 (weekend adult/child).
Advice: There is never enough car parking at Praia Grande during the summer. If you want a hassle-free day at the beach, head to Praia das Maçãs.
The Praia Grande is great for surfing
Tourism escape: If you want a truly wild and remote beach to visit, along with challenging hiking trails, visit the Praia da Ursa. It is a rough dirt road to the car park and then a 1km hike through dramatic scenery and down steep cliffs to a stunning untouched beach.
A slightly more accessible beach but with an equally stunning setting is the Praia da Adraga, 2.6km south of Praia das Maçãs (but the countryside roads mean a 7km drive)
The stunning Praia da Ursa beach, difficult to get to, but worth it
From the Praia da Ursa there are cliff top paths to the Cabo da Roca
The Praia das Maçãs region makes for an enjoyable day trip from Lisbon, but you will need a car to get the most from it.
We would recommend beginning in Praia das Maçãs (to get a car parking spot!) and visit the Mercado Praia das Maçãs market.
After a coffee in a café, wander along the coastline south to Praia Grande, which passes the Praia Pequena do Rodízio beach. In the summer Praia Grande is always buzzing with surfers, surf schools and families.
Praia das Maçãs nestles between two rocky headlands of the Serra de Sintra hills
For lunch we would suggest one of the restaurants in Praia das Maçãs, both Búzio and Atlantiko on the main street sever outstanding dishes, and are highly recommended.
For the afternoon we would suggest visiting the beautiful Praia da Adraga beach and the scenic drive along the N247 road. This road winds around the steep hills of the Serra de Sintra and provides many wonderful views of the region.
The best of these viewpoints is at the Sanctuary of Peninha, a chapel and abandoned villa that sits atop one of the regions highest peaks.
The Sanctuary of Peninha viewpoint with Guincho beach in the far distance
At the end of the day, visit the Cabo da Roca headland, which is the most westerly point of mainland Europe. This is a magical location to watch the sunset.
The interactive map below shows the main sights of the Praia das Maçãs and for the day trip.
Sights of the region: 1) Azenhas do Mar 2) Praia das Maçãs 3) Rodízio beach 4) Praia Grande beach 5) Adraga beach 6) Ursa beach 7) Cabo da Roca 8) Capuchos convent 9) Peninha chapel and viewpoint 10) N247 road a scenic drive 11) Guincho beach
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The Convento dos Capuchos is a unique monastery complex that could be easily added to the day trip.
The monastery is set within dense forest and followed the Franciscan belief of austerity and harmony with nature. The main chapel is concealed between giant boulders, while the monk’s chambers were lined by cork to insulated from the harsh winters. This is a fascinating sight if you have time.
The Convento dos Capuchos is close to Sintra but rarely visited by any of the day-trippers who just want to see the Pena Palace
The monastery is at one with its surroundings
There is very limited public transport to Praia das Maçãs. There is just a single bus service from Sintra and the tram, which is more of a novelty than a serious option.
The 441 bus route operated by Scotturb provides hourly services from Sintra train station to Praia das Maçãs. An alternative is to catch the bus from Sintra train station to Praia Grande (route 439) and then walk the 1.6km scenic coastal footpath to Praia das Maçãs.
If you are traveling from Lisbon, you will first have to catch the train to Sintra (from Rossio station) and then catch the bus (or tram). The latest bus timetables can be seen on the Scotturb website: scotturb.com
Praia das Maçãs translates to “Apple Beach”. The beach is named so, as apples were grown in the fertile region would be washed down the Colares River by winter storms and be deposited on the wide beach.
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