If you arrive by plane from the south into Lisbon airport you will be able to see the beaches of the Costa da Caparica stretching out for miles and miles underneath you. In fact there are 24 beaches that all connect representing the largest continuous beach in Portugal, with an expanse of approximately 30 kilometres.
When you arrive at the Costa da Caparica from the motorway you have to make a choice which part of the coast you will visit. Turn right and you will end up in S. João de Caparica with 2 beaches, turn left onto the N377-2 and drive towards Charneca da Caparica with 22 beaches.
The beaches in S. João da Caparica are considered more posh and developed. The car park is paid (around 4€ a day), which automatically filters the type of locals that will frequent it. The beach bars and restaurants are as good (or as bad — depending on the management) as the left side of the Costa da Caparica.
Charneca da Caparica side is more raw and wilder. You get to the beaches via a coastal road which gets chaotic during rush hours. Different signs lead you to clusters of beaches and car parks — all free, and the majority way less developed than the other side.
While you essentially end up on the same enormous beach, the experience of the particular part you visit can vary significantly. The different beaches are defined by the facilities available. From the quality of the car parks to rentable deck-chairs to the quality of the beach bar or restaurant adjacent to the beach can make all the difference. Some restaurants are excellent and real culinary treats others just offer basic snacks and drinks.
One of the local’s favourite summer activity is to just hang around at the beach bars — some have DJs after sunset, others just plug-in great Spotify-playlists — drinking some cocktails in their swimming trunks. In summer almost all bars/restaurants stay open late and if you’re lucky it might be warm enough to swim at dawn.
All the beaches have one thing in common: The Atlantic Ocean crashing in sometimes powerful waves onto soft clean sand stretching for miles. All the beaches have life guards in summer. There is a reason for that. The sea can be very powerful and in certain conditions the currents can be quite dangerous. A traffic light flag system indicates to beach goers if the conditions are dangerous.
If you are a true-summer-loving-fun-seeker you will be in heaven. You'll find shops selling the latest swimwear to watersport activities such as banana boat rides, jet skies and paddle boats. Also many beaches have surf schools teaching adults and children how to brave the waves (or the imaginary ones in the sand). If you are even more brave the beaches on the Charneca de Caparica side are a paradise for Kitesurfers with often powerful winds propelling brave surfers across the water at great speed.
The best beach restaurants on the Costa da Caparica
As the name suggests ("Bicho D'agua" means water bug) this restaurant is good at fish dishes but also serves tasty meat dishes. The best prawns in garlic ever.
Leblon São João
Leblon is more of a restaurant than a beach bar. It serves very tasty dishes from fish to meat to salads. The terrace is huge.
Kailua is located on the most southern Fonte da Telha beach on the Charneca da Caparica side. It has a hawaiian feel to it. There is even a sign pointing towards Kailua in Hawaii. The restaurant is serving delicious pokes, bowls and ceviches. The inside as well as the outside of the restaurant are beautiful and make you feel you are on an exotic holiday.
The dazzling beauty of the beaches of the Costa da Caparica make it easy to overlook the natural beauty of the surrounding area. Vertical yellow cliffs rise just a few hundred meters behind the beaches, dense pine forests overlook the coast and winding roads snake along the hill tops offering the occasional great picnic spot.
If you are visiting the Costa da Caparica by car it's definitely a good idea to turn left towards Capuchos. This way you will get to see the Costa da Caparica from above, which is an experience worth making. Head towards the Convento dos Capuchos to get to the viewpoint dos Capuchos. It's beautiful.
Winter or summer making the trip to the Costa da Caparica is totally worth it. Unfortunately the best way to get there is by car. There are buses but they will drop you quite far away from the best beaches. Also, the drive over the 25th April bridge is breath-taking so it's worth renting a car for.
In the summer months and especially on weekends, virtually the whole of Lisbon heads towards the Costa da Caparica to cool down. The beaches are packed. While this is not really a problem when you are on the beach, it becomes an issue when you are trying to go home at the end of the day. It can take an hour to just leave the car park. Head for the beaches on the right side — S. João da Caparica — as they are better connected to the road and therefore much easier to leave the car parks.
Restaurant Bicho D'água:
Praia de São João da Caparica, 2825-000
(+351) 960 483 714
Restaurant Leblon São João:
Praia Das Palmeiras, São João, 2825-426
(+351) 964 230 203
(+351) 212 963 784