Consisting of nearly two kilometres of sand punctuated by jagged rock formations rising from the sea and backed by steep limestone cliffs, Praia da Rocha was one of the first places in the Algarve to be developed for tourism. As a result it is not the prettiest of towns. Purpose-built multi-storey apartment blocks dominate the cliffs behind the beach while discos, casinos, bars and restaurants line the main street, the Avenida Tomas Cabreira.
The nearby Fortaleza da Santa Caterina, however, built in 1691, offers a real slice of history. Built to protect the mouth of the Rio Arade the terrace offers great views at sunset, with the beach stretching away in one direction and the river and marina in the other.
Not for the faint hearted, the beach is accessed by means of thirty steep steps from the Avenida Tomas Cabreira and is fed not by the Mediterranean but by the colder, rougher waters of the Atlantic. In peak seasons the beach, which represents the nearest surf spot to Faro and is known for its poerful,barrelling waves, is patrolled by lifeguards.
Just thirty minutes from Faro airport and five minutes on the bus from Portimao (every 15-30 minutes), Praia da Rocha is an exceptionally beautiful beach with good amenities and ugly buildings!