The Swallow’s Nest Beach, Albufeira

Although it doesn’t have the photogenic skylight of Benagil Cave, this beach near Albufeira completely surrounded by rock is just waiting to be explored from the water. It is PRAIA DO NINHO DE ANDORINHA, or in English, SWALLOW’S NEST BEACH.

To reach it, park at Praia do São Rafael which is west of Albufeira, where you can hire a SUP or sign up for a kayak tour with , or follow the well maintained path to launch your own craft from the beach. Once afloat, turn right and explore lots of cliffs and islands. One of the large rocks is called Godzilla. Look out for it – it has a giant lizard head. Then there are some other holes in the rock that look like a stick person. Swallow’s Nest Beach is 500m along the coast as the crow (or swallow) flies, but there is plenty to explore on the way. 

The beach itself is in a hole surrounded by cliffs on all sides. The only access to and from the sea is via a low tunnel, next to another interesting tunnel which bypasses a headland. The “gin palace” and “high speed thrills” motorboats hold off outside, as only small boats can fit through the access tunnel. At high tide, even a standing SUPper has to duck! However, unlike Benagil, there is a staircase for access from the land, so there may be an audience of non-boating bathers waiting to applaud the style of your landing.

A rare busy moment in the Swallow’s Nest as a kayak tour group drops by.

Inside, the beach is shady and sheltered. Leave your boat or board (you can still keep an eye on it from up above) and take the staircase to explore the cliff paths with their amazing views. 

For a beach accessible only by water or by rock climbers, get back on your craft and continue on to the lovely Praia da Ponta Grande, pictured. After that, continue along a few more beaches for Praia da Coelha which has a café and road access – an alternative start point when the winds are blowing from the east and you want to do the hard work first. However, it has less convenient parking and facilities than Praia do São Miguel.

This trip is recommended in the height of summer when Benagil is heaving. The Ninho de Andorinha beach is very shady, being surrounded by cliffs on all sides, and is comparatively little known. Watch young children carefully if scrambling on the rocks, because they are crumbly and paths go close to the cliff edge, but small and big kids alike will love to wriggle through a person-sized tunnel just above the water’s edge.

Lone double kayak heading back from having Praia da Ponta Grande to themselves

Note: If this has inspired you to visit the Swallow’s Nest but you are on foot, be aware that getting there via the coast path does require you to be a little sure-footed, and there is some mild exposure to heights. Not suitable for bikes or pushchairs.