The little-known Algarve islands where only locals holiday – with fewer crowds, stunning beaches and no Brits

IF you love Portugal but don’t love all the British crowds, then you can instead head to some tiny islands just off the coastline.

As part of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, the five inlets are accessible by a short boat ride from Faro.

The Algarve is home to some tiny islands that only locals know about


The Algarve is home to some tiny islands that only locals know aboutCredit: Alamy
I visited back in 2022 - and saw barely any tourists


I visited back in 2022 – and saw barely any touristsCredit: KARA GODFREY
The only thing on Baretta is the restaurant Estamine


The only thing on Baretta is the restaurant EstamineCredit: Alamy

Faro is a popular hotspot with Brits, with flights as cheap as £16.99 with Ryanair as well as being an affordable place while there.

I visited two of the islands myself back in 2022.

Ilha Deserta, also known as Barreta, is often called the Caribbean of Portugal thanks to its golden sandy beaches.

It takes just 20 minutes to get there, with ferries costing barely a few euros.

I was one of the few tourists who was on the island, walking around the boardwalks that stretched across the deserted sand.

No-one lives on the island, and there is just one restaurant, Estamine.

It first opened in the 1960s, but was rebuilt after a fire burnt it down in 2021.

Most of the food served is from the nearby area, and I enjoyed a range of oysters, octopus and prawns, while sampling the local wines.

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It was definitely a restaurant with a view – the huge glass windows faced out to the sea, uninterrupted by anything.

Another island is Isla Armona, which is a bit more built up with houses and cafes.

It still remains quiet however – the boat gets onto the island at one end, with along single path winding through the tiny cottages to the beach on the other side.

However, this beach is just as quiet, with just a small bar serving drinks and snacks.

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If neither of those take your fancy, here are the other three islands to try out instead.

Ilha da Culatra 

Home to a few hundred people, Culatra also has empty beaches and clean waters.

Tourists will land at a small village with bungalows and cafes, but with no roads, will have to walk through to explore.

The white sandy beach is found on the southern part of the island, which is less than a mile by the boardwalk.

It’s a Blue Flag beach with loungers and umbrellas you can rent, as well as a beach bar.

Culatra is a Blue Flag beach, and you won't see many people


Culatra is a Blue Flag beach, and you won’t see many peopleCredit: Alamy

Ilha da Tavira

Another island is Ilha da Tavira which has a 2.5mile stretch of sand.

Thankfully this island also has some cafes, toilets and a beach bar where tourists can also rent kayaks and paddleboards.

Ilha da Tavira is just as quiet as the rest of the islands


Ilha da Tavira is just as quiet as the rest of the islandsCredit: Alamy

Ilha da Faro

Connected to the mainland Faro, Ilha da Faro is accessible by bridge with buses leaving every 45 minutes.

This is the busiest island of the group, however – and which the beach is clean, expect crowds with day trippers often visiting before their flight home.

Faro is the busiest - so don't go for a quiet one


Faro is the busiest – so don’t go for a quiet oneCredit: Alamy

The World’s 50 Best Beaches

The World’s Best Beaches consulted more than 750 judges including travel journalists, influencers, and beach ambassadors to rank the beaches.

  1. Lucky Bay, Australia
  2. Source D’Argent, Seychelles
  3. Hidden, Philippines
  4. Whitehaven, Australia
  5. One Foot, Cook Islands
  6. Trunk, US Virgin Islands
  7. Honopu, Hawaii
  8. Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland
  9. Navagio Beach, Greece
  10. Balandra, Mexico
  11. Cala Goloritze, Italy
  12. Pipe Creek, Bahamas
  13. Pink, Indonesia
  14. Grace, Turks & Caicos
  15. Gardner, Ecuador
  16. Mcway, California
  17. Turquoise, Australia
  18. Le Morne, Mauritius
  19. Sancho, Brazil
  20. Seven Mile, Cayman Islands
  21. Lanikai, Hawaii
  22. Maya, Thailand
  23. Moro, Spain
  24. Kelingking, Indonesia
  25. Meads, Anguilla
  26. Flamenco, Puerto Rico
  27. Arena, Dominican Republic
  28. Little Hellfire, Australia
  29. Lazio, Seychelles
  30. Vaeroy, Norway
  31. Horseshoe, Bermuda
  32. Myrtos, Greece
  33. Hidden, Mexico
  34. Grand Anse, Grenada
  35. Xpu Ha, Mexico
  36. San Josef, Canada
  37. Matira, French Polynesia
  38. Capriccioli, Italy
  39. Pasjaca, Croatia
  40. Boulders, South Africa
  41. Salines, Martinique
  42. Champagne, Vanuatu
  43. Marinha, Portugal
  44. Balos, Greece
  45. Achmelvich, Scotland
  46. Kaputas, Turkey
  47. Radhangar, India
  48. Varadero, Cuba
  49. Piha, New Zealand
  50. Pink Sand, Bahamas 


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