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Praia de Sao Rafael to Reserva Natural Caminho da Baleeira - 3.5Km

This walk is from the Praia de Sao Rafael to Praia dos Arrifes then through the Caminho da Baleeira nature reserve. The walk takes in two beautiful beaches and some dramatic, beautiful cliff top scenery. The cliff top paths and the cliffs at this point on the coast get pretty high. The paths are mostly sand covered and whilst there are some minor scrambly parts there's nothing too daunting. The distance of 3.5 Km is there and back but is very approximate, there are multiple paths you can take, either made by previous walkers or by the rain and you will want to make a diversion or two to take in the scenery. The easiest way to walk between Sao Rafael and Arrifes is via a board walk and steps, however there are 82! The piccie below might help you to decide.

If this is a bit too much then you can enjoy the beach at Sao Rafael and the surrounding landscape, then start the walk at the car park at Praia dos Arrifes. There is no car park at the other end of the walk.


As well as the beaches and cliff top scenery the walk takes you through a small but stunning nature park called the Reserva Natural Caminho da Baleeira. In addition to this walk the park itself is perfect for day hikes, with winding clifftop paths leading down to secret cove beaches and clear waters.


Take care of the sandstone cliff edges, if you take a wrong path some end at the cliff edge. The cliffs are eroding so don't go to close to the edge. The cliffs on this walk are high and there are a number of paths pretty close to the edge and some that are clearly dangerous, stay away from them. The sign below is everywhere and is serious. Also take care of any fencing, mostly it isn't to be trusted. That being said I think it's pretty easy to see where the safe paths are.

As much as possible I'll include piccies so you know you're on the right track. Start and end point car parks are:


The West end of the walk is a large car park above Praia de Sao Rafael.

If you're starting the walk at Arrifes there is a reasonably big cark park at the link below or a much smaller car park down a track just above the beach.

I’m starting the walk from the car park at Sao Rafael, up the board walk, the start of which you can see from the car park, just before you get to the sign for the beach, see piccie below.

Before starting make sure you explore Praia de Sao Rafael and it’s neighboring beach, Praia dos Paradinha (which means 'stop') which are one at low tide. Sao Rafael in particular is one of the most photogenic beaches on this coast. I’ve taken loads of piccies, here’s just a couple to give you an idea.

You can find your way out of Praia de Sao Rafael beach and scramble across to a path leading to Praia dos Arrifes, but it is a scramble. Here’s what the terrain looks like.

So, back to the board walk which will take you up and around the tricky terrain above. The steps are a bit of a climb, but relatively easy going, just take your time. Once you’ve reached the top of the board walk the path across to Arrifes is pretty obvious, easy going and not far, only about 0.5Km.

Once you’ve reached the car park at Praia dos Arrifes make sure you explore the beach, which with it’s sandstone structures make it very beautiful.

Next door to Arrifes (towards Sao Rafael) you also have Praia da Vigia which just adds to the photographic opportunity. Do bear in mind, however, that there isn’t much beach at high tide. Back to beach names Arrifes probably originates from the moors and means reef. Vigia might mean porthole or more likely to have come from the Spanish word meaning a mark on a nautical chart to indicate dangerous rocks.


To continue the walk head back to the small lower car park above A Sardinha (the sardine) restaurant where the path heads off into Reserva Natural Caminho da Baleeira.



A Sardinha, the restaurant at Arrifes (which is a very nice restaurant), reminds me that Sardines are a real speciality of this coast. However beware a menu that offers sardines between October and April (the off season) as they will be frozen not fresh, fishing for Sardines isn't allowed whilst the fish are breeding.


Back to the walk, there are several paths that lead into the Reserva, which as I mentioned earlier in the blog is a lovely place to wander around for ½ day or maybe a whole day with a picnic. But for this walk I stuck to the cliff top path. From the car park the path I took looks like this.

At the start of the walk from the car park you’ll also have the opportunity for a small divergence to get a picture looking back at Praia dos Arrifes.

Back to the path, just keep heading right and you’ll end up along the cliff top path with some wonderful views, in particular taking in the slab cliffs which I'm guessing are limestone, anyhow they are spectacular.

You'll also pass Praia dos Pires (which means saucer, I guess because of the shape).


Beyond this I won’t try to describe the path as there are several options, close to the cliff and a bit further back, all pretty easy to find and not to scrambly. You can of course choose a different path on the way back, just to explore a bit more.


The path comes to an end with a ravine and a dramatic rocky and a red sandstone landscape.

Here there is no easy way forwards, however you can track back and head up towards the Caminho da Baleeira road which will lead around to Albufeira marina. It looks like there might also be a cliff top walk at the very top of the cliffs but it’s blocked by a wall as you can see in the piccie below.

For the purposes of this walk I tracked back through the Reserva along the cliff top paths to Praia dos Arrifes and on to Praia de Sao Rafael, but as I mentioned before the Reserva is worth exploring. Just a couple more piccies.

Whether you start from Sao Rafael or Arrifes, this walk takes in a very nice variety of views and landscapes and isn’t overly taxing or scrambly. Just enjoy the scenery and take plenty of piccies.

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