Ria Formosa

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Ria Formosa: Our most recommended tours and activities

Faro: Deserta Island and Farol Island Catamaran Boat Trip

1. Faro: Deserta Island and Farol Island Catamaran Boat Trip

When you’re in Portugal make sure to experience this exciting catamaran boat to Deserta and Farol islands that will take you through the spectacular nature of the Ria Formosa. Come see why this region was elected one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal. Depart from the Marina of Faro sailing slowly through the channels of the Ria Formosa to fully enjoy the beautiful landscape. Along the tour you will see birds like the Grey Heron, the White Stork and many other birds that use this area as a feeding habitat. As you approach the islands and beaches you see the lighthouse of Culatra Island where you make our first stop. Looking around, one can observe the hard work of the people in the oyster and clam farms. A closer look towards the coastline and you will notice the market of the city of Olhão - an important fishing town. And off toward the ocean you can glimpse one of the most important sea entrances of the Ria Formosa. The next stop is Farol Island. Here, you can enjoy a walk around the streets of this small but friendly community. When passing by the lighthouse, go on until the very end to admire an extensive beach of fine white sand washed by calm warm waters. Leave the Farol Island and make your second stop at Deserta Island. This island is also known as Barreta Island. Here lies the most southern point of Portugal - the Santa Maria Cape. In this second stop you can choose to explore the fauna and flora of the island by an easy walk or simply enjoy the sunshine and bathe in the clear waters of the beach.

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From Faro: Ria Formosa Faro Islands Catamaran Tour

2. From Faro: Ria Formosa Faro Islands Catamaran Tour

Sail to the beautiful Ria Formosa Natural Park by catamaran, with regular departures scheduled from Faro. The journey follows the Ria Formosa channels and includes stops at the magical islands of Farol and Deserta. Don't forget your swimsuits and towels - there will be plenty of breaks for swimming! The guide on board will provide information in Portuguese, English, French, and Spanish. The modern catamaran has a capacity of up to 11 passengers and provides a pleasant and comfortable way of exploring the islands.

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From Faro: 4 Islands, 4 Stops in Ria Formosa Catamaran Tour

3. From Faro: 4 Islands, 4 Stops in Ria Formosa Catamaran Tour

Enjoy a tour on a comfortable Catamaran, taking in the fauna and flora of the Natural Park of Ria Formosa. Cross the channels of the park and stop for 45 minutes at Deserta Island, where you will the opportunity to take a swim. Then, proceed to Farol Island where you will have another 45 minutes to discover its lighthouse and take photos. Sail to Hangares and see the culture of oysters and the military reserve. Lastly, arrive at Culatra Island where you will have 1.5 hours of free time to explore the traditional fishing village. You will also have the option to have lunch in a typical restaurant on Breech Island where the main course varies between fresh fish or seafood.

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Faro: Ria Formosa Natural Park Segway Tour & Birdwatching

4. Faro: Ria Formosa Natural Park Segway Tour & Birdwatching

Explore the plant and animal wildlife outside Faro on a 1.5-hour trip through the nearby Rio Formosa Natural Park. There, you will take a Segway tour of the reserve and spend time bird watching at Ludo, a natural reserve near Faro Beach, located inside the park. This area is a stopping place for hundreds of different birds during the spring and autumn migratory periods. The entire park is a protected area and home to several marine species and birds. It is a very special and quiet place where you can be in direct contact with nature. After pick-up, you will be taken to the park and given a Segway to use. This 2-wheeled electric vehicle uses the equilibrium of its driver to propel forward. Once you have been instructed how to operate your Segway, you will head out on the paths and trails in the park and discover the beauty and tranquility of this reserve. As you ride along, your guide will point out various animal species for you, exposing you to the natural and protected life of the region.

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Ria Formosa Natural Park Kayak Hire from Faro

5. Ria Formosa Natural Park Kayak Hire from Faro

Paddle through the Algarve's famed blue waters in a kayak. The Rotomod sit-on-top kayaks are stable, safe, comfortable, and easy to use, making them the perfect way for you to explore the waters of the Algarve. You don’t need any experience to get the most out of your very own kayaking adventure. Various types of kayaks are available for rent. The first is the Rotomod Ocean Duo, a comfortable double kayak that can seat up to 2 adults and 1 child, making it ideal for both families and solo travelers. There is also the Rotomod Ocean Quattro, perfect for families. This kayak can seat up to 2 adults and 2 children, although it works best with 2 adults and 1 child. The Rotomod Tango is a heavy duty solo kayak, ideal for bigger paddlers or people travelling with a lot of heavy gear. If you don’t have that much gear, then the Toromod Mambo might be for you, with excellent maneuverability from this solo kayak. Just for your safety, your kayak hire will also include light paddles and comfortable safety vests.

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Ria Formosa: Sunset Boat Trip

6. Ria Formosa: Sunset Boat Trip

Come and relax in the Ria Formosa lagoon on a boat trip at the best time of day: sunset. Soak up the stunning natural surrounds aboard a solar powered boat as you cruise through this beautiful natural park. Sit back and relax as you depart from the Faro Marina on board an eco-friendly boat. The solar powered boat is beautifully quiet, and this trip includes a variety of views. Your experienced skipper will guide you through the lagoon, its beautiful channels and marshlands, and approach numerous species of birds that inhabit this protected area without any disturbance.  This small group trip is limited to 10 people, offering an intimate experience and a wonderfully relaxing end to the day watching the sun go down over the lagoon. Soak up the stunning natural surroundings and the beautiful views over the Faro’s Old Town as you experience a beautiful sunset and cruise back to the Marina of Faro.

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From Albufeira: Half-Day Shopping Trip to Faro

7. From Albufeira: Half-Day Shopping Trip to Faro

Travel from your hotel in Faro to Albufeira with this convenient transport service. Experience the shops and restaurants in the charming old town. Get picked up from your hotel, or a nearby location. Relax, as you are driven to Faro, the largest city in Algarve. Get the chance to visit the many local shops in the busy center. Take in the vibe as you stroll along the vibrant marina. Marvel at the architecture of historic buildings such as the Sé Cathedral. Explore the restaurants and the historic part of the town in the old city walls. Admire views of the Ria Formosa lagoon.

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Olhão: Ria Formosa Boat Cruise

8. Olhão: Ria Formosa Boat Cruise

Set sail from the port of Olhão and travel through the Ria Formosa National Park. Discover beautiful scenery and rich biodiversity with your expert crew. Learn more about the national park and local culture with your expert captain. Cruise by marshes, barrier-islands, islets, dunes, sand bars, and saltpans which are home to a rich variety of flora and fauna. Spot local birds, marine life, and beds of clams and oysters. Make a short stop at Praia Deserta and enjoy the serenity of a tranquil location accessible only by boat. While there, enjoy some time for a swim and to take photos, before returning to Olhão.

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Faro: Hop On Hop Off City Tour by Tourist Train

9. Faro: Hop On Hop Off City Tour by Tourist Train

Relax and enjoy a Faro tour on a special tourist train. During this tour, you will visit beautiful and important monuments of the city, including Old City, the Jardim Manuel Bivar, Igreja da Misericórdia, Sé de Faro, Teatro Lethes, Igreja do Carmo, Igreja São Pedro, Zona Comercial da Baixa de Faro, pass by the lagoon Ria Formosa and the new town. Via a multilingual audio system, learn curious facts and secrets as you pass by each location. Your ticket is valid for a full day, so you can stop at any of our stops, explore the surroundings and hop back in to the next stop. The stops are: Praça D. Francisco Gomes (where our tour starts), Jardim da Alameda, Ermida de Santo António, Mercado da Cidade e Igreja do Carmo.

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Faro: Eco-Friendly Ria Formosa Bird Watching in Solar Boat

10. Faro: Eco-Friendly Ria Formosa Bird Watching in Solar Boat

Ria Formosa is a place of extreme nature, with an environment that is always different at every hour of the day. This is due largely to the fact that the sea level rises and falls about 3 meters every 6 hours. Whilst there, you will discover a complete self-regenerating ecosystem, which allows a part of the local population to develop fishing and shellfish production. This provides all of the ingredients for the varied diets of the migratory birds that continue returning to this area year after year. You may be able to watch the hunting of predatory birds, and will also be able to enter into a maze of canals where the only thing that you will hear is the sound of the birds calling and their interactions with one another. At the conclusion of your tour, you will return by boat to your tour's point of origin.

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Other Sightseeing Options in Ria Formosa

Want to discover all there is to do in Ria Formosa? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Ria Formosa

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 2,618 reviews

We had an excellent trip. The solar boat was fantastic, because it's so quiet we were able to get close to birds that would otherwise be disturbed and because of being relatively low down it was very good for taking pictures of the birds. We were even able to get relatively close to a feeding Osprey which was an absolute highlight for us. The guide was very knowledgeable and easily spotted birds we would have missed. Overall the trip was really relaxing and enjoyable. Can only recommend this trip to anyone who wants to see a bit more of the Ria Formosa and the wildlife within it. 5 out of 5 stars!

The tour was was well run and Guilherme a knowledgeable captain and guide. Good observance of Covid measures. The weather was not great but the direction of travel was adjusted slightly to minimise choppy seas. There was ample time to spend on each island and observe the differences. An excellent opportunity to compare how the island beaches compared to those of the mainland.

Had a wonderful time kayaking with Luis in Ria Formosa. He was very knowledgeable about the wildlife in the lagoon and we could tell his love for nature and the sea. We had a picture-perfect morning despite the recent rains in the Algarve, saw a great variety of birds, and did not want our kayaking tour to end.

What an amazing initiative and tour guide. Unlike all of the other touristy activities, really caring about the habitat they help you explore. 10 out of 10.

It was an unforgettable day with a very careful and experienced skipper :-). I would do the tour again at any time and can only recommend it to everyone.