Ria Formosa
National Parks

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Our most recommended Ria Formosa National Parks

Faro: Ria Formosa Faro Islands Catamaran Tour

1. 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. See the imposing Santa Maria Lighthouse in Farol and enjoy time to explore and try island cuisine. In Deserta, admire the rolling dunes and unique landscapes. Look out for unique flora and fauna, including the chameleon. Enjoy plenty of swimming opportunities on both islands, with secluded beaches and pristine shores. On board, learn about the islands and the park with insightful commentary from your guide in various languages.

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

2. 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.

Olhão: 4-Hour Ria Formosa Islands Tour

3. Olhão: 4-Hour Ria Formosa Islands Tour

Navigate the waterways between the barrier islands of Ria Formosa off the coast of Olhão and discover a paradise of nature. Enjoy great views of the Farol Bar and Santa Maria Lighthouse on Farol Island. Stop for lunch in the fishing village of Culatra, home to about 1,000 residents with shops, a school, church, medical office, and even its own football pitch. Savor the local fresh fish at a typical restaurant or go for a nice picnic on the beach. Continue to Armona Bay and island, where you will stop for another 30 minutes to appreciate the nature. Return to Olhão, passing close to several tuna factories and the fishing harbor. See a larger area of Ria Formosa than most other tours, and benefit from the expert knowledge of your skipper to learn about the flora and fauna.

Faro: Deserta Island and Farol Island Catamaran Boat Trip

4. 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.

From Olhão: Ria Formosa 3-Island Day Tour

5. From Olhão: Ria Formosa 3-Island Day Tour

Begin your island-hopping trip with your captain who will act as your tour guide. First, stop at Lighthouse Island, where you can visit its village, get a drink, go to the beach, and explore the neighborhoods of beautiful houses. Continue on to Culatra Island for a few hours to take in a picnic lunch, or you can visit one of the local restaurants to dine at. Culatra Island has beautiful swimming areas too if you prefer to play in the water instead of eating here.  Next, you’ll arrive at either Armona Island or Deserta Island, depending on the season. In the summertime, Deserta Island hosts a beautiful beach, wild with no buildings. Explore either the Ria Formosa for a swim, or take in the Atlantic Ocean side of the island.

From Faro: Ria Formosa Lagoon Boat Tour

6. From Faro: Ria Formosa Lagoon Boat Tour

You set sail on a pontoon boat, and the marina of Faro fades behind you. On this tour you'll feel like a native of the Algarve as we explore the lagoon and numerous birds and wildlife who live in this protected landscape. You will sail through marshes and channels, and enjoy a nice boat trip with beautiful views of the walls of the Old Town of Faro. For anyone passing by Faro without much time to explore, this is the perfect way to get an overview of this fascinating city. The Ria Formosa is one of Portugal's Seven Natural Wonders, and you'll soon discover why! Come out and spend a beautiful time on the water.

Ria Formosa: Sunset Boat Trip

7. 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.

Olhão: 3-Hour Ria Formosa Boat Tour

8. Olhão: 3-Hour Ria Formosa Boat Tour

Observe the nature reserve of the Ria Formosa while being navigated through its channels.  Stop on a desert island where you can swim, relax, and walk on its white sandy beach. You can also stop at one of the island communities Ilha do Farol or Ilha da Culatra. Explore the Ria Formosa area and listen to the detailed explanations that your skipper has to share throughout the tour. Learn about the fauna, flora, and fishing activities.  Discover this unique coastal lagoon that is constantly changing due to the continuous movement of winds, currents, and tides. It is also one of the most important areas for ornithology in Portugal, hosting more than 20,000 birds during the winter season.

From Faro: Private Ria Formosa Sailing Trip

9. From Faro: Private Ria Formosa Sailing Trip

Enjoy the pleasure of sailing in a magnificent place. Visit the Ria Formosa salt marsh in the Algarve in Portugal, covering an area of about 18,400 hectares along 60 kilometers from the river Ancão to the beach of Manta Rota. In 1978, it was established as a nature reserve and at the end of 1987, it became a natural park. Most of its area corresponds to the lagoon system of the Ria Formosa, composed of islands and sandy peninsulas arranged parallel to the coast, protecting a lagoon.  At the park, discover the natural habitat of several rare species such as the common cayman, the flamingo and the round-winged eagle. Another inhabitant of the park, almost extinct in Europe, is the chameleon. Go deep inside this ecosystem, while enjoying the pleasure of sailing. If you like, the skipper will teach and mentor you on how to perform some of the sailing tasks, so you can feel like part of the crew. Choose your itinerary, and if you would like to, stop at some of the barrier islands.

From Olhão: Ria Formosa Sunset Tour

10. From Olhão: Ria Formosa Sunset Tour

After boarding your boat, head out into the sheltered waters of Ria Formosa. Depending on the season you will get to discover one of two islands. In May, stop on Armona Island and drink a coffee on the beach or take a swim and explore the island. From May to September your first stop will be at Praia Deserta, one of the most pristine beaches in the Algarve. From the beach, head to the village of Ilha da Armona and enjoy a refreshing drink while you contemplate the amazing views. The final stop on your tour is at a deserted beach on Culatra Island, a small community of 1000 people that is to be a sustainability project by 2030. Here you can relax and, in summer, enjoy some swimming. After about 40 minutes to enjoy the beach and the sunset, you'll board your boat for the return trip to Olhão.

Frequently asked questions about Ria Formosa National Parks

What are other things to do than Ria Formosa National Parks that are worth visiting in Algarve?

The other unmissable things to do in Algarve are:

Other Sightseeing Options in Ria Formosa

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What people are saying about Ria Formosa

Overall rating

4.5 / 5

based on 1,297 reviews

The guide Jose was very friendly, informative and seemed to enjoy himself. Made the trip very relaxing and fun. He was fluent in English and French. The entire process was very well handled.

Excursion to do absolutely if you pass by Faro! We were able to stop on two islands, very different but both extremely beautiful. Our guide Nico was very friendly and funny, I recommend 100%

We did the Sunset Cruise, which was lovely. The natural surroundings were stunning, our guide was a sweet & funny guy (Nico) and I would highly recommend taking this tour.

Was a beautiful trip and Richard was an excellent host. Thank you for an amazing experience

Joãn very good and informative. Jolly man. Had a super day out.