Portugal’s Sintra-Cascais Natural Park contains many national treasures like Pena Palace, Castle of the Moors, and Monserrate Palace. Most Cascais and Lisbon day-trippers flock to the architectural wonders of Sintra and unknowingly overlook the beautiful Sintra coastline. If you’re seeking an alternative way to experience Sintra, far away from the crowds, we highly recommend hiking from Cabo da Roca to Azenhas do Mar. Highlights of this Sintra coastal hike are the lovely beaches of Praia da Aroeira, Praia da Ursa, Praia da Adraga, and Praia Grande. To visualize this hike, see the map at the bottom of this post.
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Cabo da Roca to Azenhas do Mar Trail Summary
- Trailhead: Cabo da Roca
- Destination: Azenhas do Mar
- Type of Hike: Point-to-point
- Distance: 10.8 km
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Time Needed: 5 hours (with lots of breaks and lunch)
- Route: Cabo da Roca – Praia da Ursa – Praia da Adraga – Praia Grande – Praia das Maçãs – Azenhas do Mar
- Where to Stay: Tesouro da Baixa by Shiadu in Lisbon or The Albatroz Hotel in Cascais
Shorter Route. If you’re interested in a shorter walk, we recommend the stretch between Cabo da Roca and Praia da Adraga. Praia da Adraga makes for a great end-point because there’s a restaurant directly at the beach. Secondly, a road leads directly to Praia da Adraga. So, you could get a taxi or Uber (likely cheaper) back to Cabo da Roca, or Cascais.
Sintra Coastal Hike Difficulty
When researching this area, we read that it’s treacherous to hike from Cabo da Roca to Praia da Ursa. That’s a bit dramatic. However, it could potentially be dangerous if you’re wearing sandals or inappropriate footwear. Or, if you’re hiking after rainfall.
Kati and I wore light-weight hiking boots (Hanwag Tatra Light Lady GTX) and we could confidently hike the steep passages along the route without a problem. The section initially after Praia da Ursa is very steep and requires the occasional use of your hands for stabilization. Other than that, it’s not particularly hard.
Sintra Coastal Trail Waymarking
There are very few waymarks along this Cabo da Roca Atlantic coastal trail. The route hugs the coast, with very few exceptions. So, when in doubt, stick to the coast. Because you won’t be able to rely on trail signage, we recommend downloading Maps.me (the offline maps app) and using that to navigate when it gets confusing. And believe me, there will be a few times when you’re confused.
Food along the Sintra Coastal Trail
There are lots of food options along this Sintra coastal walk, though they prop up later on in the hike. The first is Restaurante Adraga at Adraga Beach. Next, there are several restaurants congregated around Praia Grande as well as Praia das Maçãs. At the end of the trail, we counted only two restaurants in Azenhas do Mar. We had a bite to eat at Água e Sal. I lie. We drank lots of wine.
Praia da Ursa is very beautiful, and you may want to stay there for an hour or two. If so, we recommend bringing a packed lunch.
How to get to Cabo da Roca
Being the westernmost point of mainland Europe, Cabo da Roca is naturally a popular tourist attraction. Here, you’ll see tourist buses and hordes of people. Don’t be discouraged: very few will venture further than the barrier zone of Cabo da Roca. The good news is that it’s very easy to get to Cabo da Roca from Cascais, Sintra, or Lisbon.
Cascais to Cabo da Roca
Take Bus 403, operated by Scotturb, from Cascais to Cabo da Roca. It’s a 30-minute bus ride. You can purchase your ticket directly on the bus: 3.40 EUR (as of 2019). The bus departs from the Cascais bus terminal
Lisbon to Cabo da Roca
If you’re starting your day in Lisbon, you’ll first need to get to Cascais. Head to the Cias do Sodré train station and take the train to Cascais (2.25 EUR one-way + 0.50 EUR for a reusable card). From the Cascais train station, walk a few minutes to the bus terminal and take Bus 403 to Cabo da Roca (3.40 EUR one-way).
Hiking Sintra Coast: Cabo da Roca to Praia da Ursa and Azenhas do Mar
Cabo da Roca to Praia da Ursa
From the Cabo da Roca parking lot, backtrack along the main road. There’s no side-walk, so please be careful. After several meters, you’ll see a narrow dirt trail on your left leading to the coast. We took this first trail. If you continue along the road, there will be several others, all leading the same way. It doesn’t really matter which one you take.
The trail will split a few times. Opt for the left trail (twice) to the Aroiera Beach lookout. You don’t have to hike down to the beach, but the lookout is beautiful. From the lookout retrace your steps to the last intersection. Here, you’ll take a left, so you’re heading north and towards Praia da Ursa.
As you approach Ursa beach, you’ll see two striking limestone formations just off the beach. They look like Hershey kisses floating in water. Enjoy the view and descend to the beach. The descent can be slippery, so hiking shoes will be immensely helpful. It should only take 30-40 minutes to reach the beach from Cabo da Roca.
Praia da Ursa to Praia da Adraga
We ascended back to the main trail via the same route we came. However, there’s likely another path further up the beach. As you continue North, the views of Praia da Ursa continue to marvel. The trail dips to a small water crossing and then ascends once more. This is the steepest part of the whole trail.
The trail levels and you continue straight for quite some time. We followed this path all the way to the cliff overlooking Praia do Cavalo, which is a very narrow cove framed by vertical cliffs.
From here, the path seems to continue to Adraga beach. But, we decided to turn back, because the path was getting increasingly narrow through thick vegetation.
You’ll want to find the path that leads inland and ultimately down to the paved road. At the trail – road intersection, turn left and walk to the beach: Praia da Adraga.
Praia da Adraga is a great place for lunch. There’s a self-service casual restaurant adjoined to a more formal restaurant. We grabbed some drinks and took a long break here, before continuing to Praia Grande.
Praia da Adraga to Praia Grande
From Adraga beach, the trail ascends on the other side of the parking lot. There’s a trail marker signed GR 11 – E9 Praia Grande (1600 m). There’s a beautiful view of Adraga beach from this lofty perspective. The trail then steers inland and you’ll hike through a beach-forest section for a few minutes, before heading back to the coast.
Eventually, you’ll reach a pretty spectacular lookout of Praia Grande. You’ll probably see a few surfers floating about, waiting to catch a wave. On the opposite side of the beach, there’s a large saltwater pool that extends to the ocean.
There’s a long stone staircase that leads from the trail all the way down to Praia Grande. We followed a bunch of locals down the stairs, missing the signage that said it was closed off. When we reached the bottom, we saw a huge sign stating that the staircase was closed. Whoops.
To avoid the staircase, you’ll just have to walk inland and take the road to Praia Grande. It’s a small detour.
Praia Grande to Praia das Maçãs
The trail continues along the length of Grande beach. You’ll pass the large saltwater pool and continue on a sidewalk along the coastal road: Avenida Alfredo Coelho.
This stretch of trail follows the road. Eventually, there’s a walking path that leaves the road and heads to the coast to the Archeological Site of Alto da Vigia, which is situated above cliffs overlooking the beach of Praia das Maçãs. We missed the site completely. But, the views of the town above Praia das Maçãs are quite captivating.
Continue all the way to the beach of Praia das Maçãs and then to the white-washed town above the beach.
Praia das Maçãs to Azenhas do Mar
After crossing the beach of Praia das Maçãs, continue along Rua Nossa Senhora da Praia, the road hugging the coast. The route to Azenhas do Mar is straightforward. You’ll either walk on a sidewalk along the main road or on a walking path. You’ll see fishermen and fisherwomen teetering on the cliff edges catching their dinner.
The final stretch along Rua Dr. António Brandão de Vasconcelos (the road leading to Azenhas do Mar) is beautiful, making your efforts to get to this point more than worth it.
The whitewashed village of Azenhas do Mar is an enchanting sight to behold. Stacked houses are clustered above the sea, sheltered by a cliff. At the foot of the town, there’s a saltwater pool and beach.
Follow the staircase into town. We had a celebratory drink, or two, at Água e Sal.
How to get back to Cabo da Roca, Cascais, or Sintra
There’s no direct bus from Azenhas do Mar to Cabo da Roca, or Cascais. So, we took an Uber (22 EUR) back to Cascais. There is however a bus from Azenhas do Mar to Sintra (Portela de Sintra Station). If you’re heading to Sintra, take Bus 440 or 441 (22 minutes).
Where to Stay in Lisbon
Budget | Goodmorning Solo Traveller Hostel is a lively and buoyant hostel in Lisbon. The atmosphere lends itself to meeting and connecting with other travelers. Repeat guests come back for the breakfast, happy hour, and good vibes.
Mid-Range | Tesouro da Baixa by Shiadu is a stylish guesthouse featuring notably spacious rooms, delicious breakfast, and outstanding staff. Guests can join a free walking tour of the area, conducted by the staff. Bonus: coffee and tea are freely available in the restaurant at all times during the day.
Luxury | Casa Balthazar is a hidden gem in Lisbon. This delightful guesthouse was designed with thoughtfulness and care. Guests have access to a garden with a pool and an on-site bar. In-room breakfast is included.
Where to Stay in Cascais
Budget | Mico’s Hostel is a centrally located budget accommodation in Cascais. Managed with great care, you’ll feel very much at home here. Guests rave about the quietness, hospitality, and breakfast at Mico’s Hostel.
Mid-Range | Kasa 23 Cascais is a charming guesthouse located 2 minutes (walking) from the sea. Sparkling clean and new, Kasa 23 is a great choice for a relaxing getaway. Guests have access to a kitchen and terrace. Important: the host charges a 20 EUR surcharge for checking in after 6:00 p.m.
Luxury | The Albatroz is an elegant boutique hotel with fine furnishings, beautiful views, and a fabulous location. Guests have access to an outdoor pool overlooking the bay.
Sintra Coast Hike Map
More Hikes in Portugal:
More Information for Your Trip to Portugal:
- Portugal Itinerary (2 weeks / no car needed)
- Algarve Travel Guide
- Algarve Road Trip Itinerary (1 week)
- Where to Stay in the Algarve
More Coastal Hikes:
- Seven Sisters Cliffs Hike – England