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Ria Formosa

Ria Formosa: Our most recommended tours and activities

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 Full-Day Tour

5. From Olhão: Ria Formosa 3-Island Full-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.

Faro: Hop On Hop Off City Tour by Tourist Train

6. 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.

From Faro: Ria Formosa Lagoon Boat Tour

7. 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.

Cabanas de Tavira: Dolphin Watching Boat Tour

8. Cabanas de Tavira: Dolphin Watching Boat Tour

Experience the excitement of seeing dolphins swimming in the open ocean on this boat tour. You tour offers a 95% chance that you will see dolphins. You will also learn about the dolphin species that live near the Ria Formosa. Your skipper is very experienced and knows just where to find these friendly and gentle creatures. Keep your eyes open during your 2.5-hour tour and you might be the first to spot the dolphins.

From Fuzeta: 2-Hour Southeast Ria Formosa Boat Trip

9. From Fuzeta: 2-Hour Southeast Ria Formosa Boat Trip

Discover the Natural Park of Ria Formosa, Portugal's 7th natural wonder, and its wildlife and culture on this boat trip.  Departing from Fuseta, travel to an oyster and lamb farm, where you will learn more about the park's fishing and agriculture industry. Along the way, don't forget to keep an eye out for migratory birds making their way to their new home. Enjoy an explanation of Ria Formosa's native bird species and other wildlife from your guide. Your next stop will be Armona Island. Here, enjoy a cup of coffee or go for a swim in the island's crystal clear waters before heading back to Fuseta.

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.

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 3,178 reviews

Carlos was one of a kind, friendly and informative. The time on desert Island was refreshing after a hot day in the city. The time on culatra was authentic and it was amazing to see this community and the spirit there. We really enjoyed the information about the seahorses, sea cucumber and everything else. Experiencing the sunset on the sea was nice and we enjoyed the music on the way to the harbour. Muito obrigado

Miguel absolutely made our trip, friendly, informative, fun and extremely polite. What an asset to the company! Thoroughly enjoy this boat tour even got to see dolphins, flamingos and a very rare osprey. Highly recommend!!

A lovely way to spend a few hours before heading to the airport. So nice to be on the water and seeing a different part of the Algave coastline. Would really recommend and thanks to Nico for being a great guide

Great boat. Knowledgeable guide and beautiful scenery and birds. A great tour!

not crowded, lots of shade, worried about you the heat not a problem