South of Lisbon, Costa da Caparica is completely open to ocean and to strong winds and swells. It’s wide, unspoilt and breathtaking.
The waves of the Atlantic reach here a wide, completely open, 30-km long beach. They break directly and whatever storm should be there, in the middle of the ocean, the waves loudly bring lots of water in. Locals say that when the waves break before the lighthouse, then it’s really big.
The ocean changes constantly. Sometimes it’s nice just to stay out at the end of the pier and gaze at how water moves in and out.
Some other times, when it’s calm at low tide, the beach doubles the size with a parallel stripe of wet sand.
It’s also not very uncommon for thick fog to cover the entire beach and stay like this for an entire morning.
And then, Caparica at its best is with nice and small waves, plenty of sun and mild wind.
The easiest way is to get to the beach is to take the bus and cross the bridge – in 30 minutes from Praça de Espanha in Lisbon you’re there – but the road doesn’t say much except for the nice Ponte de 25 de Abril. My favourite way to get to Costa da Caparica, from Lisbon, is by the ferry from Belém, option which I warmly recommend, it’s nice to see Lisbon from the river.
The ferry from Belém crosses the river and stops at Trafaria. It takes 25 minutes and then from Trafaria there’s another 15-minute walk to Sao João da Caparica and then the centre of the town is close. Caparica is a modern urbanisation so there’s not much to see. The centre is great for a sandwich at Ahoy or vegan lunch at Xexexe.
The beach of Caparica is spectacularly large. Between the sand dunes there are several beach bars where it’s nice to pass time sharing a petisco or two (Portuguese tapas) or having a coffee, especially at Marcelino on the pier, or Leblon and Lorosae with the sand dunes all around. I think it’s a great place to have that ‘just me and the ocean’ feeling whilst people are in the water, taking a walk or simply watching and taking a bit of time to forget everything about the rest of world, the agenda, the routine, the city, the rooms, the cars…
The main road further leaves the town of Caparica and goes south to more wild beaches and remote beach bars and surf schools, passing Fonta da Telha and Lagoa da Albufeira on the way down to reach Sesimbra and Setúbal. The landscape changes from the open beach to a lagoon and then to high cliffs with small coves protected from the big swells.
In one and a half years while I was in Lisbon I made the trip to Setúbal only once but I liked it. I’d say Fonte da Telha remains my favourite place but it’s only reachable by car. And Caparica was where I’d come at least once a week. I liked it so much than I even stayed there some 5 days in a row, at Gota d’Agua, and so far I think it’s still my favourite beach of this part of the Atlantic shore. I’ve crossed Portugal from north to south and was quite impressed with Leça de Palmeira, Figueira da Foz, Ericeira, Praia Grande da Sintra, Arrifana, Sagres or Lagos but still Caparica is the place for me.