When we were planning our seven day trip away to Lisbon, we were mindful of experiencing as much of the city as possible, as well as taking some days to relax at the beach. After doing a bit of research we decided on Cascais – a gorgeous beach village with the best ice-cream shop and so much character, from the cobbled streets to the clean, compact beaches and Costa da Caparica.
In contrast to Cascais, there wasn’t as much information available about Costa da Caparica – it appeared to be popular with the locals and more unknown to the tourists. The Lonely Planet Lisbon Travel Guide sold it to us, with promises of sandy beaches, stretching right down to the Cabo Espichel and plenty of beach huts to grab a spot of lunch.
Getting to Costa da Caparica was not the easiest it has to be said. You can either travel by bus or by ferry and then a bus. We decided on the latter so we could experience Lisbon from the sea and see the The Sanctuary of Christ the King monument from a different viewpoint. It (surprisingly) also worked out quicker to travel by ferry (from Cais do Sodré) and then bus. Bear in mind ferry and bus times- the bus runs every 30-40 minutes in peak season so if you mistime it, you can have a bit of a wait on your hands. The town of Cacilhas (where the ferry docks) has been industrialised and there isn’t very much to see there, so do take this into account when you are travelling to Costa da Caparica.
You can buy your tickets to the beach at the information desk right next to where the ferry docks. You need to buy your ticket before getting onto the bus. It’s another 30 minutes or so to the beach from here and handily you get the bus back from the same point where you are dropped off (just on the other side of the road). The beach is a ten minute walk from the bus stop, which is actually when we realized that we had arrived for our beach day without swimming costumes and towels! Another thing to note is that there is very little shade on the beaches. If you’re fair-skinned like myself then either borrowing an umbrella from where you are staying or bringing your own would be a good idea, especially in the summer when temperatures are typically 30 degrees and upwards.
Luckily as the beach is the main selling point of Costa da Caparica, there are lots of pop up, tourist-tack shops in town. Normally, we would avoid these like the plague but on this particular trip we could not be happier to see a phone-and-electronic-come-bric-a-brac shop, which sold beach wear on the side. The owner looked over the moon to see two hapless tourists enter his shop with none of those beach day necessities with us. We walked away with some truly hideous beach towels (which have since lost their pom-poms) – I use the term towel loosely as they only had a flannel material on one side, the other was some sort of synthetic material. We also came away with some equally horrendous beach umbrellas and swimming trunks, which we later realized had ‘hot.com’ written on them (!). This shop did however save us from what would have been a completely disastrous beach day!
The trip was definitely worth doing for the gorgeous, clean and spacious beaches that lined the coast as far as the eye could see. In our travel guide book, it said that there was a train running where you could hop on and off as you choose. This train wasn’t running when we were there (we couldn’t actually see any tracks so were unsure whether this still runs) and so we settled on one of the beaches closest to the bus stop.
The beach we were on had a life-guard and flags that indicated that it was safe to swim. As someone who is not all that fond of the cold (despite living in Edinburgh), I paddled my feet but there were plenty of people swimming. If you are a keen swimmer and travelling September time it might be worth bringing a wet-suit, which would make swimming much more enjoyable!
If you’re eager to have a go at surfing, then Costa da Caparica is a great option. There’s a surf school which is located on the road that runs directly from the bus drop off to the beach. There’s plenty of signs that indicate where the surf school meets (which are also in English) and groups of surfers that all go out together.
As part of a (now bust) government program, there are a number of huts that line the beach where you can get a spot of lunch, ice-cream or just a refreshment. When we arrived at the beach, we were so dehydrated from our trip into town that we went for the nearest one! On reflection, we should have taken our time a bit more and found one that suited our tastes a little better. There are some lovely looking eateries here so do peruse the coast-line thoroughly and you’re bound to find a nice place to stop for a foody pick-me-up.
Keep an eye on the time as the bus back to the ferry point doesn’t run all that late. The ferry in peak season does run until 1 am however, so you do have a little leeway if you miss the last bus back. Our journey back was a lot smoother and we timed it perfectly to see the sunset back in central Lisbon. From there we walked along to the Praça do Comércio, which is the largest square in Europe and took our time deliberating where to go for dinner and enjoying our own company.