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Beaches you should visit, dolphins you should swim with!
About 25 mins from Carvoeiro by car. The dolphin interaction programme at Zoomarine - an absolutely unforgettable experience. You spend about 30mins with a trainer who talks to you about dolphins and conservation, and tells you what to expect when you actually get in the water with the dolphin, which areas not to touch etc. You have to shower and put on a wetsuit/jacket - you can't wear any make up, jewellery, wedding rings or anything else that could harm the dolphin. Lockers are provided for your belongings. You are given a pair of Zoomarine flip flops and a towel, which you can take home with you later. We were put into a group of 6 people, and spent 30-40mins in the water with a beautiful bottlenose dolphin. Individually we "danced" with the dolphin (you hold your arm out and he pushes you around in a circle), and had a "foot push" from two dolphins (you lie on a body board and the dolphins push you along by your feet). It's not cheap, but it's a priceless experience. The dolphins were all born in captivity and obviously love their trainers and their lives. You have to see it to believe it. You can buy photos & a dvd of your time in the water - 15 euros for an album of 1 large & 5 small photos, or 25 euros for the dvd & an album - that's a lot less than you'd pay for photos at any theme park in the UK. There's also a dolphin show, a show of Peter Pan peformed by trainers, seals and sealions, bird shows, an aquarium, a few rides (pirate ship, big wheel etc.), outdoor swimming pools - the 4D cinema experience is amazing. The whole emphasis at the park is on education and conservation. Check out the website, prebook your interaction session by phone (don't worry, almost everyone speaks English). Whatever you do, don't miss out on your chance to swim with the dolphins.
Also known as Smuggler's Cove - about 5-10mins drive east from Carvoeiro, there's a small car park at the top of the cliffs, then you have to walk down a lot of steps and through a tunnel cut through the cliff to reach the beach. Beautiful rocky cove, with steps cut into the cliff to the right hand side - watch brave/mad adults and children climb up and dive off the cliffs into the sea!
To the west of Carvoeiro, by car about 15 minutes (depending how many wrong turns you take trying to find it). Another beautiful beach, but you don't have to climb down a cliff to get to this one! You can park on the road and walk down to the beach - refreshments, toilets and shower facilities here, and a wooden boardwalk takes you down a few steps to the sand. Dramatic cliffs, some afternoon shade available in little caves or by cliff face. The only beach where I saw a lifeguard on duty.
Beautiful beach, immediately to the west of Carvoeiro beach. You can walk up the steep hill (to the right of Carvoiero beach if you're looking out to sea), or take the easy option and drive up. Just as you get to the top there's a small car park on your left. Steps from here (a lot of them!) lead down to the most beautiful little cove. Even if you don't make it all the way, go part way down for the view alone. There's some afternoon shade here if you need it (I did). If you can't face the climb, there's a lovely restaurant/bar next to the car park where you can sit and enjoy the views with a cold beer.
Carry on up the hill from the car park for Paraiso beach. At the top turn right at the small roundabout and there's a car park. Monte Carvoeiro is much quieter than Carvoeiro village itself - there are several restaurants and bars set around a really pretty square with a fountain in the middle. You feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the village below, and it's a really pretty place to sit out and enjoy a lovely meal.
Restaurant on the main hill of shops, bars and restaurants in Carvoiero village. This is the only restaurant we revisited during our holiday because we loved it so much. The food is fantastic and very reasonably priced, the staff are very friendly. There's an outdoor seating area, and this is the only restaurant we found with separate smoking and non-smoking dining rooms. Well worth a visit.