Teens love dreaming about Europe and often limit themselves to Paris, London, Rome or Madrid. By all means visit these cities, but then take a detour straight for southern Portugal. A veritable smorgasbord of all good thing European—beaches, food, history and passion—can be found in this sliver of a country. Older children will love the laid back ambiance, while adults can take their time strolling the streets and hitting the beach with happy teens. Sounds like a family vacation you can all enjoy, doesn’t it?
Countless beach towns along Portugal’s southern coast welcome you, but I have a soft spot for Lagos in particular. It does not boast the tourism of the Gold Coast like Spain, and has retained much of its authentic flavor. Yes, it’s popular with the older teen and college crowd, but this can particularly delight your own young adults when on the hunt for independence and some new friends.
You will notice right away Lagos has some very special beaches. Most are open to the public, and many have incredible rocky outcrops that jut out of the ocean and create dramatic backdrops for swimming. Teens can jump from some of these rocks if they are good swimmers. Beware that beaches there can be a little lax when it comes to bathing suits, so either check beforehand or have a conversation with you teen to see if they are mature enough to be in that environment. Ponta de Piedade and Praia Dona Ana are good beaches to begin.
Horseback riding on the beach is a wonderful way to stay cool, bond with your teen and splash around gorgeous Lagos shorelines. Surfing lessons or kayak excursions through beach caves are also a great way to get outdoors and fall in love with Lagos. Head inland for some of the freshest seafood ever at Oasis Café or really any of the tasty cafes lining the water—you cannot go wrong.
The End of the World
While teens will want for nothing in the lively town of Lagos, just an hour or so away is an attraction that can literally and figuratively take your breath away. Called “The End of the World” in English, this staggering cliff side spot in the town of Sangres has a cute white and red lighthouse and some incredible ocean views. It’s the most sou
thwestern part of Europe. There is not a more perfect time to visit then at sunrise or sunset, where brave teens can spread their arms wide by the cliffs (not too close!) and feel almost suspended by the intense rushing wind.
Make Time for Capital Adventure
If there’s time, take the teens on a 3-hour road trip up to the country’s capital of Lisbon. Most start their journey through Portugal there, but if you’re aiming for beach-time primarily then a weekend will suffice.
There are a few kitschy but super popular places to explore, such as the massive aquarium and fun zoo park. But teens can crave a bit of shopping, people watching and of course eating—all of which Lisbon is perfectly suited for. Bring your older kids to Principie Real where they can drool over designer clothes and trendy, European styles that will surely make their friends jealous back home. Lisbon is the land of hipsters, funky glasses and flowy skirts to boot. Have fun bargain hunting or simply window-shopping for the afternoon.
Teens, adults and everyone in between also must try the Pasteis de Belem while in Lisbon. These custardy, flaky pillows of heaven melt right in your mouth. Don’t settle for anything but the original, so get a little sunshine while waiting in line at the Pasteis de Belem by the metro.