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This area is located about 2 miles by road to the west of Albufeira old town centre. It has been intensively developed over the past ten years. What was an area mainly of villas and detached homes is now being swamped by resort hotel developments. There is one large site at the São Rafael beach and two more at the western end of the area as you head into Galé. These are not intrusive and the area remains essentially quiet.
Head west on the main dual-carriageway road out of Albufeira towards the Marina. At the Dolphins roundabout, go down the hill past the Marina roundabout then turn sharp left. After 100 metres turn right and go up the hill towards São Rafael. You will come to the Hotel Maritur and Sesmarias.
The road (Estrada das Sesmarias) then runs along the top of a ridge towards Galé. There are many turnings left and right!
The beaches in the locality are off the main road, 500 – 600 metres down little lanes. The land slopes quite sharply down to the seashore, so these are quite steep in parts. The beaches themselves can only be reached on foot and this often involves steps. For example the 'final approach' from the end of the road and parking area to Praia do Castelo is down (and back up) 56 steps and at Praia São Rafael there are about 30 steps or a steep slope. This area is not suitable therefore for persons of restricted mobility. Recently ( 2009/10) work has been carried out to improve parking and access for all.
The beaches themselves are small bays and coves. They are sandy but there are hidden rocks. Swimming is generally safe but the tides can be strong. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer holiday season but not during winter.
There is a bar/restaurant on each of the beaches. They are expensive – captive audience I guess. The restaurants at Coelha and Castelo are moderately priced and have very good fresh fish, each have toilet and shower facilities for the beach.
The wide sandy beach at Galé is about a mile/mile and half away (depending on where you are staying) and access to this beach is flat.
WARNING – some of these places may be closed during the winter months.
These are situated in little clusters along the mile or so of the Estrada das Sesmarias and also on some of the side roads.
Near the Ponta Grande resort at the São Rafael end are a Chinese restaurant, English sports bar and a Portuguese restaurant. Scooby's English sports bar and diner is near the turn off to Praia do Castelo. This has a children's play area and the deepest swimming pool in the area open to anyone using the bar faciltites. It is very clean and good value.
Almost opposite is the Pôr do Sol fish restaurant - also with a swimming pool for guests, and two other Portuguese places. Down the road opposite about 200 metres are a diner, Chinese restaurant, snack bar, a shop selling paint and an hairdresser.
There is a snack bar every few hundred metres along the road.
Finally as you head towards Galé you will find an Indian restaurant (The Curry Club), The View English bar and diner and an Italian Pizza and Pasta joint.
There are a number of 'mini-markets'** along the Estrada das Sesmarias. There is also a 'supermarket' in the Hapimag resort near Praia do Castelo.
**Only one of them, Tommy's, specifically states it sells cigarettes. Not sure about the others. Tommy's is up at the São Rafael end about a mile from Praia do Castelo.
For a bigger shop, you will have to go down into Galé (about a mile) where you will find the new Apolónia supermarket (well-signposted from the main road) and a bit further the Ali Super. You will see signs for the Oceanias supermarket; this is about 750m away on the main Albufeira road at the bottom of the hill. This is open every day til late and has a cash point and cafe.
There is an irregular and infrequent bus along Estrada das Sesmarias connecting Galé and Albufeira. Last bus is about 7pm and there is no Sunday service during the winter. Fare to Albufeira is €1.90.
For timetable and more information please visit www.algarvebus.info/030.htm
Taxis can be phoned on 289 583 230. A taxi to Albufeira old town will cost about €6 or €7.
There are unmarked and unofficial paths along the seashore clifftop. Some scrambling along rocks is involved and the ground can be hard going. From Galé you can walk along the beach to Armação de Pera, about 2 miles. There is also a nature reserve here around the lagoon with paths and tracks that can be safely be used. The wooden boardwalk is now complete and offers a nice walk beside the wildfowl reserve. The O Salgados Beach Restaurant is just off the car park area and serves great lunches over looking the beach.