As we looked south along the cliff tops above one of Europe's finest body boarding beaches, Praia Grande, I couldn't help but wonder where this Portugal had been hiding in all my pre-trip research. "I could have sworn we booked a trip to Portugal and not Scotland," I said to my husband, Zeke. The craggy coastline and windswept bluffs looked a whole lot more like photographs of wild Scottish landscapes as opposed to golden Portuguese beaches. I couldn't have been more pleased. While I love a good golden beach, as a Northern California native - nothing feels like home more than a rough and rocky coastline.
We were initially led to Praia Grande by the promise of dinosaur footprints - a mission we would fail to accomplish. On a misty morning, we began at the beach and stared at the sheer cliffs looking for any sight footprints. The strong ocean waves grabbed our attention away as we watched them crash over the wall and into the massive salt-water pool at Hotel Arribas. Giving up, we rationalized that perhaps the footprints may be more easy to spot above - or perhaps there may be some directly above on the cliff tops.
With a saved offline Google Map and Magellan GPS, we navigated our way away from the beach and up to the cliff tops along skinny, unmarked dirt roads. Eventually finding our way to a dusty area behind a finely manicured and fenced home. Parking our car along the edge of the open space - we searched for any sign of trail. We spotted a very worn wooden post with indentations flecked with yellow and red paint - an indication of a trail in Portugal.
The beginning of the trail or path, there are many options you could take, leads you into a sandy open space filled with a combination of shrubbery, ATV tracks, and more footprints that seems sensible for such a unmarked destination. It's a pleasant enough walk, but nothing specifically remarkable. That is, until you make it through and up to the cliff tops.
Completely alone atop the cliffs above Praia Grande, Zeke and I wandered. Searching for those promised dinosaur footprints. Peering down the cliff sides and keeping watch under our feet just in case. If it weren't for the beautiful distraction of the scenery causing me to stop in my tracks every few moments to just breathe, perhaps we would have found them after all. No matter, the views up the coast to the north and down to the body boarders on the beach were plenty reward.
Varying trails criss cross across the cliff tops, any one of them will take you to new views down the sharp edges of the cliffs. There's no "right" path, although trail markers are sporadically placed to guide you in some kind of direction. So take as much time as you need, searching for dinosaur footprints or just admiring the views and breathing it all in.
Turning south along the cliff tops, that craggy coastline with the large paw-like feature stopped me for the longest while. My imagination bopped back and forth between recognizing I was in Portugal and transporting myself to a Scottish isle.
Again, there are several obvious trail options to take you out and over those craggy cliffs. Some are steeper than others so watch your footing and with just a short scramble you can make it up and over to a view of Praia da Adraga and Cabo da Roca in the distance.