The São Jacinto Dunes Natural Reserve in a nutshell
Nestled at the end of the peninsula formed by the Ria de Aveiro, a 45 kilometer long coastal lagoon, the the São Jacinto Dunes Natural Reserve ( Reserva Natural das Dunas de São Jacinto) heaven on earth for nature lovers!
Between white sand beaches, dunes, pine forests and marshes, the landscapes are quite simply spectacular.
The São Jacinto Dunes Natural Reserve is also one of Portugal’s hotspot for surf enthusiasts!
💡 The Captain’s tip 💡
🧐 Want to know more about Porto’s history? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the city. It’s up to you to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide!
💤 Looking for an hotel in Porto? Be sure to check out the Captain’s article: Where to stay in Porto? Advice & recommendations
🏛 Planning your trip to Porto? Be sure to check out Captain Ulysses’ complete article on what to see and do in the city: a Guide to Porto
👶 Planning a family adventure to Porto? Discover all of the Captain’s top tips in the article: Exploring Porto with the Kids: Family-Friendly Activities
Getting to Sao Jacinto
Located in the district of Aveiro, the São Jacinto Dunes Natural Reserve Jacinto is quite easy to get to from Porto or Aveiro.
– from Aveiro
From Aveiro, you can take the ferry crossing the Ria de Aveiro to São Jacinto. If you’re driving, you can embark your vehicle on the ferry. Otherwise, Captain Ulysses recommends renting bikes: you’ll be able to get to Praia de São Jacinto (located 2 km from the pier) and to the entrance to the nature reserve (4 km) quite easily.
– from Porto
Driving is undoubtedly the easiest way to get from Porto to São Jacinto. It’ll take you an hour or so to get to the nature reserve from Porto (roughly 65 kilometers).
That being said, you can also access São Jacinto without being motorized, but the journey will be quite the adventure! You’ll first need to take the train to Aveiro (at São Bento station, in the center of Porto, or Campanhã station, in Porto’s periphery). Once in Aveiro, the Captain recommends renting bikes before boarding the ferry that crosses the Ria de Aveiro (the lagoon), to connect Aveiro to São Jacinto. You’ll then be able to go to Praia de São Jacinto, located 2 kilometers from the ferry terminal, or cycle the 3.7 kilometers to the entrance to the Nature Reserve.
💡 The Captain’s tip 💡
Renting a car is undoubtedly one of the most practical options to explore Portugal. Captain Ulysse suggests checking out Rentalcars for your car rental needs, as it allows you to compare offers from multiple car rental companies.
When choosing your vehicle, don’t forget to take fuel consumption into account. You might be better off opting for a car that is a little more expensive to rent, but which is more fuel efficient!
Visiting Sao Jacinto
Praia de Sao Jacinto
2 kilometers from the pier, on the other side of the peninsula, the beach of São Jacinto (Praia de São Jacinto) is a little paradise.
With its white sand dunes, this vast protected beach has remained incredibly well preserved and is a refuge as well as a breeding ground for many species of birds, including herons.
Praia de São Jacinto is well worth visiting while exploring the north of Portugal. You’ll also access particularly popular with surfers, but be warned: the beach is not always supervised and swimming can be dangerous.
Hiking in the São Jacinto Natural Reserve
To explore the hiking trails criss-crossing the reserve, head for the interpretation centre.
Once there, a guide will briefly introduce the reserve and will advise which trail to choose according to what you’re looking for. There are four trails in total (40 minutes to 3 hours). Each footpath is indicated by a color code (red, yellow, green and blue) and very easy to to follow.
In the reserve, you’ll also find two observation platforms nestled near water points and designed for bird watching!
All trails are super easy to hike and will perfectly suit beginner walkers!
Admission to the São Jacinto Nature Reserve is free. It is open from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. except on Thursdays, Sundays and public holidays.
👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in Porto!
👉 Looking for a place to stay in Porto?
👉 Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all the Captain’s suggestions in Porto!
🛏️ Accommodation: When it comes to reserving your stay in Porto, Captain Ulysses wholeheartedly recommends using Booking.com. or Expedia. You’ll find a wide range of options, from cozy youth hostels to luxurious boutique hotels. Here are the Captain’s personal suggestions:
– Youth hostels: Gallery Hostel / The Passenger Hostel / Rivoli Cinema Hostel
– Budget-friendly hotels: Moov Hotel Porto Centro / Rex Hotel / Decanting Porto House
– 3 and 4-star hotels: Village Aparthotel By BOA / Mo House / Fontinha Porto
– Upscale hotels: Pestana Vintage Porto / Yeatman Hotel / InterContinental Porto
🎟️ Activities: museums, monuments, guided tours, boat tours, excursions… there’s plenty to do in Porto! To avoid wasting time in endless queues, especially during high season, the Captain strongly recommends that you opt for skip-the-line tickets and book your activities in advance. You can book all your tickets and tourist activities on GetYourGuide and Civitatis.
⛵ Cruises: Porto is undoubtedly synymous with Douro! It’d be a shame to leave the “Capital of the North” without embarking on a Douro river cruise. If you’re only staying in Porto for a long weekend, the Captain recommends the six bridges cruise. If you have more time, then he highly recommends the Douro Valley cruise with wine tasting & lunch.
🎫 Citypass: valid from 1 to 4 days, the Porto Card includes unlimited access to city transport (including to get to/from the airport), free entry to 6 museums and a selection of discounts in museums, attractions, Port wine cellars and shops.
🚐 Transfers: you can take the metro at the airport to get to the city center (1/2 hour). But if you prefer to avoid public transport, you can also book a transfer at very reasonable prices.
🚌 Local transport: you’ll propably quickly tire of Porto’s steeply sloping streets and might be tempted to take local transport instead of walking. The public transport network is convenient and easy to navigate. You can buy your tickets directly at metro stations and bus stops (be careful, you will need to take 1 Andante card per person).
You should also know that access to public transport is included in the Porto Card. Otherwise, the hop-on hop-off bus tours are great options to explore the city. You can also opt for a pass including access to hop-on hop-off buses, the funicular as well as tramways.
Among other means of transport, you can also try the bicycle, the electric bicycle, the segway, the tuk-tuk, the small train …
✈️ Flights: to book your flights to Porto, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Skyscanner. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.