Culatra Island Tour: Cruise Along Ria Formosa & Oyster Taste
A visit to the Algarve is not complete if you don´t make a trip to one of the seven natural wonders of Portugal: the unique Ria Formosa Natural Park.
The Ria Formosa is a beautiful stretch of the Algarve coastline. If you want to really appreciate it’s magnificence, it’s best to explore it by boat and with a local guide.
The Ria Formosa estuary is actually a naturally formed network of lagoons, reefs and islands that lies for 60 km along the coast of the Algarve. It is a place of breath-taking natural beauty.
Photo: Ria Formosa. Algarve.
THE ALGARVE CAVES
The amazing coastline of the Algarve stretches from its’ border with Spain at Monte Gordo getting all the way to the most South-Western point from Europe, at Vila do Bispo. With about 150 km of marvelous cliffs, beaches, marinas and caves to explore, even the most adventurous traveler will be satisfied with what Portugal’s Southern coast has to offer.
Check out this top 5 caves from the Algarve region.
Photo: The Algarve Caves.
RIA FORMOSA NATURAL PARK
The Parque natural da Ria Formosa is one of the most surprising places of the Algarve, for its variety of landscapes and for its unique location. Chosen as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal, this park is just one of the 3 protected regions that are a must-see when getting to Algarve.
Ria Formosa is about 18 000 hectares large and it has 5 barrier-islands and 2 peninsulas that protect it from the sea. These are: Culatra Island, Barreta Island (Ilha Deserta), Island of Tavira, Island of Armona, Peninsula of Ancão, Cabanas Island and Peninsula of Cacela.
By getting to this Natural Park, you get the chance to discover some endangered species like the chameleon – a reptile that currently only lives in the South of Portugal-, or the seahorse, because here is one of the most numerous populations of seahorses in the world.
This wonderful natural park has some picturesque white sandy beaches and it is a protected habitat for the wildlife.
Ria Formosa Natural Park is a must-see on every Algarve itinerary
Photo: Ria Formosa Natural Park.
CULATRA ISLAND: A FISHERMEN’S ISLAND IN ALGARVE
Ilha da Culatra is a small barrier island placed on the edge of the Ria Formosa at about 10 km away from Faro and 6 km from Olhão. Ilha da Culatra, Culatra and also Praia da Culatra are all parts of the same island.
On the western end of the island, you’ll also encounter Ilha do Farol, which is not a separate island. Culatra is a fantastic place to discover, a remote paradise island.
Culatra Island is well known for its incredible beaches, for the crystal-clear water and for the deserted island feeling
Photo: Ria Formosa. Algarve.
When you first get to the dock in Culatra, you’ll see the small village. This picturesque village is a very relaxing place where life seems to slow down. When walking into the village, you´ll find Igreja da Culatra and around it some informational boards with photos of what life in the past was like when Culatra was just a fishing settlement.
PRAIA DA ILHA DA CULATRA
From Olhão it takes about 15 minutes to walk and reach this marvelous beach. But we assure you that the walk will be worth it because it goes to a cement path that crosses the small “neighborhood” of fishermen. Here the houses are built in a disorderly and carefree way. And after crossing this part, you will only see dunes and the sea on the horizon. This area is great for bathing, mainly due to the clear and calm waters.
If you´re lucky, you can even see dolphins and orcas in the distance. The white sand and the water are very clean, which makes it a perfect place in the summer for snorkeling.
Photo: Praia Da Ilha Da Culatra. João Domingos. Adapted under license (CC BY-SA 3.0)
ENJOY ALGARVE IN BOAT TOURS
The Algarve boat trips are available from the major marinas like Albufeira, Lagos, Vilamoura, Portimão and Faro. These trips are also available from smaller harbors, docks and beaches, so definitely there is something nearby.
Photo: Lagos. Algarve.
With award-winning beaches, some hidden caves and stunning coastlines, the Algarve is one of the best places to enjoy a cruise or a boat trip. Besides, the number of Algarve boat trips has increased a lot in the last few years. This means that you can choose what you want from your boat trip, whether it is a dolphin watching or maybe a relaxing lunch on board.
Photo: Portimão. Algarve.
Photo: Portimão. Algarve.
OYSTERS: THE ART OF TASTING PORTUGAL
Located by the sea, Portugal takes advantage of everything the sea has to offer: the beach, the waves, and, of course, the food.
So, oysters are one of the marvelous natural foods that thrive in Portugal and especially in Algarve. Oyster farming and harvesting is one of the most popular coastal industries in Portugal. Along with the clams, the shrimps and with the fish, the oyster is important for many popular seafood stews like cataplana, a favorite in the Algarve restaurants.
Here are some of the most common oysters in Portugal: Clams (Amêijoas), Goose Barnacles (Percebes), Acorn Barnacle (Cracas), Scarlet Prawn (Carabineiros), Razor Clam (Lingueirão ou Navalhas), Mussels (Mexilhão), Brown Crab (Sapateira), Santola, Bean Clam (Conquilha), Rose Shrimp (Gambas), Lobster (Lagosta), Lavagante, Limpet (Lapas), Velvet Crab (Navalheiras) and Sea Urchin (Ouriço do mar).
Oysters aren’t just a food in Portugal, they’re a culture, a way of life
Photo: Oysters. Portugal.
What Do Oysters Taste Like?
The answer to this question depends on several factors, like the oyster variety, the geographical location, and some more. Nevertheless, oysters have their unique terroir. The oyster taste is mainly influenced by the water they live in.
The main idea is that oysters shouldn’t taste overly fishy. They have a very subtle fish flavor, so we could say that they taste like the ocean, with some mineral notes that may vary depending on the type.
For instance, raw oysters don’t have a strong flavor, so they are usually served with lemon or sauce that adds some flavor. Besides, the oyster flavor intensifies the longer they are cooked.
A bit more about oysters and oyster sauces
You should know by now that Algarve is known for its seafood dishes and that you can order oysters at a seafood restaurant. This means that by taking a trip you can eat oysters which have been plucked straight from the ocean and then opened right before your eyes.
In the Algarve region there are many food tours and oyster tasting experiences starting with Ilha de Culatra in Ria Formosa, where you can learn all about oysters from a local producer. Then you can try fresh oysters and enjoy a crisp, a cold glass of white wine, all these by the ocean.
There any plenty ways in which oysters can be prepared and an oyster bar can be a good place to taste them.
And since we want to give a clue on how you can take more advantage of these ocean wonders, here are the five best sauces to pair with your oysters.
A DREAMY PLACE
Culatra island from Portugal is a dreamy place of white sand and deserted beaches, perfect to rest and to recharge. A tour here is the perfect opportunity to take a cruise along Ria Formosa and to taste the delicious oysters that Portugal is so well known about.