Published: 19 April 2016
Day 1 - Grande Real Santa Eulalia
We left the UK in cold, wet drizzle and landed 2.5 hours later, with no time difference, to gorgeous sunshine and blue skies. This was going to be a great weekend!
We collected our car from the airport (at a bargain price of 20 euros for 3 days) and drove 40 minutes southwest to our first stop on the coast, the Grand Real Santa Eulalia Resort. I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. Although a very popular hotel, I wasn't fully convinced as to why this was but it became apparent as soon as we arrived. Its position on the Algarve is arguably one of, if not the best on that stretch of coastline. It sits right on a gorgeous beach which is sheltered at both ends by rocky cliffs and great rock pools.
The hotel itself is quite big but low rise with swimming pools overlooking the sea, several eateries all with sea views, FREE kids clubs, spa and indoor pool, tennis courts and a private water sports club on the beach. We stayed in a ‘Classic Seaview’ room with a lovely big balcony - well worth the extra cost over a resort-facing room I think. They also have studios plus one and two bedroom apartments set back just behind the hotel with their own shared swimming pools. The hotel puts on a free shuttle bus several times a day into Albufeira which, when you get past the usual touristy area, has a lovely old part to it and some great little restaurants. There’s also a lovely beach restaurant right on the sand and below the hotel. It was closed when we were there because the season hadn’t quite started but looked like the kind of place I'd want to eat in every night!
My barometer for anywhere I go is the following - would I come back here again and would I bring my daughter? The answer would be a definite ‘yes’ to both of these questions! If you’re looking for a weekend or simple holiday away, with great weather, a quick transfer, lovely beach, great hotel and good value, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
• It’s quicker to drive to the resort on the toll motorway - the normal road has roadworks on it (or did when I was there) but if you use the motorway ensure you inform your hire car company to avoid any fines.
• You can stay on a half board or full board basis at the hotel and apartments but if you want to keep costs down, you could self-cater in the apartments and eat out ad hoc in the hotel, in Albufeira or at the beach restaurant just below the hotel.
Day 2 - Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort
Voted one of ‘Europe’s best luxury family hotels’, this was the hotel I was most looking forward to visiting. It has repeat clients returning year after year and gets booked up very quickly so I was curious to see if it would live up to all the hype.
The drive here from Faro airport takes about 1 hour 20 minutes and you really feel like you’re approaching the equivalent of Lands End. Situated on the very left hand tip of the Algarve, just outside the town of Sagres, this isn’t the place to come if you want to be in the midst of things. It is the place to come if you want super stylish accommodation, a stunning setting right on the beach overlooking an island, fantastic indoor and outdoor pools and a totally relaxing holiday where parents’ every need, whim and desire has been pre-empted and catered for. Amazingly, there is no need to bring any baby equipment here - it's all available at the resort, including push chairs.
We stayed in a Beach Room which are funky wooden cube-like terraces with fabulous views out to sea and there are several different accommodation options here, ranging from one, two and three bedroom houses as well as some private villas for rent.
Would I come here again? Most definitely. I certainly would have really enjoyed the facilities at this place a few years ago when my daughter was younger and I was a more frazzled, tired parent! Unfortunately it didn't exist then.
• I would definitely drive here on the motorway - it’s much quicker and more scenic than the slow road.
• There are two fabulous beach shack/restaurants just feet away from the hotel if you don't want to eat in the hotel itself.
Day 3 - Pine Cliffs Resort
Now this is a resort I really didn’t understand on paper back in the UK as they seemed to have umpteen different room choices and price bands that I just couldn't get my head around so I made the Pine Cliffs Resort my third pit stop - and what a lovely surprise it was.
Very different to Grand Real and Martinhal, Pine Cliffs sits up on the cliffs with a lift, yes.... a lift, and wooden walkway down to the beach. The first thing that struck me was how vast the grounds were and park areas with huge pine trees, lovely lawns and little cobbled roads connecting all the different areas of the resort. There's even a 9 hole golf course in the middle of it! Wandering around with my ‘mum’ hat on, I could really see why families like yours would love it here. The kids can roam freely between little pocket-like villages within the resort or rent bikes to get around whilst adults can play a round of golf or try their hand at tennis lessons at the Annabel Croft tennis academy, also onsite.
Accommodation options here are huge and range from the newly refurbished hotel reopening in June to two, three and four bedroom privately owned townhouses, residences and deluxe villas. There are at least ten restaurants to choose from (I lost count at ten), several swimming pools including a lovely lagoon pool and a deli. The beach also has a couple of restaurant/cafes on it.
Would I come again? Definitely. You can do as little or as much as you like at Pine Cliffs (all at a cost) and I would love to come back and have a tennis-tastic holiday here.
• We ate at a great seafood restaurant 10 minutes away called 'Lagosteira' - a bit of an institution in the area I think.
• The deluxe townhouses are good value and most have a large BBQ on the terrace.
We have great deals to these resorts so call us today to book your family holiday.