The best hotels in the Algarve
Ah, the Algarve… that particular, feel-good, light, the long expanses of burnt butter sands, blue waters washing against golden limestone cliffs; the smell of sizzling fresh fish, drizzled with local olive oil and the clack-clacking of storks sitting atop the squat olive trees that border the winding roads. There is a wealth of magic in this region, of hidden beaches where fishermen still mend their nets, small white-washed Portuguese villages where the only sound is that of the sonorous church bell, and vineyards where you can stay to taste the wine from the vines around you, immersing yourself in the terroir. And then there is the lively Algarve, where warm nights are filled with music and cocktails and beach parties, days with surfing or riding. There is something for everyone in this region and below are the best hotels from which to do it.
Casas da Quinta de Cima
Opened this summer, the nine little cottages (with bedroom, sitting room with kitchenette, bathroom and large terrace) on this farm estate offer space and tranquillity in the deeply rural eastern Algarve. The beach is a walk away, through orange and lemon trees, past the swimming pool and the prettiest honesty bar ever. Like its highly acclaimed siblings Pensão Agricola and Hospedaria, interiors mix luxury touches with retro design and pleasing overall simplicity. From here you can ride to nearby Cacela Velha in time for their fresh haul of oysters, which you can eat in the shade of the old church bell tower, while your horse waits. Doubles from £145 including breakfast.
Set in a turn-of-the-century villa overlooking the magnificent Praia de Rocha beach, this jewel of a hotel has preserved its original stained glass, hand-painted tiles and carved wooden staircase, but contemporary décor by Portugal’s acclaimed designer Graça Viterbo weaves bold blues and pop yellows into the whole, creating a jaunty, seaside feel. There is a swimming pool framed by slender palm trees, a L’Occitance Spa and a one-star Michelin restaurant by Chef João Oliveira which deserves to be two stars. Try his dish of tomatoes, basil and camomile with a sorbet of roasted yellow peppers to see what I mean. Doubles from £235 including breakfast.
More for urban lovers than beach bums, although the beach is only a hop, skip and jump away, Casa Mãe has a young and vibrant buzz to it. There is an all-day restaurant serving local, artisan-sourced cheeses and hams alongside typical regional fare like octopus and squid with fresh herbs and vegetables brought in from the hotel’s own, extensive, garden. The 34 rooms come in three different categories, from cabanas near the swimming pool, complete with hammocks and outside showers to elegant heritage rooms with vintage furniture in the main 19th-century house and contemporary rooms in the Joga da Bolo with futon beds on terracotta floors. Doubles from £145 including breakfast.
Farmhouse of the Palms
If you dream of an escape with white-washed walls and terracotta floors, a feel of history and a sense of place, this one is for you. Just seven suites are housed in this old farmhouse and its former stables, complete with a pool. All are different, all created with love, each one has a terrace where you can swing lazily in a hammock and bespoke furniture crafted by local artisans. There are luxurious touches from underfloor heating to AC, espresso machines to the best Egyptian cotton but here it is about the beauty of simplicity. Try Suite Four for the chance to sleep in a four-poster bed on the rooftop terrace under the starlit Algarvean sky. Doubles from £140 including breakfast.
Nowhere quite does family fun as well as this flagship of the child-centric Martinhal brand. Situated on the very west of the Algarve, the hotel overlooks the little beach of Martinhal where teens can paddleboard whilst toddlers play in the sand. Comprising 38 hotel rooms, townhouses and villas with private pools, there are swimming pools scattered throughout the resort, as well as tennis courts, bikes to ride and three dedicated kids’ clubs. For screen addicts there is a blue room with play stations galore, and family films feature nightly. Best of all perhaps is the Baby Concierge who prepares everything you need before you arrive, allowing you that elusive rest. Doubles from £140 including breakfast.
Morgado do Quintão
This much-loved family winery, now run by the fourth generation of the same family, has recently opened three small cottages and four bedrooms in the renovated main house to tourists who wish to make it their Algarvean base. Clean and cool with muted colours and a simple, period, charm these houses, dotted around the estate are blissfully free of televisions but come with enticing swimming pools. At their centre is a magnificent 2,000-year-old olive tree under which farmer’s lunches and wine tastings are a regular occurrence. A three-bedroom cottage costs from £255 per night inclusive of breakfast, with a three-night minimum stay.
There is plenty of charm here with courtyards filled with fountains and orange trees and gardens overflowing with bounty for the kitchen. Just 55 rooms are dotted around the lush gardens, their design paying homage to the region’s Moorish heritage with high ceilings lined with straw reeds and the characteristic latticed chimney pots. White-washed bedrooms have driftwood branches where colourful kaftans for the beach hang alongside straw hats. Two swimming pools, a tennis court and a gym are there for the active and a shuttle bus takes you to the nearest beach. Evenings are given over to al fresco cinema and delicious dishes at the rustic Terra Restaurant. Doubles from £255 including breakfast. Doubles from £255 including breakfast.
Vila Vita Parc
This is the grand dame of the Algarve’s resorts, with something for everyone. Private yacht with which to set sail on the seas? Tick. Two Michelin-star restaurant? Tick. Extraordinary wine cellar? Tick. The country’s only Sisley Spa? Tick. Brilliant kid’s club? Tick. And so, it goes on. The choice of restaurants is huge, ranging from Michelin star dining at Ocean where you really must try Chef Hans Neuner’s sublime dishes to traditional Portuguese favourites at Adega, Japanese teppanyaki and sushi at Mizu and tuna tartare and salmon poke bowls, next to the infinity pool at Whale. They have their own private beach, great shops and tip-top service throughout the 202 rooms and villas dotted around the 54 acres of sub-tropical garden. Doubles from £187.
This gem of a private villa with just 13 rooms is one of the Algarve’s best-kept secrets but has long been a favourite of the cognoscenti. Perched on a clifftop, it is ridiculously romantic, and its breezy, beautiful setting will pull you back time and time again. Food is memorable, from the two Michelin-star restaurant with elegant dishes such as John Dory with seaweed and beurre blanc to the fun, buzzy and very cool Vila Joya Sea on the beach, where sushi jostles with tiradito behind raw coir rope blinds and cocktails from amber mojito to smoked & tasty are shaken up as sundowners. Doubles from £510 including breakfast.
The W Algarve
Just opened and already making the waves it promised it would, The W plays to its own beat. DJ booths – clad in iridescent mermaid scales obviously – can be found on the wet deck by the (heated) pool, in the W Lounge where the décor of turquoise and mirrors mimics the glinting Algarvian coast and up at the roof-top Sea Sky Bar. Try the homemade cheese ravioli with Piedmont truffle cream in chic restaurant Paper Moon or indulge in a lobster and crab roll at the W Lounge Bar. In between times stroll to the beach, dip your toes in your private plunge pool or head to the spa for a serious make-over before dancing the night away. Doubles from £255.
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