The Algarve, Portugal’s southern coast, is a stunning combination of massive cliffs and golden sandy beaches. At its end, the historic town of Sagres perches at the far southwestern corner of Europe, and in a sheltered cove below spreads the gracious Martinhal Beach Resort and Hotel.
The Algarve as it should be
Unlike much of the Algarve, which has a reputation as overbuilt and overrun, on the western end you won’t find big box hotels and crowds. The resort’s low two-story buildings fit easily into the landscape, following the hillside’s natural contours and provide photo-worthy views across the bay from almost every room. At night the view is magical from rooms or a table at the restaurant O Terraço, as lights twinkle on boats in Sagres harbor and in the town above it.
The most complete range of lodging options
Martinhal offers guests a nice choice of different style houses and a 37-room hotel, complete with restaurants, spa and even its own shopping center, all in a village setting. Martinhal’s hotel rooms are in a pair of two-level buildings set into the hillside, all with private balconies and sea views across the gardens. Also facing the sea, Ocean Houses offer two- or three-bedroom options, while more spacious Bay Houses offer ocean views or overlook a natural reserve. Garden Houses each open onto a large garden of native plants, and villas with private swimming pools add to a total of 200 options to choose from.
A beach to dream of
A broad golden beach stretches in a big arch from the resort all the way to Sagres, providing acres of sunny sand (the Algarve gets as many as 300 sunny days a year). Half a mile off the beach, a group of small, rocky islands make a destination for kayak trips, offered by the resort. The waves are good enough to let you practice body surfing, while not too big for kids playing in the water or their parents trying to master paddle boarding.
Programs for kids, teens and adults
Martinhal’s exceptional children’s and teens’ programs allow adults to have their own separate time, while still encouraging the together time that vacationing families want. Programs and facilities are carefully planned by small age groups so kids mix with others their own age. At the Town Square a children’s playground keeps kids in full view of parents enjoying drinks or relaxing after dinner at Os Gambozinhos. The M Bar even sports a real VW Camper for kids to play in while parents relax. The day is filled with special age-grouped programs at the kid’s club, the day-care center or the Blue Room, especially for teens. Older teens have special sports and other programs at the resort and in the surrounding area. In the children’s programs, as elsewhere throughout Martinhal, everyone speaks very good English.
Adult options range from tennis on artificial grass turf, hiking in the nearby natural preserve, any of a number of spa treatment, a game at the glass-sided PADL courts, time at the beach pool and a full range of water sport at the waterfront activities center on the beach.
Three dining options
Among Martinhal’s attractions of are its three restaurants, where chefs fuse European and Portuguese cuisines. Os Gambozinos serves lunch, dinner and light meals. Glass-surrounded O Terraço, atop the main building, is the resort’s primary restaurant, serving all three meals with an eclectic menu of fresh seafood, fine Portuguese-raised meats and top Portuguese wines. Even in this fine-dining atmosphere, children of all ages are welcome and pampered with their own age-customized menus. Seafood is the specialty of poolside As Dunas, which also serves snacks and drinks all afternoon and evening.
Location, location and location
Martinhal is close to some of Europe’s finest surfing beaches. Even non-surfers will want watch the surfers and see the sand cliffs and dunes on the west coast. See towering cliffs from the lighthouse at Cabo São Vincente, or take a boat excursion from nearby Lagos or go hunting ancient megaliths and castles.
Getting to Martinhal is easy, with regular flights from Boston to Lisbon and train connections to the Algarve. SATA, the airlines of the Portuguese Azores, flies direct to Lisbon or with a stop in Ponta Delgada, Azores, a welcome break in the trip and a chance to stretch en route. From Lisbon trains run direct to Tunes, where the resort can arrange a pick-up.
It is far easier to rent a car and drive, and it will probably take less time than the train. From the airport, cross the Vasco da Gama Bridge and follow the A12, then IP1 south to its end. Take IC 4 west to Lagos, N125 to Vila do Bispo and follow signs to Sagres. Lisbon to Sagres takes about 4 hours, or take a day and drive the western shore road, a beautiful alternative starting with a ferry ride at Setubal.