If you’re looking for a holiday incorporating good food, better wine and lots of activities to put the colour back in your cheeks, but you’re a five star traveller, you need look no further than Martinhal Resort in Sagres, Portugal.
The family resort is a haven for families with kids of all ages, but with the kind of trendy, modern decor using natural materials, luxury bathroom products, and excellent food, that isn’t usually available in family-friendly resorts. Not a chicken nugget in sight.Despite the lack of children in our group (I travelled with my husband and retired parents) the fact that the resort has so many amenities means there is always a quiet spot, and you’re near enough to the town of Sagres to hop in for a drink if the ‘early to bed’ vibe in this family spot gets too much for you.
We arrived at Faro Airport late at night, and a very pleasant taxi driver brought us directly to Martinhal, just over an hour away from the airport. Because we arrived after 10pm, the on-site bars and restaurants were closed, but reception – who come direct to your accommodation to check you in – obliged us by bringing some drinks direct to our beautiful two storey ‘Garden House’. On that first night it would’ve been nice to have somewhere to go for a bite to eat, but in the absence of a bar the welcome pack left by staff in the room, which included cereal, milk, Nespresso capsules, wine, fruit and some buns, was a lovely touch.
And those lovely touches are everywhere. Voya products in both bathrooms (the two bedroom houses have an ensuite master bedroom and a twin room with a main bathroom), Neff appliances in a kitchen that makes the one I have at home look like it’s from 1970, and all the furniture designed especially for the resort using local materials shows that the attention to detail in Martinhal is absolutely flawless.
The facilities are second to none. Four pools, tennis courts, a fully equipped gym, a beautiful spa, three on-site restaurants, a number of kids’ play areas, and a beautiful beach make this a real one-stop shop if that’s the kind of holiday you’re after. For those used to five star breaks who are adjusting to life with kids, it’s probably the best compromise you’re going to get. For those of us still unencumbered, it’s a fabulously relaxing place to go, despite the high volume of kids of all ages. I quickly discovered that the Garden pool, right behind our house, was deserted every day after about 3, and got my swim in each afternoon without colliding with any inflatables.
The resort is pricey for food and wine, as you’d expect from a five star – the onsite supermarket extremely so – but the restaurants are a very convenient option, particularly if you’re not driving. O Terraco, which doubles as the breakfast room and is located within the resort’s boutique hotel, is the fine dining restaurant, and serves up delicious Portuguese food with a modern twist. The onsite pizza and pasta joint, Os Gambozinos, is a handy family stop-off (although the pizza was not as good as I’d expect from a five star resort), while the dedicated seafood restaurant As Dunas serves up freshly caught fish from Sagres harbour, which you can see from your table. For seafood, though, you may as well take a trip into the town, as many of the restaurants there offer similar food at a lower price.
As the houses offer such excellent cooking facilities, there’s a cheaper supermarket in Sagres with a Lidl about ten minutes’ drive away. If you’re not renting a car, the hotel recommends a taxi company (which is no more expensive than the local taxis – about €5 into Sagres for a party of four).
Between Martinhal itself and Sagres, just a twenty minute walk away across the beach (longer by the public road, which has no footpath), there is plenty to do.
Within the resort there is a fully equipped gym, with fitness classes on a regular schedule (I sampled the yoga, a lovely way to start the day), the aforementioned tennis courts, and a games room intended for teenagers but where we spent a number of evenings after dinner playing pool, foosball and air hockey. The games room also includes Wiis and Playstations for the gamer in your group, as well as hosting regular movie nights. This experience wouldn’t be complete without an ice-cream – made locally – from the ice-cream bar just downstairs. I recommend the coconut flavour but be warned – it closes early! None of the outlets onsite take cash; everything is charged to your account, so keep tabs on what’s being purchased.
The resort also offers bike rental onsite and a range of watersports from their partners, who can be found on the beach in front of the hotel. We rented bikes and cycled the 18k or so to and from Cabo St Vicente, Portugal’s most westerly point, stopping for a swim at the incredible, almost hidden Praia do Beliche. It’s a surfer’s paradise but not for those with limited mobility, with hundreds of steps to climb down a sheer cliff face! The cafe just across the road serves excellent local meats and cheeses, to be washed down, of course, with more of that fantastic local wine.
The hotel’s watersports offering is new – we enjoyed a gentle kayak trip around the harbour with Joel, the owner of this fledgling business. They also offer paddleboarding. The watersports centre is ideal for those who just want a taster, but for surfing enthusiasts the real action is in the town itself or at Praia do Beliche. The various kids’ clubs do group activities including watersports and cycling, a huge attraction for anyone travelling with teenagers.
If you’ve done your share of activities, try chilling out at the spa for a little while. There’s even a spa menu for families to have their treatments together, if that’s what floats your boat. The massage I had there was incredibly relaxing, while I had the jacuzzi to myself afterwards. Gazing out over the beautiful garden and watching birds and butterflies dance in the sun, I drifted away. It’s a blissful sort of place, really.
Martinhal is the kind of resort that shows you what five star is meant to be, and reminds you that holidays are meant to involve the sun, the outdoors, exercising your body and refreshing your mind. A trip to this incredibly well considered resort is guaranteed to leave you feeling refreshed and renewed, and ready for whatever life has to throw at you.
See www.martinhalresort.com for more. I was a guest of Martinhal Resort and flew from Cork to Faro with Ryanair.
This piece was published in the Sunday Business Post Magazine, Sunday 4 October 2015.