12 Best Holiday Resorts in Portugal, 2017
As one of Europe's top sunseeking destinations, Portugal is blessed with some truly outstanding holiday resorts. The majority of these lie along the coast, an Atlantic Ocean seaboard of stunning geographical and environmental diversity. Southern Portugal's Algarve coastline is especially compelling, with its superb beaches, world-class golf courses, historic seaside towns, and beautiful natural parks. No wonder some of the country's most celebrated resorts lie in this warm and sunny playground province.
The mid-Atlantic island of Madeira boasts a number of equally appealing resorts set in attractive grounds flecked with colorful subtropical flora. Many of these hotels command privileged positions on lofty cliff tops where, needless to say, the ocean views are stunning.
And you don't have to travel too far out of Lisbon to enjoy a five-star getaway. Beyond the capital are several holiday resorts of exceptional character, upscale hotel properties - some with golf courses - that offer peace and seclusion for the more discerning tourist.
1 Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort Hotel
In the Algarve, near the historic town of Sagres, Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort Hotel defines the luxury family holiday destination. Set in manicured grounds overlooking Martinhal Beach, this acclaimed resort has been carefully created with families in mind, and children of all ages are welcomed with open arms. The upmarket ambiance is reinforced by truly eye-catching accommodation. A stunning portfolio of self-contained village, garden, and bay houses are set around an attractive village square or overlooking a wooded valley and the sea beyond. The collections of ocean houses are perched on an elevated position and enjoy a beautiful beachfront perspective.
With the family at its heart, Martinhal's leisure facilities are firmly geared towards keeping youngsters occupied, and there are plenty of things to do. Beyond the resort's five swimming pools, guests have exclusive use of a fully-equipped sports club; tennis courts; and on the beach, a fabulous water sports center. Meanwhile, the boutique Finisterra Spa provides gloriously indulgent down time for everyone.
Traditional Portuguese gastronomy is celebrated with gusto at the resort's chic oceanfront As Dunas restaurant, where fresh seafood is the speciality. The modern O Terraço restaurant also serves resort guests, including those staying at the five-star Hotel Martinhal, renowned for its clusters of wood-wrapped cuboid Beach Houses designed as if born from nature.
Accommodation: Martinhal Sagres Beach Resort and Hotel
2 Penha Longa Resort
The densely forested and granite hewn Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais provides a suitably dramatic backdrop for this outstanding resort, the centerpiece of which is a luxuriously appointed five-star hotel. Each of the 194 rooms and suites enjoy expansive views over the verdant Serra de Sintra Mountains and the celebrated Penha Longa Golf Course, a 27-hole championship layout designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. The golf course meanders through immaculately maintained grounds, with players afforded breathtaking views of the Estoril coast and a lofty perspective of the landmark 19th-century Palácio da Pena, set on the highest peaks of the Serra de Sintra.
Just a 30-minute drive west from central Lisbon, Penha Longa Resort is an ideal base from which to explore the park. Activities extend to hiking and horse riding, and nearby Guincho Beach is one of the best beaches in Portugal. The resort's own leisure amenities, though, are equally alluring. Fashioned within the estate's original buildings is the hotel's Spa & Wellness retreat, a Zen-like haven of peace and tranquility. If you're traveling with children, rest assured that your kids will be safely looked after in the exciting and animated Kid's Club.
Foodies are in for a treat. Complementing Penha Longa's already highly regarded Arola (Spanish-Portuguese), Midori (Japanese), and il mercato (Italian) restaurants, the hotel's LAB restaurant is a gastronomic reference point. The menu, designed by renowned chef Sergi Arola, features inventive fusion cuisine prepared to such technical and imaginative finesse that Michelin has awarded Arola and his team a bright, shining star.
Accommodation: Penha Longa Resort
3 VILA VITA Parc Resort & Spa
Set on a cliff top embroidered with umbrella pine, VILA VITA Parc nestles in lush, subtropical gardens above a sparkling blue ocean. Located close to the popular seaside haunt of Armacão de Pêra on the Algarve's south coast, VILA VITA Parc nonetheless maintains an air of exclusivity, hidden away above the town's approaches. Accommodation choices here range from bright, breezy rooms and suites replete with a refined, classical design signature and relaxing ocean-view terraces to airy, whitewashed villas with private swimming pools.
Fanned by soft sea breezes, the resort is a veritable sanctuary, a luxurious oasis for the truly discerning guest. Top-notch amenities include a series of landscaped swimming pools, a nine-hole pitch-and-putt practice golf course, and the Vital Spa, where you can wind down effortlessly - the bubbling Jacuzzi is heaven. The more active can always take part in a fitness class or strength training session, and for youngsters there's the fun-packed Annabela's Kids Park.
One of the most acclaimed restaurants in Portugal holds court here, the two Michelin-starred Ocean. Directed by Austrian executive chef Hans Neuner, this fine-dining venue is noted for its creative menu, where the emphasis is on carefully selected produce chosen according to its seasonality and cultural identity. Dinner here is a rare and memorable treat. Reservations are essential, and children 12 years and older are welcome.
Accommodation: VILA VITA Parc Resort & Spa
4 Hotel The Cliff Bay
One of Madeira's premium resorts, The Cliff Bay is situated on a natural promontory high above the island's capital, Funchal. From this privileged position, the hotel commands a fabulous Atlantic Ocean panorama, a sparkling mantle of royal blue and the domain of whales, dolphins, and sailfish. Elegantly styled in line with local architecture, the hotel is surrounded by spruce gardens peppered with centenary palms. In spring, the grounds positively sing with color. The terraced design melds the five-star property with the cliff face and allows guests direct access to the sea. Ample rooms, all with private verandas, offer sea or land views and complement the top floor rooms and suites, which face Funchal and the bay - a truly inspiring view.
It's very easy to become enraptured by Cliff Bay's charm, even more so after taking advantage of its leisure facilities. There are indoor and outdoor swimming pools to discover and novelties such as the solarium area and outdoor Jacuzzi. You can also cool off in the warm, crystal clear sea off the hotel's private jetty. In fact, why not try a free diving lesson during your stay? As befitting a resort of this quality, the Cliff Bay Spa delivers a bespoke wellness program offering guests a personalized and attentive experience for mind, body, and spirit.
For locals and tourists alike, another hugely appealing Cliff Bay attraction is the Il Gallo d'Oro restaurant. This was the first restaurant in Madeira to win a Michelin star, but such is French chef Benoît Sinthon's mastery in the kitchen, the eatery now holds two of the coveted accolades. Every year Il Gallo d'Oro hosts the prestigious Rota das Estrelas gourmet food festival, so expect a full house if staying during this exciting culinary event.
Accommodation: Hotel The Cliff Bay
5 As Cascatas Golf Resort & Spa
In Portuguese, cascatas means cascades or waterfalls, and this smart Algarve resort is so named for its wonderful water features that decorate the grounds surrounding the hotel. Set behind the glitzy resort town of Vilamoura amid several excellent golf courses, As Cascatas Golf Resort & Spa is just a 30-minute drive from Faro, the Algarve's regional capital, and is a popular choice for families: the resort's Paradise Island is one of the best children's hotel play parks on the south coast. Another fabulous draw is the 7Seven Spa. This is the largest spa in Portugal, with 14 treatment rooms alone. Celebrated for its aquatic massage and hydrotherapy circuit, the spa also offers a menu of other amazing treatments and rituals, including special two-, three-, and five-day packages.
Staying here is to relax in luxury accommodation configured as one-, two-, or three-bedroom suites, as well as a four-bedroom suite with a fully equipped kitchen. The resort is served by no less than six restaurants offering Portuguese and international gastronomy, including Italian American cuisine.
There are all sorts of things to do in and around the resort, but for many staying here, it's the golf options that drive the imagination. There are six layouts in the vicinity, one of which is just a five-minute walk from the hotel's reception. All are among the top golf courses in Portugal, a fact that makes As Cascatas a favorite year-round vacation destination.
Accommodation: As Cascatas Golf Resort & Spa
6 EPIC SANA Algarve Hotel
With its sleek modern lines, minimalist décor, and funky vibe, this cleverly understated Algarve resort hotel is all about contemporary facilities and state-of-the-art technology. Draped along cliff tops above Falésia Beach, the resort enjoys a tranquil setting that matches the mood - this is a serious chill-out destination. Despite offering 162 rooms, 24 garden suites, and 43 resort suites, EPIC SANA Algarve Hotel exudes an exclusive, boutique-style quality. Much of the accommodation faces the ocean, affording guests a beguiling view across a canopy of fragrant umbrella pine towards an ice-blue horizon. Natural wood verandas reinforce the organic appeal of the rooms. The sophisticated ambiance of Epic Sana is carried through to the restaurants and, in particular, the gourmet Al Quimia. Chef Luis Mourão has designed a seasonal menu that showcases the best Portuguese produce used to create dishes that, despite their modernity, draw on age-old traditional recipes. Al Quimia is an adults-only restaurant, but there are other great eateries within the resort catering to families.
Embarking on a Sayanna Retreat program is reason enough to stay here. A team of wellness assistants can personalize an entire feel-good plan for guests seeking rejuvenation of body and soul, from designing a balanced meal plan and exercise regime to hosting fitness workshops, yoga classes, and wellbeing treatments. Or you can enrich your everyday life by just following the cliff top trail for a couple of hours and gulping down fresh sea air.
Accommodation: EPIC SANA Algarve Hotel
7 Conrad Algarve
In Quinta do Lago, the most exclusive holiday destination in the Algarve, the modern Conrad Algarve sits well among the beautiful villas and world-famous golf courses this pocket of southern Portugal is known for. Impressive in size and stature and enjoying a reputation for contemporary design, comfort, and technology, this five-star masterpiece boasts 154 guestrooms and suites, accommodation that includes the stunning Roof Garden Suite, which features a plunge pool in the lounge... yes, in the lounge!
The hotel does not front the ocean. It's situated inland next to the fashionable Quinta Shopping, an upmarket mall crammed with designer goods and trendy cafés. This is golf course territory, and among layouts set within easy traveling distance of the Conrad is the championship Quinta do Lago South.
The entire region is maintained to rigorous environmental standards and is a haven for wildlife. But there are also dozens of reasons not to leave the hotel. The seductively opulent Conrad Spa is just one. Often described as the most luxurious and desirable spa in Portugal, spa-goers can expect their individual therapy and treatment goals to be met effectively and extensively. Another is the sublime Gusto by Heinz Beck, the hotel's flagship gourmet restaurant. Helmed by Michelin-starred chef Heinz Beck, Gusto's features a menu that celebrates Mediterranean textures and flavors. The Scandinavian-styled space has hosted numerous culinary events and Michelin festivals and remains a top-notch gastronomic hotspot.
Accommodation: Conrad Algarve
8 Hotel Grande Real Santa Eulália Resort & Hotel Spa
A sprawling and gracefully styled premises, the Hotel Grande Real Santa Eulália Resort & Hotel Spa is everything a holiday resort should be. Fronting the lovely Santa Eulália Beach, a picture-perfect band of golden sand framed within a small, shallow bay, this is a destination that continues to capture the imagination of tourists and sightseers alike. Centered near the lively town of Albufeira, Santa Eulália is a perfect vacation getaway for families, where many of the guest activities are geared towards youngsters (the Realito Kids Club is a colorful den of fun for children aged between three and 12). Sunk within the grounds are two swimming pools and a toddler's pool, and the beach provides plenty of exciting water sports options.
The property features 344 rooms, 29 of which are suites and 155 fully equipped Resort Suites. In keeping with the resort's sunny disposition, celebrated Portuguese interior designer Graça Viterbo is responsible for the vibrant and contemporary décor. Five different restaurants, each one offering a themed menu, are placed around the resort, all embellished with sea views and a pleasing al fresco ambiance. The proximity of the beach is an obvious crowd pleaser, but if you're seeking a little R&R in a more sophisticated atmosphere then consider the Real Spa Therapy, a noted health and well-being facility that specializes in thalassotherapy treatments and massages. Visiting the spa is a blissful way to spend some well earned "me" time.
Accommodation: Hotel Grande Real Santa Eulália Resort & Hotel Spa
9 Cascade Wellness & Lifestyle Resort
Cascade Wellness & Lifestyle Resort is regarded as one of the Algarve's premier sports and activities resorts. The Lagos-based Cascade is equipped with southern Europe's finest football facilities, with two FIFA approved pitches and state-of-the-art gym training amenities. It also provides an Elite Golf Academy and two tennis courts. Several nearby beaches, including the picturesque Praia do Camilo, afford fun-packed water sports opportunities. A healthier lifestyle can also be pursued at the hotel's very own spa and wellness retreat. Or you could opt to do absolutely nothing.
Lining the elongated outdoor pool is a regiment of sun loungers that are quickly snapped up by guests in anticipation of a long, lazy day requiring minimum effort. The sense of space is enhanced by spruce gardens that look out over the Atlantic. This is the same view enjoyed by the rooms and suites that are variously themed to reflect the continents explored by Portuguese navigators during the golden Age of Discovery - Europe, Asia, Africa, or South America.
A scrumptious dimension to the dining experience is the show kitchen in the Senses Restaurant. Here, guests can observe the creative and technical process behind some of the menu's signature dishes that, during the summer months, are served on an attractive outside terrace. Another restaurant, suitably named Moods, is the perfect setting for a seafood lunch and other light meals.
Accommodation: Cascade Wellness & Lifestyle Resort
10 Praia D'El Rey Marriott Golf & Beach Resort
Combining a glorious and, for the most part, secluded beach with one of the most stunningly attractive golf courses in Europe, Praia D'El Rey Marriott Golf & Beach Resort hugs central Portugal's Silver Coast, less than an hour's drive north of Lisbon. The 18-hole layout, designed by American golf architect Cabell B. Robinson, is a challenging mixture of seaside links and parkland holes. The stark contrast between sandy dunes and lush fairways is not lost on players who require an accurate game, especially when a stiff breeze whips up off the Atlantic.
The hotel - classically styled and of palatial dimensions - unveils itself along cliff tops and over grounds that run seamlessly into the contours of the golf course. The 177 guest rooms and nine suites, all with private terraces or balconies, offer either ocean or golf course views. The resort also has a selection of beachfront townhouses and apartments - ideal for family stays.
Besides golf, you can practice your serve and volley at Praia D'El's tennis academy, and the resort's Clube Aventura can arrange various outdoor activities and other things to do. The Kalyan Spa specializes in sports massage and offers a soothing "Backswing - Hot Stones" treatment to relieve muscle tension, among other well-being rituals. A "must do" sightseeing excursion is a visit to nearby Óbidos, an enchanting hill town enclosed within 14th-century walls and often voted Portugal's prettiest place to visit.
Accommodation: Praia D'El Rey Marriott Golf & Beach Resort
11 Sheraton Cascais Resort
If peace and seclusion is a priority, the Sheraton Cascais Resort delivers. This restful retreat, set amid a profusion of umbrella pine, is deliberately low profile, and yet the property is only a short distance from Cascais, which is a popular day trip from Lisbon, about 30 kilometers away. A refined, upmarket ambiance pervades the hotel, which offers a select range of guest rooms and suites. Meals are taken in the Glass Terrace, where the menu errs towards Portuguese and Mediterranean cuisine. This is also a favorite brunch venue for guests and non-residents. Diners have access to an exclusive swimming pool, and a kid's club keeps toddlers occupied.
The grounds are integrated into the Quinta da Marinha estate, where an internationally acclaimed golf course hugs the coast. The resort itself features the upscale Serenity Spa, and the proximity of the ocean means spa-goers can expect a range of treatments and therapies that utilize the natural properties of seaweed and sea salt.
The surrounding area lends itself to rewarding sightseeing. Besides Cascais and its animated holiday atmosphere, you can explore the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais and Cabo da Roca - the most westerly point of the European mainland - while Guincho Beach is a mecca for seasoned windsurfers and kite boarders.
Accommodation: Sheraton Cascais Resort
12 Pestana Porto Santo All Inclusive
On Porto Santo, Madeira's smaller sister island, the all-inclusive Pestana Porto Santo is the perfect option for families and larger groups seeking a comfortable and superbly maintained base in which to relax and enjoy a carefree stay. The 275 guest rooms include double rooms, suites, apartments with kitchenettes, and Mediterranean-style villas with private pools, all decorated in soothing maritime shades. The hotel faces Porto Santo's sun-kissed beach, a nine-kilometer carpet of golden sand quite unique in the archipelago. Two large freestyle swimming pools plus a separate children's pool appease those who'd rather stay in the resort, and another indoor pool with multiple water jets anchors the boutique Magic Spa.
With two buffet restaurants and four themed restaurants to choose from, guests are free to dine according to their own schedule. Evenings see the resort's Mares Restaurant present grilled food show cooking, and the cuisine is deliciously international in flavor.
Porto Santo is an idyllic destination and remains well under the mass tourism radar. Easily accessed by sea and air from neighboring Madeira, the effort of getting here rewards visitors with a fascinating landscape of ancient volcanic peaks and attractions like the Casa de Colombo, the house where Christopher Columbus lived. Outdoor enthusiasts can explore on foot, bike, or horseback while admiring a pristine natural environment.
Accommodation: Pestana Porto Santo All Inclusive