When Atti was a few months old we started frantically trying to hunt out the ideal location for our first family holiday in the sunshine. We wanted somewhere with a short flight time, somewhere that looked and felt cool (and didn’t make us instantly feel like frazzled boring grown-ups), and somewhere that would cater to our needs with a newborn.
I asked the powers of Instagram and by far the most recommended answer was Martinhal.
(My older brother also raved about the Portuguese resort, especially the curry buffet they used to run on a Tuesday night – sadly I think this is now long gone).
For various reasons (the predominant one being that I was entirely skint as I edged back into the working world post-baby), we didn’t make it to Martinhal last summer, but this year we were kindly invited to have a complimentary stay in return for a review.
And so earlier this month – to coincide with my boyfriend’s 29th birthday and Father’s Day – we headed out to the Algarve for four nights of family sunshine.
And just for the sake of transparency, whilst the accommodation was gifted, we paid for our own flights as well as food and drinks etc.
Where? Martinhal Sagres, which is on the furthest south-westernly tip of Portugal.
The story? There are four hotels under the Martinhal name – all located in Portugal. The first, in Sagres, was opened in 2010 and since then they have expanded to Lisbon, Quinta do Lago and Cascais. The focus is on family luxury – all the properties are designed to look incredibly sexy and chic for parents, but also to be incredibly practical for children, especially small ones.
We stayed in the original Sagres resort, which has all kinds of different accommodation on offer ranging from fancy private holiday homes, townhouse villas and rooms in the hotel.
We stayed in an Ocean House with a sea view which had two bedrooms and two bathrooms (both on the lower floor) and then a huge open kitchen/dining room/living area upstairs. The house was built upside down with the idea that the views are better from higher up and should be saved for the living space.
The downside to this I guess is that we didn’t use the second bedroom for Atti’s cot as were unsure about leaving him on his own in a room with patio door access.
The house allowed for self-catering (which was super handy in cutting down costs), had built in stair gates, a high chair, a potty, a bathroom step for washing hands, black out blinds, a nappy bin, plastic cups and plates, a washer-dryer, a coffee machien – everything you could ever dream of for holidaying with a toddler in tow. Even the dining table had round edges! They’d literally thought of everything.
Also on the resort are four restaurants, a shop (which is pricey but jam-packed with baby food and formula as well as fresh coffee and baked goods) and multiple heated swimming pools, including an indoor one.
There’s also ample play areas – things like swings and slides and play houses and sandpits. Plenty to buy you 10 minutes whilst you breathe in and absorb that delicious holiday vibe.
There’s also a sandy beach only a few minutes downhill from the hotel and resort – although due to the very western position of the Sagres it is incredibly windy.
We would alternate each morning on doing an activity – I would go for a massage at the resort spa, or Chris would go for a yoga session, whilst the other would take Atti to the sandpit, or stay in with him playing cars in the house. We’d then spend his nap time sunbathing on the balcony and reading books, before retiring to one of the pools for the afternoon. Simple, but extremely low-stress and actually, dare I say it, almost relaxing?
As I said, there’s four restaurants on site – all of them offer a ‘kids corner’ which is a table and chairs with colouring in and toys and even a ball pit which is manned by a member of the kids club (there’s various different clubs depending on your kid’s age and a creche for those from birth to two years).
We often would try and get a seat where we could see the kids corner and then let Atti be entertained by whatever was on offer whilst we had a glass of wine and enjoyed a big bowl of something carb-y.
The main restaurant ‘O Terraco’ situated above reception is where the breakfast buffet is located (all the usuals – fruit, hot stuff, and omelette stations, pnacakes, waffles, toast, various fresh juices etc), but turns into quite a swank place by evening. We spent our last night here to celebrate Chris’s birthday and the food was incredible – I had the lamb curry and wow ok. They even organised bringing out a surprise birthday cake.
There’s also ‘Os Gambozinos’ which do superb pasta and pizza and offer a free buffet for kids under three – perfect for avoid the wails of hungry and impatient toddlers, and As Dunas which focuses on sea food.
There’s also various pool bars etc to grab food at lunch as well as an ice cream shop and pop-up grill. All restaurants also cater for take away options, should you need to.
Prices fluctuate wildly depending on peak season and term time and prices are not cheap. You can get a room in the hotel in September from around £200 a night but that will go up closer to £500 during the summer holidays. If you want a full week in August in one of the private villas which sleep larger families you can be looking at prices up to £15,000.
How to get there?
The closest airport is Faro which is a 90-minute drive away. You can get budget flights to Faro from most UK airports, and I believe you can organise transfers via the hotel.
What’s nearby? There is the town of Sagres which is a short(ish) walk away, or you can hire a bike from the hotel and cycle there in about 10-15 minutes. We didn’t venture there, but understand there isn’t a town centre as such, more just a small cluster of restaurants etc situated on one street. There is also the rest of the Algarve to explore if you hire a car which has sexy beaches galore.
Recommendations? R-E-L-A-X. There are so many other parents with small kids that no-one is looking at your small kid have a tantrum. You are truly amongst your own. And breathe.
Best bits? Can confirm that the waffles available at the ice cream shop are 11/10 (we had Kinder Bueno ice cream and Nutella and strawberries on ours). Can also recommend that the massages are the spa are something else. Chris loved the outdoor yoga class (but the way the timetable worked out meant that I was unable to try it). The swimming pools are great because they’re not just slightly heated they are REALLY VERY HEATED.
Worst bits? Everyone who’s ever been to Martinhal Sagres always mentions the wind and you kind of think ‘well how bad can it be?’. It is windy. Very windy. Although much windier in the afternoons than in the morning. I had to wear my hair up every evening because lord almighty it is fierce. We also found the service in the restaurants exceptionally slow in the evenings, seemingly due to a lack of staff as everyone working there seemed to be going above and beyond but looked flustered beyond belief, which is less than ideal when you’re dragging about a tired, hungry, 18-month-old.
What would I do differently? I think we would have perhaps hired a car and gone via a shop (there is at least one Aldi on the drive from the airport) and stocked up on some cheaper bits and bobs – red wine, biscuits, pasta, pesto, fruit and veg, sneaky pastel de nata for the road. It would be a good place to spend a couple of nights if you wanted to spend a week exploring the Algarve by car.