It’s all good on the Algarve, for Gillian Coombes from Oasis Travel Holywood and Sheryl Williamson from Lisburn, relaxing in Portugal’s favourite holiday region as guests of Aer Lingus and Classic Collection.
We all feel better for the general rest and relaxation of a holiday, but some trips come take a proactive approach to building in wellness benefits. If you’re after a break with wellness at its heart, the Algarve is the perfect choice.
Our trip started with a stress-less flight of around three hours with the uber-efficient Aer Lingus, flying direct from Belfast City to Faro on the Algarve. There’s a great deal to be said for that level of convenience, particularly when you’re planning a short break and don’t want to spend precious hours travelling.
Off the plane and just an hour later we were enjoying a welcome of healthy juices and hot towels at The Cascades Wellness & Lifestyle Resort in Lagos. A superb al fresco lunch with views of the resort’s stunning grounds instantly had us in the laid back mood of this fabulous resort; a luxury retreat which places the emphasis on healthy fine dining, tranquillity and relaxation. The spa is top notch, as are all the facilities here. It would clearly be a perfect retreat escape for adults with a taste for the finer things in life, but don’t feel you have necessarily to abandon the family back home. The Cascades also boasts roomy accommodation that would be ideal for families, including a four bedroom villa with private pool, three bathrooms and a bbq area. As to entertainment, you can leave them to enjoy the delights of Lagos while you chill … but we’d recommend an afternoon of dolphin watching as a ‘wellness’ excursion that will appeal to all the family.
Our next stop was The Bela Vista Hotel & Spa in Praia Da Rocha, the celebrated luxurious boutique hotel located on a rocky outcrop above the glorious beach of Praia da Rocha, to which guests enjoy private access. An historically important building, the hotel has been family owned since the 19th century and was the first hotel to open on the Algarve in 1934. The style and service of that bygone era are perfectly maintained in the three buildings which make up the hotel today: the original Palacete, the Blue House and the Garden House. Rooms and suites have sea, garden, terrace or village view and combine luxurious, modern comfort with an ecclectic ambiance. A member of the Relais & Chateaux group (the global fellowship of individually owned and operated luxury hotels and restaurants) it features a completely wonderful L'Occitane Spa. This is an absolutely fabulous destination which oozes georgeousness from every pore of its being and we would heartily recommend it to anyone who appreciates the finer things of life …but it’s very much one for the grown-ups.
The Lake Spa Resort in Vilamoura is another wonderful choice for a healthy holiday … and it’s a location which can be enjoyed by all the family. Beautifully styled & ideally located, this 5 star hotel is in an outstanding position, conveniently close to the Tivoli Marina. Surrounded by five golf courses, it has an amazing spa with an indoor treatment pool and fitness area plus three outdoor swimming pools, one of which has a natural sand bottom. The hotel has 192 rooms of which 9 are suites, plus 95 luxury apartments and all rooms have private balconies with views over the gardens, lake or beach.
The Conrad Algarve in the exclusive, naturally beautiful Quinta do Lago is one of the most modern 5 star hotels on the Algarve Atlantic Ocean coastline. Contemporary luxury is the order of the day and every element of the hotel, from its uniquely styled guest rooms to the private balconies to its majestic spa speaks of attention to detail. The entrance is beyond dazzling, with amazing contemporary art while its five individual restaurants and bars, each offering a sophisticated range of fine Portuguese and international cuisine, are destinations in themselves. A dedicated shuttle bus will take you to nearby beaches and, if you’re a golfer, you’ll be spoilt for choice with internationally famous courses such as Quinta do Lago Sul and Laranjal are on your doorstep, as is the natural park of Ria Formosa. There is a great range of leisure activities, including a kids’ club and wonderful pool area, within the hotel and its rejuvenating Health Club & Spa got full marks from us.
If you want to add a shot of vibrant night life and daytime bustle to your relaxing break, ring the changes with a stay at The Tivoli Marinotel Villamoura, situated right on the beachfront and absolutely beside the town’s famous marina. Rooms feature balconies with marina or ocean views, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, Nespresso machines and minibars. Opt for a suite to enjoy separate living spaces and bathrooms with (fantastic!) rain showers. The resort has 3 busy restaurants and 3 lively bars, but don’t think of totally abandoning that ‘healthy holiday’ ideal .. there’s also a spa, indoor and outdoor pools (including one for kids), a sauna and a hot tub, a fitness centre, tennis court and (if you like your sport at laid back pace), a putting green.
We took time out to visit and dine in the 5 star Monte Santo Resort in the erstwhile fishing village of Carovoeira. Tucked away from the main thrust of Algarve tourism (car hire is recommended if you want to explore the region), this luxurious resort with its 2- and 3-bedroom suites is ideal for families and larger parties. Its Alma Spa & Health Club is an absolute sanctuary with an incredible range holistic therapies which combine meditation and relaxation with body treatments. The Health Club offers a magnificent indoor heated pool with a jacuzzi corner, sauna, turkish bath and gym.
Our final visit with Classic Collection was to the award-winning Pine Cliffs Resort with its private beach and golf course, situated just 8 km from the regional capital of Albufeira, and 11 km from the 12th-century Castle of Paderne. This is an all integrated resort, managed by Marriott International through its Luxury Collection brand, with different options of accommodation, investment opportunities and a luxurious lifestyle for the whole family. The resort has a vast range of leisure facilities from golf, tennis, pools and water sports, to culinary diversity, reflected in a range of international and local cuisines. From Porto Pirata children's village for younger guests, to the beauty salon, health club, shops and boutiques for holidaying adults, everything is presented with a distinctly high end ‘country club’ atmosphere.