Overshadowed in the past by mosquito outbreaks, bad weather, lost luggage and building works, our family holidays have never come close to perfect – that is, until we discovered the ultra-child-friendly Pine Cliffs Resort & Sheraton Algarve Hotel in Portugal. Nestled in the Algarve, a 30-minute drive from Faro airport, it’s a stunning luxury complex surrounded by lush green golf-courses and beautiful landscaped gardens. But it’s not only a golfers’ paradise – it’s extremely popular with families because of its many facilities for kids.
On arrival it took us a while to find our bearings, such is the enormity of the place. Bypassing the Sheraton hotel in our hire-car, we followed signs for the Residence – a fairly new accommodation block that’s been added to the collection of apartments, townhouses and villas dotted around the resort. Having been slightly apprehensive about our sleeping quarters for the next fortnight, I couldn't have been more delighted by the five-star luxury of our holiday home. Not only did it have plasma TVs, marble bathrooms and fans in every room – it boasted a kitchen complete with every utensil possible, along with a microwave, oven, dishwasher and washing machine.
There’s a number of swimming pools to choose from within Pine Cliffs, and we were lucky to be a stone's throw from perhaps the most stunning of the lot. Although it was early evening by now, our six- and seven-year-old boys couldn't resist taking a dip under my watchful eye while my husband took a ride to the local supermarket. Having been pre-warned by friends that the cost of eating at the hotel was through the roof, we’d decided to self-cater at lunchtime. This turned out to be a great idea – not only did it save us a lot of money, but it proved to be a good excuse to take a break from the midday sun. But if you’re lucky enough to have breakfast included in your rates, you’ll find there’s so much choice you barely have room for lunch.
Dining at the Pine Cliffs can be pretty complicated, there are so many restaurants and bars to choose from. While babysitters can be booked through the hotel, we were more than happy to have the kids dine out with us, and although we did spend a couple of nights in the hotel restaurants, we preferred to drive to local harbours and fishing villages to get a taste of the local community and wonderful fresh fish dishes we’d heard so much about.
After years spent persuading our boys to attend kids’ clubs, we decided they were now of an age to make their own decisions on what to do. Although the Porto Pirata club, set out like a pirates’ ship, offers a wonderful array of activities for children, the boys and I agreed that they were too old for it. What did appeal to them were the crazy golf, the playground and the basketball court within the club's grounds. A sweet little train goes around the vast complex, which you can hop on and off at whim. Twice we took it to the hotel, where a private glass lift in the grounds takes you to the beach, renowned as one of the best in the Algarve. A number of watersports are available, but our kids were more than happy to while away the hours in the pool as we relaxed close by.
Although it’s not necessary to hire a car, it’s a good idea – there’s much to explore outside the resort, including a wonderful water-park and Zoomarine, Portugal's famous dolphin attraction.
It’s very difficult to fault the Pine Cliffs. If pushed, I’d say that some evening entertainment for kids wouldn't go amiss. The games room is great, as are the cinema evenings, but a mini-disco or show would be a great attraction. Saying that, after a day spent in the pool followed by early-evening football (the hotel offers training for youngsters), our boys were more than happy to go to sleep after dinner – as were we!
Read more about luxury family holidays in Portugal at the Pine Cliffs Resort & Sheraton Algarve Hotel.