I can honestly say it is a long time since I have reviewed a resort that I can rave about quite so whole heartedly!
It was October 2011 when we last went on holiday to the Martinhal and we loved it so much then we couldn't wait to go back in 2014. The combination of a superb, unspoilt location within an easy walk of a local fishing village (albeit small and simple) and a carefully planned resort - one of the partners was a founding member of the `Luxury Family Hotels` concept in the UK - has resulted in a fabulous luxury resort for families.
Last time we took a private taxi transfer from the airport but the journey is not difficult so this time preferred a hire car so we could explore a bit further. It is fairly easy to hire a car from the Martinhal if you prefer the stress-free taxi option! The journey from the airport is now effortless as the A22 toll road takes you virtually from the airport to Lagos with the road continuing to Sagres. The toll road was empty and a sat nav was not required.
The accommodation on offer for families is exceptional. Choose between 1,2 and 3 bedroom `houses`, each on 2 floors (stairgates provided if needed of course) with one floor a light and airy open plan living room with full kitchen (cooker, microwave, fridge, Nespresso coffee machine) as well as combined washer/dryer, iron and ironing board, full size dining table and chairs and a comfortable lounge area. All have gardens and/or balconies and some heated, private pools. Design is contemporary with use of local materials giving a modern yet unique feel, crisp white bedlinen, delightfully luxurious. There are some hotel rooms too which are great if you only have 1 child or there is an interconnecting option now, the hotel rooms are closest to the beach.
I had booked a 2 bed Bay House again as this is my personal favourite as it has the most lovely rural and side sea views and is on the edge of the resort. They are the quietest and their design means the living area is upstairs with a good size balcony each side to make sure you get the morning and evening sun. There is also a grassy garden downstairs. It has worn well and we could not notice any difference in standard from our last visit.
Don`t panic, you have all you could wish for in the kitchen but you don`t need to cook if you don`t want to! There are restaurants on site and a take-out service, all with children's menus.
Firstly, O Terraco which was a fine dining restaurant on our previous visit is now a steak and grill restaurant. We loved the fine dining and although pricey, was worth every penny. However, we were not interested in paying 40E for a steak which I can have at home so did not use this at all. Dunas, the original Beach Grill, still offers normal Mediterranean fish dishes and meals.
New is a vast expansion of Gambazinos in the Village Square which is now an Italian Restaurant with a take away pizza and pasta service too. The food was excellent but 2 bowls of pasta, a medium pizza, 2 desserts and two small beers was 75 Euros, not cheap exactly but no more than other 5* hotels.
There is also an independent bar and restaurant on the beach and hiring a car meant we ate out as well (perhaps more difficutl if you have young children). Sagres has a dozen or so restaurants and those we used were simple but inexpensive and good food. Our best value three course meal was around 12 Euros each and our most expensive but with a seafood platter of whole crab, prawns, langoustines, clams, mussels and fish was 23 Euros each including drinks, starters and tip. Our favourite was A Casinha which was very traditional and run by a husband and wife who cook local food.
If you do want to self-cater or just stock up on snacks and drinks there is a new mini-market on-site (twice the size of the old one and with fresh produce) and the supermarket in Sagres is excellent and laden with local cheese. meats. olives, fresh bread and essential bottles of Sagres beer, just 5 minutes away by car.
There are some great changes at the Martinhal Village square too, with a new really cool surfers bar so parents can chill out and enjoy a drink whilst children play in the VW camper van or in the square outside - an immensely popular addtion!
Child care is still brilliant with some changes in the kids clubs - the creche is now in a seperate building.
We did notice prices have gone up in the resort - the tennis was now 25E for an hour of the court and two racquets and balls and some of the free extras such as water by the pool was not there anymore.
Martinhal is on a stunning golden sandy beach with crystal clear waters of the ocean just below the resort, perfect for sandcastles, beach games or just a walk.
The pools are great too, there are 4 of which 3 were heated and they have one of those indoor/outdoor pools that would be fun for children which I have tried to show in my photograph.
The other benefit of a hire car is that the area is blessed with a number of stunning beaches. It can be windy (we had two windy days) but with a hire car you can find a beach on the other side of the headland sheltered from the wind. Zavial (about 20 minutes drive) had a beachside restaurant and local sardines ( 6 large ones served with potatoes and salad) was 6E.
As you might know, the area is part of a national park finishing at Cap St Vincent which is the most westerly point in Europe. There are lots of lovely cliff walks and footpaths with stunning flora and fauna. The Cape is only 10 minutes drive from the Martinhal.
We did have one partly rainy day so drove into Lagos which is half an hour away. This is a very charming resort with cobbled streets, bars, restaurants and shops well worth a visit and definitely a good idea if the weather turns iffy.
In summary, it is a superb place to chill and spend a week or more doing nothing. For us, the car hire was essential and not only gave us a better insight to local area but allowed us to eat both cheaply and enjoyably.
The flight time is short and the transfer at 1 hour 20 minutes (excellent straight roads) is slightly more than to some of the hotels we recommend but to escape to such a stunning unspoilt location and to stay in such a refreshingly different luxury hotel makes every extra minute worth it.
I cannot recommend this hotel highly enough for families with children of all ages.
Full details of the Martinhal Beach Resort and Hotel, go >>
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