Monday, October 12, 2015

5 Star Family Fun in Portugal with Martinhal

I'm lying by the pristine pool in the sunshine considering whether to order a coffee or a cocktail. It's a big decision.

There's a father with a young child bobbing around in the water singing Hakuna Mattata while another balances a bucket on his head. There are mothers cuddling babies and mothers sleeping on sun loungers. There are families playing together and couples bonding. There are toddlers learning to swim and children safely discovering their independence.

As I look around me surveying the scene I realise - Martinhal is all things to all families. Whatever it is you are looking for from your holiday - you'll find it here.

Martinhal Family Resort in Sagres prides itself in being one of Portugal's leading family resorts, and it's not hard to see why. From the moment we were picked up by Roi our driver - who introduced himself to each of us, and on hearing we were from Ireland addressed us in Irish!, we knew we were going somewhere special. The journey from Faro is about 80 minutes, just enough time for an in-car movie for the kids - which of course they got to choose themselves.

And that's the other thing about Martinhal - they get kids. From the playgrounds located right beside the restaurants to the box of toys they will deliver to your house. Everything is thought of and provided for - almost before you even know yourself that you need it.

Arriving at reception for check in we were handed refreshments from a silver tray and the excited kids got to mess about on a conveniently located elephant while we were given all the information.

Our accommodation was a large two floor home, beautifully designed and so restful it was hard to prise myself away from it each day.

The two balconies allowed you to watch the sun rise on one side and set on the other. Each morning I got up early to take my coffee out and watch the day dawn over the endlessly peaceful national park. A truly special time.

Visiting the 5* resort at the beginning of October meant that there were a large number of families with younger children there - making the most of the out of term time offers and availability. But there really is something for every one at every age.

The kids clubs run all year round and give parents those few hours of peace each day that mean everyone gets what they need from the holiday. The facilities and what's on offer are extensive - all of which will need their own post.

We spent a large part of our four night stay by the main pool area. Located right beside the beach it had everything we needed and more. The kids spent most of their time jumping in and out of the pool, running down the steps to play volleyball or table tennis on the sand, or popping over the the playground complete with trampoline - returning only when they were hungry.

Lunch meant a short stroll down the beach to a little cafe, or an even lazier order from the pool bar. Another tough decision.

As it was October the weather was mixed so I made the most of the cloudy periods by booking in for some guilt free treatments at the Finestra Spa. Divine! After a steam room, cold shower and full body massage I wasn't sure I would ever be able to get up again to leave. But I just about did, and even managed to book a mother and daughter facial for the next day.

Kaya was beside herself with excitement and it was such a lovely thing to be able to share with her. We both came out glowing and she declared it her favourite moment of the whole holiday. Win.

I also managed to squeeze in some Yoga which was perfectly suited to the stillness of the beautiful surroundings. Namaste.

On our last day I took the boys off exploring on bikes. As someone with possibly the worst sense of direction on the planet this may have been foolish - but with a handy map to guide me \ get lost on - we somehow made it over to Tonal Beach to watch the surfers and have an ice cream before heading back for our last afternoon by the pool.

My evenings were spent devouring delicious local seafood, tasting fantastic regional wines and sipping on cocktails. Two of the three restaurants onsite exceeded expectations, with only the O Terraco fine dining experience letting the side down a little.

We also ventured into Sagres town one evening - a short walk along the beach away, and happened upon an amazing restaurant - Villa Velha, where I feasted on the freshest John Dory laced with garlic and anchovy butter - a meal I won't forget in a hurry.

I asked other couples at the resort what their honest opinion of the place was. One mother with a five month old baby boy answered in a heartbeat - 'I'm coming here every year until he moves out'. And I don't even think she was joking. She told me that she had been suffering with such sleep deprivation over her teething baby that she was worried they wouldn't be able to enjoy the break at all. When they mentioned this to Martinhal they were given an upgrade - from one room to two - meaning that they could take it in turns to get some rest. I met her at yoga and then again at the Spa - looking very relaxed and happy - so I'd say the plan worked!

Another mother told me that Martinhal had delivered a box of toys to the house to keep her two little ones occupied - making it less 'holiday home' and more 'home away from home'. Everyone I spoke to was delighted with the resort, the staff and the holiday they had paid their hard earned money on.
When pushed for any negative the only thing any of the people I spoke to could come up with was that the paths were a bit bumpy for the prams....So a pretty good record all round I'd say!

Memories of Martinhal will include sunshine and sea food, yoga and beautiful sunrises, bonding and bikes, games and relaxation, frozen margaritas and striped hammocks,

Now, when can we go back?

Disclosure: We stayed at Martinhal Family Resort in Sagres as guests of the resort for 4 nights in one of their Pinewood homes. I retain all editorial control of this review and all images and opinions are my own.

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