If you have young kids, you know that the opportunity to eat a meal in peace, or even drink a cup of coffee while it is still hot, is something to be savored. That’s why I love the analogy that the Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel in Sagres, Portugal uses to describe a stay at their property: they pride themselves on providing the type of vacation where parents can finish their cappuccino with the foam still on. And it’s not just a clever marketing strategy. I earned myself several foam mustaches to prove it that it is possible, even with 2- and 4-year-old boys in tow.
Located on the southwest tip of Portugal, this region is best known as the site of a navigation school built and financed by Henry the Navigator, where some of the explorers who participated in the Voyages of Discovery received their nautical training. But after our stay at Martinhal, it is difficult to imagine why you’d ever leave to seek out new worlds. What more could you want from a place that features easy access to a beautiful beach, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a spa, play areas, sports facilities, and kid-friendly restaurants?
What stood out to me most about our stay at Martinhal was some of the unexpected details. For example, unlike some family resorts which are decorated with cartoon characters and bright colors, Martinhal has very tranquil surroundings. It is set within a nature preserve and it will be the last development in this area. As the property was being built in 2010, landscapers preserved the natural fauna and replanted these throughout the property. It has a very peaceful and authentic feel. Inside the buildings, including the villas, you’ll find earth tones and custom designed furniture using Portuguese materials. While it’s all toddler-proof (I speak from experience), it’s still aesthetically pleasing to parents.
TIP: The spa is one of the most beautiful spaces on the property. Even if you’re not interested in a treatment, take advantage of the hot tub and sauna here. You don’t need an appointment and there is no extra cost.
The kindness and attentiveness of the staff, particularly toward children, is truly admirable. We rarely passed a resort employee who didn’t stop what they were doing to acknowledge our children. And when traveling with young kids, all parents know their moods and desires can change in swift and often dramatic fashion. Nothing was too much trouble here, whether it was swapping orange juice for milk, doling out a sticker when my son fell in the lobby, or even an impromptu swim lesson request.
Most importantly, and what will linger with you long after you leave Martinhal, is their approach to providing quality family time. Yes, there’s a kid’s club and a teens-only room, because time alone for mom and dad is a really nice thing to have on vacation.
But what I most appreciated were the small touches that made our time together as a family really special. For instance, every restaurant on the property offers an attached play area (some staff supervised, others not), where kids could get the wiggles out and enjoy what is usually a painful wait for their food to arrive. This meant both my husband and I, AND our kids, ate a fantastic meal each morning and evening overlooking the beach, without mom doling out crackers or stopping anyone from coloring on the tablecloth. My young children got to experience fine dining, but without the stress of whether or not they’d be welcome or fretting over how they would behave.
Tip: You can also order your meals from the restaurants as takeaway, and eat in the comfort of your villa or room.
Villas can be stocked with baby gates, plastic plates and cups, and even potty seats. I was happy not to spend my vacation watching my 2-year-old practice his stair climbing skills or worrying about anyone spilling their apple juice.
The villas themselves are spacious, and offer everything from a spectacular ocean view to a private pool, depending on your price point and desires. There are 1, 2, and 3-bedroom options. There is also a more traditional hotel on the property, perfect for grandparents accompanying the family or couples traveling with just a young infant who might not need all the space in a villa. Villas and rooms are serviced daily so you don’t get that yucky “lived-in” feeling after a few days. While the resort offers many amenities, it’s compact enough to feel manageable and everything is within an easy walk.
TIP: You’ll be greeted at your villa with a welcome basket, including some basic groceries to get your stay started. The on-site grocery store also offers a lot of family-friendly food, including a variety of baby and toddler meals and snacks.
The Algarve region of Portugal is best known as a summer destination. But families should strongly consider a stay at Martinhal year-round. There were plenty of activities that could be enjoyed irrelevant to the weather, but I actually found the weather to be the best part of our December stay. Temperatures in the mid 60s felt like May to someone from the frigid American midwest. You might not be splashing in the waves, but my kids wished I had packed them a pair of shorts while they made sandcastles on the beach. Plus, the resort is quieter, the kid’s club is free and use of it is considerably more flexible. Be aware, though, that dining options on the resort will be more limited in the winter months and some activities may not be offered.
TIP: The beach on the resort property is truly spectacular. The boardwalk leading to it is very stroller friendly. And there’s an adjacent play area with sand toys, a trampoline, and playground equipment.
The voyagers who left Sagres to explore unknown parts of the world likely found lots of adventure. But I doubt they discovered anything more beautiful than the property where Martinhal now resides. I couldn’t blame them a bit if they were homesick for the fine sand beach, the windswept cliffs, and the fresh seafood. I certainly find myself longing to return.
If you are ready to check availability at Martinhal, head to the Martinhal review page in the CB! Hotel Collection. If you use our form to reach out the hotel, we’ll follow up to ensure all your needs are met. In fact, Ciao Bambino’s Family Vacation Consulting Team can help plan a comprehensive trip to Portugal with kids! Request assistance on our Connect with a Family Travel Advisor page.
Nicole Wiltrout is a freelance writer and mom of two young boys. Originally from Indiana, she now calls England home. She shares more details about her family’s travel adventures around the world at Arrows Sent Forth.
Editorial Note: Martinhal provided media rates for Ciao Bambino to review the property. As always, our opinions are our own.
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