Conversas de Alpendre in the eastern Algarve is a heavenly homestay where you’ll soon be part of the family. The name translates as ‘porch conversations’, but charming chats with your kind, caring hosts are to be had throughout the fabled farmhouse and its gorgeously rambling grounds, out in the orchards or by the saltwater swimming pool. Even the chef is up for a discussion: tell him about a few favourite ingredients and he’ll disappear off to the market, returning to cook you classic Portuguese cuisine, with a few borrowed bits from Spain (the border is a 20-minute cruise down the coast).
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm, also flexible on request.
Double rooms from £144.35 (€161), including tax at 6 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €1.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually include breakfast.
The team can arrange golf classes, personal trainers and anything else you can think of (within reason).
The hotel closes over Christmas and New Year, opening for a few days in between.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, bicycles to borrow. In rooms: air-conditioning, free bottled water, tea, Nespresso coffee machine, Bluetooth speaker and Castelbel bath products.
Our favourite rooms
This one’s easy: we love the carob Tree Houses, six metres above ground and looking out to sea, with a terrace and views of the Atlantic as you shower. If you’re holidaying en famille, you’ll probably opt for the Family Apartment, which sleeps six and has a kitchenette. And if you want to ogle orange groves and the ocean from your Jacuzzi-toting terrace, book a Suite with Terrace.
There’s a heated saltwater pool out in the gardens, with hammocks and sofas to sequester for snoozes in the shade.
There’s no spa, just a little hut where a therapist can be summoned for treatments, including massages performed using local almond cream.
Bring billowing clothes, buckets and spades, and wetsuits if you’re planning to surf the legendary Algarve waves.
The hotel isn’t easily navigable for wheelchair users.
Little Smiths are welcome in either the Superior Suites, the Apartment and the Warehouse. Babysitting is available on request.
If you want to up the romance levels, the family will set up a table for secluded suppers in the garden; or nab the hanging-basket chair that everyone’s got their eye on.
The whitewashed finca and bamboo chairs are the backdrop – so taste the rainbow.
There’s no formal restaurant, but the chef will cook supper in the dining room for anyone who orders it from Tuesday until Saturday. You’ll let him know – before he heads out to the market every morning – whether you’re in the mood for fish, meat or vegetables (along with any allergies or dislikes), and then sit back and enjoy the surprise menu, which will include hot and cold starters, a main and a pudding. The food is classically Portuguese but with a little influence from over the border in Spain – expect dishes such as fennel-marinated fish and steaks cooked on a hot stone. Breakfast is a similar spread of fresh, organic and local produce.
There’s no separate bar, but you can order drinks in the dining room, where snacks such as salads and bruschettas are also served all afternoon.
Breakfast is from 8.30am until the last guest wakes up, at which point lunch is served until 6pm. Dinner (as long as you’ve pre-ordered it) is between 7pm and 11pm. Drinks are served from 10am to 10pm.
Conversas de Alpendre is in the hamlet of Santa Rita in the east of the Algarve, close to the Spanish border, with Faro to the west.
Faro is the Algarve’s main air hub; it’s a 45-minute drive from the hotel. Transfers are €75 each way.
There’s a train station two kilometres away in Cacela, from where you can travel to other towns along the coast, including Tavira and Vila Real de Santo António. The hotel will fetch you from this station for free, as long as you give them two days’ notice.
It’s about a 15-minute journey to Tavira, the nearest town, and a couple of kilometres from Cacela Velha and Fábrica Beach. A car will come in handy if you want to explore the Algarve’s Atlantic coast, and there’s free parking 100 metres from the main house.
Worth getting out of bed for
The family is on hand to set up everything from golf lessons and horse rides to wine tasting and spa treatments. You’re also going to want to spend some time enjoying the gardens, orchards and pool. Set sail on the Ria Formosa lagoon with a boat trip arranged by the hotel, and don’t miss a trip to Tavira to check out its tiled houses, cobbled streets, ornate churches and Moorish influences. Formosamar can arrange activities within the Ria Formosa natural park, including kayaking, bird- and dolphin-watching, and surfboard hire. The Algarve is famous for its dramatic beaches, and two of the best swimming spots are Manta Rota and Ilha de Tavira.
There’s not much of a dining scene around this fabulous finca, so your best bet is signing up for the hotel suppers or heading into Tavira. For a breezy, ocean-facing lunch and a super-fresh selection of fish, try Pezinhos N'Areia on Praia Verde.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this boutique hotel in Portugal and unpacked their oranges and olive oil, a full account of their European beach break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Conversas de Alpendre in the Algarve…
Away from the golf resorts and supersized stays elsewhere along this stretch of Atlantic coastline, Conversas de Alpendre shows you another side to the Algarve. The family-run farmhouse has two generations at the helm (three if you count three-year-old Francisco): Marta and her mother have handpicked every item, from the woven-reed wall hangings to the macramé lampshades and traditional azulejos (that’s tiles to you and me), with bright whitewashed walls and polished concrete floors forming a clean, contemporary backdrop. The rural location is close to beautiful beaches, and there are bicycles to borrow to get you there when you’ve tired of the gorgeous grounds, which include century-old olive groves (hello, homegrown olive oil) and orange orchards. For big kids at heart, some suites are set six metres above ground at the top of a carob tree, and there are regular rooms in the fabled finca. Wherever you opt to stay, you’ll be welcomed like a long-lost relative and leave as one of the family.