A seaside sanctuary in Portugal's Algarve region, Martinhal Sagres makes the most of its location with big glass windows that showcase the beachcomber’s paradise just beyond the door. Natural materials dominate the decor – stone, timber, cork – creating a serene environment for admiring ocean views. This family-friendly hotel also has a pampering spa and outdoor pool on-site, with a beach and national park for quiet neighbours.
Get this when you book through us:
A glass of Portuguese sparkling wine for each adult and one mocktail for each child, plus a 10 per cent discount on one massage
Thirty-seven in the main hotel, plus 55 Ocean Houses, 28 Bay Houses, 39 Garden Houses and 10 Pinewoods Houses.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability and a charge. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £233.91 (€260), including tax at 6 per cent.
Rates for Beach Rooms and Suites usually include breakfast. For guests staying in the Houses, breakfast costs €20 for adults, €10 for under-12s. Half-board (breakfast and dinner) is €56 an adult, €28 for under-12s. Meals are free for babies and toddlers.
At the hotel
Spa, gardens, gym, tennis courts, library and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, iPod dock, minibar with free bottled water and soft drinks.
Our favourite rooms
The Martinhal Village villas are ideal for families: each has two or three bedrooms, and they all have their own private kitchens.
There are three: an outdoor heated pool set in a rectangular timber deck, an indoor pool at the Village Square and a heated pool at Club 98.
Tired parents will be rejuvenated in the Finisterra Spa. One of our favourite treatments involves being wrapped head-to-toe in giant strips of seaweed: the Voya Leaf Body Wrap treatment eliminates toxins and is a proven cellulite-buster.
Tan-enhancing tennis whites for the hotel’s courts (sweatbands optional); heel-free shoes and the most stylish walking gear you can muster for the neighbouring national park.
The hotel is part of Martinhal Sagres resort, so there are plenty of facilities: the Village Square is the resort’s reception and concierge hub, and also has two pools, a gym, sauna and steam rooms; Club 98 is the resort’s tennis and sports club.
It would be hard to find a hotel that's better for family escapes. Extra beds (€60 a night) can be added to the Luxury Villas and Villa Mimosa. The restaurant has a menu tailored to tots, and babysitting with hotel staff can be arranged.
All ages; plenty of facilites for tots and activities for teens.
Book a Beach Suite or one of the Luxury Villas for more metres than you’ll know what to do with.
There's a crèche for babies aged 6-23 months and kids clubs for ages 2-17.
What don't they have? Expect water sports aplenty, lots of walks in the national park, and the Blue room for downtime – it comes equipped with video games.
A supervisor watches the pool during the pool’s opening hours.
Children can eat in the restaurants during normal opening hours. The staff will happily heat up baby milk and can also provide packed lunches.
Babysitting with hotel staff is from €16 an hour (there's a minimum of two hours a booking and you'll need to give 24 hours’ notice).
No need to pack
The hotel provides toiletries suited to tots, stair and bed- guards and sterilisers. The on-site market has lotions, nappies and baby food to buy.
The hotel relies on solar power, and was built using natural materials; organic local produce features in the restaurant and the hotel is involved in conservation projects.
When it’s clement, dine outside on O Terraço’s terrace; in cooler months, bag seats right by the window. Linger over a cocktail in the lounge, snuggled up on one of the enormous squashy sofas.
Nautical but nice: sea blue hues, strands of pearls, navy shirt and deck shoes. Dress up for O Terraço; As Dunas is more relaxed – swim wear and sarongs are the daytime norm.
The hotel’s main restaurant O Terraço surveys the sea, with floor-to-ceiling windows, white linen-clad tables and timber decking. Traditional Portuguese recipes are inventively reinterpreted; try the signature starter of sea urchin with scrambled egg. There’s also As Dunas Beach Bar and Restaurant; casual by day and candlelit by night, it champions fresh fish and seafood at all times. On top of this you’ll find Os Gambozinos (pizza and pasta on the square) and the Beach Club bar (serving snacks, juices and ice creams to have straight on the sands). Back on the square there’s a juice bar, while Club 98 within the hotel’s tennis club also serves snacks and drinks. Because lots of guests are here with tots in tow, meals tend to be eaten early.
For drinks à deux, Lounge Bar O Terraço, attached to the main restaurant, is open from 11am until 11pm. The emphasis is on stylish comfort; a relaxed soundtrack of jazz, bossa nova and chilled beats, enormous sofas strewn with brightly coloured cushions, and plenty of design touches to revel in. Otherwise surf-themed M Bar, complete with a booth inside a full-size retro VW camper, is super family-friendly and open all day long, right the way from healthy breakfasts and light lunches to sundowners after a day by the pool and drinks after dark.
Drinks served until 11pm. Breakfast is served in O Terraço from 7.30am to 10.30am.
If you’re staying in the main hotel, room service is offered 24 hours a day. Dishes range from the sophisticated (stuffed guinea fowl) to the straightforward and more kid-friendly (club sandwiches).
Just outside the surfers' paradise in the western Algarve, Martinhal Sagres overlooks the public sandy beach with which it shares its name, and is set in a small villa complex within acres of protected national parkland.
Faro airport is 115km (just under 90 minutes by car) from the hotel, served by British Airways (www.britishairways.com), Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) and EasyJet (www.easyjet.com). There are plenty of hire-car desks: book in advance in high season.
International rail services serve Lisbon Oriente, from where you can pick up a daily regional connection to Tunes railway station. It is 60km away (just over an hour's drive) from Martinhal Sagres resort.
If you want to explore the west-coast beaches of the Costa Vicentina and have a little independence, a hire car is a good idea. The resort town of Lagos is 25 minutes away by car to your east; the less touristy port of Sagres is less than 10 minutes' drive west – beyond that are the best surfing breaks and coves to explore. Guest parking is plentiful (and free). If you’re driving, you’ll be coming via the A22 motorway, also known as the Via do Infante. It’s a toll road so be sure to charge up your card (your hire-car company can do this for you).
Worth getting out of bed for
In Martinhal Sagres resort there are tennis courts, a multi-purpose sports field, gym, sauna and steam room, four swimming pools, table tennis and pool table, a den for teenagers equipped with video games and a spa with indulgent treatments using Voya products. There’s also a watersports centre at the beach, with windsurfing, paddling, kite surfing and kayaking facilities. Back on dry land, roam the national park next to the hotel by foot, or borrow mountain bikes. There are plenty of coastal paths to explore by eco-cart (effectively a go-kart with a sail). Sagres’ fishing port is popular for its seductive beaches; there are also the remains of a 17th-century fort and a lighthouse to admire.
Dine on traditional local cuisine (shrimp soup, Aunt Gabriela’s rabbit, passionfruit cream and the ilk) on the covered terrace at Vila Velha at Rua Patrao Antonio Faustino. Bossa Nova at Avenida Comandante Matoso serves tasty wholewheat pizzas and other light nibbles.
Stop for cocktails at Dromedário (+351 28 262 4219), the bar to Bossa Nova’s restaurant, and one of Sagres’ most popular nightspots.
Way, way down in its southwest corner, Portugal tapers to a tempestuous point, Cape St Vincent. Here, cliffs rise more than 200 feet straight up from the ocean churn, raptors coast rapturously on the penny-whistling wind, and ancient myths abound: the Greeks called this spot Ophiussa (Land of Serpents), and the Romans Promontorium Sacrum (or Holy Promontory), the place from which you could see the world’s edge – out there, where the sun sets. The Cape is the perfect place to run away to when you’re swept up in the riptide of a new passion – an abandoned place for a weekend of abandonment. Or – in our case – when you’re exhausted new parents. ‘Did you book the babysitter?’ asks Mr Smith, breaking the silence instilled by the landscape…
Yes, we have come to this remorseless but beautiful spot for a ménage-à-trois. Mr Smith and I are seeking a few hours to ourselves by candlelight, hoping for a good sound sleep by nightlight, and looking forward to playing with Baby Smith by daylight. We can do this here because the wild Cape is home to a very serene hotel, the Martinhal, pronounced Martinyal as we learn upon arriving. (Pronounce it in too English a way and it’s more evocative of a frumpy suburb of Birmingham.)
The premise behind the resort, a combination of self-catering houses and standard hotel rooms, is that being family-friendly doesn’t mean dowdy decor and a lack of luxe. Having requested the most baby-friendly accommodation, we’ve been booked into a self-catering Ocean house and soon find ourselves whirring down winding paths in a golf buggy to our room. It takes only a glance to see that Martinhal lives up to its intentions. It’s clear where interior designer Michael Sodeau drew his inspiration from when he fashioned the glass-enhanced interiors. It’s a canny move, given the Algarve wilderness that beckons from Martinhal Sagres’ terraces and floor-to-ceiling windows – a national park on one side, and a sandy beach on the other.
The hotel’s architecture is also in accord with the surroundings: low-rise timber-clad buildings covered in pebbles, with stone-paved paths leading to the various rooms. Don’t let the raw and rugged coastal setting mislead you – this is a thoroughly civilised affair, with an indulgent spa, a clutch of dining options, beachside bar and a watersports club. Guests get the best of both worlds: all the facilities of the Martinhal Sagres, with the privacy of the hotel’s sea-surveying boutique boudoirs.
A glance at our digs reveals two bedrooms and bathrooms on the ground floor that are smart, stylish, and practical: wicker light fittings, cork-based coffee tables, tub chairs and timber headboards, and an oceanic palette of sea greens and grey blues. The look is clean and contemporary, without being hard-edged. On the contrary, the organic shapes and well-placed shots of vibrant colour and pattern – oversized Designer’s Guild cushions on the sofa, a bright orange statement lamp over the dining table – emanate warmth.
But the top floor, an open-plan living space, is where the wow factor lies. Wall-to-wall sliding glass doors give onto a balcony from which we can see square miles of ocean. Wide, wild and windswept, the vista is hypnotic in the way that end-of-the-earth places often are.
We quickly unpack and set out to reconnoiter. The resort has four swimming pools, sports facilities aplenty, a village square (OK, a bit twee), and a tempting spa. It doesn’t take long to decide that the hotel pool is where we will spend the rest of the afternoon, happily semi-drowning in the Fatboy giant beanbag chairs that are a Martinhal trademark. The ever-present stiff breeze keeps us cool in the 28-degree heat, and we’re pleased to discover that the vast infinity edge pool is heated, which keeps Little Smith bobbing about happily for hours in his inflatable ring. That's the clever thing about Martinhal is that it is all things to everyone: families get the freedom and boring essentials (microwave, washing machine), and couples get a greater variety of facilities than a 38-room hotel could usually offer.
So, the babysitter turns up on the dot of 8.30pm, and we set off for the fine dining restaurant, O Terraço. Here we enjoy traditional Portuguese flavours given a thoroughly modern spin. Mr Smith has the vegetarian tasting menu which features as diverse ingredients as turnip tops and cheese with honey, punctuated with a refreshing lemon sorbet palate cleanser. I choose a tastebud-tingling codfish carpaccio followed by slow-cooked beef shank flavoured with orange and lemon. Guided by the sommelier, we romp through the Portuguese-only wine list, and revel (even Mr Smith!) in being transported back to the world we took for granted pre-baby.
I carry on the next day by heading for the Finisterra Spa, where I have a 90-minute facial that uses Voya Irish hand-harvested seaweed. Slimy green texture notwithstanding, the experience is extremely pleasant and relaxing. ‘You look so… so… so… well,’ says Mr Smith in a uncharacteristic bout of rhapsody. All that fresh sea air has clearly gone to his head.