Martinhal Resort, Portugal

We have just returned from two weeks at the Martinhal Resort in the Algarve. We booked this with the online travel site, Baby Friendly Boltholes having booked three previous holidays with BFB which have been fantastic. BFB is a great website and helped us immensely in making the transition from couple holidays to family holidays. The BFB website is very well laid out and each location is reviewed from a family perspective.

As usual with our holidays we had a fantastic time enjoying spending some good quality family time together and in the sunshine. Here is my detailed review of our holiday at Martinhal.

Location

Martinhal is located at the end of the world (or what was once thought to be the end of the world before America was discovered), at the South West tip of Portugal next to the town of Sagres. It is not in the hub of the touristy parts of the Algarve and so it is in a relatively unspoilt area. Many people who stayed at the resort had not hired a car so were fairly limited in where they could go however we were very pleased to have one to visit the local beaches and towns. The resort does offer everything you need so it’s easy to understand why many people don’t leave but if, like us, you like to get out and explore, a car is essential.

Accommodation

We had a garden villa which was a 5-10 minute walk from the different facilities. It was very spacious with two large bedrooms and two good sized bathrooms. The living area was open plan with a kitchen, large dining room table, comfy couches and a TV. We also had a garden area with outside seating and Fatboy beanbags. Don’t even get me started on the Fatboy beanbags – they were everywhere (around all the pools) and they were awesome. One of the best ideas a hotel has ever had!

Whilst the villa was well furnished and we were provided with all the extra bits we asked for – potty, toddler toilet seat, travel cot, stairgates – there were some design faults which didn’t make it perfect for toddlers. For example, the garden didn’t have a fence so you couldn’t leave a young child unattended, the crockery was stored in a cupboard low down and the stairs were tiled which were a bit scary if you thought of having a fall on them. These weren’t things that ruined the accommodation by any means but you do have to take care with young children.

Facilities

Martinhal is huge and has a very resort feel to it. There are four swimming pools, three restaurants, a crèche and kids club, a playground, a games room and a trampoline and sandpit and that’s not even including the huge beach! It is very well thought out with every area (pool or restaurant) having something to entertain the kids while you can relax. At Os Gambozinos (the Italian restaurant) there are play houses for young children and free bikes for older ones with a lovely large square for them to play in. At Dunas (the beachfront seafood restaurant) there is a selection of small chairs, beanbags and a giant jenga in a corner which means you can keep one eye on the little ones.

Each of the three swimming pools we used had small toddler pools (50cm depth all round) next to the main pool and two of the pools had slides and a selection of toys to play with. These pools were also heated and one of them is half inside and half out which is great for those super windy days.

The Boy went to the kids club (reluctantly) on four days for a couple of hours at a time and the staff, facilities and activities were excellent, we felt very comfortable leaving him there while we tried to play tennis (more about the wind later on!)

Everything has a very new feel to it and is in fantastic condition and the Boy loved the trampoline, the play houses, the big boat and the playground.

Food and drinks

The food in all three restaurants was good and we had no complaints about it. What really let Martinhal down on the holiday was the very poor service we received in Os Gambozinos. Whilst most of the staff were friendly, it was very slow service (e.g. waiting 20 minutes for a glass of wine and a cocktail) and when we tried to complain the response was not good. The Man and I are both very laidback and like to give the benefit of the doubt in the first instance but unfortunately, every time we went there was an issue with the service. On one occasion the wrong meal was bought to me and the waiter said “are you sure you didn’t think Tagliolini but order Linguine” which is not a response I expect when a mistake is made and certainly not what happened! (To be clear it wasn’t a wrong type of pasta, that would just be ridiculous, but seafood linguine rather than tagliolini carbonara.)

The price of the restaurants was very inconsistent with some things quite reasonable (€9 for a large pizza) and others very expensive (€7.50 for a non alcoholic cocktail – basically fruit juice). The best meal we had, which was the most expensive but in our opinion, the best value for money was in the grown ups only restaurant O Terraco.

We were spending upwards of €70 on a meal and drinks for the 3 of us which is the same price as the local Sagres restaurants so you can imagine our surprise when we ventured a bit further away to the town of Lagos and got the same amount of food and drinks for less than €40. This was our experience at most places away from Sagres and Martinhal so I think that because it is less developed prices have not been competitively bought down yet.

Other things to know about Martinhal

  • The wind was crazy – I work with wind energy projects and I can safely say that this is the windiest place I have ever visited. This means that in the day you get a lovely cool breeze and at night you do need to take jeans and a light jumper. The upside is I didn’t need to use a hairdryer when I was there as I just sat in the garden for 10 minutes and let nature sort it out. If you go away from Martinhal a bit the wind is nowhere near as strong and in our evenings in Lagos we didn’t need cardigans/jumpers. The massive number of wind turbines in the area also gave us a great car game to play with the Boy “spot the turbines” and my heart melted each time he said “Oh where the turbines gone” (yes I am a renewable energy geek.)
  • We used the babysitting facilities on two occasions. They use the staff from the resort so it is usually a familiar face which is nice and they charge €10 per hour or part thereof.

Our favourite places to visit and things to do were:

  • Lagos, in the evenings for dinner (25 mins away). There were some lovely restaurants with great fish which were very reasonably priced. We also picked up some lovely pottery souvenirs, had fantastic ice creams and watched some good (and some terrible!) street entertainers.
  • Rei das Praias restaurant (50 mins away) was possibly the best seafood restaurant I have ever eaten in. Giant prawns in olive oil and chilli and squid cooked in piri piri, garlic, wine and brandy were to die for. The beach it sits on is stunning and we spent a lovely day here.
  • Slide and Splash waterpark (50 mins away) was really fun. There were only two slides suitable for toddlers but the Boy didn’t mind and just went on them lots and lots.
  • Dolphin boat trip from Sagres harbour was fantastic – we saw about 30 dolphins swimming right next to us and the Boy was so excited. The Man and I have done a lot of boat trips on holidays and I think this was one of the best. The crew were very informative (they were marine biologists) and we were able to view the dolphins close up without feeling like we were infringing.

Conclusion

Overall Martinhal is a very good resort with all the facilities you could want for a family holiday. The location is not ideal if you want to venture to other places but this does give it a much more authentic feel, especially compared to the flashing lights of Portimao and Albufiera that seem to offer English Breakfasts and Chicken Tikka Masala’s all over the place. Apart from the service in the restaurants it is difficult to fault Martinhal it is clean, well thought out and has something for everyone.

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9 Responses

  1. Great review, really enjoyed reading it. A friend of mine is at Martinhal at the moment with her toddler and baby – she’s braver than us when it comes to planes – but now I’ve read your review it’s definitely on my list of places to go when our two are just a bit older. We went to that area of Portugal in the era BC (Before Children) and had an amazing time. Perhaps we won’t be stuffing our faces at a steak on a stone restaurant and listening to Fado til the small hours this time though.

    • Thanks for reading it, its so long but I really couldn’t shorten in and get all the info in! I hope your friend enjoys it also and you should definitely venture abroad soon, our son loves the sunshine and swimming.

  2. Great review! Shame you found the service issues not totally ironed out as I thought they were when I stayed in June. Worth noting cupboard locks can be added to your booking FOC on BabyFriendlyBoltholes (they call them door protectors).

    Car hire is a great idea if staying 7+ nights as the coastline is stunning and so unspoilt. Plus, if the wind is high, you can find a sheltered beach easily. We loved the beach near Carrapateira with its sweeping sands, natural beauty and funky beach bar.

    I’ll check out that restaurant you mention next time!

    • Not great service which was a shame but I do understand they are fairly new and so teething issues are to be expected, it certainly didn’t ruin the holiday but I want to make them aware so they can work on it – its not helpful if people just say good stuff all the time and ignore the areas to improve!

      We really liked visiting the different beaches too, there are so many lovely ones.

      Thanks for the recommendation, again!

  3. Just returned from Martinhal, I have been going to that area of Portugal for nearly ten years and my parents have bought one of the ocean view properties on the resort.

    I feel that some of the things you have said are quite unfair…..

    For example I just returned having gone with two female friends and we found the service great….every member of staff we came across made every effort to go out of their way to help us with any queries or requests we had.

    I do agree the prices on the resort are quite extortionate….as a result my friends and I ate in LI al restaurants in the surrounding towns. However you dais you paid 70 euros for a meal at Martinhal and this was the same as the restaurants in Sagres (or some of them at least). Each time my friends and I ate out we went to some of the best restaurants around such as O Sitio do Rio in Carrapateira, Mar vista in Sagres and Pizza Pasta in the quaint village of Pedralva. After going to most of the restaurants in this part of the Algarve for nearly a decade I can safely say that restaurants such as these three are by far the best around to eat, and each time we went the bill never cm to mor than 15 euros each, including alcoholic beverages. This is pretty good seeing as the food is delicious and of a very high standard.

    With regards to the wind – I personally cannot live without it now whenever I am there. I used to go to other areas of the Algarve such as Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, and whenever I venture back there now I find the heat unbearable and cannot wait to get back to the wild west!

    I appreciate everyone’s experience may not be the same, and we did have a hire car and I suppose it is beneficial that one of us had been to the place more than once so we knew which places were good and which one’s to avoid.

    I do agree that a hire car is an essential – this area of the Algarve is extremley beautiful and it would be a waste of an opportunity not to venture out to the amazing villages and beaches that surround Martinhal.

    • I am pleased you had a good experience, so did we but there were some service issues and I have seen similar reviews on this topic, but it certainly didn’t spoil our holiday! And we did have some great service from some people so it wasn’t all bad mainly just in the Italian restaurant.

      The wind was lovely on hot days but if I could change it I would turn it down a notch in the evenings 🙂

  4. We are going to Martinhal in two weeks time with our 15 year old son – I saw your link on Facebook so popped over to read your review. Great info so I’ll print the post out so I know about some of the places you visited. We are going for a fortnight and thankfully hiring a car.

    I may come back here and quiz you on stuff eg – do they provide beach/pool towels? Dress code in restaurants? All the important stuff!!

    • No problem, quiz away or e-mail me at chocorangecitymum@yahoo.co.uk if you like.

      No need to take beach towels, they have fab huge blue ones available at the 4 pools around the place and you get a card each so you take the card with you, get a towel and give them a dirty one back for another card when you’ve finished. You can take them to pools, beaches, the waterpark. Our beach towels weren’t used! You also get a lovely welcome basket with bread, muffins and milk when you arrive so don’t bother picking any up for 1st day.

  5. That’s so useful to know – more room for shoes!! And great to know the welcome pack is quite substantial.

    I was just on twitter and realised I already follow you on there (I’m @mumsgoneto) – yet it was the Martinhal facebook page that brought me here.

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