Review of Pine Cliffs, Portugal
I don’t like golf. I particularly dislike the idea of playing golf in hot weather, on grass that is practically artificial, given the amount it has to be watered to stay alive. Some might say it was therefore an odd choice to go on holiday to a golf resort, in the Algarve, just when it’s hotting up for summer. But it was quite the opposite…
Pine Cliffs Resort is far more than just another golf course in the Algarve. For parents needing some R&R in the sun, it is a dream. Five outdoor pools fringe the many different types of accommodation (all 5* standard), expansive cliff-top gardens host enclaves of sunbeds whilst a short stroll through a red-stone canyon leads you to the turquoise waters that glisten below. Under three hours from Gatwick and a quick 40 minutes from Faro airport, Pine Cliffs is situated in a very accessible and kid-friendly part of Portugal. Beaches are sandy, restaurants and bars are hospitable towards little ones and activities are plentiful.
Containing a hotel, private villas, timeshares and self-catering apartments, the resort is huge. Whereas I would usually balk at the size, with a toddler in tow this space equates to more entertainment on the doorstep and less going stir-crazy. It also means there’s accommodation to cater for all needs on one site, which can be handy when travelling with extended family or friends. The Pine Cliffs Residences and Terraces are the best options for those looking for family-friendly self-catering. Despite its size, the Pine Cliffs Sheraton Hotel feels almost boutique—colourful tiles, pretty courtyards and Moorish design removes any trace of a big corporate hotel.
There’s no danger of getting bored here. Within the resort there are not only outdoor and indoor swimming pools but a 7,000-square-metre Children’s Village featuring a giant pirate ship, playgrounds, bouncy castles, scooters, mini golf and more. Porto Pirata is the on-site kids club allowing parents to “ship” their little ones (6 months to 8 years) off for a half or full day of finger painting, water games, treasure hunts and similar fun. “Tweens” can go to the Junior Club where activities include paint-balling and face painting. For older kids and excitable adults there are water sports, football, basketball, tennis and bike hire as well as a spa. And, of course, there’s golf. Activities aside, I could have spent a week simply drifting between the beautiful sandy beach, sleep-inducing sunbeds and the cliff-top bar.
The Algarve is an established tourist hotspot for good reason. Its beaches are some of Europe’s finest and the weather is predictably hot and clear from June until October. Unfortunately this does mean that the area is built up and buzzing with tourists. Vilamoura and Albufeira are worth avoiding. Olhos de Agua is the nearest village to the resort and whilst the beach is great for kids, the town itself is a bit tired. For something more authentic head to the fishing village of Carvoeiro and for a beach with plenty of space try Praia da Rocha, both near Portimao. One of the most appealing things about this coastline is that although there are some over-populated beaches there are plenty of empty ones—for starters head east over the cliffs from Olhos de Agua or walk a little west from Vale do Lobo. To get a taste of something more authentic head to one of the many “chicken shacks” on the way up to Loule or Monchique (Nandos will never be the same again). There’s also a big market in Loule on Saturdays and the views from above Monchique, the Algarve’s highest point, are pretty impressive.
Two beers at the beachfront bar cost a staggering 10 euros, so opting for one of the self-catering units is the best way to avoid splashing too much cash. Alternatively spoil yourself for a few nights of luxury (and kid-free relaxation) as part of a longer holiday somewhere more affordable. Hiring a car from Faro is not that much more than a taxi both ways and is worth doing if you’d like to explore beyond the resort.