The Oitavos Hotel, a 20-minute drive from Lisbon in Cascais, is set among the rugged sand dunes and pine trees of Quinta da Marinha. It rises up like a glittering space ship, all floor-to-ceiling glass windows and ultra-modern clean lines leading into the Atlantic Ocean.
The property is owned and run by the Champalimaud family with each sibling taking on a different role, from general manager to head of communications. The result is a personal level of service, relaxed attitude to children and warm, welcoming environment.
When we arrive it's duskand the sun is setting against a clear sky. Effortlessly chic locals sip cocktails by the infinity pool, while their equally cool children dart between never-ending brown legs. The Nina Simone of Cascais belts out ballads and the crowd sways. This is how they do it in Portugal. Fuss-free, laid back luxury. Parents aren’t worried about bed times or children running off. Because there’s nowhere for them to go. The beauty of The Oitavos how compact it is, while still seeming spacious.
This is a hotel for first time parents who aren’t ready to surrender to the candy-coloured world of family-orientated hotels.
Enormous modern rooms are swathed in natural lightand they're comfortable and functional. Bed and bath are not separated by wallsbut the loo is safely behind a glass door. Nevertheless, these are rooms for people who are very relaxed in each other’s company. All open out on to baby-friendly balconies (framed by sturdy glass walls 4ft high walls), and the doors are too heavy for anyone other than an adult to open.
There are no interconnecting rooms so be prepared to either have your tots in a cot or sofa bed in your room – which there is more than enough space for – or go with older kids.
Golf: Naturally golf is a big deal here – The Oitavos Dunes is regarded as one of Europe’s top golf courses. Lessons can be arranged by a master for both adults and children.
Surfing: This is the next big thing and people flock from far and wide for the great north Atlantic breaks. The nearest beach to the hotel, Guincho, is a particular hotspot. It’s not for beginners and often hosts international competitions – great fun for families to watch though. Experienced surfers can have lessons with pro Ruben Gonzalez organised through packages with the hotel, while for children it’s better to head further along the Estorial coast to calmer beaches where there are surf schools.
Cascais: An evening stroll in Cascais is well worth it, particularly to Santini ice cream parlour. Or you can simply spend your days lying by the pool, in the spa, doing downward facing dogs with a private yoga instructor or at the nearby equestrian centre.
While the hotel doesn’t have a kids’ club there are no airs and graces about children here. No one will make a cross hush or angry frown at clans of new friends playing loudly. There aren’t endless precious ornaments for chubby hands to explore (and break). The vibe is just one big (very cool) happy family.
Don’t miss: An opportunity to try the family’s wine. Their estate produces Quinta de Cotto and Côtto Grande Escolha, and was one of the first in the country to venture past the world of Port.
For more information on the local area read Cascais and around.
A large lobby (excellent for running races) morphs into two restaurants, which are at the heart of the hotel. There’s Ipsylon where the focus is on seafood. An all-day menu is created by a head chef clearly passionate about his art, taking local ingredients and cooking it in a traditional French style. Excitements include oysters with ponzu and tobiku wasabi sauce, steaming pots full of garlicky clams and mussels, and lobster cooked on charcoals. For kids there’s a tapas menu that might appeal more than the crustacea, as well as that famous Portuguese dish; the cheeseburger. This is also where the breakfast of dreams happens. Make sure you're hungry in the morning and yes, it is acceptable to have a Pasteis de Nata (custard tart) at 9am.
The second restaurant is a Japanese Bar that seats eight. Book a babysitter for this one – unless your kids’ have exotic tastes – grab a cocktail and watch the chef slice up fresh tuna in front of you.
Long unhurried lunches should be spent by the pool or at Verbasco, which is next to the clubhouse. Its design is a little more rustic than the rest of the hotel, blending in with its sandy surroundings and sea views. The menu focuses on Mediterranean-inspired dishes, which are given a shake up Oitavos-style, making them just that bit cooler. A usually red and white tomato and mozzarella salad comes in a multitude of colours, while pastas arrive drenched in lamb stew or simply the most delicious olive oil you'll ever taste.
Price: The starting rate in October (excluding breakfast) is €195 in a Superior Room, with balcony and sea view.
Getting there: TAP Portugal flies from London Heathrow to Lisbon; from £118 return.
Travel time: Flights take 2 hours 30 minutes and in the summer there is no time difference.
More information: For reservations, contact +351 21 486 0020 or visit theoitavos.com.