Sitting beachfront on the Algarve coast gives any resort an edge, so how does Tivoli Marina Vilamoura Algarve edge out in front of the rest for families? Harriet Mallinson recently visited the newly restored resort and here’s her verdict.
It’s a bit of a tradition to call boats after an interest, so I’m mildly impressed by the bold confidence of whoever owns Ménage à trois: one of many gleaming, multi-million-pound yachts berthed in super-glamorous Vilamoura Marina. Although I don’t reckon there’s much this bougainvillea-clad waterfront hasn’t seen in terms of eccentric and excessive over the years, as it’s been attracting a steady stream of the super-rich since at least the early 70s.
If lazing around on a yacht isn’t part of your holiday plans this summer, don’t let that deprive you of waterfront vibes or the gorgeous golden sands of nearby Praia de Vilamoura. Tivoli Marina Vilamoura may not have a curious name or seafaring potential, but it’s considerably less expensive than the average super-yacht and a lot friendlier for families.
Make more of summer at Tivoli Marina Vilamoura
In fact, after a recent four-month renovation, this five-star, beach resort not only boasts a redesigned pool shallow enough for the youngest of young swimmers, its newly landscaped gardens include plenty of running around space, as well as a children’s playground. The hotel kids’ club also features a programme of daily activities during summer which range from knockabout games of football to more serene craft projects.
However, the indoor space is a bit on the small side and, as the club isn’t fully supervised, there’s little time off parenting duty if your kids are five or under. That said, while parents might not be able to wangle a complete break, the resort’s family spa sessions do compensate quite nicely. Mini-wellness ranges from cutely titled treatments like ‘Little Star Fish Couture Facial’ to free hair braiding – a bit of an Algarve holiday tradition. Although if you want to go all-in, choose ‘Family Relaxation’ which includes massages for both adults and kids, as well as jacuzzi soaks for all.
Of course Algarve sunshine is going to tempt you outdoors, a lot, and Tivoli Marina can arrange practically anything for you, from bike hire or tuk-tuk tours to jeep safaris and horse riding. Babysitting services are also available if you want a grown-up night out, although readily available treats like popcorn, ice cream and family movies make for fun evenings-in too.
A perfect base to explore the spectacular Algarve
The resort is also just a short walk from the beach at Praia de Vilamoura which just happens to be a close neighbour to Praia da Falésia: that much photographed stretch of the Algarve coast with the colourful wall of cliffs. Older kids will definitely be up for a boat trip to Benagil sea cave: the one where sunlight streams in through a domed roof onto its sandy floor. Ria Formosa lagoon and its accessible barrier islands are yet another reason to take to the seas, although most kids will probably find hiking or biking through Ria Formosa Natural Park just as exciting.
For traditional local markets, authentic restaurants and general all-round prettiness, you want the towns of Olhão, Loulé or Tavira. You shouldn’t miss Faro’s charming historic quarter and city beaches either. And when nothing will do but ‘family attractions’, you need to hit Albufeira’s Aquashow Waterpark – only the biggest in Portugal – and Zoo Marine for meet ‘n’ greets with dolphins and seals.
Look forward to suites with sweet views and mini-popcorn machines
Thanks to its recent renovation, Tivoli Marina Vilamoura now offers a wider choice of family rooms and suites. Several feature separate living areas, and the Family Junior Suite even has an extra pull-out bed. You can also look forward to balconies with great views, as well as sweet touches like welcome packs for kids and cute mini-popcorn machines.
Food is another area where the resort has upped its game recently. Despite only one of the on-site restaurants offering a children’s menu, the tapas at poolside Oregano jumps in to fill the gap, and Voyages’ big breakfasts never get any complaints from kids. And we have to give special mention to Pepper’s Steakhouse, for its chill family atmosphere.
How to plan your Algarve holiday
How to get there
Direct UK flights to the Algarve take from 2 hours, 50 minutes
Where to stay
Tivoli Marina Vilamoura, Family Room, B&B from £216 per night (2 adults, 2 children)