A Portuguese Paradise

Pine Cliffs Resort in the Algarve

Striking the right balance between indulgence and family fun can be tricky, but a glorious week spent at the Pine Cliffs Resort in the Algarve proves that perfection is possible. A long boardwalk stretches through the pristine sandy dunes, and beyond it, the ocean sparkles in the fiery light of the setting sun. I sit in the clifftop bar soaking up the view, glass of chilled Champagne in my hand and my family around me. Things are good.

In need of a break

‘Catastrophic’ might seem like an extravagant word to describe British Airways’ IT failure of last May, but until you have had to tell a three-year-old that, having arrived, suitcases in hand at the airport, they will no longer be going on holiday, you have no idea how apt a description it actually was.

Falling as it did on the first Saturday of half term, it proved impossible to find alternative flights, and so we spent a squabble-filled week at home, putting on smiley faces for family outings to the farm and the soft play, while grieving for the villa in the South of France that was not meant to be ours. We were – eventually – handsomely compensated for our ‘inconvenience’ and began making plans for a bigger and better holiday. Provence was out, Portugal in, and woe betide anybody who dared to suggest self-catering, or BA, come to that.

Wanting a real break from everything, I selected Pine Cliffs, a Luxury Collection Resort. Friends who had visited in the past promised uncrowded beaches, a dizzying array of restaurants, an all singing, all dancing kids’ club that the youngsters wouldn’t want to leave and a wonderful, award-winning spa (the biggest in the Algarve, no less). We’ve only been here for a few hours, but so far, so good.

Pine Cliffs Algarve

Home for the week is a glorious two-bed Ocean Suite. It is so luxuriously appointed that you could move right in and want for nothing. The huge master bedroom boasts an exquisite open plan bathroom with his and hers vanity unit and a vast freestanding tub complete with ocean views. The fully equipped kitchen is togged out with a dishwasher, washer-dryer, microwave, stove and cabinets filled with a fine array of dinnerware and glasses. It is a shame I will not be cooking.

Eating out

We have enjoyed a relaxed early dinner in the Corda Café (pizzas for the youngsters, local seafood for us), and now we are toasting the start of our holiday in the majestic surrounds of Mirador Champagne Bar. And, amazingly, nobody minds the kids being here – their welcome is every bit as warm as ours.

We find the same is true at breakfast the next day. The buffet, laid out in Jardim Colonial, is like nothing our eldest has seen before and he sets out to consume as much as humanly possible, taking in everything from porridge to pancakes via boiled eggs and biscuits. And he is delighted to discover more chocolate-themed breakfast options along the way than he ever dreamed possible.

Fuelled for fun, we drop the boys at Porto Pirata, where we have booked them in for a morning session – leaving us to enjoy some grown up time. Staffed by a friendly, and more importantly, qualified, team, the club is based around two wooden pirate ships, and covers almost two acres. There is a bouncy castle, mini golf, swings, scooters and bikes (along
with a track to race them around). It is the stuff of kiddie dreams and we are dismissed with barely a backward glance.

Cloud nine

We promptly hotfoot it to the spa, where we have treated ourselves and booked in for a couple’s massage. We are soon floating on cloud nine, stresses and strains melting under the magical touch of our clever therapists. It seems inconceivable that better is yet to come, but it is. We discover true peace in the Aurum Suite afterwards. Lavishly decorated in gold, with its own steam room, sauna, jacuzzi, experience shower and lounge area, it is the ultimate pampering experience. Not least because we have been left a chilled bottle of bubbles and a divine platter of chocolate-dipped fruit to enjoy along with the facilities. Oh to stay here all day…

Admittedly, things could be a whole lot worse than the poolside loungers, which are our post-spa lot. We spend a peaceful hour reading beside one of the resort’s many pools, enjoying a deliciously cool dip when the heat gets too much, before heading back to pick up the kids.

Pine Cliffs Algarve

Sporting pirate facepaint and full of tales of treasure hunts and other adventures, they are keen to go back for the afternoon session but we decide instead on lunch at the Beach Club, followed by family time at the beach. Accessed via a glass elevator with some of the best views from the resort, Praia da Falesia’s golden sands stretch for almost 7km, and, set against the striking red cliffs and clear, blue seas, are a sight for sore city-dwelling eyes.

Time to explore

We could spend all week flitting between pool and praia, with a few sets of tennis on the resort’s courts and a round of golf here and there, but we fall into a pattern of relaxing in the morning, and heading out post lunch to explore. Positioned just outside Albufeira, the best of the Algarve is but a short hop from our base at Pine Cliffs: from the buzzing marina at Vilamoura we take a boat trip to the spectacular Ria Formosa Natural Park; we while away a few hours in Loulé, a city of artisans filled with wicker and pottery craft workshops; at Alte we wander through the picturesque narrow streets, snapping pics of the gorgeous Algarvian white houses; while in Tavira we delight in the appealing mix of traditional Portuguese architecture with deep-rooted Moorish influences. But always we are glad to get back to Pine Cliffs, which has quickly begun to feel like home and where we are always welcomed with big smiles and the friendliest of greetings.

Saying goodbye at the end of the week is difficult, and there are tears (not just, I am ashamed to say, from the three-year-old). We are barely back home, yet already pining for our Portuguese paradise. It goes without saying that we will be back – for luxury, family fun it would be hard to find better.