Where to stay in the Algarve? My ultimate guide will help you choose the right Algarve resort for families, couples and groups.
The Algarve is one of my favourite holiday destinations. I love the beaches there – there are over 100 of them! I also love the pretty clifftop villages and its great food scene. However, there is much more to the Algarve than sea views and sardines – and with numerous holiday resorts to choose from, how do you know where to stay in the Algarve?
That’s where I come in! My ultimate guide to the Algarve has recommendations on where to stay, where to visit as well as listing the top holiday resorts on the Algarve to help you choose the right place to stay.
1. The Golden Triangle – Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Almancil
The Golden Triangle is the area that connects the luxury resorts of Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura with the countryside town of Almancil – the name refers to their geographical locations which form a triangular shape. Located just 15 – 20 minutes drive from Faro airport they can easily be enjoyed for a short break or main holiday.
Almancil is located 10 minutes drive from the coast, so prices are generally lower in hotels, restaurants and shops. It is also home to three Michelin Star restaurants – the most of any town on the Algarve, however, most holidaymakers chose to stay in the exclusive coastal resorts of Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura.
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Quinta do Lago is not like a typical Algarve resort, it feels more like a community than a holiday resort. I was amazed at the sheer size of Quinta. Many celebrities own mansions here, 20 million euro homes are a common sight, I almost expected to find guided tours of celebrity homes at one point!
However, it is possible to holiday here without breaking the bank. Many holiday resorts and hotels offer good value options, especially when you consider the world class facilities at your disposal.
It may surprise you to learn that Quinta do Lago is 50 years old. However, it was only when billionaire Denis O Brien bought it in 1997 that it became the destination of choice for many Irish holidaymakers. It boasts world class sports and leisure facilities including 3 championship golf courses, and is considered one of the best golf resorts in the world.
The Campus – a start of the art facility for sports enthusiasts as well as professional athletes, is another superb facility. There is a 25 metre heated pool, tennis and padel courts, studio classes and bike hire, and lessons and personal training can be arranged in each of these areas.
There are 14 restaurants and bars to suit all tastes, including Bovino Steakhouse and Umami – the Algarve’s most refined Asian dining experience. There are plenty of casual options too, such as Danos Sports Bar – so you don’t miss your favourite team sports. Brunch is practically a past time here, so you can expect some delicious and healthy options in Pure and Noa.
When it comes to beach bars and restaurants – you will be spoilt for choice. Gigis, The Bold Octopus, 2Passos and Marias are the showstoppers with incredible sea views, but need to be booked in advance, especially if you are thinking about going for sundowners.
There isn’t a main centre in Quinta do Lago. Restaurants, bars and sports facilities are quite spread out so you need to use an Uber or hire a car if you are staying there. I spoke to a few holidaymakers who didn’t mind this at all – ‘Ubers are so cheap and always available’ they told me, and we found similar experience during our visit.
The Quinta do Lago lifestyle lends itself to exercise, so brisk walks to brunch spots are part and parcel of the experience, as is cycling or running along the boardwalk. The 4.8km boardwalk is a fabulous asset to the resort. It stretches along the coast, through the Ria Formosa Natural Park and the plan is to extend it all the way from Faro airport to the Vilamoura Marina.
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Vale do Lobo is similar in style to Quinta do Lago, and boasts two championship golf courses, superb tennis facilities, a luxury Spa, as well as 15 restaurants and bars to choose from. The ‘Praca’ is the place to be seen at night time. This beach club hangout has contemporary bars and even a nightclub during the summer months.
Where to stay in Quinta do Lago
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Quinta do Lago is home to some of the best hotels, resorts and villas in Portugal. We stayed in Martinhal Quinta which has 2 and 3 bedroom townhouses as well as 3, 4 and 5 bedroom villas, all of which have private pools.
Martinhal is renowned for its family-friendly facilities and Martinhal Quinta is no exception. You will find a fully supervised kids club and creche onsite, as well as a sand pit and trampoline by the pool. There is also a separate Blue Room for children aged 8+ with Playstations, table football and table tennis. A family concierge can help you pre-book baby equipment such as sterilisers, baby baths and stairgates.
Martinhal Quinta is the prefect choice for families, however, there are great value deals for group stays or friends breaks when children are in school.
For couples looking for a hotel stay in Quinta do Lago the Wyndham Grand Algarve offers good value for a five-star hotel. However if you really want to blow the budget, the Conrad Algarve is one of the best hotels in the area.
Where to stay in Vale fo Lobo
Dunas Douradas Beach Club offers 132 apartments and villas which are ideal for a luxurious family holiday, group getaway or golfing trip. Overlooking the sea, with miles of golden sand right in front of you, its situation is superb.
Along with some excellent culinary experiences, the Dunas Douradas Beach Club also has a focus on fitness. There are indoor and outdoor pools, gym courses and plenty of golf options available. Children are well looked after too, and there is a kids club for children aged 3-9 years.
Vilamoura is also part of the Algarve’s Golden Triangle and was once considered the sophisticated choice. The large marina is lined with luxury yachts, although it lacks the exclusivity of the nearby resorts of Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo.
However, Vilamoura is more like a traditional holiday resort, albeit on a high-end scale, and with numerous hotels hugging the marina, car hire or Ubers are not necessary.
There are some great shops and restaurants to choose from as well as lively bars. It is also home to five golf courses and the stunning Praia da Falésia beach which stretches for 5km to the neighbouring resort of Albufeira.
Where to stay in Vilamoura
Location, location, location – it doesn’t get much better than the Tivoli Marina Hotel. With the Vilamoura Marina on one side, and its own concessioned beach on the other, everything you could possibly want is on your doorstep. The hotel also boasts a luxury Spa and a host of top class restaurants and bars.
Domes Lake Algarve is another super five-star choice. As well as being just a few steps away from Falésia beach, it also boasts a private sea water lake, and a swimming pool with a unique natural sand bottom – the first of its kind in Europe! Its gardens are designed with plants from five continents, it boasts three restaurants, two bars, a Spa and a Kids Club.
For families looking for a fun stay near Vilamoura, the Aquashow Park Hotel is the perfect choice. It is located five km from the marina and offers a free shuttle service. As well as the usual facilities you would expect from one of the top family hotels in the Algarve, you will also have free access to the water park located beside the hotel.
For families looking for a luxury stay in Vilamoura, the Residence at Victoria has spacious one, two, and three-bedroom apartments, as well as three outdoor pools. You can also use of facilities at its sister property, Anantara Vilamoura, including the kids and teen clubs.
What was once a pretty fishing village is now home to one of the Algarve’s busiest resorts. You will find a fabulous beach, Fisherman’s Beach, as well as an attractive old town, but its cobblestone streets are packed with lively bars and souvenir shops.
There is also a modern side or ‘strip’ in adjacent Montechoro, which is also lined with plenty of bars and restaurants, and has the stunning beach of Praia d’Oura at the bottom. Praia da Faleisa is another beach nearby, that tends to attract a quieter clientele, as well as families.
Albufeira has some of the best nightlife on the Algarve so is ideally suited to young couples or groups looking for a lively holidays. However, it is also popular with families, and some of hte smaller villages on the outskirts of Albufeira have some excellent family-friendly properties.
Where to stay in Albufeira
There are plenty of great places to stay in Albufeira, with many hotels and apartments catering equally well for families and couples, friends getaways.
The Grand Real Santa Eulalia offers host of facilities and room types to suit everyone. Although a luxurious resort hotel, it tends to be more reasonably priced than other 5-star beach hotels in the Algarve, and the self catering apartments are particularly good value for families.
Overlooking Falésia beach, the modern Epic Sana Hotel is one of the best hotels in Albufeira. There are five outdoor swimming pools, as well as an indoor pool with extensive Sayanna Wellness Center, making it an ideal choice for a summer or winter break. There is direct access to the 6km beach from the hotel via a wooden stairs.
For families looking for a luxury experience Pine Cliffs Resort is sure to please. This is a particularly popular option for larger or extended families as there are villas and townhouses to suit all family sizes.
Pine Cliffs has previously held the accolade of Europe’s Best Family Resort, earned from the array of both water and land activities available. Porta Pirata’s Kid’s Club is where children from 6 months to 8 years have their own village complete with pirate ship. There is also a junior club for 8- to 13-year-olds.
For families looking for a more reasonably priced option with a host of family-friendly facilities, the Alfagar and Eden Resorts are super choices. See these and lots more family hotels on the Algarve here.
Carvoeiro is one of the Algarve’s prettiest resorts and a place I have yet to stay in. It has been on my wish list for many years, as it is my kind of place!
What was once a fishing village, Carvoeiro combines sandy beaches and excellent dining options with traditional Portuguese charm. The pretty town is packed with whitewashed buildings that appear to sit on top of each other as they fit snugly into the surrounding hills.
However, don’t let its laid back atmosphere fool you, Carvoeiro is busy during the summer months, with families looking for a more relaxed holiday resort and couples looking for luxury hotels in authentic surroundings.
Top Tip: Many of Carvoeiro’s tourist hotels and apartments are located outside the main town centre, so car hire is recommended, or at least choose a hotel with a complimentary shuttle bus to the centre or beach.
There is a beach right in the centre of town but make sure to visit some of the nearby beaches such as Praia da Marinha – one of the Algarve’s finest, and the pretty town fo Silves, which is a 20 minute drive away.
Where to stay in Carvoeiro
For couples or families looking for a luxury stay in Carvoeiro, the Monte Santo Resort is hard to beat. It offers six outdoor pools, one indoor pool, a kids club, plus lots of sporting facilities as well as a luxury Spa.
There is a choice of room types and including two and three-bedroom townhouses. A 20-minute walk (downhill) will bring you to to Carvoeiro and the beach.
The Rocha Brava is a more reasonably priced option and boasts a spectacular cliff top location with views out over the Atlantic Ocean. The old fishing village of Carvoeiro is 3 km away and the closest beach 1 km, but the resort has plenty of family friendly facilities and a great choice of room types to suit families of all sizes.
5. Praia da Rocha / Portimao
The high rise resort of Praia da Rocha is my least favourite place to stay on the Algarve, however, there are some advantages to staying here. Its close proximity to the Algarve’s capital, Portimao being the main reason. You can walk to Portimao from the centre of Praia da Rocha in about 20 minutes or hop in an Uber, which are readily available and reasonably priced.
There is a fabulous marina in Portimao with a choice of restaurants overlooking luxury yachts. Portimao is also a great town for shopping, with numerous boutiques to choose from, as well as the popular Aqua Shopping Centre, which I have frequented many times! The Algarve Motorsports Park with F1 and karting tracks is also located in Portimao.
Praia da Rocha also boasts a superb beach offering a wide selection of water sports, and there are plenty of disco bars and nightclubs for holidaymakers looking for a lively holiday.
The Tivoli Marina Portimao sits in a privileged location overlooking the marina and is within a five-minute walk of the bustling resort of Praia da Rocha.
Families and adults are well catered for, with a choice of studios, one and two-bedroom apartments spread over three buildings – some have outdoor terraces overlooking the marina. There are three outdoor pools, one of which is for kids, and during high season the resort organises entertainment throughout the day for children.
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Alvor is one of my favourite resorts on the Algarve. It has stunning beaches, great value restaurants, but also has a charming old town and a pretty harbour.
Alvor still is a fishing village. The old town has cobbled stone streets, local boutiques and some superb restaurants, and while the harbour area has been developed with sprinkling of waterfront restaurants, it still feels authentic.
I love Alvor’s beaches, and when you see them dotted with the Algarve’s iconic rock formations, you will see why! Depending on the tides you can walk all the way to Praia da Rocha from Alvor, sometimes through the rock formations.
Make sure to stop in Caniço cliff top restaurant and bar. The food may not be the best of the Algarve, but it is worth a visit, even for a cocktail, to enjoy the stunning views.
Nightlife is low key in Alvor, but Saturday night does attract a crowd, even in low season. There is live music in many pubs, and disco bars play the latest hits until the small hours.
TOP TIPS: Don’t miss the Secret Garden in Gastro Bar 13 for great value dining in a super setting. A pedicure in Swan Day Spa is the best I have ever had – you will thank me later!
Where to stay in Alvor
I have stayed in the Prainha Village on a few occasions and it is a great choice for a adult or family stay. There are many accommodation options available including apartments at the 4-star Prainha Clube, as well as many privately owned apartments.
There is no shortage of amenities to keep families occupied, with outdoor pools, kids pools, playgrounds, bars, restaurants and tennis courts. These are all surrounded by fabulous, landscaped gardens ensuring it never feels busy or crowded.
Check Prainha here
The 4-star Pestana Dom Joao II may not be the most modern hotel in Alvor, but its location on one of the Algarve’s best beaches, makes it a super choice.
Hotel rooms, all of which have a sea-view, are a great choice for couples or friends, while families or groups will love the two-bedroom superior villas which are located right on the beach. I stayed in one of these with my family years ago and loved it. Having full access to all the hotel’s facilities, while enjoying the benefits of a beachfront villa, offers the best of both worlds.
The Alvor Bahia is a highly rated property that is a great choice for families looking for an all-inclusive holiday. There is plenty of on-site amenities to keep the kids happy, including a kids club, entertainment programme, sports facilities and pirate themed play area.
Lagos is a bit of an all rounder. It has a large town with tons of shops and restaurants, plenty of nightlife and boasts some of the Algarve’s best beaches. Lagos also has historic sights in its town centre including the 16th century Lagos City Walls, and the old town’s pretty squares are surrounded by cobbled stone streets.
However, while Lagos has an authentic side, it is more upscale than its neighbours of Alvor or Luz. It is certainly a lot larger but also boasts some fine dining restaurants, trendy cocktail bars and nightclubs. If you are looking for a lively holiday resort, without the typical tacky pubs and clubs, Lagos is the right choice.
There is also a modern marina in Lagos, and a choice of beaches with cool beach bars and water sports. Lagos is a great holiday resort that has something to offer couples, families or groups.
Top Tip: Don’t miss this popular boat trip to Ponta da Piedade
Where to stay in Lagos
I stayed in the Marina Club apartments many years ago and loved their central location overlooking the marina, and its modern interiors. They are ideally suited for families looking for self-catering facilities without the need for kids clubs, or for couples looking to stay in a central location close to the beach and town centre.
For couples looking for a town centre hotel close to the nightlife, the Lagos Avenida Hotel is a great choice, and for a five-star stay look no further than the Cascade Wellness Resort.
Set in extensive gardens with a stunning cliff-top location, the Cascade Wellness Resort lives up to its name, with a luxury Spa, a state-of-the-art gym, sports facilities and a selection of dining options. Guests can choose from hotel rooms, suites, luxury apartments or villas.
Located on the western tip of the Algarve, Sagres is not only the furthest resort from Faro airport, but also the most remote. Its stunning beaches are a Mecca for surfers, and for holidaymakers looking for a wilder and more unspoilt side of the Algarve, Sagres should tick all boxes.
Sagres town is home to surf shops and a sprinkling of restaurants, but it is quite spread out and doesn’t have a large centre or old town that most holidaymakers are drawn to. However, there are some beach bars offering stunning views along the coast that shouldn’t be missed – Boia beach bar in Salema was one of our favourites.
TOP TIP: Don’t miss a visit to Cape St Vincent, Europe’s southwesternmost point. There is parking at the lighthouse and if you can, plan a visit around sunset for the most spectacular views.
Where to stay in Sagres
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Martinal Sagres is one of Portugal’s best family resorts, so if you are looking for a luxury family stay, look no further. This beachfront family resort has a host of facilities for adults and children, as well as a wide selection of accommodation options, including stunning beach houses which we had the pleasure of staying in. You can read my full review here:
The Memmo Baleeira Hotel is a great choice for an adult stay. As well as stunning sea views and a central location, you can expect a heated indoor pool and Spa.
Tavira is a traditional Portuguese town that is located 30km east of Faro airport, towards the Spanish border. It offers a different type of holiday experience to many of the other Algarve resorts I have mentioned. I have yet to visit Tavira, but couldn’t leave it off this list as it has so much to offer.
Tavira’s traditional old town boasts a staggering 37 churches, a Moorish castle, and a Roman bridge that connects both sides of the town, over the River Gilão.
Tavira is also home to a 11km long island, Ilha de Tavira, or Tavira Island, which boasts a stunning golden sandy beach which can be visited by local ferry or via a footbridge. Unlike its traditional town, there are plenty of restaurants, beach bars and watersports available here.
Where to stay in Tavira
For a great value stay in the city it is hard to beat the Vila Gale Tavira Situated on the banks of the Ria Formosa, facilities include an outdoor pool, Spa, Kids Club, and a restaurant and bar serving traditional Portuguese dishes and tasty cocktails.
The historic Pousada Convento de Tavira is a more traditional choice, and is set in a 16th-century St. Augustine’s Convent. It is superbly located for a city stay and also offers an outdoor pool and restaurant.
Top things to do in the Algarve
The marine theme park Zoomarine, is one of the Algarve’s top attractions for families, and there are numerous waterparks to suit all ages. Car enthusiasts will enjoy the many facilities including karting at the Algarve Motorsports Park.
The best time to visit the Algarve
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The Algarve is a great destination to visit at any time of year. If you want guaranteed sunshine and warm temperatures the summer months are ideal, although some resorts can be extremely busy in July and August and temperatures can get extremely high. However, its location on the Atlantic Coast should allow for a cool breeze and cool sea temperatures.
I have visited in May on many occasions and always manage to get great weather. September and early October are also great times to visit where temperatures should still be warm and there are less crowds. From late October – April weather can be more difficult to predict. However, I was also lucky to enjoy 19 degrees and blue skies in February recently!
Regardless of when you visit the Algarve there will always be plenty of opportunities for fabulous beach walks, great golf, and delicious dining options. If travelling during the winter I suggest choosing a hotel with an indoor pool or daily activities, there are many to choose from.
I hope my guide to where to stay in the Algarve will help you plan a trip there soon. While every effort is made to ensure accuracy, facilities and activities are subject to change. Note some of the links in this post are affiliate links, where I receive a commission if a booking is made, but at no additional charge to you.