“Chic, resort-based villas for self-catering, on a long beach in the lower Algarve (sleeping 2-10); perfect for families”
There are 6 types of self-catering villa, all sharing the resort’s facilities (including pools, crèche and kids' club). Each has a daily maid service, fully fitted designer kitchen, terrace, and a living/dining area with satellite TV, video on demand, WiFi and iPod dock. They were designed by Brit interiors specialist Michael Sodeau, mixing cork, stone and timber with pops of bright colour. Each villa is a little bit different and they thankfully haven't taken a cookie-cutter approach.
The villas are mainly in the Martinhal Village, which means they are very close to the resort's facilities. Referred to as Houses, there are 132 spread between Ocean, Bay, Garden and Pinewood categories, and there are 2 or 3 bedroomed houses in each category (plus 1-bed houses in the Garden category). Master bedrooms are all kingsize; second and third bedrooms can be set up as twins or kingsize doubles on request. All have ensuite bathrooms - the masters have a tub and shower, the secondary rooms just have a shower - and bedrooms are all on the ground floor. The living spaces for each villa are on the first floor, to maximise the stunning views (except in the Garden and Pinewood Houses, which are laid out traditionally, with the bedrooms above the living areas).
The Ocean Houses are arranged in small terraced groups at the front of Martinhal Village, with gorgeous sea views. The Bay Houses are much more spacious and secluded, and positioned to catch the sunrise and sunsets from their terraces. We stayed in one of the Garden Houses. These are set within walled, private gardens, making them a safe, attractive choice for families with young children, although the lack of shade made sitting outside at certain times of day rather difficult. Pinewood Houses are set in a quiet close next to a pine forest, and each has a small private pool and garden.
There are also 23 Villa Mimosa townhouses, which are privately owned but available for rent at certain times (please enquire for details). These are a more compact option, away from the main resort, with access to a clubhouse with a heated pool, a baby pool and a private garden. They each have 2-3 large bedrooms plus a parking space. Similar are the 14 Luxury Villas, which are jaw-dropping gorgeous, some with pools, others with games rooms and home cinemas; enquire for details.
With a swanky designer kitchen at your disposal, keen cooks will be in their element. There are double ovens, gas hobs, microwaves, blenders, big fridge/freezers, Nespresso coffee makers and a whole wealth of equipment including cheese graters and vegetable peelers.
i-escape guests get a welcome hamper on arrival (UHT milk, muffins, bread, a selection of jams, and coffee) and there are a couple of dishwasher tabs to start you off, but you'll need to stock up on essentials like bin bags, washing-up liquid, salt, pepper and oil. There's a mini market (O Mercado) in the resort selling vegetables, fruit, fresh bread and cakes, milk, cheese, ham and baby food, though it can be a little pricey. It also provides prepared food to take away - pizza, curries, that sort of thing (order by 8.45pm). There's a small Inter Marche supermarket in Sagres, 5 minutes away by car, and a larger Lidl 10 minutes in the other direction, but most people head to the big supermarket in Lagos City (25km) to do a big shop on arrival, then pick up bits and bobs to see them through a stay. With fresh fish from ports along the coast just begging to be baked in your oven, meals will be a joy.
If, however, your ideal holiday involves the space that a villa offers but the food a hotel can provide, you're in luck. You get access to the 3 restaurants in the village (As Dunas, Os Gambozinos and O Terrazzo), and can purchase breakfast and meal supplements at the time of booking, or go à la carte. The food is one of the things that makes Martinhal really stand out. Families can dine at As Dunas, a stylish beach restaurant beside the pool that specialises in fish and seafood, or enjoy brasserie-style Italian fare in Os Gambozinos, or head to slinky O Terraço, which works both for couples and families. Do check out the family bar, M-Bar, a relaxed surf-themed bar where parents can enjoy a drink whilst the kids play. And the new Pop-Up Grill 'The Wolf @ Martinhal' which has a take-away menu too.
For snacky lunches or a change of scene, head to Zavial beach restaurant, just around the headland - try the fantastic monkfish cataplana. And don't miss the classic Portuguese custard tarts wherever you eat, washed down with a short espresso.
i-escape's Best for Kids Awards 2014
Winner: Best For Kids Facilities
There's so much to say about Martinhal's family facilities that we'd need about 10 pages to tell you everything, so trust us that we're keeping it brief here. Most of it is free, although babysitting and crèche facilities incur an extra cost. All kids over 2 receive a hat and goodie bag on arrival - a nice touch.
Any of these villas works fantastically for families, which is who they were designed for after all. Villa renters have access to the kids' clubs, equipment and activities on offer. Cots are free.
English-speaking babysitters are available (reserve 24 hours in advance). They will only take 2 children under the age of 6 each
Equipment is available to pre-book through the baby concierge.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
There's a fully-staffed creche plus various clubs for kids of all ages: the Creche (ages 6-24 months), the Kids' Club (2-4), Fox Club (5-8), Explorers Club (9-12) and Adventure Club (12-16). The last 3 are only open in school holidays, including half terms; and most are divided into 2 sessions, morning or afternoon (see Rates for an idea of costs). There's also the Blue Room, a video-game room and playspace for children aged 8 and above. In the evenings (Mon-Fri) a Party Zone for 4-8 year olds from 6-9pm allows parents to dine a deux while children enjoy a mini disco, face painting, balloon-modelling, pillow fights and dressing up in costumes; dinner is provided in the Os Gambozinos restaurant too.
All villas have kitchenettes with blenders and microwaves. All the resort's restaurants have a Baby Menu for 4-12 month old babies, and all have high chairs. One restaurant offers child-sized portions, and takeaway pizzas are available from the resort's wine bar. The shop sells takeaways too. The Family Bar at the Village Square is designed for families, and Pop Up Grill 'The Wolf @ Martinhal' is found there too. There's an ice cream corner at Mbar, which serves homemade ice cream, waffles and crepes.
There is a nurse on site 9am-6pm daily, and until 8pm in the summer months. The resort shop sells nappies and other baby items. There's a mobile phone signal everywhere in the resort.