We’ve found a secret. A wonderful place just a couple of hours from the UK. Where, when the weather is grey and cold and icy, you can arrive to beautiful sunshine, barefoot walks on the beach and sunny Portuguese food which will put a smile on your face.
We arrived for a winter week at Vale do Lobo Resort in the Algarve, Portugal full of hope but fearing February days that might still have the wind and rain we had been used to for weeks and months in the UK. We flew in at night, landed, got straight into the hire car (with the wonderful Luz Cars) and within 20 minutes were pulling up at Vale do Lobo Resort.
I love waking up somewhere new when you haven’t had chance to explore the night before and Vale do Lobo was just fantastic to pull up the blinds to discover the following morning and stare out into, blinking through the sunshine beaming in.
Vale do Lobo is one of those places has so much to offer that, despite feeling like I wanted to go exploring the region, it was so tempting to simply relax, unwind and enjoy. Vale do Lobo has two golf courses, a tennis centre, spa and pool, restaurants, shops and children’s activities. There was so much to really keep us entertained and we understood why people come and spend a month or even longer. We wished we could do the same.
This resort is a different place in summer when live music fills the square, golfers tee up and the outside pools are filled with happy laughter. In winter it’s an altogether quieter place and one that still has an unmistakable charm and appeal.
Our days were spent filled with a mix of relaxation and activities, including lessons in the huge tennis centre which is a destination in itself. The children loved the opportunity to get out on the courts and have some fun perfecting their technique. It was great to get together for a family game afterwards too.
There were also craft activities put on by the staff, from bag decorating to canvas painting and the kids loved spending some time getting creative and bringing home all of the great things they’d made.
We were surprised by the amount of sunshine and also the intensity of the sun. While we weren’t able to make use of any of the outdoor pools the sun still shone bright and warmed us through. We pulled on our t-shirts and shorts to sit out on our balcony for al fresco lunches and a glass of wine in the afternoon.
While many of the restaurants are closed for the season there are a scattering of those that are open and they feel so much cosier because of it. Our favourite was at Sandbanks where we had a meal that was just outstanding. From traditional seafood chowders to vegetarian spicy curries and wonderful home-made desserts. The welcome was warm and genuine and we wished it could become our local for weekend meals where memories are made.
Vale do Lobo is one of those friendly places where even the drivers of the complimentary shuttle buses (which are available 24 hours a day) feel like old friends. Our cleaner became someone we looked forward to seeing each day and was lovely to chat to.
The beach at Vale do Lobo is one of its real highlights, private and beautiful with the loveliest sand to build castles and perfect for shell hunting. We loved our trips to the beach, past bright green cacti and spring-like flowers gently bobbing in the breeze.
Our accommodation was outstanding, a three bedroom apartment which was huge (each bedroom had its own en suite bathroom) and the real showstopper was the private swimming pool on the decking which, while it was too chilly to use during our stay, was beautiful to watch as the sun beams danced across the top.
Despite planning to take it easy we heard that the Carnival celebrations were taking place while we were staying. These annual displays of dancing, music and costumes bring all the local people out into their towns and that the oldest ‘carnivale’ in Portugal took place in nearby Loulé, so we had to take a trip out. We loved our visit here as clouds of confetti were thrown high into the ski and the floats drifted past with the rhythmic music and dancing, costumed entertainers. It was so much fun to be there to experience it.
That aside our days were spent in Vale do Lobo which is like a small exclusive town but packed full of fun in whatever amount you want to take it.
Winter in Vale do Lobo is a very different experience to that of summer and just as wonderful for all of those differences.
Check out our short video of our time in Vale do Lobo here.
Find out more about Vale do Lobo here.
We were guests of Vale do Lobo for the purposes of this review but all opinions are our own.