At the end of August we took the boys on holidays to the Martinhal resort in Sagres, Portugal. We were so excited to get to try out this resort as we had heard such incredible reports about how lovely it was and how fantastic it was for families. Alan and I are keen travellers and love to get away when we can but we’ve found it so different travelling since the boys were born. All the places that we used to love or would frequent just didn’t seem like good options anymore with the kids, at least while they were still so young. I put a lot of time and effort into researching different options that were family friendly…. keen to try find something that worked for all of us and still felt like a luxury holiday. Martinhal was the perfect option for this! Here's a little overview of what we loved and didn't!
Travelling to Martinhal
The main airport to visit Sagres is Faro. It’s about 1.5 hours drive from the airport to the hotel. It’s a fantastic short flight from Ireland and Faro is serviced by both Aer Lingus and Ryanair which meant there were some options for which flights we took based on nap times etc meaning we could work around them. We rented a car in the airport. There are lots of rental agencies to choose from. We found that it was worth paying that small bit extra to pick one of the rental agencies that was based in the airport grounds. When you’ve small kids it can be quite a challenge trying to get all the bags, buggies and children on to a bus to pick up the car! I have heard from other people that you can just get a taxi to the hotel and as the hotel is fairly self-sufficient you wouldn’t need a car to get around but we had also heard that the supermarket in Sagres was handy and a lot cheaper than the market on the resort so we felt the rental option was better suited to us.
Where we stayed
We booked a two bedroom Garden Villas on the resort. This was a fantastic choice for us. The location was super as it was easy walking distance to all the pools, right beside the town square , the kids clubs and the main playground area. The villa itself was lovely. Very spacious and had two lovely big bedrooms. They also have a list of items you might need for children that you can request to be there on arrival. We had got stairgates, a high chair and booster chair and a small step for the bathroom along with a bedrail and travel cot. The apartment had all the amenities you could need. A fantastically equipped kitchen, a very good washer, dryer and a clothes line and lots of nice fluffy white towels and robes too. The only small grievance we had with the place was that the stair gate didn’t start for the first three steps and my littlest Sebastian kept trying to climb up those and with the floor being stone tiles we were always chasing after him trying to stop him falling! Also the TV and crockery were all located at a child’s level which again meant we were a little on edge at times as the two boys played hide and seek behind the beautiful big flat screen TV or went snooping in the cupboards!
There were quite a few options for dining which in general we found to be fantastic. The food was good quality and tasty and the cocktails were divine. It was a little pricey at times but given how great they were with the kids and how good the options of food for the kids were we didn’t really mind paying the extra. For very small kids they also offer purees which would be a god send if you were at the weaning stage. It’s something we always end up panicking about at the last minute and while we are fans of the Ellas pouches we prefer to have a mix and not just all pouched food so it’s great to have the option to give them fresh meals whenever you want. We didn’t go for the full or half board options as more often than not we would usually just have a main and share a dessert or starter so didn’t feel the need to get that much food. We had the breakfast in the hotel twice and it was incredible. Honestly one of the best buffets I have ever seen. They had everything you could think of and prosecco too! A lovely little bold morning treat! As with most restaurants in Europe and particular Portugal they tend not to start serving dinner till 6.30pm or after. This was slightly tricky with our boys who were used to eating at 5.00pm every day so we just had to do a late snack in the afternoon to keep them going.
There were countless amenities on the property. There's really something for everyone. These are just a few of the highlights below:
They had kids clubs for all ages. There was a creche for newborns up to 2 years and then two kids clubs for kids that were older. We booked my son Nathaniel, aged 3, in for a few days in the kids clubs (note: it’s good to book before you go, you can always cancel days when you get there but they book up very quickly) and in the end he loved it so much we tried to book as many days as we could! My son Sebastian, 15 months was a different story. He might have liked it more if he was in Nathaniels group but wasn’t keen to be left so he came to the pool each day and the beach and played with us instead. I can’t speak highly enough about how good the staff were in the clubs. It was so well organised and such a fantastic set up with a lovely outdoors full of toys and plenty of activies organised each day!
The kids club have a facility that you can rent a box of age appropriate toys for a very reasonable €5 during your stay. My sons loved this. We got two boxes and they had a ball when they were at home. We didn’t want them out in the sunshine all day so this was a fantastic way to disctract them.
Pools and swimming
There were so many different pools to choose from. Each of them had small paddling pools for the kids and the water was a nice temperature. Perhaps a little cool at times for the littler ones but in general it was pretty good in comparison to other resorts we’ve been to. There were lots of toys to play with around the pools and so much space, it never felt like the pools were too busy or cramped.
My son did the set of 5 swimming lessons when he was there. Diego was incredible with him. From a child that would insist on only paddling at the edge of the pool even in the shallow pools he was in non stop by the end of it. Given he was 3 he wasn’t necessarily swimming fully on his own in that time but his confidence was incredible. He was a water baby by the end of the trip!
Each restaurant had a playground beside them. The playgrounds were brilliant. The boys loved them. Most of them had trampolines and large sand pits which they loved. There were always plenty of buckets and spades in them too which meant we didn’t have to cart around our own! My only slight disappointed was in the photos online they show some toys that are more suited to younger children in the playground but when we got there that wasn’t the case, they were kept in the kids club playground. Having said that Sebastian still managed to have a ball!
There were so many options available for whatever you could imagine. Kite surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, tennis, football, classes and bicycles to rent. The next time we go we would definitely rent the bikes as they were really reasonable to hire and you can even rent ones with the big carts attached for the kids.
The beach in Martinhal in Sagres was stunning. Lovely soft yellow sand, not stoney so perfect for the boys. It was easy enough to get parking and you had the bonus of having two life guards on at any time. There are two restaurants that are not part of the resort down on the beach. We didn't get to try them but I gather they do some fantastic. Given that Sagres is on the Atlantic it was too cold for us for swimming but the boys were still happy to paddle a little at the edge.
On site nurse
This was a godsend for us! They have a free 24 hours on site nurse. The climate in Sagres is very windy by nature and we hadn’t realised it was at it’s peak in August and September. The wind was so strong at times it gave both the boys a little ear pain. Sebastian was very out of form one of the days and it was brilliant to be able to go to the nurse to get peace of mind that it was nothing else. They even gave a follow up call to us a few days later to make sure he was ok.
What we packed
Besides all the usual holiday attire a good tip we had read before we went was to bring warmer clothes for the evening. With the breeze it can get cool in the evenings. We brought proper woollen hats for the boys and these were super to protect their ears in the evenings. We also brought trousers for them which we were glad of in the end. As you have a washing machine in the villa you don’t need to bring huge amounts of things and with the wind things dry very quickly anyway once you hang them out. We brought a Heather bag with us which was so handy to fit everything in. We are still at the potty training stage with Nathaniel and Sebastian is still in nappies so it was perfect to fit all our changes of clothes, bits for the beach etc. It was handy not to need a separate beach bag too!
You can find out more about Martinhal and book your stay here