The new kid on the block in this holidaymakers’ paradise is the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, located just a short drive from Faro Airport and only about ten minutes from the bars and restaurants at the Vilamoura Marina.
Minor Hotels made the decision to turn the hotel into their most luxurious offering in 2017 – making this the first European Anantara hotel.
Anantara hotels bring a touch of the Far East to each establishment without taking away from the authentic sense of the location. Local artisans have been used in the interior design, from the artwork and sculptures to the crockery and tableware, meaning the look remains unmistakeably Portuguese. The bright and spacious lobby is the main hotel hub and is home to a striking tree sculpture, wicker furniture and regional cork and pottery that add to the soul of the hotel. At weekends there is a fado singer, a must-see for all guests in the hotel who want to experience traditional music before dinner.
The resort also has a shop, which sells traditional Portuguese items and encourages the survival of crafts via the TASA Project. A few of these items can also be seen in the rooms, including ceramic fruit bowls, cork coasters and handwoven bags.
Arriving in February to much-needed sunshine, we were delighted our deluxe room, in a pared-back palette with lots of white, grey and wood, had balconies overlooking the golf course, as well as an open-plan bathroom with huge rain shower, tub and Elemis toiletries.
Activities at the resort range from tuk tuk excursions to nearby beaches, horse riding, yoga and tennis, but it is golf that is the star attraction. Anantara Vilamoura overlooks the lush expanse of the Victoria Course, designed by Arnold Palmer, where the Portugal Masters takes place annually. Seasoned golfers can enjoy a gourmet buffet breakfast at the resort before valet transfer to the fairway. There are also a number of exclusive benefits, including on-site storage and changing facilities, private transfers to all golf courses around Vilamoura and a golf guru for tips and lessons.
For those looking for less strenuous activities, guests can relax by one of the four pools (one is adult only) or book in for a spa treatment. There are Elemis treatments as well as Anantara Signature offerings which include a 60-minute massage and a tailored golfer’s massage.
Facilities consist of an indoor swimming pool, sauna, steam room and relaxation area. As part of the spa there’s also a gym, complimentary yoga, Pilates and tai-chi in the mornings.
Children are well catered for in the hotel thanks to the partnership with the Worldwide Kids Company, who have designed the entire children’s and family experience which includes children’s clubs, activities and a babysitting service.
Activities outside the resort range from horse riding to more golf on stunning courses – or why not book an off-road buggy safari? Based in Loule, the buggy safari is an ideal way to see and experience the Algarve countryside and will appeal to thrill seekers big and small. Guides ride an off-road vehicle and guests follow in a two-seater buggy. With a range of times and types of tour, this offers an opportunity to see some lesser known areas. For something a bit more relaxing, a trip to nearby Vilamoura Marina for a drink or lunch will while away an afternoon.
To pay homage to the location guests can enjoy a range of dining experiences using local produce and the Algarve resort has five restaurants, two pool bars and private dining, serving Portuguese cuisine from fine dining to canapés or bar food. Sundowners can be enjoyed by the sea and in the laid-back Purobeach bar, thanks to links with the Tivoli Marina Hotel.
Our experience of the hotel’s food started with a long lunch on the terrace by Ria restaurant, where the menu is influenced by the idea of a traditional marisqueira – or seafood bistro – commonly found along the nearby Ria Formosa lagoon. After starters of traditional tapas we enjoyed fresh seafood, simply cooked to allow the freshness of the flavours to shine through, the kind of food that tastes even better when the sun is shining and the white wine is flowing.
During the rest of our stay dinner was also a highlight, from our six-course Dining by Design meal in the spacious presidential suite with its private terrace and rooftop Jacuzzi and sweeping views, to the modern, local delicacies served up in Emo, the hotel’s wine oriented restaurant, where chef Bruno Viegas has created a menu reflecting the region’s terroir heritage.
Guests can experience being a chef for the day thanks to the Spice Spoons cooking class. Available in all Anantara hotels, the Vilamoura resort’s class starts with a trip to the bustling farmers’ market in Loulé with sous chef Luis, where we learnt about the region’s fresh fish, cheese, bread, port, wines and homemade jam, chutney and fudge. There are also shops dedicated to artisan crafts such as jewellery, cork goods and artwork. Make sure to get there early as this is when the market is at its busiest and most interesting.
Armed with fresh fish, seafood, bread, chorizo and cheese, we were whisked back to the hotel to turn these ingredients into a delicious lunch of seafood and vegetarian cataplanas – or stew cooked in copper pots. Dessert was a simple yet delicious traditional rice pudding made with cinnamon and lemon, and cooked to perfection by the resort’s pastry chef – just the way to round off a visit to an award-winning destination which offers luxury and leisure in a unique Portuguese style.