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Pools, beaches, playgrounds and great sleeping arrangements for a family of four: We knew southern Portugal would be perfect for our family. So the day after the school year was over, we jetted off for five days in the Algarve (before wrapping up the week with two days exploring Lisbon).
With two young kids, we wanted a resort on the beach that had it all. After a little bit of research we landed on the Pine Cliffs Resort, which is part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection brand.
This hotel should be on every family’s radar. Here are eight things to know about the Pine Cliffs in the Algarve:
Three Different Options for Using Your Marriott Points
When you look at the Marriott.com site, you’ll actually find three different hotels, all requiring a different number of points for an award stay. All are within the Pine Cliffs property and guests share hotel facilities. The main differences are the locations within the property and the rooms.
The three are the Pine Cliffs Hotel (Category 6), Pine Cliffs Ocean Suites (Category 7) and Pine Cliffs Residence (Category 8). As of today, they cost between 50,000 and 85,000 points per night. However, when Marriott implements its peak vs. off-peak award pricing, the number of points will vary, based on the month you go.
Note: Look at cash prices too. There are some times during the year when paying cash instead of points is a better value.
The Pine Cliffs Hotel costs the least, requiring only 50,000 points and allowing you to use the free-night certificate that comes on the card anniversary of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (capped at 50,000 points). However, this property is of limited use to a family. The standard rooms include either one queen bed or two single beds and are capped at two guests. Even an upgraded room (using more points) is limited to three guests.
The Pine Cliffs Ocean Suites has more updated rooms, and standard rooms when using points are a junior suite, which means the room size is bigger than the Pine Cliffs Hotel, although you are still limited to just two guests in the room. You can use a combination of cash plus points that will give your family more separation and allow more guests in the room. However, the one-bedroom suite is capped at three guests. The three-bedroom suite allows seven guests.
The Pine Cliffs Residence is the best option for a family. At 85,000 points per room per night, you get a two-bedroom suite (maximum occupancy is five guests). You have a full kitchen, a washer/dryer and two bathrooms. Although these rooms are further from the beach, you can always walk or take the shuttle to the central section of the resort and to get to the beach. At the Residence, you still have your own reception area, a pool and restaurant, and you are close to the market.
Seven Outdoor Pools, an Indoor Pool and a Kids Pool
I have never been to a hotel with so many pools. There is guaranteed to be a pool close to your hotel room.
There are seven outdoor pools throughout the complex. During our stay at the end of June, the pools were on the colder side, but we found the one heated outdoor pool next to the golf clubhouse, which made a huge difference.
All the pools have plenty of lounge chairs and we never had a problem finding a place to sit. The pool areas were never crowded, although during the peak months of July and August, it could be a different story.
If it is cold or rainy, there is a heated indoor pool at the health club. We had perfect weather and never swam indoors, but we were told that bathing caps were required in the health club pool.
Last, there is a pool at the Porto Pirata kids area, which is used during scheduled times as part of the kids club programming.
The Beach Is Beautiful, Plus There Is an Elevator
The Pine Cliffs Resort is on Praia da Falésia, one of Portugal’s most beautiful beaches. In 2018, TripAdvisor named it the No. 1 beach in Portugal, the third best beach in all of Europe and the 11th best beach in the world.
The beach has red cliffs, soft sand and crystalline water. It starts in Vilamoura and goes all the way to Olhos de Água, spanning more than six kilometers and perfect for a long walk at the water’s edge.
Regardless of which hotel you choose within the Pine Cliffs Resort, you have private access to the beach with complimentary covered lounge chairs, if available. There are more than 100 steps from the top of the cliff down to the beach — or you can take the elevator, perfect for those with young children. Most families park strollers at the top of the elevator and pick them up on their return from the beach.
After your elevator ride, there is still a walk to the beach on a relatively flat boardwalk. There is a towel hut along the boardwalk, so there is no need to bring towels from the pool. Just remember to have your towel card handy. At the end of the boardwalk, there are bathrooms, an ice cream stand and the Maré restaurant that offers lunch and dinner.
We spent a decent amount of time on this beach, although we explored many of the other beautiful beaches throughout the Algarve as well. All are different so it was worth getting off the resort for our tour.
NOTE: It’s a short walk from the Pine Cliffs Ocean Suites and Pine Cliffs Hotel to the steps or elevator to the beach; while the Pine Cliffs Residence is a longer walk or a shuttle ride away.
Plan to Spend Some Time at the Resort
The Algarve has much to offer, but the resort deserves some time. Our strategy was to spend the day we arrived at the resort plus an entire other day during our stay, allowing us to soak in resort amenities.
If you are a golfer, there’s a course and a driving range. If you want to play tennis, you can reserve courts. There were daily activities, such as cooking classes, yoga and bike tours. Kids will love the Porto Pirata Kids Club (more below) or the arcade room. There are plenty of pools to bounce between for new scenery. The beach is top-notch and there are water-sport rentals. There are lots of grassy areas to run around and throw a ball. The activities are almost endless, regardless of your age.
The Kids Club Is Great
The kids club, known as Porto Pirata, is wonderful. There are two massive pirate ship structures, a small playground, mini-golf, basketball courts, a bouncy house, bungee trampoline and other ride-on toys throughout. There is also a kids pool that can be used during the day.
What I loved about this play space is that all guests were able to use Porto Pirata, whether they are enrolled in one of the drop-off programs or not. We have been to some kids clubs that can only be used by kids who are dropped off (for a price). Although we did not actually sign our kids up for the kids club program, we used the play area almost every evening.
There are three programs at Porto Pirata for children between the ages of 6 months and 8 years old: Explorers (6 months to 36 months), Sailors (3 to 4 years old) and Pirates (5 to 8 years old). All age groups can participate for a full day (9:30am to 5pm) or half-day (9:30am to 12:30pm or 9:30am to 2pm or 12:30pm to 5pm or 2pm to 5pm) and run May through October plus popular holidays (Carnival, Easter, Halloween and New Years Eve). Pricing depends on the season (there is middle season versus high season), your child’s age and the hours.
For example, if you are visiting during peak season in the summer and are looking for a half-day option (without lunch), the charge is 60 euros (6 to 36 months), 40 euros (3 to 4 years old) or 30 euros (5 to 8 years old). Also, you’ll receive a 15% discount if you sign up for five sessions or more.
There Are No Extra Fees
One thing I despise about resort properties are all the extra added fees. Fortunately, the Pine Cliffs Resort has no parking fees, no resort fees, no destination fees. We vacationed free of fees.
Note: There are fees for certain optional activities, such as golf, tennis, kids club, etc.
Restaurant Options Right Outside the Resort
Although there are nine restaurants on-site, if you want to get off the resort for a meal, it’s easy. You can walk or drive to the hotel entrance and there is a strip with a few restaurants right outside. Or you can drive just a few minutes away for seafood and Mediterranean restaurants ranging from nicer sit-down dining rooms to takeout pizza.
We preferred to eat dinners right outside the resort. The prices were much more reasonable and the food was delicious. On our first night there, we opted for takeout pizza, which was perfect with two kids exhausted by a five-hour, red-eye flight. For a nice sit-down restaurant, we enjoyed Adega TiCosta.
A Market Right on Property, Grocery Store Close By
Since we were in the Pine Cliffs Residence, we had a full kitchen that allowed us to eat many meals in our room. This was perfect with kids; we cooked eggs in the morning and made sandwiches for lunch. We saved money over eating out and it was a huge convenience.
Next to the Pine Cliffs Residence there was a market with grocery items. The prices were comparable to a supermarket, not inflated as they are at many resorts.
There were also two grocery stores just a few minutes drive from the resort.
Pine Cliffs Resort was a perfect fit for our family. We spent time at the pools, explored the beach and wound down at the playground. We could explore the Algarve during the day and relax in a spacious two-bedroom, two-bath suite when we returned. We would go again and definitely recommend it to those looking to redeem their Marriott Bonvoy points on a Portugal beach vacation.
Continue planning a trip to Portugal:
- Why the Lisbon Coast Is Europe’s Next Hot Spot
- Portugal Hotels on Points for Families of 4
- Trip-Spiration: 5 Reasons You Need To Visit The Azores ASAP
- Island Hopping in the Azores
- Favorite Places: The Wineries of Porto, Portugal
- Go Here, Not There: European Cities Edition
- The Best Bucket List Points Trips to Beach Destinations
- 6 Places in Europe to Take the Kids in 2018
Featured image courtesy of Booking.com
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