I was in a taxi today and the cabbie asked me if I was going on holiday this year. “I’ve just been, actually,” I replied, before launching into a full review of Martinhal Beach Resort in Portugal. “It’s a brilliant place to go with kids,” I finished up. “Oh, right,” he said. I realised I needed to pick my audience, when enthusing about my holiday. So, my friends, that’s where you come in. This is the A-Z of Martinhal Beach Resort…
A is for activities. When planning our holiday, we were keen to visit somewhere that had stuff to do. I can’t imagine how I’d entertain a toddler otherwise. Martinhal has an abundance of activities for kids (and grown ups) of all ages – swimming pool toys for toddlers, football and tennis for ages 6+, pool table, table tennis and air hockey, watersports on the beach, zumba, dolphin watching and more. You could do something different every day, but that wouldn’t leave you much time for relaxing.
B is for breezy. Martinhal is on the South East tip of Portugal and it’s a very windy area. YAY for surfers. BOO for holidaymakers. To be fair, though, the wind wasn’t too much of a problem. Providing you wrap up kids in a towel as soon as they get out of the pool, and hold on to your hats when walking around the resort, you’ll be fine.
C is for chill out music. One of the first things that struck me, on our first day at Martinhal, was the ambient chill out music playing at the pool. It reminded me of some trendy beach club in Marbella. But instead of 20-somethings wearing skimpy bikinis, spraying magnums of champagne around, there were mums and dads splashing in the water with their kids. On the days we spent by the pool (er, OK so that was every day), it was just lovely to sit on the decking, drying off in the sun, with Brazilian bossa nova beats playing (does that make me sound like I know my music? It does, doesn’t it. Win.)
D is for delightful staff. I’m pretty sure we didn’t meet any member of staff at Martinhal that wasn’t delightful. At mealtimes, the waiting staff would engage with kids. Any staff that walked past as you wandered around the resort would smile and say hello. It was like they all genuinely enjoy their jobs, which granted should be the case everywhere you go, but it’s not, is it?
E is for equipment hire. Martinhal have what they call a baby concierge service, which allows you to pre-book things like stair gates, high chairs, potties, bed guards and even buggies.
F is for five star. This place is seriously five star. Gorgeous decor, designed by British furniture and interiors designer Michael Sodeau, amazing food, great service and beautiful surroundings. All with the child-friendly angle, which in my book makes this better than five star.
G is for giant bean bags. The huge Fatboy beanbags around the pool, and on the beach, were my favourite thing to sit on, cocktail-in-hand, while drying off from the pool. There are plenty of regular sun loungers, but there’s something so relaxing about flopping onto a beanbag, isn’t there?
H is for highchairs. Unlike lots of so-called child friendly restaurants that quickly run out of highchairs during a busy lunch period, there is an abundance of highchairs in every restaurant at Martinhal – and posh Bloom Nano highchairs at that. The Italian restaurant Os Gambozinos even has a highchair at every table just in case you need one.
I is for iPads. Our favourite place to have a cocktail was The M Bar, and in one corner are Fatboy beanbags and a couple of iPads. Our toddler loved chilling out there, playing games, away from the hot sun, while we had an afternoon cocktail. The M Bar also has a dedicated kids’ section, with steps up to a raised platform and chairs by the bar, to allow them to sit and colour or draw, and access to the kids’ club outdoor play area after 6pm.
J is for jumbrella. There are loads of jumbrellas, giving much needed shade, at the restaurants and bars, which is great as it means you can enjoy being outdoors (since we spend so much time indoors the rest of the rainy year) but you don’t have to be stressing out about sunburn and sunblock all of the time.
K is for kids’ club. Martinhal have turned the humble kids’ club into a bit of an art form. They have four different clubs, depending on the age of your child, and an afternoon session is often included with your stay, depending on the time of year you visit. We were a little hesitant to use it, picturing scenes of snotty tears and little fingers clinging onto us as we tried to drop our toddler off. But we gave it a shot. And while there were tears, the staff were really brilliant at giving her cuddles, taking her outside to look at the Peppa Pig mural, and promising to call us if she hadn’t calmed down in 10 minutes. We didn’t hear from them – yes! Two and a half hours later, after a lovely chilled session reading by the pool, we picked up a very happy girl.
L is for lunch. You can either stay half board or self catering at Martinhal, and either way, you buy your own lunches. The price of lunch food is was the only thing that we felt let the hotel down. It was around €12 for a baguette, served with crisps. I genuinely don’t mind paying €12 for a sandwich if it’s a bloody great sandwich, and comes with salad and chips, perhaps, but this felt a bit over-priced for what it was. Likewise, we bought two microwave curries from the on-site grocery shop one evening, and it cost around €26. Luckily, there is a supermarket 5 minutes drive away in Sagres, so I recommend anyone to visit it on day one and stock up on food.
M is for meal times. Despite lunch being a disappointing experience (see L), in general meal times were a JOY. Why? Because Martinhal have little kids tables and chairs set up with colouring sheets and toys to keep kids entertained during breakfast and dinner. And the best bit is there is a member of staff sitting with them, so you can eat in peace, knowing that your little one(s) have someone keeping an eye on them. Our toddler spent most meals skipping back and forth between us and the play table, showing us her drawings and lego towers. She was very happy, and so were we.
N is for nicely heated pools. There are FOUR pools here. We tended to hang out at the beach pool but we tried the Village pool a couple of times, and I loved that both were nicely heated. Even in warm temperatures, young children can be put off swimming if the water is too cold, so it’s great that Martinhal have thought about this. Apparently the pool near the Garden Villas isn’t heated, so we avoided it, and stuck to the ones that are.
O is for orange juice. The jugs of orange juice dotted about the restaurant at breakfast time is typical of Martinhal’s attitude. Guests don’t even have to walk back into the buffet section of the restaurant for an OJ top up. It’s just there, near your table. It’s the little touches that make this place special.
P is for playhouses. In the Village Square, outside Os Gambozinos and the M Bar is an entire soft, rubbery floored area with playhouses, climbing frames, slides, scooters and bikes. Parents can sit enjoying a drink or meal with the kids, and when the kids get bored, they can go play while still being in full view of their parents. It’s genius.
Q is for quick pace. It’s something you can leave behind at home. At Martinhal, we found ourselves slowing right down. Our usual fast walk became a saunter, and it was so lovely when I noticed it on day 3. Granted, this happens on most holidays, but the slow pace suits Martinhal because everything about the place is so relaxed.
R is for raspberry mojitos. My cocktail of choice at the M Bar. Highly recommended.
S is for spa. I didn’t get a chance to test out the Finisterra Spa (thanks to feeling poorly and having to cancel my massage appointment. Gutted.) But I had a tour and it looked heavenly. The steam room and sauna even has a large wall to ceiling window, allowing you to look out onto a lovely green area while you relax. I felt chilled out just walking around the spa.
T is for tips. One tip I’d pass on is to take your own dishwasher and washing machine detergent. We had to buy some washing machine capsules midway through the week (thanks to, er, an exploding nappy incident) and it was such a waste of money when we have plenty at home we could have used!
U is for unlimited free wifi access. I know, I know. You’re meant to switch off when you’re on holiday. Well, we like to stay plugged in, and we loved that you can get a strong wifi signal wherever you go at Martinhal. It allowed us to tweet from the pool to make our friends jealous (why else do you go on holiday?)
V is for VW camper van. The M Bar has a green camper van inside the bar – yes, inside! Our toddler loved it and kept climbing inside, sitting in the driver’s seat and pretending to drive. There’s a table and chairs set up inside, so you can sit in it and enjoy your drinks if you fancy. “Beep beep!” as my toddler would say.
W is for welcome pack. This greeted us in our Garden Villa when we arrived. With bread, milk, orange juice, jams, butter, biscuits and a box of cereal, it was a lovely detail and made breakfast easy for us in the first few days. The kids also get a welcome pack, of sorts, in the form of a kids’ club drawstring bag filled with baseball cap, bucket, spade and beach toys.
X is for x-cellent play areas. (Humour me here – x is a tricky letter!) As well as the Village Square play area, there are also two further play areas. Next to the Village Square swimming pool, there’s a helicopter-shaped climbing frame and swings, and next to As Dunas restaurant there’s a great sandy play area with climbing frame and trampoline. Seriously, you can’t move for excellent play areas, here.
Y is for yummy kids’ meals. Of course, there were classic kids’ meals on offer (think homemade fish fingers and sausages) but other things made an appearance, like chicken and veg wraps and pasta with ham and peas. All really tasty, so that when parents are finishing off their kids’ meals like we always do, it tastes good.
Z is for zed-catching on the beach. Martinhal is right on the beach, so if you get bored of the swimming pools, the beach is a good alternative. Whether you’re going there to catch some zeds or to build the biggest sandcastle ever (our toddler kept knocking them down as soon as we built them!), this beach is beautiful.
So let me finish up by saying that Martinhal Beach Resort is without a doubt, a superb place to take kids on holiday. There’s something for every age and it’s so bloody chic! Seriously – book. Go.
Martinhal Beach Resort invited us to stay with them for the purpose of the review, but all opinions are my own.