With the hubby gone all summer I was in need of some fun in the sun when he returned. I wanted a mix of beach, pool, site seeing and culture. Portugal has it all.
We stayed at the Be Live Family Palmeiras near Porches, Portugal. After landing in Faro and renting a car it was an easy 40 minutes drive to the resort. The roads in Portugal are well maintained and easy to navigate. Plus, we had perfect cell reception to plug our destinations into our phones.
I chose this resort because 1.) The price was right, and 2.) It looked very toddler friendly. We made an excellent choice. This resort is only a few years old and very clean. It is a ginormous compound with endless activities. Animal shows, kiddy discos- my kids loved it all. They have a kids club where they had face painting, games, a bounce house, and more. There was a playground and two kid pools; one with slides and interactive water spouts. We had two beaches about a 5-10 minute walk away that provided water sports. All four of us hopped on a jet ski and Kellan got to drive while Carter fell asleep immediately. Every single time that kid puts on a life jacket then gets on a boat he falls asleep!
Being all inclusive we could eat and snack whenever we wanted and we never felt like we were the loud table at the buffet because it was a very casual, relaxed atmosphere. I will say though that unlike a lot of resorts that have theme nights for dinner, this hotel put out the same things every lunch and dinner. So you would definitely want to venture out and eat at local restaurants to avoid getting burnt out on the same food daily.
Be Live caters to Portuguese and French tourists but did a good job speaking English when needed as they do have British visiting as well. We were actually surprised at check in when they told us we were the first Americans they had seen at the resort! But if they know an English speaking guest is in the crowd they will switch between the three languages to make sure everyone understands.
This was my first time being around so many French people and they are so much different from the people I normally interact with. I wouldn’t call them nice nor would I say they are rude. I would describe them as indifferent. The entire week at the buffet or at the bar no one ever said “excuse me” if they bumped into you nor would they acknowledge you if you said it to them. Being from the south I am used to a hello, a smile or a nod when you pass someone in a hallway or elevator. They basically just didn’t interact with us at all which is disappointing because I finally had a chance to practice those three years of French I took in high school! I did find the locals and the hotel staff to be very friendly. Kellan had a mouth injury playing soccer one day and the staff got us an appointment with a dentist 5 minutes away very quickly. I am so thankful they were helpful in that situation.
This was an aquarium/amusement park/water park close to our resort. It was expensive but it was well worth it being very toddler friendly. We saw a dolphin show and sea lion show– and again, they spoke English in portions of the shows. I didn’t get any pictures here because we were too busy having so much fun… but I would definitely recommend a trip here if you find yourself in the Alrgarve.
Ponta da Piedade
This was my number one “must see” attraction in the Algarve because this is the post card area. Every tourist spot has that one attraction that’s featured on magnets and postcards and this is it. About 40 minutes from our resort; the parking was free and you first walk around the top of the cliffs taking in the beautiful views. There is just something about cliffs and breath taking views that I love.. as you have probably noticed from our excursions in Europe thus far. Can’t help myself.
This is not a beach area but a group of rock formations where you can catch a boat to explore the nearby caves and grottos. There are stairs that lead you down to the boat dock and you pay your driver after the tour is over. Very easy. There are constantly boats in and out dropping off and picking up passengers. 5 people allowed per boat. I believe we paid 40 Euro but the kiddos were free. Our guide was a rough around the edges grandpa-type; lauging and poitning out the nudists sunbathing..but he was sweet with the boys. Well, he was sweet with Kellan because Carter fell asleep pretty quickly. The ocean just calms him. We like when the honey badger is calm.
After our tour we did some more walking around the cliffs since my littlest little was napping. One day we are going to show him all the pictures of him napping in front of all these beautiful European backdrops and laugh. This kid has never missed a nap in his life and mama ain’t complaining.
Praia de Marinha
About 15 minutes from our resort, we decided to spend a morning at this gorgeous beach. Agian, we had free parking (I love free), beautiful views and about a million stairs to walk down before reaching the water. Everything we did in Portugal involved cliffs, steep hills and stairs. It wasn’t exactly easy with a 1&3 year old in tow but its definitely doable. Going to the beach with toddlers on vacation you pack SO much stuff because its not an easy or quick trek back up to the car. So you would rather pack and lug everything down the first time. I am not complaining: this beach and everything else we did on our trip was well worth the effort. I just want anyone considering going here to know that many of the excursions we did involve climbing and walking which isn’t always easy when your kids decide they are too tired to walk.
Praia de Marinha has some really great rocks formations to explore on its western side but about ten minutes into trying to reach them we decided it was too difficult with the kids. The current was strong and the waves crashed high on the rocks. If I was to go again I would check the tides to make sure I went at its lowest. Nevertheless, we still had a really great time exploring the beach and playing in the sand. I think the boys favorite part was chasing the seagulls around. Carter is obsessed with birds. He will follow one around as long as it will let him. Makes me want to take him to Venice because he would be that kid chasing pigeons and having the time of his life.
Something else to note about the beaches we visited in the Algarve: the beaches do not have a steady decline into the water. There is a drop off just several feet into the water and the current is strong so your little ones need to be supervised at all times playing on the shoreline. So my kids weren’t able to do any swimming on their own but I held them so they could swim father out.
Praia Nova, Praia da Senhora da Rocha, and Nossa Senhora da Rocha
Just a 5 minute walk from our hotel you can take some stairs and walk down a hill to reach a small coved beach surrounded by cliffs. There is a tunnel built into the cliff that leads you to the neighboring beach, Praia Nova. Both beaches are great for playing in the sand, water sports and hunting for seashells. Kellan especially got a kick out of the long, dark tunnel and pretending there was a bear inside. We explored the beaches on several of the days we were in the Algarve and on the last two nights of our trip we walked out onto the edge of the cliff separating the two beaches. There is a restaurant and a beautiful, white chapel. The origins of the chapel is a complete mystery but many date is back to the 8th century. This is the perfect place to watch the sunset which is why we came back a second time.
Porches is a village in the Algarve with a famous pottery shop. Every location I travel to I like to find a Christmas ornament, magnet, and then some type of display souvenir such as a vase or a wall art. In Portugal you have to get pottery. I spent a good hour in this store deciding what I wanted because I wanted it all. You can watch the women painting the pottery as you shop. Ben had to sit outside with the kids because I did not trust those crazies not to touch things. Thankfully they have a small fish pond and garden area. I settled on an ornament and a beautiful wall lantern.
**Stay tuned for my post on our day trip to Sintra, Portugal!**