Rupert Parker spends a couple of nights at this luxury resort and learns how to make Cataplana, an Algarve seafood stew
The Algarve, in the south of Portugal, was one of the first places to attract the British overseas way back in the 1950’s. Since then it’s steadily been moving upmarket and luxury high end establishments have blossomed. The Pine Cliffs Resort opened in 1992 and combines hotel accommodation, luxury suites and apartments on a 72 hectare site, tastefully linked by cobbled pathways among green lawns surrounded by pines. It’s right by the sea, sitting atop orange sandstone cliffs, the long sandy beaches safe for all the family.
It’s a franchise of Marriott International under The Luxury Collection brand and, as you’d expect, the rooms are spacious, furnished to a high standard, with bed linen to die for. It has its own iconic nine-hole clifftop golf course, floodlit tennis courts and eight swimming pools. If you fancy a dip in the sea, a panoramic lift whisks you down to the beach where you can dine at the panoramic Maré Restaurant. There’s also a choice of 11 other restaurants and bars.
The Pine Cliffs Hotel has 217 spacious rooms and suites in five categories with views across either the ocean or the gardens from the privacy of a balcony or terrace. As well as the hotel there’s also accommodation in luxury apartments including the Ocean Suites, Pines Cliffs Residence and Pine Cliffs Gardens.
We stayed in in a Deluxe Room Resort View with a large open air terrace. Terracotta tiled floors and fresh white walls enhanced the sense of space. An electric kettle, complimentary bottles of water and chocolates on the pillow at turndown added to the sense of luxury.
The super large bed, with its Portuguese-tiled headboard, was extremely comfortable and all light switches are built into the bedside tables so no last minute panic late at night. Also a motion sensor activates the floor light on your way to the bathroom. Here, there’s a deep bath tub and walk in rain shower, plus wash basin with large illuminated mirror.
For eating, you’re not short on choice as there are 10 restaurants ranging from seafood to speciality steaks and even Japanese cuisine. Breakfast is served in Jardim Colonial a classically decorated spacious restaurant that opens to an outside terrace. The Piri Piri Steakhouse offers a wide selection of prime meat from all over the world, grilled to perfection and paired with the best Portuguese wines. Located in the heart of the resort, Corda Café provides a more casual experience and serves international dishes.
Fish is definitely on the menu both at O Pescador in its elegant setting overlooking the cliffs and Maré, right down by the beach. The emphasis is on fresh food from the sea, particularly the local catch. Yakuza by Olivier Algarve is one of the finest Japanese Restaurants in the Algarve but is only open seasonably.
MIMO Algarve offers a variety of gastronomic experiences. During the day, it works as an espresso bar, gourmet shop and cooking school. I particularly enjoyed learning how to make Cataplana, an Algarve seafood stew, and then sitting down to eat it with my teachers. In the late afternoon there are tastings of delicious tapas and wine on the outside terrace. Every Saturday, a special menu with wine pairing, is offered at the Chef’s Table.
Located in the hotel lobby, Portulano is a great place to try local drinks such as Amarguinha, a liqueur made from sour almonds, or a glass of the renowned Port wines. For that late afternoon cocktail, try the Mirador Champagne Bar, a terrace perched at the edge of the cliffs where you can enjoy the sun going down over the ocean.
There are seven outdoor pools dotted around the gardens: a main pool, which has a swim-up bar, next to the children’s pool; a tucked-away, peaceful infinity pool at the Terraces; one at the Residences, another by the Ocean Suites, and one by the golf course. There is also a heated indoor pool at the health club.
A host of activities to suit all age ranges are available to guests including competitive tennis or padel at the Annabel Croft Tennis Academy, with its floodlit courts. For the youngest, there is the Porto Pirata Kids Club, while up-to-teens are catered for at the Junior Club.
The immaculate Pine Cliffs Golf Course sits 200 feet above the golden sands and blue water of the Atlantic Ocean and its 9 holes extend across 168 acres. The Golf Academy and Pro Shop offer everything the hobby golfer or tournament player might need, including a landscaped driving range and a large putting green.
There are two health clubs, one inside the Pine Cliffs Hotel, the other at Pine Cliffs Residences. Both are equipped with the latest Technogym equipment, including treadmills and elliptical machines. Water aerobics and personal trainer are available and both have sauna and steam room.
Serenity Spa The Art of Well Being has been awarded “Europe’s Best Wellness Spa”. A 1,100m2 state-of-the-art facility features 13 treatment rooms, a comprehensive Serenity Thermal Oasis, and the signature Serenity Aurum Suite. The spa also offers authentic signature treatments that draw inspiration from the indigenous cultures, healing traditions and ingredients of the Algarve.
If you fancy getting out of the resort to see what’s nearby then take a walk to Albufeira, one of the most renowned fishing and maritime ports in Portugal with its beaches some of the best in Europe. Go the other way and you’re in Vilamoura -known for its large marina, golf courses and casino, and for more sandy beaches.
A 30 minute taxi ride takes you to Faro, the capital of the Algarve. Explore the old town then take a boat trip to one of the offshore islands. I particularly liked the aptly named Deserta where the only building is the Estaminé Restaurant, serving extremely fresh fish. It’s worth taking a walk, or even a quick dip, beforehand to work up an appetite as the portions are huge.
Pine Cliffs, a Luxury Collection Resort
Praia da Falésia
PO Box 644
Tel: (+351) 289 500 100
Prices start from £189.00 (€216.00) based on 2 adults sharing a Deluxe Room resort view, including breakfast.
EasyJet flies direct from Gatwick to Faro from £65.00 return.
Algarve Tourism has information about the region.