Review: Anantara Vilamoura Algarve
Portugal | January 02, 2024 | Robin Searle
The Portuguese resort has unveiled a new collection of swim-up family suites
Location: Anantara Vilamoura Algarve was the brand’s debut property in Europe when it opened in 2017 and is located about a mile inland from the southern Portuguese coastline, on the championship Victoria Golf Course. Our visit was specifically to sample the hotel’s new swim-up family suites, introduced in July as part of a strategy to create separate family and adult areas within a single resort.
First impressions: Like all Anantara hotels, the Vilamoura resort features nods to its locale, with sculptures and artwork by Portuguese artists in the lobby ensuring its character is distinct from its sister properties. Despite this differentiation, however, the brand is dedicated to consistency when it comes to service levels, with staff offering a genuine welcome, along with cooling towels on a scorching summer day. The lobby itself is flooded with light, with views across the golf course to the coast, while our interconnecting rooms boasted distinctive decor with the use of natural woods and fibres from the region.
The facts: Although the 260-room property has been open for more than five years, a renovation in May transformed the resort as it sought to strike the balance of offering high-end experiences both for those travelling with children and those who prefer their splashes in their cocktails rather than from a 10-year-old cannonballing into the nearest pool.
The result is 30 swim-up family rooms surrounding a ‘moat-style’ pool, and in a separate section of the hotel, 20 new adult-only Signature Suites that feature 80 square metres of living space and perks including butler service, airport transfers and a free minibar. For those choosing the adult-only area, a palm-fringed pool is surrounded by daybeds and cabanas available to suite guests or for hire. Our focus was on the opposite side of the resort, where facilities include kids’ and teens’ clubs, pools for all ages and a separate Cascades pool bar with family-friendly food options.
We visited with our 12 and 14-year-olds, but those with younger children can take advantage of kids’ toiletries, mini-bathrobes and slippers and a welcome kit with crayons and a backpack. For an extra fee, there’s a babysitting service 24/7. The swim-up suites feature terraces with daybeds, while access to the pool is via lockable gates to offer reassurance for those with little ones.
Ideal for: Those looking for a fun family holiday without worrying about disturbing the chic couple trying to grab the perfect Insta-shot on the daybed next to you. Anantara has all the facilities and service you’d expect at a five-star property, while creating areas where guests of all ages can relax.
Explore: Although Anantara is unsurprisingly keen to keep guests on site – and the pull of the pool on our literal doorstep was never far away – the brand’s commitment to immersing its properties in their communities extends to the Signature Experiences it offers in the resort and its surrounds. We enjoyed a tuk-tuk tour of the coast and the children loved their private surf lesson in nearby Vilamoura, but the real high point was a private jeep tour into the mountains, where our charming driver and guide Miguel introduced us to Algarvian life as we explored towns, villages and viewpoints.
Wow: The culinary offering is as diverse as you would expect in a five-star resort of this scale, including stylish poolside seafood restaurant Ria. But our standout memory was watching the sun set while enjoying the exquisite tasting menu on the balcony of Asian fusion restaurant Sensai. True to the brand’s commitment to local immersion, dishes draw on the cuisines of Japan, China, India and Anantara’s native Thailand, but the magic comes from their fusion with Portuguese ingredients and techniques. Situated just below the resort’s stunning spa and aptly located between the family and adult-only areas of the property, Sensai is well-positioned proof that Anantara has managed to nail it. Parents (and their offspring) can indeed have the best of both worlds.
Book it: Swim-up suites at the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve start from €450 per night on a bed-and-breakfast basis. Anantara.com