To kick off summer we had the chance to visit the beautiful Algarve in Portugal.
We have always wanted to visit this part of the world so with last minute flights booked with TUI, we jumped at the chance to see what we have been missing out on.
With flights sorted our attention turned to choosing a hotel which can be difficult, however one hotel kept being consistently recommended to us – the Hilton Vilamoura.
We can now see why – this pristine hotel is geared toward families in every way – huge rooms, six swimming pools, great food, child friendly menus, immaculate gardens, a world class child friendly spa and one of the largest kids clubs in the Algarve.
Who said luxury and kids don’t mix!
I strongly believe that a hotel makes your holiday. It needs to be your home from home and the Hilton Vilamoura ticked all the right boxes for us, making our family time in the Algarve truly special.
This is our review of the Hilton Vilamoura.
After a quick 2 hour flight from the UK we arrived at Faro airport and were greeted by our smartly dressed chauffeur and sleek black Mercedes (this can be arranged in advance by the Hilton – 36 euros). 20 minutes later, we had arrived at our home for the next six days, the Hilton Vilamoura. We couldn’t wait to start exploring.
The entrance to the hotel is quite striking and has been designed to reflect the region’s Moorish heritage. Our luggage was whisked away by the bell staff and this was the last we saw of it until we checked into our room, allowing us to start enjoying our holiday.
It was not just the stylish Instagrammable décor and ambience of the elegant lobby with its huge centrepiece chandelier that was impressive as we first walked through its doors – the staff were so friendly and a credit to the Hilton brand .
By the time we had reached the check-in desk, we had been greeted by several of the hotel’s staff, creating a great first impression.
With inviting grey sofas, dark woods and marble floors gave a luxurious, contemporary feel that you would expect from a 5-star hotel and we really liked it.
As we arrived early in the morning our room was not quite ready for us, so we made the most of our time by visiting Vilamoura.
The hotel provides complementary bus transfers into the marina and after a 5 minute journey we were enjoying the great shops and restaurants dotted around the largest marina in Portugal.
Shortly after lunch we headed back to our hotel, excited to check out our room. As we ascended in the clear glass lifts from the lobby we caught our first view of the impressive pool area on the way to our room on the third floor.
Our King Family Suite
The girls set off with key cards in hand to find our room, a king family suite, one of the 176 rooms and 66 one and two bedroom apartments at the hotel.
The two interconnecting rooms that make up the family suites were truly stunning and at 65 square metres it was spacious, luxurious and the perfect choice for a family when visiting the Algarve.
Our two large balconies offered fabulous views of the pool area, lush landscaped gardens and calming water features providing a beautiful serene and calming backdrop.
Another welcome surprise at the Hilton Vilamoura was when we returned from visiting the marina to find that the hotel had left delicious little treats and child friendly mocktails for the girls in their room and a selection of cakes and champagne for my husband and I to enjoy – yum!
Having a family suite with the kids in a separate room next door was perfect. They could relax on their beds watching Disney channel on their large wall mounted TV after busy days by the pool whilst we enjoyed the sunshine and views from our balcony at the end of each day.
Another bonus of choosing a family suite is that we didn’t have to go to bed the same time as the kids which typically is what happens when you all share a room.
The beds in the two bedrooms of our suite had the highest quality Egyptian cotton sheets for the perfect night’s sleep. Above the beds in both bedrooms were eye catching Azulejo Murals (or painted tiles in English), one of several subtle Portuguese influences in our room.
Thoughtfully located beside the beds as well as throughout our room were plenty of electrical sockets, which are essential for travellers these days with so many pieces of technology to charge.
The hotel offers complimentary high speed WiFi throughout the hotel which typically is one of the first things the girls ask about when we check-in, so they can use their iPads – however at the Hilton Vilamoura there was so much to keep them occupied they rarely asked to use them.
Our rooms had all the mod cons you would want from a five star hotel offering all the comforts you require for a memorable family stay including:
- 2 large flat screen televisions with more English channels than we have found at many UK hotels!
- Air conditioning
- A minibar with daily complimentary 2 bottles of still water for Hilton Gold/Diamond guests
- A large safe (that could fit a laptop), 2 irons and iron boards
- Tea making facilities along with a selection of magazines.
With three ladies in the household having two en-suite bathrooms made a huge difference especially when getting ready for dinner each evening.
I loved the modern and stylish bathrooms in our suite, which had more Portuguese influences with beautiful azulejos behind the free standing sinks.
As strange as it sounds, a glass wall separated the bathroom from the bedroom creating an open bathroom concept (if you wanted privacy you could close a curtain in front of the glass wall), but like the rest of the hotel it was a stylish addition to your bedroom.
With a plentiful supply of Crabtree & Evelyn and Peter Thomas Roth products available you really didn’t need to bring toiletries with you.
Both bathrooms had large walk in showers and separate bathtubs. The girls thought it was fab as they could watch TV while enjoying a good soak each evening with their Lush bathbombs.
The service here is excellent, with charming touches such as chocolates on your pillow when you return to your room in the morning and evening turn down.
The hotel offers everything that a family could want in one place for a holiday, whether it’s the pools, kids club, spa and even its own beach club at nearby Felescia beach.
If you are feeling energetic there was also a gym and tennis court available to guests and 5 golf courses within 10 minutes of the hotel, one of which was across the road.
We spoke to several families at the poolside each day and many were on their second or third return visit back to the hotel, which is always a good endorsement.
There was so much for all the family to do at the Hilton Vilamoura. The recreational facilities on offer really are extensive, which is why this hotel is such a popular option.
The biggest attraction of the hotel from the kids perspective, of course are its 6 swimming pools. The pools at the Hilton Vilamoura are gorgeous surrounded by beautiful and well maintained grounds.
As soon as we got into our room Chloe and Holly couldn’t wait to change into their swimwear and dive straight into the pool to have some fun.
We spent the majority of our time at the large zero entry freeform pool. Here the girls would spend hours practicing their swimming and diving to collect their Zogg’s dive toys, making lots of new friends in the process.
Alongside the zero entry pool was the waterfall pool which the children christened ‘Dino Fall’s’. This was another favourite of theirs as they took on the might of the cascading waterfalls by floating through it on their giant watermelon lounger which we bought from one of the two onsite shops in the main lobby of the hotel.
Even though it was peak visitor season we never have had a problem getting a seat at the pool as there were always lots of padded loungers and umbrellas available. Here staff were always on hand with pool towels or to take drinks orders including Chloe’s favourite, their iced slush drinks.
One of the best things about the Hilton Vilamoura is their kids club, Paradise Island. At 3,000 m2 it’s the largest kids club in the Algarve and arguably one of the best.
As it has been designed for children between four and twelve it offered everything Chloe (10) and Holly (7) would need to ensure they would have fun.
There were climbing nets, slides, a giant treehouse to climb and explore and the girls favourite, racing each other on the dual zip wires.
A personal highlight for me was the 7Seven Spa – Portugal’s largest spa, complete with four hydro thermal pools, sensory showers, whirlpools and relaxation rooms – it really is a must do when staying at the hotel. (Hilton Gold and Diamond guests get free adult access to the spa, children 20 euro each).
The spa is housed in a separate building directly opposite the hotel or via an underground passage which connects the spa to the hotel.
The spa itself is beautiful with an ultra-lavish design using slate, water, stone and glass.
Between 9.30-11am each morning the spa was open to families and it was a great way to start the day – in fact the girls enjoyed their first visit so much they said it was one of their favourite experiences at the hotel. It was so nice that they could experience this part of the hotel with us.
Whilst the girls enjoyed the freezing cold pool for some strange reason (it was literally too cold to dip your toes into) my husband and I enjoyed the other 3 hydro-massage pools especially the jets, bubble beds and a cascading waterfall feature to relax and unwind.
Surrounding the pools were individual cabanas where we could relax and the outdoor zen garden was the perfect place to catch early morning sun or take part in a yoga session.
With my husband sampling the Turkish bath I watched Chloe and Holly scream in delight as they walked through the shower experience.
Here you are blasted with either mint-scented hot steam and heavy droplets of rain in the Caribbean phase or face a freezing Siberian storm from all directions – it was so much fun.
The only entertainment in the evening was at Rubi, the hotel’s stylish and chic bar and was a popular area of the hotel for guests especially when the world cup football games were shown on TV.
The only negative from a children’s perspective was the lack of kids entertainment at night. The girls kept asking if there was going to be a mini disco, and this would have been a lovely way to round off our fun filled days.
A lovely surprise was finding out that the hotel had a private beach club Al Mar at nearby Felesia beach, reachable via the complimentary Hilton shuttle bus service.
After a short walk along the wooden boardwalk we arrived at the beach club, where complimentary beach towels, loungers and parasols were available and the restaurant terrace offered fantastic views of the ocean.
The beach like all of the Algarve’s beaches was gorgeous and we had great fun here, building sandcastles and jumping over waves in the ocean creating so many lovely holiday memories for us.
Both breakfast and dinner is served buffet style at the elegant Moscada restaurant, featuring an open kitchen which enables you to watch the chefs prepare your meals in front of you. It was so nice to enjoy our meals al-fresco on the terrace or within the smart restaurant.
Breakfast here was a delight, with everything you would expect from a typical Hilton breakfast offering, with omelettes and eggs being made to order.
You are really spoilt for choice and the girls loved the freshly made chocolate brownies and local Portuguese pastries to give them the extra energy needed for the amount of swimming they did each day.
Make sure you try the local pastries including the famous pastel de nate – they are delicious.
We tried to experience all of the restaurants during our stay and had lunch most days at Aquarela the hotels poolside restaurant which offered great quality meals for all the family. The cave like setting of the restaurant must have been inspired by the gorgeous Portuguese coastline and provided us with a nice way to escape the midday sun.
In the evening we dined at Moscada where the dinner buffet was served. Food quality was excellent although there was a limited selection of dishes available especially for children.
However what was great about the Hilton Vilamoura was that nothing was too much trouble for its staff. When the girls wanted a change from what was on the buffet dinner, the chef’s would happily create some of their favourite meals from spaghetti bolognese to fresh margherita pizza.
Also worth a mention is that once a week is a themed night in Moscada where all tables are brought outdoors and with live music it provided a great atmosphere.
Our stay was on a half-board basis and one of the main reasons we tend to stay at luxury hotels around the world is because we spend a lot of time on property.
The last thing we want to do when on holiday is to be looking for new restaurants for dinner each night. However Vilamoura was different, dotted around the marina there were so many quality restaurants across a wide range of cuisines.
Because of this choice of great restaurants nearby, I believe affected how many people choose half-board basis at the Hilton because the restaurant was surprisingly quiet several nights during our stay.
What we did
We happily spent the majority of our time at the hotel especially as the girls loved the pools so much, but there’s plenty on offer in the Algarve.
The only excursions we could coax them away on was during our boat trip on the Atlantic looking for dolphins and exploring the beautiful coastline, caves and beaches of the Western Algarve. With so many trips on offer it was great to get advice from the hotels concierge who recommended the Trip Advisor top rated Ocean Quest Algarve.
Our two and a half hour journey was one of the most exciting experiences we have undertaken as a family especially when we spotted our first pod of dolphins. Seeing these magnificent animals in their natural environment was such a memorable moment, and any questions we had were expertly answered by the marine biologist on-board.
We enjoyed our first cruise so much we booked onto another offered by Ocean Quest Algarve. At nearly 4 hours long we did have reservations if it would be too long for the kids, but the rugged coastline of the Algarve was so beautiful our trip seemed to fly along.
As we cruised along the coast we got to see secret beaches, coves and spectacular caves including one of Portugal’s’ most famous the Benagil Caves. If you were feeling really brave you also had the chance to swim in the ocean as we moored off the coast.
The hotel was a 25 minute walk into Vilamoura, however complimentary buses offered by the hotel whisk you down into the town in less than 5 minutes. It will also take you to the beach and leaves every half hour, returning back to the hotel with the last pickup at 10.05pm. Even if you missed the bus, taxis were plentiful and reasonably priced at approx 5 euro.
Vilamoura is home to Portugal’s largest marina and we loved visiting here each day. As we wandered past the huge multi-million pound yachts it brought back memories of Puerto Banus in Marbella, but we felt that Vilamoura was a much nicer environment for families.
Chloe and Holly loved shopping here whether it was looking for gifts for their friends back home in the UK, shopping for new clothes or visiting some its most quirkiest shops such as one dedicated to sardines!
The marina has everything you could need, even Christiano Ronaldo has a store here, one of the many designer and high street shops dotted around the marina, interspersed with restaurants, bars and some of the best ice creams you could dream of.
A personal favourite of ours Amorino offered some of the best macaroons and gelato that you will ever taste.
Overall and is it child friendly?
Yes, it really is a superb luxury family hotel and is highly recommended. We all really fell in love with Portugal and the Hilton Vilamoura.
It really did feel like home as I think you’ll agree from the pictures. As we checked out we were presented with a box of pasties de nata, one of the many ways the hotel made us feel so welcome during our stay.
The level of service received during our stay was exceptional and this high level of customer service is a credit to the hotel management because it really does make a difference during your stay.
In fact, the girls agree with my husband and I that this is one of the very best Hilton hotels we have been to in the world, and as Hilton Gold members we have been lucky to visit many.
Prices at the Hilton Vilamoura start from a very reasonable 179 euro for a family interconnecting king family suite when booking direct at www.hilton.com as part of the Hilton Honours Advance Discount Purchase rate.