Holidays to the Algarve step up to the plate in every department. In beach terms, the place is like royalty, and the supporting cast of fairways and family attractions is on the money, too.
It’s impossible to pick fault with the Algarve’s kid-friendly CV. Every beach worth its salt comes with a full roster of watersports, and the eating out scene juggles home favourites with Portuguese seafood and fiery piri-piri chicken. Theme and waterparks are in good supply, and there are go-karting tracks, zoos and little and large golf courses. The whole lot’s propped up by a spread of family-focused hotels.
Blue Flags are given out like hot cakes in these parts, and it’s easy to see why when you eye up the sandy beaches. These chunky, wave-lapped waterfronts are easily the Algarve’s forte. Lively Albufeira’s got more than 10 accredited stretches around it, plus enough bars and restaurants to keep you hanging around once the sun’s gone down. Elsewhere, Praia da Rocha, Gale and Olhos d’Agua all earn their Blue Flag stripes, too.
Let the front-runners drift out of focus, and the Algarve’s second tier of seaside towns comes to the fore. They’re not your standard package holiday haunts, either. Take the fishing village of Alvor, which has stuck with its traditional image. Cobbled streets lead down to golden sands where you could hear a penny drop, and bumpy rock formations poke up from the shore and shallows.
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The Algarve’s in the business of Blue Flag beaches – and Albufeira waves a massive 25 of them. It’s probably how it got its crown as the region’s number one. This place has nailed the historic-meets-modern combo, with a whitewashed old town and a new, bar-packed strip. Plus, it’s got a mammoth beach for a doormat.
Alvor may only be a small fishing village, but it can run with the Algarve’s big boys. There are two waterfront scenes here – one by the sea, the other by the river. Both are packed with cafés, bars and shops. On top of that, it’s got great family-friendly credentials, with a Jurassic Park-style minigolf course and a playground where Alvor’s castle once stood.
This place is like taking a couple of paces back in time. The Algarve’s known for its bustling beach resorts and bigger-is-better golf courses, but Olhos d’Agua’s just not part of that crew. Instead, you’ll find a snoozy settlement with a cute sandy beach. Fishermen still tinker with their nets at one end of the waterfront, and family-run restaurants and cafés cluster together in the background.
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