Stepping onto the tarmac at Faro airport, it’s the heat. It sweeps you off your feet. Still floating, and with a rising delight, you arrive at one of Europe’s most indulgent resorts – the Algarve. Beaches, seafood, golf… and oranges.
Greeted by the driver in Arrivals, then whisked to a gleaming white Mercedes, your chariot for the 30-minute drive to the hotel; you already feel calm, relaxed and ready for luxury. Leaving the bustle of the airport behind, a journey begins with sumptuous leather padding, arms supported by oak clad rests – a fully air conditioned cocoon. The pampering begins.
Travelling through ornately coloured Portuguese villages, the scent and sights of orange trees, and olive groves, reminding you that this intense heat serves another purpose… an exotic body scrub, but more of that later.
Completing the short drive, we sweep up through the resort to the newly built Ocean Suites. The Mercedes alighting in the shade of the four-cornered porch. Flags fly in recognition of your arrival. Well I like to think that anyway, it’s as life should be.
The first gift at the cool marbled reception, is a map. You’ll need it, the resort is vast.
The Luxury Collection Hotels and Resorts, part of the Starwood Hotels and Resorts finalised the Pine Cliffs Ocean Suites in 2016. This forms parts of their multi billionaire dollar investment to secure The Luxury Collection as one of the world’s finest. They’ve done a sterling job.
The hotel is touched by a timeless Portuguese heritage. Azulejos, or traditional hand painted tiles fresh from the kilns of Lisbon’s Fabrica de Ceramica Constancia are dotted throughout, jewels in the crown.
The Ocean Suites offer views over Vilamoura in the distance, as well as the many outdoor pools that the resort has to offer. Modern in their approach, the bathrooms are surrounded by dusted glass. A rainbow shower beckons, bathe in Elemis products and swaddle in soft bathrobes. Perfect for relaxing on the balcony after a long day in the sun.
The rooms have Lavazza coffee machines, nestled in cork holders, a nod to the tactile Portuguese tradition of cork making. A precious and versatile vegetable, cork is the outer bark of the cork tree. Or ‘Sobreiro’ as the Portuguese call it. It is made into many a commodity; the shop on site sells everything cork manufactured including purses and hotplates. A definite keepsake.
In keeping with nature, the resort has devised a self-guided botanical tour brochure. While your time away perusing the varied plants and trees that make up this Garden of Eden. Again, breathe in the sweetly scented air of the orange groves in full bloom. As you wander, take selfies at strategic sites around the resort. The very welcome guide and map shows you just the right spots for those perfect selfies. Be sure though while perched on the cliff edge to remain on this side of heaven.
There are 72 hectares to explore equivalent to 86 football pitches. With eleven restaurants and bars, six swimming pools, Porto Pirata, the region’s largest kids club, Annabel Croft Tennis Academy, a nine-hole golf course, shops boutiques and gardens. There really is no need to leave.
If you must, why not walk along the fabulous beach, Praia Falesia, to Vilamoura. Take the lift carved into the burnt orange cliff to the beach. Have a quick refreshment at the Beach Club before the 5-km walk. As much as lazing on the beach is an option, so too is gazing up at the cliffs on one side and the roaring Atlantic on the other.
Lighten the load with a round of golf or if you’re more of a bat and ball fanatic, get a tennis lesson from Michael at the Annabel Croft Tennis Academy. You’ll have your eyes on Wimbledon in no time.
It would be a shame to be in the Algarve and not savour glorious seafood. This is where O Pescador comes in. Fresh fish and seafood are on the menu every day, perilously bathing in the vitrine and live lobster aquarium, waiting to be the chosen one. Try the ‘Polvo’, Octopus or Portuguese clams for starters, followed by the Red Perch, Stone bass or Lobster for mains.
The waiters delicately carve the fish at your table, separating the salt casing it was baked in, or deboning the steak. The restaurant has fish designed metal as the light covers, and on the ceiling. Alfresco dining, is cool and refreshing, uplighters set the mood, the salty sea air bellowing from the beach stirs the senses at this aquatic marvel.
Finish off with… you guessed it… oranges. Creamy orange tart, with carob, fig and honey. A perfect combination. As is the same combination as part of the signature spa treatment; Senses of the Algarve.
The new spa area ‘Serenity – the art of wellbeing’ was part of the refurbishment. The treatment begins with a sea salt scrub, with salt and sand directly from the beach, a body wrap follows, made from carob and finally a full body massage with Algarve Orange Essential Oil. Afterwards relax in the thermal oasis or if you’re lucky, the Aurum Suite.
The Suite is a luxurious private den for guests to spoil themselves with their own hot tub, sauna, steam and experience shower. Champagne waits on ice and chocolate dipped strawberries blushingly beg to be devoured.
Oranges and sunshine – could you wish for more? Pine Cliffs embodies luxury, class and zest. In many countries, the word for orange is Portugal. Algarve oranges, delicious and sweet, just like Pine Cliffs, give it a try, it certainly won’t leave a bitter taste. A sweet sensation.
Rates for the Ocean Suites start from €180 per room per night inclusive of breakfast in low season and €470 per room per night inclusive of breakfast in high season.