Sometimes you need a holiday just from the thought of planning a family break with babies and little ones. Having a one-year-old, I've often debated whether it's worth going away, particularly abroad. Will I just be doing the same as at home, but with the added stress of not having your routine and home comforts? Will I really get a break?
But every time I've been away, I've come back thinking it really was worth the prep and planning and we've made so many wonderful family memories.
We stayed at the five-star property over the summer and from the start of our visit, all our needs (and our baby's) were catered for. The hotel is conveniently located just 30 minutes from Faro International Airport and offers a private transfer with car seats for children. Big win if your little one doesn't like long car journeys, like ours!
On arrival, we were greeted with sparkling wine for the grown-ups and a cute little backpack for our daughter, which was packed with all the essentials for her stay like a sun hat and colouring pencils – a very sweet touch. I was reviewing the new Swim-Up Family Rooms, which only opened this year and are a unique offering in the Algarve.
The hotel's new Swim-Up Family Rooms
The hotel has 30 Swim-Up Family Rooms and the biggest selling point is having direct access to a 30-metre-length swimming pool from your terrace. It meant that both my husband and I could sunbathe or go for a dip while our baby napped, having the peace of mind that she was safe in our room and we didn't have to tag team deciding who would stay in the room to watch her. We all got a break and our baby had her naps – what's not to love? The convenience is brilliant for families.
The hotel, which has 280 rooms and suites, boasts a chic contemporary style throughout. Its ethos is to make guests feel like they've had a taste of their local surroundings through the décor, artwork and cuisine, for example. So if you're one of those travellers who don't leave the hotel (and sometimes with a baby or little ones it just is easier to stay put and not have to time everything around naps and feeds), it means you'll have experienced a flavour of the Algarve without actually leaving the hotel.
Our room was a decent size for the three of us and had the luxury amenities you'd expect of a five-star property, like the fluffy robes and slippers, tea and coffee-making facilities, a rainfall shower and bathtub, and a walk-in wardrobe.
But the 24/7 Family Concierge service was a real plus as it meant everything was ready and set up for our baby when we arrived. Her cot was in place and fitted with sheets, we had a high chair in the room, her bath was installed in the main bath, and we also had a steriliser as requested. Guests can also pre-order other essentials like formula, nappies and wipes through the concierge service, meaning you'll be all set to go as soon as you check in.
How family-friendly is Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort?
As part of the Family Concierge service, the hotel also offers a babysitting service. It's best to arrange your sitter before you arrive as they can get booked up and while the nannies may be pricier than back home, at €35 per hour, it's worth it for the peace of mind and to be able to enjoy a dinner out without the kids.
The same babysitters also work at the Adventurer's Kids Club, which is a fantastic space and where we spent a lot of our holiday, particularly when we needed to escape the heat. The club comprises a big playroom with a whole range of toys, from walkers and tunnels to a ball pit and little tables and chairs for arts and crafts. There's always an army of nannies on hand to supervise activities and help look after your little ones while you enjoy a break too. And outside, there's a dedicated shallow infant pool, a bouncy castle, and a football goal to keep kids entertained.
The hotel is cleverly divided into the family and adults-only areas, which means you won't be bothering other guests with your children running riot (if they do!). Having said that, we visited in the height of summer when the hotel was at full capacity, and in the family half, it never felt as though the resort was overrun with kids given the plethora of communal areas, pools, and restaurants to choose from.
The restaurants at Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort
Speaking of restaurants, there is a great variety and all the staff seemed to love babies and children. We were always greeted with a friendly smile, a fleet of sparkling clean and sterilised high chairs, and a dedicated children's menu.
For breakfast, all guests eat at the main restaurant, Victoria. If breakfast is a highlight of your trips, then you won't be disappointed by the buffet at Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort. There's an omelette and eggs station, a tasty hot food spread, a continental selection, and baskets of baked goods, and for little ones, a cute kids' corner with fresh fruit and pastries.
Seafood lovers have to check out RIA and weather permitting, nab an outdoor table that overlooks the serene adults-only pool and palm trees. Every Saturday, a display of freshly caught fish and seafood is presented and grilled alfresco. Guests can also order specialities like ceviche, seafood rice, and Ria Formosa oysters.
La Cucina is the hotel's Italian eatery and while a more casual setting, the beef carpaccio, seafood pasta, and signature pizzas are well worth trying.
Anantara Lounge & Bar is another relaxed area for cocktails and sundowners, or the very sublime and beautifully presented afternoon tea that we were treated to. Coming from the UK, the land of afternoon tea, I can confidently say this one was exceptional thanks to the talent and creativity of the hotel's pastry chefs.
But my favourite restaurant by far was SENSAI. Offering a fusion of Portuguese and Eastern flavours, highlights on the menu include the sushi and miso marinated salmon, as well as the lychee ice cream with sponge matcha. The restaurant also boasts stunning fairway views of the Victoria golf course, which looks even more sensational during golden hour.
The spa at Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort
While the spa may not be child-friendly, if you can afford to treat yourself to some "me time" then do! I was booked in for a signature hour-long massage and as a busy, time-poor mum, it was everything I could have asked for and more. My therapist was professional, friendly and the treatment was a gift from heaven. I didn't have time to hang out in the indoor pool afterwards or make use of the other spa facilities like the vitality room, but it all looked sublime.
And in terms of other facilities, there's also a 24-hour gym and synthetic grass tennis court on site too.
The experiences at Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort
The hotel's Experience Gurus are experts in what there is to do locally and can plan trips or activities for you and your family. Some of the Signature Anantara experiences include a hot air balloon ride, visits to local vineyards and wineries, or even a cooking class with the hotel chef. I was treated to a unique workshop by TASA, a group of local artisans who use ancestral techniques to make natural, sustainable products.
My final verdict on Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort
As a family, we loved our stay at Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort. The convenience of having the pool at our fingertips and knowing our baby was safe in our swim-up room just on the other side of the terrace door during nap times was a real game-changer.
Amanda, who runs the kids' club and was our babysitter for the trip, was also so warm and friendly, while the staff in general were also fantastic at making everyone, including little ones, feel so welcome at the resort.