By Don Martin

Beautiful beaches, great food, stunning coastlines and spectacular golf courses all figure high on the many reasons to visit the Algarve in Portugal. Certainly there is no shortage of fabulous attractions and tremendous resorts.

However, sometimes too much choice can make it harder to pick the perfect hotel in the ideal location. Do you trust that TripAdvisor recommendation and the destination feedback from those purporting to have stayed at your resort? After all, not every comment online is trustworthy.

However, word of mouth – that little shared secret – often unearths a gem like the Pestana Alvor Praia beach and golf resort on the edge of Alvor. But don’t just take my opinion. Let my fellow sun-worshippers and travellers tell you.

For all the highlights of our stay at the 5-star hotel, there was one constant – the number of people who couldn’t wait to tell you: “We’ve been coming here for years – we simply love it”.

Young and old, the active explorers and those wanting R&R, they all had the same message to tell. It was as if they couldn’t believe we had only just discovered it. We couldn’t escape it – even a Facebook message from a friend back home said: “Oh, we’ve stayed there before – it’s fabulous!”

From the moment we arrived, somewhat stressed thanks to our suitcases being left on the apron at Glasgow Airport, the staff waved a magic wand. Hold fire on checking in, put your worries to one side, said Monica, the fantastic guest relations manager, and follow me outside to take a moment to enjoy the stunning view of the hotel, the white sandy beach and majestic cliffs.

Relax and let us take care of you, she implored – and everyone did, from start to finish. So much so that when our bags finally arrived, frustratingly four days later and the night before we were due to go home, we switched our flight to later in the week and stayed on.

The hotel is located on Tres Irmaos, one of the best beaches in the Algarve, with direct access by elevator to the crystal clear waters and the 5k wooden boardwalk that takes you from one end of the beach to the other, past the nature reserve on the river and into the port of Alvor.

Along the way there are lovely beachfront restaurants and spectacular views. It’s a great way to explore with no shortage of refreshment points.

And in the evening a sunset stroll is a must on your way to dinner. Highly recommended are the Restinga bar and restaurant where prime ministers and Robert De Niro have dined, and the lovely Sea Deck restaurant, part of the sister Pestana Alvor South Beach hotel. Fabulous sea food in a great setting.

But for all the great places to eat out, including in Alvor itself, the hotel offers superb dining in its Almofariz restaurant, including Mediterranean cuisine and themed buffets that change every night, and a candlelit a la carte restaurant specialising in contemporary Portuguese food.

The buffet is exceptional with a huge choice of great food. Indeed our only disappointment was when we discovered we had missed the seafood buffet night when we had opted to head for the village to eat in the highly recommended and not to be missed Alvor Wine.

Nothing worse than your fellow guests telling you just how good last night’s buffet was!

For those who enjoy nice wines, the friendly hotel staff insisted (honest!) that we enjoy a different bottle every night, (and lunch, tsk, tsk) on a regional tour of Portugal’s best vineyards. Makes it so much easier to relax on a sun lounger by the hotel’s large swimming pool. Well, that is my excuse.

There is also has a heated indoor pool with Jacuzzi, as well as a gym for those not content with a daily boardwalk stroll.

That said I really should have worked out to balance the excessive consumption of great food and wines. Oh, and did I mention the amazing breakfasts.

There are six floors and 202 rooms, most with sea views and all with private balconies and there are several superb suites. They are all nicely furnished, comfortable and modern.

For sports fans there are seven tennis courts and eight nearby golf courses. The hotel also has a superb Magic Spa with various treatments and therapies. Our couple’s massage was such good therapy that our delayed luggage magically appeared when we got back to our room. Cheered and now fully relaxed we, or more accurately my wife, made a spur of the moment decision to stay on and display our new wardrobe choices.

The temperatures on this sunny south coast are great all year round, and that might be one of the reasons everyone is so friendly and welcoming.

Locals, staff and tourists themselves all want you to have a great time and offer recommendations for eating out and exploring. There is certainly no lack of things to do.

We only had a week so we restricted ourselves to the coast and the fishing towns but another visit may see us explore the mountains and rivers inland. On the bucket list is, Monchique – known as Algarve’s Garden – located in the mountains with interesting flora and fauna.

A day trip to see the nearby cliffs, grottos and caves of Lagos, Benagil and Lagao was spectacular and if the views looking down are breathtaking, imagine how good it is looking up from one of the many local boat trips taking you into the caves. There are also many safe walks you can do along the cliffs and, of course you can go down to the golden sands below. Whichever way you get there don’t miss it.

And, of course, Alvor itself is just a short walk away and full of history and lovely tavernas and bars. Walk down to the waterfront and you will be spoiled for choice of restaurants serving seafood fresh off the boat. It is a relaxed, friendly area offering a taste of the real Portugal.

Spread the word, this is an area of the Algarve and a hotel resort worth a regular visit.

The Pestana Alvor Praia enjoys an enviable location, 1km walk from the historic centre of Alvor, 5km from Portimão and 50 minutes away from Faro International Airport. Prices vary dependent on time of year but there are plenty of good deals to be found. For more details visit:

Direct flights to Faro from Glasgow with Easyjet and take around two and a half hours.

TEN reasons to visit the Algarve

1. The Algarve has more than 100 beaches including many of the best in the world. There are 200 kilometres of coastline waiting to be explored and no shortage of locals and regular visitors happy to point you in the direction of their favourite beaches or caves and cliffs to visit.

2. For those wanting to avoid the sand, literally, there are more than 40 fabulous courses to play, many internationally acclaimed but others suited to those with more modest expectations and ability.

3. Year round sunshine with mild winters and hot summers. It averages more than 3,000 hours of sunshine per year with low annual average rainfall.

4. An abundance of spectacular cliffs and rock formations. Lagos with its ochre cliffs is a must see, preferably by boat to get into the caves and look up through the blow hole.

5. Walking in sunshine. The Hanging Valleys Trail has been named best hiking destination in Europe by European Best Destinations and as a normal day tourist it is fine to walk parts of it, taking in the most amazing views.

6. Spas and thermal baths. The region has many resorts and hotels offering pampering after a hard day relaxing! Caldas de Monchique, 250 meters above sea level in the beautiful valley of the Serra de Monchique, boasts ‘sacred waters’ from their thermal springs

7. Seafood fresh off the boat. From high end restaurants to simple tavernas in the ports and villages off the coast, this fishing region boasts some of the best gastronomic paradises for those who enjoy fish and shellfish.

8. Wildlife and wetlands. Ria Formosa is the most important wildlife sanctuary in the Algarve and Vila Real de Santo Antonio marshlands – the river Guadiana wetland zone – are two protected areas waiting to be discovered on foot or by boat.

9. Nightlife and dining. From Faro, the gateway to the region, to the bustling Portimao and Albufeira, there is no shortage of places to people watch while wining and dining.

10. And so much Moor! Silves, was the capital of the ancient Arab kingdom of Algarve and its most important city. It is rich in history and architecture dating back beyond the time of the Moors, to Roman times. Explore the area’s largest castle and stunning cathedral.

Find out more at