After landing in Lisbon in the morning, we decided to take a costal drive to Algarve. The drive would have taken ~2.5hr by car if taking the E1 toll road, but 4.5hr if taking the coastal smaller roads (just the drive itself ... doesn’t even include the time of stopping by coastal towns ). We had planned to go to Restaurante Azenha do Mar as a stop for lunch and took the wrong option on Google navigation so got on a tiny dirt road that almost ruined our rental car. By the time we got to the restaurant, it was closed with a sign saying closed from 5/27-6/7. So we decided to go to Bar da Praia (in Odeceixe which is the next stop on our drive anyway) for lunch instead. Then we found out that restaurant is closed till 6/6 too. We were told by locals that the only restuarant open in town is Dorita so we headed straight there. It was a pretty cute restaurant with a great view over the Odeceixe beach . The service was slow so don’t expect to have a quick lunch. It took over 30 mins for our food to come and we supposedly order something that was quick to cook (there were items on the menu highlighted for 40-min cooking time ... those would have probably taken over an hour to come.)
Many restaurants along the southern coast of Portugal only open during the summer season (Jun to Sep) so make sure you check before hand if you go there outside those peak months.
Ponta da Piedade and Praia do Camilo are both worth a visit on the Algarve coast. They are really close to each other...walking distance (and 2 mins by car). Ponta has many gorgeous view points. Camilo is a small beach but very prestine and secluded ... there is a long wooden staircase to walk down to it.
Vilalara Thalassa Resort is 30 years old so all the structures, despite being cleanly maintained, look a bit outdated from the outside. Nevertheless, the hotel grounds are nicely manicured. Our suite (33-10) is huge and well renovated. But they only had availability on ground floor (we had to walk down stairs to get to the room so it's like the basement level of a house) and very poor light exposure so the room felt a bit dark and depressing despite being large. A lot of bugs in the room and at night, naked snails frequent outside our room that one night I accidentally squished one. The internet is great throughout hotel grounds. The almost-private beach is as pretty as shown in pictures ... too bad the weather was a bit chilly so we didn't get to enjoy sunbathing on the beach as much as we would like to.
Excellent dinner at this unassuming restaurant (newly opened by the charming and talented owner, Raul, in Apr16). We had 5 seafood tapas and requested a vegetable dish (Raul made us one even though it was not on the menu). Raul's homemade special sauces were heaven made and made all the dishes taste ridiculously good, yet different from any seafood tapas we had had in the past. The total bill was only €36!!!
lunch by the pool
secluded beach in front of Vilalara Thalassa Resort
Vila Joya is a beautiful resort and its 2-Michelin-star restaurant was worth the hype. We had a great meal, however, two things bothered us there. First, they offered us apretif in the beginning without telling us those were not included as part of the meal, and then we waited for over an hour to be seated because they thought we were still working on our apretif. The dinner lasted past 1130pm (we were dead tired) and the bill in the end (~€500 including the tip) was more than what we expected so we left with an unpleasant feeling.
view from the terrace breakfast restaurant
a cute restaurant on beach
Pine Cliffs is a massive resort with multiple types of lodging options and everything was newly renovated last year. They upgraded us to a premium duplex suite (278), and the bedroom of which is on the highest floor of the hotel with a fantastic ocean view (only two units on our wing extends to that floor). It’s clearly a kid friendly resort as we saw many kids of all ages roaming around the huge grounds of the resort.
Every Tuesday the hotel holds a management cocktail evening (630-730pm) with free drinks and hors d’oeuvres. It’s also a good opportunity to get lots of local recommendations from the hotel staff.
Getting sunset drinks at Bar Mirador is our favorite evening past time at Pine Cliffs Hotel. The outdoor bar is situated right above the pine cliffs and has a sweeping view of the ocean.
a public beach 10-min walk from the hotel
sunbathe under the pine trees
breakfast on balcony
cute streets in the old town center
what a bargain!
wake up to this view every day
The town of Tavira is only about 45mins drive from Pine Cliffs Resort . But you have to take a ferry to get to Tavira Island. The beach is beautiful , probably the most pristine one we have come across on this trip. There is a row of restaurants along the beach so it’s a good place to come early and hang out for a whole day. You can rent umbrellas/chair or there are even some nice cabanas for rent.
When we put Tavira Island as destination, Google map took us to Santa Luzia by mistake. It’s better to put in Cais das Quatro Águas as the destination. Quatro Aguas is one of the two ports that run ferries to the island. From Quatro, the ferry runs roughly every 30 mins (ferry schedule) but the ferry actually takes only 2 mins to reach the island.
Santa Luzia (a town adjacent to Tavira) is called the "capital of octopus". Since we both loved octopus, it was a must-stop for us to get lunch. We originally planned to try the #1 local restaurant on Tripadvisor, Polvo & Companhia ('Polvo' is octopus in Portuguese), but accidentally went to the restaurant next door because it seemed much busier than Companhia. We realized the mistake after we sat down when I tried to ask for a dish shown in a TripAdvisor picture. The waitress was very nice about it - said the dish was from the restaurant next door and it would be totally ok if we wanted to go there. The table next to us overhead our conversation with the waitress. They told us that Polvo Tasquinha was actually the better one of the two despite Tripadvisor rating is better for the one next door. We decided to stay and ordered 4 dishes ... all had octopus but prepared different ways. Every one of them was delicious and we were "octopused out" by the end of the meal. The octopus rice was probably the best dish... the taste of octopus really went in the rice/sauce. The owner told us that the restaurant consumes about 22 tons of octopus a year ... one octopus is about 1-2 kg. So that's about 40 whole octopus a day.
Tavira is a quiet and cute town. We first explored the castelo de Tavira (free) on our own. The castle has good viewpoints of the town. The town used to be the commercial center/main port for Algarve region in the 16th century. We decided to hop on a tourist tram outside the castle and went around the town for about 45 mins. The only stop one could get off that tram to take some pictures is the main bridge in the town center.
colorfully stacked houses outside the market
Lisbon graffiti: soldier with flowers
St. Anthony celebration in Jun
Feast of St. Anthony celebration
Lisbon Sardine Festival
a beautifully decorated 1-michelin-star restaurant
the famous Portuguese egg tarts