When you think of family holidays to Portugal, you might think of a huge multi-story complex with a waterpark in the Algarve. But I invite you to put that aside because (prepare for the cliché) you’ve probably never experienced a family get-away like this. This, to be exact, is the family-run hotel of Oitavos. With 142 guestrooms, two restaurants, three bars, a Balneotherapy spa, gym and a golf course that ranks in the top 100 of the world, Oitavos is all about luxury.
Nestled on the west coast of Portugal in the region of Cascais, the Oitavos is 19 miles outside of the capital of Lisbon. Travelling to the hotel is quite quick; it’s only a two-and-a-half hour flight from London to Lisbon airport. And luckily it’s just a further 35-minute drive from Lisbon airport to Oitavos. There’s every major car hire company at Lisbon airport, so you’ll have choices galore if you need to rent a car. But you can also request a transfer from the airport to the hotel when you book your stay at the Oitavos hotel. If you really feel like putting your tourist boots on, you can get the train to Cascais. This also travels along the coast, but it’ll also take around an hour-and-a-half.
The Oitavos is unique. As extensively travelled as I consider myself to be, I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. If Grand Designs did a special on hotels, Oitavos would probably have the top spot for being the most innovative. It’s not what you imagine a ‘family hotel’ to look like. In fact you could be forgiven for mistaking Ovaitos for a glamourous conference centre, but it is in fact a very modern take on a hotel. There are bold, sleek lines and expansive spaces everywhere. Comprised mostly of huge glass panels for windows and doors, the atmosphere is light, clean but still warm and inviting.
There’s art and sculptures everywhere, but what’s unusual about the décor of the hotel is that all of the furniture sits on wheels. My first thought was “great, furniture the kids can destroy even quicker!” But I gave the coffee table a little push, and, it turns out, it’s actually not that easy to move. Also, as the hotel staff were eager to point out, the wheels reinforce the more laid back approach the company has to accommodation. So, if one of your kids does move a chair, they’ll be cool with it. As the building is basically glass, wherever you look all you can see is expanse of the sea, wild flowers, trees and sand dunes.
I stayed in a guestroom, which not only had an enormous king-sized bed, but also had a walk-in shower, separate bath, walk-in toilet, sofa, two TVs and his and hers sink. All rooms have a private balcony and a view of the Atlantic ocean. They are very big, probably about half the size of my flat and the bed was so comfortable I wished I could take it home with me. None of the rooms differ, but there are two suites (which are even bigger) and bedroom suite private villa that comes with a private pool.
WHAT WE ATE
The food at the Oitavos is amazing. There are four areas where you can eat, the Ipsylon Resturant & Bar, the Japanese Bar, the Atlantic Pool Bar, and Verbasco, a clubhouse on the golf course. In the evening, the best place to eat is the Ipsylon Resturant. The bar serves what looks like every alcoholic beverage possible. The Ipsylon is all about big open spaces there’s no slaloming between chairs or elbow-to-elbow eating. It’s also great for people watching, if that’s your thing.
Headed by a French chef with a Portuguese deputy, the restaurant offers a mix of European flavours, like Normandy apple cider scallops with chestnuts and chives or a Portuguese fish rice, with is like a paella, but with all the Portuguese seafood you can imagine. If you have time, I recommend you sample as much as you can on all menus, as all of the dishes are melt-in-the-mouth delicious and they also do children’s portions. Breakfast is another gastronomic adventure of it own. True to continental style there’s a buffet of cereals, fruit, meat, cheese and breads. But there’s also a hot buffet of bacon, different types of sausages and anything else you may need for a full English breakfast. You can also order freshly-made eggs, French Toast and the most wonderful waffles that will melt in your mouth.
WHAT WE DID
As well as having one of the best golf courses in the world the Otiavos has a great spa that offers a range of treatments. A 25-minute massage will cost you 55 euros, I recommend the Pindas therapy – it uses seaweed and essential oils to detox you. And when the sun sets and you want some adult time, you can always take advantage of the babysitting service through the hotel, to enjoy the fully stocked bar I mentioned earlier.
If you fancy a more active passtime, there’s the Equestrian Centre, which is based on a separate ground, about 10 minutes away. It’s home to over 250 horses and is the place for tourists and locals alike to practice horse riding. Lessons starts from 30€ for half an hour, 35€ for an hour and 60€ for two hours. The Oitavos is set on the most Westerly coast of Portugal. In fact, from the hotel you can see Cabo Da Roca, which is the most western point in the whole of Europe.
The hotel can arrange for transfer to the rock, which is only 20 minutes drive. But if you’re feeling particularly sprightly, you can get bikes from the hotel (12.5€ per day for adults) and ride there. It’ll probably take you about and hour, but it’s a good way to work off the waffles. While the hotel does have bikes on offer, they don’t have children’s bikes on site. You can request a bike for smaller kids, but it’s probably best to do that when booking.
EXPLORING THE LOCAL AREA
Surfing is one of the big past times in Cascias, no matter the weather you’re likely to see avid surfers tackling huge waves.Then there’s the local town of Sintra, a bustling tourist centre of port, pastries and many castles. The 19th century writer Byron wrote about it romantic palaces, breathtaking architecture and famous gardens.
The port of Cascais is only a 25-minute drive away. While there is traditional Portuguese architecture, much like any modern marina you’d find across the Mediterranean, there’s also modern shopping centres, restaurants and of course, sailing.
In fact, there are so many things to do, it’s probably best to speak to a member of staff at Oitavos when you arrive to find out what would be best for the family.
The Oitavos is really a great hotel that will cater to all the family. And, if you’re looking for an active break or something a little different from the norm, there’s no better place to be while in Portugal.
You always feel well looked after, and although it is a big hotel the family-owned ethos can be felt with all the staff, who pay attention to detail and are always welcoming.
As well as the amazing scenery, breathtaking rooms and some of the best food you’ll ever taste, there’s so much to do for all the family.
The Oitavos really is a place you’ll want to revisit time and again, not just as a family, but as a couple and maybe for a cheeky spa weekend or golf break.
The starting rate at The Oitavos is 155€ (approx £114) for a Superior room. For reservations, please contact +351 21 486 0020 or visit www.theoitavos.com
TAP Portugal flies directly from London Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester to Lisbon 60 times a week, prices start at £121 return including all taxes and surcharges.For further information, visit www.flytap.com