Finding a small hotel with good food where you can completely relax, is great with children and has more than a hint of luxury to it is pretty much the holy grail, right? I know that’s a few boxes to tick (and maybe, just maybe, I have slightly high standards) but on the rare occasion it comes off, it’s pretty special. During a fairly last minute trip to Portugal in autumn half term, we found an unexpected gem in the luxury boutique hotel stakes, the Vila Monte Farm House in the Algarve. I had never visited the region before and was hugely impressed with its sandy beaches and sleepy fishing villages. The hotel was an extra surprise. Here’s why.
It had been raining the evening we arrived but what better sight to greet us than a roaring centrepiece fire and an airy foyer. The staff were unreservedly apologetic at the state of the weather (like it was their fault) and assured us it was due to get better. At that moment in time, I didn’t care if it did. Almost instantly I felt holiday relaxation wash over me which I hadn’t experienced in a while (bearing in mind I had a four month old and 4 year old with me).
Endorsed by Mr & Mrs Smith, the 55-room hotel is stylish and has a relaxed vibe. It’s a 4* establishment which has been built on an old golf course. There’s plenty of space for little ones to run around in nature and find insects (which is what they seemed to enjoy).
There were a few other families based in the UK who were there so it was lovely to chat and the layout of the restaurant and communal areas encouraged interaction. All the children enjoyed playing together too.
On the reception counter there were sweets, biscuits and water which you could help yourself to. We were told by one of the staff members to “make ourselves feel at home”. We felt like we were (although I wish my home looked as chic as Vila Monte). The same counter turned into a bar in the evenings.
Vila Monte is in Moncarapacho, Olhão, a small town without much to see other than a small square and a couple of cafes and restaurants. You need to hire a car if you want to explore. The hotel is around half an hour east from Faro airport (although we managed to take a series of wrong turns so perhaps plan out your route before than rely on hire car GPS).
There are two swimming pools, one was adult only. The other pool had plenty of space and loungers to relax around.
The beautiful grounds include tennis courts, a pond, a vegetable and herb garden. There’s plenty of flora and fauna including orange trees which line the cobbled paths to the rooms and restaurants. The pond has carp and turtles to spot and the kids found plenty of spiders and other insects in the soil around the bushes! The hotel also has a gym and spa.
In the evenings they have an outdoor cinema. As the October nights were cooler, they had it inside instead complete with popcorn which went down very well with the children.
The restaurant ‘A Terre’ served good quality, rustic food with fresh local ingredients (including those grown in the grounds). They pride themselves on their culinary delights and have regular food and wine tastings. The wood burning oven meant delicious bread and pizza. My lunchtime favourite was the truffle oil pizza – yum! For breakfast, it was buffet style with a large selection of juices, cereals, pastries, cooked eggs and plenty of Portuguese pastel de nada. In the foyer they have a grocery store where you can purchase food, crockery and crafts. Picnics are available for day excursions.
We booked a superior suite for the four of us. Our four-month-old had a cot set up in our room while our older daughter (aged four) was in the large living room on a spacious sofa bed. It had a huge bathroom with rain shower and the king-sized bed was very comfy.
With its white-washed interior, the room felt spacious, clean and boutique with an air of traditional Portuguese style. It had an outdoor patio with benches and a table. There was a Nespresso machine and complimentary biscuits given daily.
Sandy beaches are a 20 minute drive away. We visited Fuseta and Praia Verde as well as the fishing village famous for octopus, Santa Luzia, and the town Tavira. Faro is also nearby. For something more energetic, you can go hiking in the Ria Formosa Natural Park and visit its salt ponds.
The hotel can arrange a variety of activities. These include dolphin watching, fishing and horse riding. On Saturdays you can visit the Olhao food market with the chef and there’s also olive oil tasting, golf and sailing available. Fancy heading to your own private island? Vila Monte can arrange to take you from Fuseta where it has a boat is moored to the island Barra Nova. On site you can indulge in cooking lessons, yoga or simply relax by one of the pools.
You won’t find a kids club but there are tennis courts available to use, the pools and lots of space to run around. It felt a safe space for children to explore and plenty of activities to keep them amused – in and out of the hotel – including cooking lessons, sports and crafts. Mrs T had an amazing time playing with the other children, staying up late and exploring the grounds. At four months, Cheeky was very content and seemed to relax in the environment.
If I’m being picky..
Staff at times were maybe a bit too relaxed. One night, it felt like an eternity to get my mojito made (although was very good when it did). The main pool for the children was not heated. There IS a heated one but it is for adults only. We sneaked up to it when it was empty at the end of the day with our daughter and I enjoyed a peaceful swim on my own too (bliss). She used the other pool but I didn’t dare. We ended up buying her a wetsuit which helped. In the summer months it would obviously be far warmer. There was also a playground marked on the hotel map but we couldn’t find it.
All in all we had an excellent experience though and would definitely return. We are also keen to try out its sister hotel in nearby Praia Verde.
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