Situated in between the more touristy areas of Albufeira and Lagoa, Porches is best known for its hand-painted ceramic pottery (Porches Pottery on the EN125 is the most popular place to buy a souvenir to take home) and is a much tamer option for those wanting a laid back visit to the Algarve. We know we’ve arrived at Porches once we see the signs for pottery – on the otherwise quiet dirt road, the signs pop out from both sides of the road with scrawling blue letters on white backgrounds. On our travels, my guest and I opted to stay away from the Algarve’s busier hotspots and booked ourselves into VILA VITA Parc, the five-star cliff-top resort looking out over the Atlantic Ocean.
Embodying the different aspects that make Portugal unique is something that VILA VITA Parc, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World group, strives to do, says director of sales and marketing, Katya Bauval. The resort is massive; spread over 54 acres, with the majority made up of lush greenery that is cared for by 40 full-time gardeners. It’s easy to forget you’ve made plans outside the property’s gates when there are six bars, ten restaurants (including the two-Michelin-starred Ocean), complimentary group yoga classes, live music, a gym, a spa by Sisley Paris, and multiple pools for all members of the family to enjoy.
Bauval is quick to explain that it is their goal for guests to never forget that they are in Portugal. Whether it’s the Vista Alegre porcelain, the Cutipol silverware, or cobblestone paths snaking through the grounds, every element of the resort brings in traditional Portuguese craftsmanship in a seamless and natural manner.
One of the front desk managers volunteered to take us on a golf cart tour to help us get better acquainted with the resort and all its amenities. We sat in awe as we took in the tennis courts, the 18-hole putting green, the pools, restaurants, and the private-serviced villas. She tells us about the wine cellar, housing the biggest private collection in Portugal, with over 1,200 references and the VILA VITA yacht that is available for guests to book to enjoy an exclusive experience for a group of up to nine people.
When discussing the impact of Covid-19, Bauval explains that VILA VITA Parc was the first hotel in the country to put together a contingency plan complete with a crisis team that worked closely with medical consultants to ensure there was a roadmap in place to make it safe for guests and staff once they decided to open. During our visit, it was evident how much care and effort the team put into ensuring all health and safety protocols were followed. We never felt any cause for concern, yet the friendliness and hospitality of the VILA VITA Parc team was present in every way.
Our bright and airy room featured all the best parts of the Algarve: the blue and white porcelain décor, the Claus-Porto bathroom amenities, and best of all, the ability to be steps away from the gorgeous resort gardens. The split-level design provided a good balance between the sleeping and living areas, with smart hardwood flooring throughout. The bathroom featured clean lines and a sleek, contemporary look with double sinks and a bathtub with rain shower.
Guests are spoilt for choice at VILA VITA Parc and we decided to try a new restaurant for every meal. Booking ahead is essential during peak periods, but this is easy to do through the concierge or the hotel’s app. We enjoyed oysters and tuna tartare poolside from the Whale Restaurant and Pool Bar; refined Algarvean fare like smoked corn cream with onion, seasonal mushrooms, and trout roe at Atlantico; and traditional Portuguese cuisine such as free-range chicken mignon with a white port sauce and vegetables and grilled tiger prawns in a delicious Mozambique sauce from Adega.
You need not venture far to dip your toes into the fresh ocean water. Make your way down the cliff and you’ll find the white sand Tremeços Beach with a private area just for VILA VITA Parc guests. The sheltered spot between the cliffs makes for the ideal sunbathing spot away from the crowds and in the high season, guests can also take part in activities like canoeing, stand-up paddle boarding, or scuba diving. We spent many hours laying on daybeds listening to the crashing waves, with the attentive staff just a few feet away.
The resort also offers a shuttle service to their beach club, just a ten-minute drive away. Dive into fresh seafood and grilled meats from one of the club’s three restaurants, relax on a daybed on the beach, or watch the sun set as you sway to the rhythm of the in-house DJ’s beats.
For a day trip, head out to Ilha Deserta, the only uninhabited island in the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Aside from enjoying the less crowded beaches, you can join a guided eco tour and discover the wildlife that calls the island and its surrounding area home. An hour’s drive west will take you to the tip of Portugal where you can rub some wax on your board and ride the wild Atlantic waves in surfer’s paradise Sagres.
In a nutshell
VILA VITA Parc has it all; food, sand, sea, wellness, culture, and convenience. It’s the perfect choice for large groups or families as there will always be something for everyone. Though it would be easy to assume the resort fits into the trap that many all-in-one properties suffer from, VILA VITA Parc does an excellent job at making sure that each spot has its own identity and therefore its own target clientele. When out for breakfast one morning, noticing we were an adult couple, our server politely recommended that we try another area the next day that was adults-only so that we wouldn’t be bothered by kids running around. It is this consideration for every guest’s idea of a holiday that sets VILA VITA Parc apart.
Address: R. Anneliese Pohl, 8400-450 Porches, Portugal
Phone: +351 282 310 100
Photography courtesy of VILA VITA Parc.