The Pine Cliffs Resort, Albufeira, has been on our list of places we’d like to go for a long time now, and though we’re not huge fans of resort holidays, sometimes you just need a break where you know there will be minimum effort required, no planning, no itinerary, no need to think about where to go each evening. This year was one of those times.
Every year, finding accommodation for five people proves tricky. Most hotel rooms will only allow four as maximum occupancy, which means booking two rooms. Any that refuse to guarantee interconnecting rooms is a complete no-no for me, so generally, we end up with some kind of apartment.
Accommodation at Pine Cliffs
At the Pine Cliffs Resort, we stayed in one of the Residences, a two-bed apartment with sofa bed. We had a kitchen, dining area, two bathrooms and garden access, so we really couldn’t have asked for more in terms of space. The resort, on the whole, is clean and well maintained. The swimming pools are small, but there are plenty of them, spread around the enormous complex. We were positioned just across from our nearest pool and with easy access to a restaurant, shop, gym and a concierge. It was ideal.
Things to do
Pine Cliffs is such a big resort, you don’t need to set foot off the place. There are enough restaurants to enable you to vary your evenings and more activities than you can shake a stick at. My children aren’t big on kids clubs (and they’re a bit past all that anyway), but if you have little ones, you have the choice of the Pirate Club, which also has its own pool, play area and mini golf.
My younger two play golf and so most days, one of them at least, went off with my husband to the nine-hole course. It’s great that children are allowed to play and this really did mean the course had a family atmosphere. On other days, we tried tennis (though it was so hot, this made it difficult to play during the day). We did have a couple of evening sessions on the paddle tennis court though, which was great fun. This is a cross between tennis and squash and when the five of us took to the court, the only rule was that there were no rules!
Then there is, of course, the beach. As the name suggests, Pine Cliffs is situated on the cliff tops, so to access the beach, you need to take the lift down and then walk along the wooden gangway, itself not completely flat. Mobility wise, it’s not the easiest journey to get down there, but the beach is lovely and the sea reasonable warm and shallow.
Dining at Pine Cliffs
We chose ten days half board, which meant we could go to our nearest restaurant every morning for a buffet breakfast, but we had the choice of eating anywhere within the resort for our evening meal. As ever, when we go on holiday, it’s always a little worrying because we have special dietary needs and it usually takes a few days for the staff to get to know us and our requirements. This is fine when you only have one restaurant to choose from, but doesn’t work so well when you can eat at a number of locations.
Catering for special dietary needs
Pine Cliffs uses a system of labelling with codes, such as G for gluten and these labels are either in front of each dish at the buffet, or on the menus. At breakfast, there was a separate area with gluten free cereals and bread (but no separate toaster) and you could have fried or poached eggs, as well as bacon or beans.
At dinner, the majority of the buffet food contained gluten or dairy, according to the labels, but as the week went on, I started to question their accuracy. For example, one evening, there was a dessert that was apparently gluten and dairy free. However, the following night, at a different restaurant, a dessert identical looking had a label that said it did contain both of these things. I questioned it and found this to be true, so it began to ring a few alarm bells. I also found a dessert on another night that looked safe and asked the waiter. He told me it had the wrong label and wasn’t, in fact, suitable.
The staff weren’t educated about what was in the dishes and when I did ask for more information, someone would have to go and ask the chefs, and even some of these didn’t always know because the food was made centrally, at the main hotel.
If you are gluten free, you usually fair a bit better than if you need to avoid dairy or lactose. Practically nothing was suitable for a dairy intolerant person except fruit or jelly (for dessert) and main course-wise, we found it best to stick to the grill. Personally, I don’t really understand how a Bolognese can have both gluten and dairy in it, do you?
My advice would be to question everything and if you are coeliac, be extra careful. I saw someone use the cake slice from the gluten free dessert. I also saw the chef who manned the grill use the same utensil on the raw and cooked meat and also cross contaminate between the meat and fish. To say it put me off eating there is an understatement.
If you don’t want to eat in the restaurants, there is a supermarket just outside the resort. The small shop on site is hardly worth bothering with to be honest, plus it’s expensive.
Despite some problems with the food (something we’ve come to accept when we go away, sadly), the Pine Cliffs Resort really did tick all the boxes for the five of us. Husband was happy playing golf every day, the children had a mix of chill-out time and play and I managed to read a book and even get some writing done. We had one day of escape at the local shopping mall, when I really did feel as though I had cabin fever, but otherwise, I was quite happy to go with the flow. It truly was a much-needed relaxing break that we all benefited from after a very busy year.
Would we go back? Yes, quite possibly, though perhaps later in the year. We would also try just bed and breakfast and venture out to some local restaurants in the evenings. Perhaps next time, we might even go exploring a little more of the Algarve.